Taipei street names and tone marks

Here’s another in my series on official signage in the Taipei area.

Taipei has more than 630 different street names. Although none of these are homophonous, five pairs of names should have tone marks added to the Hanyu Pinyin so that the names will be easily distinguished from one another.

But whoever makes the signs should be especially careful because the only official signage with tone marks I’ve seen in the Taipei area has been ugly and inept. (But those signs were in Taipei County, not Taipei City.)

Chinese characters Pinyin and English mix
??? J?nghuá St.
??? J?nghuà St.
??? Tóng’?n St.
??? T?ng’?n St.
??? Wànqìng St.
??? Wànq?ng St.
??? W?cháng St.
??? W?ch?ng St.
??? Xiàngyáng Rd.
??? Xi?ngyáng Rd.

Note the use of an apostrophe in “Tong’an.” For more on this, see ‘Hot-Milk Road’ and other street-name errors.

For a related entry, see Taipei street names and the monosyllabic myth.

5 thoughts on “Taipei street names and tone marks

  1. Tones would certainly help, and I’m certainly sympathetic to the need for *standardized* Hanyu pinyin on street signs in Taipei, but I’m skeptical as to how much of a problem this is. Several other streets in Boston have the same name as the street I live on. How do people deal with this? By saying *which* one – cross streets, zip codes, landmarks, etc. Do any of these streets that you list exist nearby each other or intersect? Does the post office find it difficult to deliver mail to these streets?

  2. I agree that the lack of tone marks is not a real problem in most cases. (Indeed, I don’t think many tone marks are particularly necessary in most extended Pinyin texts because the so-called homonym problem is largely a myth. After all, largely toneless texts worked fine in Sin Wenz well before today’s standardization.) Context helps a great deal, as does frequency of use. No listener, for example, is going to be confused about which Wuchang Jie in Taipei is the right one for meeting someone to see a movie. And so if one street is much better known that its near match, the former could be presented without tones and the latter with them.

    For more on a related issue, though, see Shanghai to rename streets, eliminating duplicates.

    As for the postal service, well, it has its problems. In large part out of frustration with uncertainties and slowness in mail delivery because of Taiwan’s romanization mess, the European Chamber of Commerce pushed the Taiwan government into greater promotion of five-digit rather than three-digit postal codes, the longer numbers being sufficiently precise that most misspellings and variants can be overcome without too much trouble.

  3. I was under the impression that to necessitate an apostrophe there had to be a case in which two readings were possible, such as ren-ai/re-nai or xian/xi’an. “Tongan” could only be “tong’an” as “ton” is not valid pinyin.

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