Lan Yu signage examples

The island known in Mandarin as Lán Y? (?? / ??) has a lot of different names, including Orchid Island, Ponso no Tao, Pongso no Tawo, Irala, Tabako Shima, Tabaco Xima, Botol, Buturu, Kotosho, and Botel Tobago.

In texts in the roman alphabet, most of the time it’s referred to as “Lanyu.” That’s how I’ve written it in the past. But the Xinhua Pinxie Cidian (p. 21) gives such island names with the yu separate, so I’m going with the Pinyin standard from now on.

Anyway, there are plenty of names for this beautiful place off the southeast coast of Taiwan. But it doesn’t have much in the way of official signs. In large part, that’s because it doesn’t really need many, given the fact that the entire island has only a couple of roads: a ring around the island and another cutting over the mountains, plus a few minor side roads, some not much larger than a sidewalk. It’s not overrun with tourists; and the inhabitants certainly don’t need any signs to tell them where they are or to keep them from getting lost.

Click on any photo for a larger version.

road along the coast of Lan Yu; this is one of the wider spots; in many areas it's just one lane

Someone there told me that a long time ago the government assigned some roads the usual crop of Sino-centric names so beloved by the KMT: Zhongshan (i.e., Sun Yat-sen), Zhongzheng (i.e., Chiang Kai-shek), etc. But none of the Yami (Tao) people on the island were in the least bit interested in going along with that and ignored or even removed such signs. (Cars without license plates are also a common site there.)

In one village I found an official sign (but not one for a road) that had been appropriated for part of a wall on someone’s house or shed. This would, of course, have made for a great photo; but circumstances were such that I probably couldn’t have taken the shot without seeming disrespectful, so I passed the opportunity by.

I saw no trace of any official street signs. And even unofficial street signs were few and far between. (See the signpost image near the bottom.)

“Yehyu” and “Hungtou” are both in Wade-Giles. These would be Y?yóu C?n and Hóngtóu C?n in Hanyu Pinyin (and Tongyong Pinyin and MPS2 — though with the tone marks indicated differently) — for the Mandarin version of the name.
two directional signs reading '??? YEHYU VILLAGE' and '??? HUNGTOU VILLAGE'

sign reading '??? Yehyu Village'

But Yayo appears to be the Yami name.
mural of manned Yami boats on the sea, with text reading '???? YAYO'

The sort of marker shown below is fairly standard. Note that the name in roman letters (Ivalino) is not a romanization of the Mandarin form (Y?yín Bùluò / ????). Note also the backward N, which is a mistake, not a special letter.
concrete marker reading '???? IVALINO' (with a backwards N on one side of the sign and a correct N on another)

closeup of the above marker

This photo perhaps best captures the nature of signage on Lan Yu — when there is any signage to be seen, that is.

dead tree at an intersection being used as a post for unofficial wooden signs; and a goat is wandering by

I was saddened when I was there to hear children speaking only Mandarin with each other rather than the Yami language. But perhaps those I heard weren’t a representative sample.

Saint Joe’s

A Catholic church in Jinlun (J?nlún/??), Taidong, Taiwan. Note the absence of Chinese characters.

photo of a church, with 'KIOKAI NI' and 'SANTO YOSEF' written on it in large letters

The town of Jinlun being in an area with many members of the Paiwan tribe, I checked with a Chen Chun-Mei (Chén Ch?nm?i / ???), a Paiwan specialist at Guólì Zh?ngx?ng Dàxué (National Chung Hsing University / ??????), who wrote that kiokai is one of many words Paiwan borrowed from Japanese (ky?kai/??: meaning church), and that ni in Paiwan means of or by.

So this is the Church of Saint Joseph.

I was also interested to hear on the train to Jinlun that some of the announcements in advance of some stations in Taidong County were in not only Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English, but also an aboriginal language. I’m guessing Paiwan. Even in the announcements in that language, however, the place names themselves sounded like they were given in Mandarin forms, though the descriptions were not.

Further reading:

signs in Atayal

During my recent trip to Wulai (Ulay in Atayal) I was pleased to see at least a few signs in the Atayal language.

This one — no Chinese characters! no English! — appears on the fronts of several stores on the Old Street that have water from hot springs piped into tubs there. I asked a couple of shop owners about this. They clearly had only vague notions about the signs being for hot springs; they couldn’t read the signs themselves.

habun_tngtong

This sign takes the form of personal pledges for a healthy lifestyle. Most have to do with [not] drinking.
The top line reads 'glgan smru nbuw qwaw gaga na qnhan'. It's followed by 6 numbered points in romanized Atayal and then Mandarin in Chinese characters. Finally, it's identified as being from the local government as well as the Rotary Association and other groups.

Gaga is the Atayal word for traditions/customs/rules (especially those handed down from their ancestors).

Wulai — or something like that

All of the romanization systems commonly seen in Taiwan — bastardized Wade-Giles, MPS2, Tongyong Pinyin, and Hanyu Pinyin — use the same spelling (tones aside) for the unnecessarily ugly but scenically situated Taipei County town of Wulai (Mandarin: W?lái / ???). And the formerly official but little-seen Gwoyeu Romatzyh isn’t so different: Ulai. So getting this one spelled correctly shouldn’t be a big deal.

But on a recent trip there I saw the spelling of “Ulay” on relatively recent official signage.

two brown (culture) signs with 'Ulay Old Street' and 'Ulay Atayal Museum', along with their respective Chinese characters

three brown (culture) signs with 'Ulay Waterfall', 'Lover's Trail', and 'Ulay Hot Spring', along with their respective Chinese characters

Actually, none of those particular signs really needed any spelling of Wulai. For example, if you’re in Wulai and a sign points toward “Old Street”, you don’t really need to wonder if perhaps it’s pointing toward the Old Street in Sanxia or some other town instead. But officialdom here relies on its lists of official names and seldom exercises anything in the way of imagination or even just common sense. (That reminds me: I really must finish that half-completed post on wordy signage.)

So, about the “Ulay” spelling: Could it be the correct spelling in the system used to write the language of the Atayal people indigenous to the area? A search of some Taiwan government Web sites leads to me to believe that, yes, it could be. But I asked several people in Wulai who said they were literate in Atayal script, and they said that “Wulai” was the correct spelling for the town’s name in the Atayal language.

Still, these were not linguists or teachers, and this is Taiwan, where chabuduo-ism and outright ignorance of romanization are strong. So when I returned home I went to Wulai’s official website, which only made matters worse. There I found all of the following forms: Wulai, WuLai, Wulia, Wulay, and Ulay.

wulai_wulay_wulia
Ulay

  • Wulia — in big letters, no less. Remarkably, the township uses the URL of www.wulia.gov.tw for its site, though, fortunately, www.wulai.gov.tw also works. I doubt this is anything other than a typo that has somehow not been corrected but has instead gained force.
  • Wulai — This spelling is the one used for at least most of the text.
  • Wulay
  • WuLai — Die, intercaps, die!
  • Ulay — found in the Mandarin portion of the site.

Elsewhere I also found the form Ulai; but in these cases that spelling almost certainly has nothing to do with Gwoyeu Romatzyh.

Here are the numbers for some Google searches:

spelling .gov.tw domains all .tw domains any domains, but pages must include “Taipei County” or
“台北縣”
Wulai 2,760 10,900 5,540
Wulia 381 838 307
Ulay 50 649 592
Ulai 33 237 249
Wulay 9 25 16

So, whatever the correct spelling is, that is the government should be using, not this mishmash. And it should let people know how to pronounce it correctly in the original language, not just Mandarin. Perhaps it’s too late for this name, though, as “Wulai” is so well known.

Regardless of the spelling, though, the name is another example of Chinese characters being used to represent a name that did not originate with a Sinitic language. Thus, the name doesn’t really have anything to do with crows (?) coming (?). Instead, it refers to the hot springs in the area.

Documenting and Revitalizing Austronesian Languages: free online book

Language Documentation & Conservation, a refereed, open-access journal sponsored by the National Foreign Language Resource Center and published online by the University of Hawai‘i Press, has released its first online book: Documenting and Revitalizing Austronesian Languages, edited by D. Victoria Rau and Margaret Florey.

Half of the chapters in the new book (ISBN 978-0-8248-3309-1) focus specifically on Austronesian languages of Taiwan. I have indicated those with bold text below.

Contents:

Introduction: documenting and revitalizing Austronesian languages
I. International capacity building initiatives

  • The language documentation and conservation initiative at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa
  • Training for language documentation: Experiences at the School of Oriental and African Studies
  • SIL International and endangered Austronesian languages

II. Documentation and revitalization activities

  • Local autonomy, local capacity building and support for minority languages: Field experiences from Indonesia
  • Documenting and revitalizing Kavalan
  • E-learning in endangered language documentation and revitalization
  • Indigenous language-informed participatory policy in Taiwan: A socio-political perspective
  • Teaching and learning an endangered Austronesian language in Taiwan

III. Computational methods and tools for language documentation

  • WeSay, a tool for engaging communities in dictionary building
  • On designing the Formosan multimedia word dictionaries by a participatory process
  • Annotating texts for language documentation with Discourse Profiler’s metatagging system

There have also been two issues of the journal issued to date, though neither of these has anything specific about languages spoken in Taiwan.

This is indeed a promising beginning. I look forward to more such titles from the journal.

New roads in Tainan County, Taiwan, given non-Sinitic names

On Sunday President Chen Shui-bian spoke at a ceremony marking the opening of Tackalan Boulevard, which connects the Southern Taiwan Science Park to the Sun Yat-sen Freeway. This name differs from most Taiwan road names in several ways:

Rather, it is from a language spoken in Taiwan hundreds of years ago.

Chen said giving the major road an Aboriginal name was inspiring and symbolic of the trailblazing spirit of the Aboriginal tribes known as the Pingpu.

Authorities chose the name “Tackalan” because the new road crosses Anting Township (??), which Dutch colonizers called by the Aboriginal name.

Note: “Anting” is bastardized Wade-Giles. The proper spelling — in Hanyu Pinyin, as well as in all of Taiwan’s official romanization systems for the last twenty years is Anding (?ndìng.

Centuries ago, Tackalan was a thriving river-fishing location populated by Aboriginals. It gradually grew into a farming village as the river became congested with silt….

Another of the three major roads [around the science park], Baccloangh Boulevard, is open to traffic, while the third, Siraya East Road — named after a Pingpu tribe — is under construction.

Here are the names as well as Chinese characters given in news reports:

  • Tackalan Boulevard (in Mandarin: Zhíji?nòng Dàdào / ?????)
  • Baccloangh Boulevard (in Mandarin: Mùji?li? Dàdào / ?????)
  • Siraya East Road (Mandarin stories give this as Siraya Boulevard: X?l?y? dàdào / ?????)

For the spellings in romanization I’m having to take the CNA story’s word for it, which is often not a good idea.

I do not know what the street signs themselves look like. The new guidelines from the Ministry of the Interior, however, do not make me confident that the spellings will follow those of the original languages. (They give, for example “Kaidagelan Boulevard” — a romanization of the Mandarinized ?????? / K?idágélán Dàdào — rather than the proper “Ketagalan Boulevard.”) Thus, the signs may well give Mandarinized forms in Tongyong Pinyin (i.e., not Tackalan but Jhijianong, not Baccloangh but Mujialiou, and not Siraya but Silaya). I’d greatly appreciate pictures, in case any readers are ever in that area.

sources:

Low rate of registration of aborigines’ ‘original names’ prompts gov’t to ease process

As of January 2007, only 6,613 of Taiwan’s 470,000 Aborigines had officially registered to use their original names (i.e., those in the languages of their tribes, rather than the Sinicized forms that were forced upon Taiwan’s aboriginal population until relatively recently). This low rate, combined with the realization that the procedure was inconvenient for those who had moved away from their home towns, prompted the government to simplify the registration procedure by allowing people to register their names at any household registration office, not just the one for their officially listed household. This has been effect since April 1.

Names may be registered in a variety of forms: with Chinese characters, romanization, or a combination of both.

Yuánzhùmín sh?nq?ng huífù chuánt?ng míngzi de sh?uxù, jírì q? k?y? gèng f?ngbiàn, cóng j?nnián 4 yuè 1 rì q?, bùzài yìngxìng gu?dìng zh?néng huídào hùjí de bànl? g?ngmíng sh?uxù, ch?wài qiúxué jiùyè de yuánzhùmín zài rènhé y? ge hùzhèng shìwùsu? d?u k?y? bànl? g?ngmíng.

G?njù Yuánmínhuì [Yuánzhùmín Zú W?iyuánhuì] de t?ngjì: zhì 96 [i.e., 2007] nián 1 yuè zh?, y?jing huífù chuánt?ng míngzi de yuánzhùmín j?ny?u 6,613 rén, y? yuánzhùmín z?ngrénk?u shù 47 wàn du? rén xi?ngjiào, bùdào b?i f?nzh? y?di?n w?, b?lì f?icháng d?. H?n y?u k?néng shì wèile jiùyè, jiùxué huò qít? yuány?n, líxi?ngbèij?ng dào d?huìq? d? p?n de yuánzhùmín yùláiyù du?, ér jiù gu?dìng sh?nq?ng huífù chuánt?ng míngzi, y?dìng yào huídào hùjí su?zàidì de hùzhèng shìwùsu? bànl?, ràng bùsh?o yuánzhùmín d? tuìtángg?. X?n gu?dìng xi?zhèng hòu, yuánzhùmín sh?nq?ng g?ngmíng zài gèng de d?u k?y? bànl?.

G?njù xi?zhèng xìngmíng tiáolì gu?dìng, mùqián yuánzhùmín de chuánt?ng míngzi y? k?y? y?u s?n zh?ng d?ngjì f?ngshì:

  1. chuánt?ng míngzi y? Hànzì d?ngjì, lìrú Xíngzhèngyuàn Yuánmínhuì zh?rèn w?iyuán de míngzi: ?????? [W?lìs? Bèilín]
  2. chuánt?ng míngzi y? Hànzì d?ngjì, bìngliè chuánt?ng míngzi zh? Luóm? p?ny?n, lìrú Xíngzhèngyuàn Yuánmínhuì zhèngwù fùzh?rèn w?iyuán de míngzi: ?????? Icyang Parod [Webmaster's note: ?????? = Yíji?ng Bálùr in Hanyu Pinyin]
  3. Hànrén xìngmíng bìngliè chuánt?ng míngzi zh? Luóm? p?ny?n, lìrú Xíngzhèngyuàn Yuánmínhuì chángwù fùzh?rèn w?iyuán de míngzi: ??? [Zhèng Ti?ncái] Sra Kacaw

source: Yuánzhùmín sh?nq?ng huífù chuánt?ng míngzi jírì q? gè dì k?y? sh?nbàn (???????????????????), Chinatimes, April 5, 2007

Taiwan president backs restoration of aborigine place name

In 1957, Maya, a small town in Taiwan’s Gaoxiong (Kaohsiung) County, was assigned a new name: Sanmin Township (S?nmín Xi?ng, ???), after Sun Yat-sen’s S?nmínzh?yì (???? / Three Principles of the People). Although the residents of Maya — then, as now, predominantly members of the Bunun tribe — were likely not in favor of this change, Taiwan was then under an authoritarian regime with an assimilationist policy, so there’s little to nothing they could have done.

During KMT rule, when the change to Sanmin was made, a major point of government policy was stressing the Chineseness of Taiwan — even if, such as in this case, the links had to be manufactured. The Kuomintang (Guómínd?ng), after all, was and still officially is the Chinese Nationalist Party, as the Taipei Times likes to remind its readers.

Fortunately, Taiwan no longer has the same political situation as 50 years ago. Some activists are now trying to get the name of the town changed back to Maya. President Chen Shui-bian recently expressed his support for this, which is not surprising considering that the current administration prefers to stress Taiwan’s historical links with just about anyplace but China. In recent years Taiwan’s ties with Austronesia have been receiving increasing attention.

I’m still trying to find out if “Maya” represents the proper spelling or if it’s merely a romanization of a Mandarinized form of the Bunun name. In Chinese characters this place is written ??? (M?y? Xi?ng / Maya Township). The characters ?? are also used for the Maya people of southern Mexico and northern Central America.

sources:

further reading: Pinyin News on aborigine names