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.

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further reading: Pinyin News on aborigine names

Taiwan aborigines: education and media

cover of Taiwan Review, featuring a man, woman, and child in traditional aboriginal (Amis) dressThe most recent issue of Taiwan Review has a number of articles about Taiwan’s aborigines. I found two of them particularly interesting: Giving Indigenous People a Voice, which discusses Taiwan Indigenous TV, a television station established in July 2005 for Taiwan’s aboriginal population, and Whither Aboriginal Education?, which consists of excerpts from a panel discussion.

From “Giving Indigenous People a Voice”:

[T]he station is struggling with how to broadcast to people from 13 tribes, each of which speak a different language and have widely different customs.

“It’s very difficult to be fair,” says station director Masao, himself from the Atayal tribe. “Out of 13 tribes, which tribe’s language do you choose to broadcast in? So we have no choice but to use Mandarin” (the language of the majority Han Chinese population). “Some Atayal viewers complain there’s too little Atayal news. Of course it would be best if every tribe had its own channel, but that’s impossible.”

Another problem the station faces is finding skilled aboriginal staff, especially reporters and technicians, and those who can speak their own tribal language, even if not fluently….

Kolas, who grew up in the city with no aboriginal friends, recalls realizing the importance of being able to speak her own language when she first switched from being a mainstream reporter to being a reporter covering aboriginal issues for TITV.

“I realized that, just because I was an aborigine, it didn’t mean I could get interviews with aborigines. Without speaking their language, it was very hard for me to win their trust and interview them,” she says. She is now studying the Amis language.

Less than 5 percent of aboriginal children can speak their own language, Masao estimates, but like many things concerning aborigines, no solid statistics are available. To encourage the learning of one’s own language, the station has now made it an employment requirement….

The desuetude of aboriginal languages is such a problem that the TV station is trying to devote more airtime to tribal language broadcasting. Throughout the day, tribal folk tales are told in tribal languages, although the programs are generally short, resembling commercial breaks. Once a week, there are news programs in a select number of tribal tongues. The main programs, however, including news and cooking shows, are mostly broadcast in Mandarin, unlike another Taiwanese minority channel, Hakka TV, which broadcasts almost entirely in the Hakka language.

From “Whither Aboriginal Education?”:

Sun Ta-chuan: The truth is that many of the tribes have been integrated into modern society and traditional skills such as building a slate house or building a canoe no longer exist. Children of indigenous families that have moved to the cities no longer speak their mother tongues and nor do many of those who still live in the tribal areas. The thing is that we cannot force aboriginal children to shoulder the responsibility of keeping their cultures alive. The question is, should all aboriginal children receive education about the indigenous peoples from preschool to college, or are a couple of hours a week enough? I think the way to go is a “limited two-track” system, where students are free to change track between a complete aboriginal education and regular education.

Teachers are another problem. When the College of Indigenous Studies was set up, we were hoping that it could be equipped with aboriginal faculty members but in reality most of them are not. The standard for recruiting faculty members was the same as any other university [i.e., Ph.D.s are required for most faculty positions]. But where can you find someone with a doctorate to teach an indigenous language? We complained, but to no avail. In fact, we did not know what to teach the students, because there were no textbooks about aboriginal cultures and we had to compile our own teaching materials. Currently in tribal primary and high schools, people who have completed regular normal education and receive some hours of extra courses can teach indigenous culture. That is way too easy to qualify a teacher.

The problem is that we have been making a lot of effort in education for indigenous people, but there has been little done in the way of education about them. If we are determined to work on the latter, we need to invest a lot more. The government has actually invested a lot in local education, but it is mostly about Taiwanese and Hakka cultures. From my point of view, aboriginal languages and cultures are in much greater danger than these two, but are not receiving the same level of investment. There are millions who speak Taiwanese and Hakka, but each and every one of Taiwan’s indigenous languages is in immediate danger of disappearing. Take my people, the Pinuyumayans, there are only 10,000 of us and fewer than 2,000 speak our mother tongue.

Take the preservation of languages. The government has spent considerable time and money on this. Normally, you need to have a romanization system for the languages to be able to compile the teaching materials and then you establish the tribal language certification system. But the government started to issue certificates before the romanization system came out in 2006. The same goes for the teaching materials. The fundamental reason for this waste of money and time is the lack of a policy goal, and consequently that of a blueprint and efficient process for its execution. Facing these problems, I think we had better slow down and rethink carefully our goals and priorities.

Wang Ming-huey: The key problem, I think, is that the education provided for aborigines diverges from the work of cultural transmission. Though the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act and the Education Act for Indigenous Peoples are made to promote indigenous ethnic cultures, neither the goal nor the nature of the education to be given the indigenous peoples is clearly stated therein. We hope to change the past experience of being assimilated into the rulers’ cultures–first the Japanese and then the Kuomintang, but we find no way.

Establishing a university for ethnic communities is indicative of what the new law attempts to achieve. But the curriculum taught at the College of Indigenous Studies covers such subjects as anthropology, sociology, ethnology, or political science, and Mandarin is still the language used to teach, which is no different from teaching at regular colleges. Intrinsically, we are still implementing the assimilation policy. The indigenous people have to master Mandarin, in order to learn about their tribes, whereas the knowledge still alive in the tribe is ignored.

source: Taiwan Review, Vol. 57 No. 8, August 2007

additional resources:

new book on bilingual education in China

Last month saw the release of Bilingual Education in China: Practices, Policies and Concepts, edited by Anwei Feng (University of Durham).

I have not seen a copy of this yet but thought it might be of interest to some readers of Pinyin News. Here’s the publisher’s description:

This work compares and contrasts two strands of bilingualism in China, one for minority nationality groups, the other for majority. It examines the history, policy, philosophy, politics, provision and practice in bilingual, trilingual or multilingual education involving Mandarin Chinese, English, and minority languages. This volume brings a mixed group of researchers together to discuss issues in bilingual or trilingual education for the majority and minority nationality groups in China and to explore the relationship between the two. Articles range from reports of bilingual or trilingual education projects in remote minority regions to discussions about Chinese-English bilingual education in major economic centres.

For a list of articles in the book, see the table of contents (PDF).

hardback:
ISBN: 1-85359-992-1
13 Digit ISBN: 978-1-85359-992-7

paperback:
ISBN-10: 1853599913
ISBN-13: 978-1853599910

scripts related to Chinese characters — an article

sample of some of the scripts discussed in the paper; click to view the articleThe most recent rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is The Family of Chinese Character-Type Scripts, by Zhou Youguang, one of the main people behind the creation of Hanyu Pinyin. So it’s no surprise that his name has come up before in Pinyin News.

This article, from September 1991, categorizes and briefly discusses more than a dozen scripts derived from Chinese characters, most of which were used inside China by non-Han people.

The link above is to an HTML version. The original format of the article is preserved in the PDF file (650 KB).

And they called for macaronic — groups seek new national anthem for Taiwan

The Taiwan Peace Foundation and the Taiwan Society, which are both non-governmental organizations, are holding a competition for a new national anthem for Taiwan. In the first stage, they are looking just for lyrics. They recommend the use of multiple languages of Taiwan in this and thus also recommend that the submission contain some romanization (“y? b?nguó y?yán wéizh?, fùzhù p?ny?n wéi ji?, k? ji?ohù sh?yòng bùtóng y?yán”). Given Taiwan’s linguistic situation, I think this is a reasonable approach. Of course, whether it has any chance of becoming officially enacted in the near future is another matter.

Táiw?n Hépíng J?j?nhuì hé Táiw?n Shè tu?dòng “x?n guóg? yùndòng”, j?nti?n g?ng bù “x?n guóg?” zh?ng xu?n bànf?, x?wàng jièyóu g?ngk?i zh?ngqiú hé shèhuì c?nyù, xu?nch? fúhé Táiw?n mínzhòng q?pàn, néng g?ndòng mínzhòng de x?n guóg?.

Táiw?n Hépíng J?j?nhuì bi?oshì, “x?n guóg?” yùndòng dì-y? ji?duàn ji?ng jìnxíng g?cí zh?ng xu?n, Liùyuè shí’èr rì jiézh? sh?ujiàn, zìshù y? w?shí dào y?b?i zì wéiyí, y? b?nguó y?yán wéizh?, fùzhù p?ny?n wéi ji?, k? ji?ohù sh?yòng bùtóng y?yán. Ji?ng píngxu?n y?ushèng y?zhì w? míng, ji?ngj?n x?n tái bì shíwàn yuán, ji?zuò ruòg?n míng, ji?ngj?n y?wàn yuán.

Dì-èr ji?duàn wéi g?q? zh?ng xu?n, bìx? cóng dì-y? ji?duàn y?ushèng g?cí zh?ng, xu?nzé y?zhì li?ng sh?u p?q?, chángdù li?ng zhì s?n f?nzh?ng wéiyí, w? f?nzh?ng wéixiàn, B?yuè s?nshíy? rì jiézh? sh?ujiàn. Dì-y? míng ji?ngj?n èrshí wàn yuán, dì-èr míng ji?ngj?n shíwàn yuán, dì-s?n míng ji?ngj?n w?wàn yuán, ji?zuò ruòg?n míng, ji?ngj?n gè y?wàn yuán.

Táiw?n Hépíng J?j?nhuì dìzh? wéi Táib?i Shì S?ngji?ng Lù y?b?i liùshíb? hào sì lóu, w?ngzh? www.twpeace.org.tw.

source: Táiw?n Hépíng J?j?nhuì hé Táiw?n Shè zh?ngqiú x?n guóg? (????????????????), CNA, April 20, 2007

further reading: ROC National Anthem, Wikipedia

Truku dictionary released

What is reportedly Taiwan’s first dictionary of language of the Truku (Tàil?gé ???) tribe was released yesterday. The Truku are also known as the Sediq. They live mainly in Xiulin, Hualian County, site of the Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan’s most scenic areas, which takes its name from the tribe (or perhaps vice versa).

The work is based in part on a lexicon compiled in the 1950s, when a pastor at a local church began to translate the Bible into Truku. Six pastors at a local church have been working on the dictionary since 1999.

Words in Truku are created by adding prefix, postfix and midfix to root words. A root word can develop into as many as 40 words, Jiru [Haruq, one of the authors of the dictionary,] explained.

Midfix is added into the middle of a root word by separating the root word.

Taking an example from the dictionary, hakawis a root word meaning “bridge” in Truku, hmhakaw becomes “bridge-building”, mhakaw is a bridge builder, shakaw is the reason to build a bridge and hkagan is the location where the bridge is built.

“Verb tenses and different parts of speech are also constructed by adding prefixes, postfixes or midfixes to a rood word,” Iyuq [Ciyang, another of the authors of the dictionary,] said.

Until recently, the Truku were seen as being part of the Atayal tribe.

sources:

Taiwan officially recognizes the Sakizaya as a tribe

Taiwan’s Executive Yuan will ratify the Sakizaya (???? / S?qíláiy?) as an indigenous tribe on January 17, raising the number of officially recognized tribes here to thirteen.

During Japan’s rule over Taiwan (1895-1945), Japanese ethnologists classified the Sakizaya as members of the Ami. Later scholars, however, have distinguished the two groups as a separate because of linguistic differences and the Sakizaya’s sense of their own identity.

Representatives of the Sakizaya applied in 2004 with the Council of Indigenous Peoples for official recognition.

The Sakizaya live mainly in Hualian City and Hualian County’s townships of Shoufeng, Ruisui, and Fengbin.

I hope to find more information about the tribe’s language, as well as the origins of the tribe’s name.

sources:

Taiwan aboriginal students can gain extra school-entrance points through language exam

To help ward off the extinction of the languages of Taiwan’s tribes, the Council of Indigenous Peoples is establishing examinations in these languages. Those young people who pass will be given a 10 percent increase on their exam scores toward entry into high schools and universities. This would be on top of the 25 percent increase aboriginal students already receive automatically.

The first of the examinations will be held in March. Each test will have two parts: listening and speaking.

The council hopes this will encourage young people to retain the languages of their ancestors.

Students can prepare for the tests by studying books issued by the Ministry of Education. Although the ministry’s books have nine levels, tests will be based on only the first three levels.

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