blog: Talking Taiwanese

Talking Taiwanese is a great new blog featuring long, detailed posts that often compare and contrast Taiwan’s linguistic situation with that of other places (e.g., Catalonia, Friesland, Galicia). Taiwan’s failure to institute meaningful language programs in Taiwanese is another frequent topic.

Talking Taiwanese started so strong, with a torrent of posts, that I more than half expected the author, Johan, to burn out. But although the rate of new posts there has slowed a little, Talking Taiwanese is still going strong. Check it out.

My only excuse for not mentioning this earlier is that I’m behind on everything lately. I first heard about this blog from David of David on Formosa, who often puts up great links.

Shanghai metro told to end language service

This week’s news provides a good example of how petty China’s language police can be.

Workers in Shanghai’s metro service must often deal with Chinese who do not speak either Shanghainese or standard Mandarin, so they began to collect useful phrases so staff members could better understand and answer some questions. They focused on Cantonese, Hoklo (a.k.a. Minnan, Southern Fujianese, Taiwanese, etc.), Wenzhouhua (although this is generally classified as part of the same language that contains Shanghainese, it is largely incomprehensible to most people in Shanghai), Wuhanhua (although classified as a Mandarin dialect, it is far removed from standard Mandarin), and Changsha (a dialect of Hunanese). More than fifty metro employees are to study the phrases.

This caught the attention of Shanghai’s Spoken and Written Language Work Committee (Y?yán Wénzì G?ngzuò W?iyuánhuì). On Tuesday, Zhu Lei (??), a committee official, reported that her office had “contacted the Metro management …, stating that the program could violate the country’s language policy to promote the use of Putonghua [i.e., Mandarin].”

“The right way to solve communication barrier is to speak Putonghua,” she is quoted as saying.

university Web site on Taiwanese

National Taichung University (Guólì Táizh?ng Jiàoyù Dàxué / ????????) has a new Web site on Taiwanese. Unfortunately, parts of it — especially the sound files — appear to require the use of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser and ActiveX. But it’s still a useful resource.

further reading: M?nnány? Luóm?zì p?ny?n f?ng’àn jí f?y?n xuéxí w?ng jiàn zhì wánchéng (????????????????????), CNA, June 15, 2007

Chinese characters for Taiwanese–a new list from Taiwan’s MOE

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has released a list of Chinese characters that can be used for writing common words in Taiwanese. (Note: PDF file.) I’ve provided a few examples at the end of this post.

The minister of education stated last week that students will not be tested on Chinese characters for Taiwanese, so I doubt there will be a widespread effort to learn these. Moreover, some of these characters are not presently in Unicode, making their use in practical applications at best difficult. (And even if they were in Unicode, that doesn’t mean fonts would include them or that a significant number of people would have such fonts.)

More characters and readings are to be released later. But since this list of just three hundred entries took the ministry four years to compile (not counting the many years various scholars worked on this before then), I don’t think anyone should be expecting much more to be released soon.

Here is the ministry’s press release on this.


  1. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    1. ???
      ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????kiánn?????????kué?????????????????????????????[webmaster’s note: written together as one character] ?in??????**?[webmaster’s note: see PDF for these characters] ?tshit-thô????????????????Unicode?????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    2. ????
      ??????????????????????????tsh?ng sann??????????????á??????bô?? ????sán??????g?ng??????óo/ué??????????????????????????????
    3. ????
  2. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    1. ??????????????????????????????ê????ê??????????????????????tsi?t-ê??????it–ê??????????????????tsi?t-ê???????????????????????it–ê????????guá-ê???????
    2. ???????????????????????????????m?????????t?????????suí????????kh?g????????kha????????báng?????????ts??????????háu????????tsiânn????????l?ng?????

Here are nine entries from the list of three hundred.

建議用字 音讀 又音 對應華語 用例 異用字
recommended character pronunciation alternate reading corresponding Mandarin example different wording
ba̍k   目鏡、目眉  
bang   蚊子 蠓仔、蠓罩
蠻皮 bân-phuê bân-phê, bân-phêr 頑強不化 你真蠻皮 慢皮
bat pat 認識、曾經 捌字、捌去  
beh bueh, berh 要、如果、快要 欲食飯、欲知、強欲 要、卜
  微、細小、輕微 風微微仔吹、微微仔笑  
bīn   臉、面 面色、面熟  
明仔載 bîn-á-tsài miâ-á-tsài, bîn-nà-tsài 明天、明日 明仔載會好天 明仔再、明旦載
  無、沒有 無錢、無閒  


Taiwan gov’t releases booklet on Hoklo romanization

Taiwan’s Ministry of Procrastination Education has finally released a handbook on the use of romanization for Taiwanese: “Táiw?n M?nnány? Luóm?zì p?ny?n f?ng’àn sh?yòng sh?ucè” (??????????????????).

Most of the pages in this are devoted to a list of the syllables of Taiwanese. Without counting tones Taiwanese has nearly twice as many unique syllables as Mandarin (797 vs. about 410, respectively).

Here’s the list of Taiwanese syllables, as given in Taiwan’s current official romanization system for Hoklo:

a, ah, ai, ainn, ak, am, an, ang, ann, ap, at, au, ba, bah, bai, bak, ban, bang, bat, bau, be, beh, bi, bian, biat, biau, bih, bik, bin, bing, bio, bit, biu, bo, bok, bong, boo, bu, bua, buah, buan, buat, bue, bueh, bui, bun, but, e, eh, enn, ga, gai, gak, gam, gan, gang, gau, ge, gi, gia, giah, giam, gian, giang, giap, giat, giau, gik, gim, gin, ging, gio, gioh, giok, giong, giu, go, gok, gong, goo, gu, gua, guan, guat, gue, gueh, gui, ha, hah, hai, hainn, hak, ham, han, hang, hann, hannh, hap, hat, hau, he, heh, henn, hennh, hi, hia, hiah, hiam, hian, hiang, hiann, hiannh, hiap, hiat, hiau, hiauh, hik, him, hin, hing, hinn, hio, hioh, hiok, hiong, hip, hit, hiu, hiunn, hiunnh, hm, hmh, hng, hngh, ho, hoh, hok, hong, honn, honnh, hoo, hu, hua, huah, huai, huainn, huan, huann, huat, hue, hueh, hui, hun, hut, i, ia, iah, iam, ian, iang, iann, iap, iat, iau, iaunn, ik, im, in, ing, inn, io, ioh, iok, iong, ip, it, iu, iunn, ji, jia, jiam, jian, jiang, jiap, jiat, jiau, jim, jin, jio, jiok, jiong, jip, jit, jiu, ju, juah, jue, jun, ka, kah, kai, kainn, kak, kam, kan, kang, kann, kap, kat, kau, kauh, ke, keh, kenn, kha, khah, khai, khainn, khak, kham, khan, khang, khann, khap, khat, khau, khe, kheh, khenn, khennh, khi, khia, khiah, khiak, khiam, khian, khiang, khiap, khiat, khiau, khiauh, khih, khik, khim, khin, khing, khinn, khio, khioh, khiok, khiong, khip, khit, khiu, khiunn, khng, kho, khok, khong, khoo, khu, khua, khuah, khuai, khuan, khuann, khuat, khue, khueh, khuh, khui, khun, khut, ki, kia, kiah, kiam, kian, kiann, kiap, kiat, kiau, kik, kim, kin, king, kinn, kio, kioh, kiok, kiong, kip, kit, kiu, kiunn, kng, ko, koh, kok, kong, konn, koo, ku, kua, kuah, kuai, kuainn, kuan, kuann, kuat, kue, kueh, kui, kun, kut, la, lah, lai, lak, lam, lan, lang, lap, lat, lau, lauh, le, leh, li, liah, liam, lian, liang, liap, liat, liau, lih, lik, lim, lin, ling, lio, lioh, liok, liong, lip, liu, lo, loh, lok, long, loo, lu, lua, luah, luan, luat, lue, lui, lun, lut, m, ma, mai, mau, mauh, me, meh, mi, mia, miau, mih, mng, moo, mooh, mua, mui, na, nah, nai, nau, nauh, ne, neh, ng, nga, ngai, ngau, nge, ngeh, ngia, ngiau, ngiauh, ngoo, ni, nia, niau, nih, niu, nng, noo, nua, o, oh, ok, om, ong, onn, oo, pa, pah, pai, pak, pan, pang, pat, pau, pe, peh, penn, pha, phah, phai, phainn, phak, phan, phang, phann, phau, phauh, phe, phenn, phi, phiah, phiak, phian, phiang, phiann, phiat, phiau, phih, phik, phin, phing, phinn, phio, phit, phngh, pho, phoh, phok, phong, phoo, phu, phua, phuah, phuan, phuann, phuat, phue, phueh, phuh, phui, phun, phut, pi, piah, piak, pian, piang, piann, piat, piau, pih, pik, pin, ping, pinn, pio, pit, piu, png, po, poh, pok, pong, poo, pu, pua, puah, puan, puann, puat, pue, pueh, puh, pui, pun, put, sa, sah, sai, sak, sam, san, sang, sann, sannh, sap, sat, sau, se, seh, senn, si, sia, siah, siak, siam, sian, siang, siann, siap, siat, siau, sih, sik, sim, sin, sing, sinn, sio, sioh, siok, siong, sip, sit, siu, siunn, sng, sngh, so, soh, sok, som, song, soo, su, sua, suah, suai, suainn, suan, suann, suat, sue, sueh, suh, sui, sun, sut, ta, tah, tai, tainn, tak, tam, tan, tang, tann, tap, tat, tau, tauh, te, teh, tenn, tha, thah, thai, thak, tham, than, thang, thann, thap, that, thau, the, theh, thenn, thi, thiah, thiam, thian, thiann, thiap, thiat, thiau, thih, thik, thim, thin, thing, thinn, thio, thiok, thiong, thiu, thng, tho, thoh, thok, thong, thoo, thu, thua, thuah, thuan, thuann, thuat, thuh, thui, thun, thut, ti, tia, tiah, tiak, tiam, tian, tiann, tiap, tiat, tiau, tih, tik, tim, tin, ting, tinn, tinnh, tio, tioh, tiok, tiong, tit, tiu, tiuh, tiunn, tng, to, toh, tok, tom, tong, too, tsa, tsah, tsai, tsainn, tsak, tsam, tsan, tsang, tsann, tsap, tsat, tsau, tse, tseh, tsenn, tsha, tshah, tshai, tshak, tsham, tshan, tshang, tshann, tshap, tshat, tshau, tshauh, tshe, tsheh, tshenn, tshi, tshia, tshiah, tshiak, tshiam, tshian, tshiang, tshiann, tshiap, tshiat, tshiau, tshih, tshik, tshim, tshin, tshing, tshinn, tshio, tshioh, tshiok, tshiong, tship, tshit, tshiu, tshiunn, tshng, tshngh, tsho, tshoh, tshok, tshong, tshoo, tshu, tshua, tshuah, tshuan, tshuang, tshuann, tshue, tshuh, tshui, tshun, tshut, tsi, tsia, tsiah, tsiam, tsian, tsiang, tsiann, tsiap, tsiat, tsiau, tsih, tsik, tsim, tsin, tsing, tsinn, tsio, tsioh, tsiok, tsiong, tsip, tsit, tsiu, tsiunn, tsng, tso, tsoh, tsok, tsong, tsoo, tsu, tsua, tsuah, tsuainn, tsuan, tsuann, tsuat, tsue, tsuh, tsui, tsun, tsut, tu, tua, tuan, tuann, tuat, tue, tuh, tui, tun, tut, u, ua, uah, uai, uainn, uan, uang, uann, uat, ue, ueh, uh, ui, un, ut

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?

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

‘dialect’ and ‘Chinese’ from a linguistic point of view

Another back issue of Sino-Platonic Papers has been released, this one of particular relevance to the themes of this site: What Is a Chinese “Dialect/Topolect”? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms (1991), by Professor Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Here is the abstract:

Words like fangyan, putonghua, Hanyu, Guoyu, and Zhongwen have been the source of considerable perplexity and dissension among students of Chinese language(s) in recent years. The controversies they engender are compounded enormously when attempts are made to render these terms into English and other Western languages. Unfortunate arguments have erupted, for example, over whether Taiwanese is a Chinese language or a Chinese dialect. In an attempt to bring some degree of clarity and harmony to the demonstrably international fields of Sino-Tibetan and Chinese linguistics, this article examines these and related terms from both historical and semantic perspectives. By being careful to understand precisely what these words have meant to whom and during which period of time, needlessly explosive situations may be defused and, an added benefit, perhaps the beginnings of a new classification scheme for Chinese language(s) may be achieved. As an initial step in the right direction, the author proposes the adoption of “topolect” as an exact, neutral translation of fangyan.

The entire text is now online as a 2.2 MB PDF: What Is a Chinese “Dialect/Topolect”? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms.

Strongly recommended.

Taiwanese couplet

a chunlian written in Taiwanese, as described in this post

This photo of a ch?nlián (?? / ??) — couplet for Chinese New Year — has been making the e-mail rounds. (I don’t know the original source.) What’s interesting about this set is that they’re written in Taiwanese, not Mandarin.

I’ve written these left to right. But the orders in the original are

  1. to the right of the doorway, top to bottom
  2. to the left of the doorway, top to bottom

The writing above the doorway can be seen as separate from the other two or together with them. In the latter case it would be read first, from right to left. It reads ?????, which means “take care of health.”)

The one on the right reads ?????????, which means “attach importance to relationships and brotherhood, but [people] also need to attach importance to powder’s smell” (i.e., to those who wear scented face power: women).

The second one, the one on the left, reads ?????????, which means “love your home town, love your motherland; but also love women.”

The language of the first half of each of the two vertical strips is formal and traditional. But the style of both second halves is more akin to a sales pitch for a Viagra-like patent medicine.

Bichhin, which looks like a promising blog on Taiwanese (and written in Taiwanese, too), has helpfully rendered this in both the Tai-Luo and church romanization systems. It’s easier to see the rhymes that way.

further reading: