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.

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.

Tao (Yami) language materials

Providence University of Taizhong County, Taiwan, has put online a site about the language of the Tao (Yami) people of Taiwan’s Orchid Island (Lanyu). It contains complete the text of a 690-page book on the language. It offers readings in Tao (romanized) with not only interlinear English and Chinese characters but also audio files.

The sample sentences range from the mundane to the unexpected, such as Ji na ni’oya o nitomolok sia ori, ta isáray na jia. (“He wasn’t angry at the person who poked his buttocks, but instead he thanked him.”)

This site, which has interfaces in both English and Mandarin, is a terrific resource. Check it out.

source: Women compile dictionary and grammar text for Yami language, Taipei Times, October 23, 2006