Taizhong street signs are ‘wushasha’

This isn’t much of a story, really. But since it talks, however vaguely, about the messy romanization situation in Taizhong and since I haven’t put up anything lately in Pinyin itself, I decided to go ahead and post it.

Just don’t expect any useful news herein, unless you’d be surprised to hear that Taizhong’s street signs are a mess.

Táizh?ng Shì lùpái su? sh?yòng de Y?ngwén p?ny?n qi?nqíb?iguài, p?ny?nf? jìy?u T?ngyòng, Hàny?, zhùy?n fúhào dì-èrshì, W?itu?m? p?ny?n, d?ng, jiù y?u mínzhòng xiàng b?nbào bào liào, zh?ch?ng zhèxi? lùpái ràngrén kàn de “wùshàsha,” wàiguó gu?ngu?ngkè gèng zh?néng g?n dèngy?n.

Y? Táizh?ng Shì nánq? W?-quán Nánlù [i.e, "the Five Branches of Government South Road"] de x?n-jiù lùpái láishu?, jiù y?u lùpái shì c?iyòng W?itu?m? p?ny?n, y?nc? “?” zì sh?yòng chuan, ér g?ngg?ng wáng?ng de x?nshì lùpái “?” zì zéshì sh?yòng cyuan, shìwéi T?ngyòng P?ny?n, rán’ér xiànzài Táizh?ng Shìzhèngf? z?oy? quánmiàn g?iyòng Hàny? P?ny?n, “?” zì y?ngg?i shì quan cái zhèngquè.

Lìngwài, zài nánq? x?ng dàlù de lùpái, jiù y?u lùpái “?” zì de p?ny?n wéi hsing, shì sh?yòng W?itu?m? p?ny?n, rìqián g?i lùduàn y? g?nghuàn x?nshì lùpái shàng, shìy? Hàny? P?ny?n ji?ng “?” zì p?ny?n wéi xing, dàn li?ng ge lùpái d?u xuánguà zài lùk?u, ràngrén kàn de “wùshàsha.”

Zh?nduì Táizh?ng Shì lùpái su? sh?yòng Y?ngwén p?ny?n gèzì bùtóng de qíngkuàng, Táizh?ng Shìzhèngf? Ji?ot?ngchù ji?ot?ng gu?huà k? bi?oshì, zài gègè niándài su? x?ngjiàn de lùpái sh?yòng bùtóng de p?ny?n f?ngshì, cái huì zàochéng xiànj?n hùnluàn de qíngkuàng, mùqián Táizh?ng Shì y?jing quánmiàn c?iyòng Hàny? P?ny?n, wèile ji?jué c? y? wèntí, yóu Táizh?ng Shìzhèngf? d?shì f?zh?n ch?y? “chéng-xi?ng x?nf?ngmào” de j?ngfèi, jìnxíng t?ngy? lùpái p?ny?n de g?ngzuò. Zài W?-quán Nánlù de x?n lùpái f?ngmiàn, yuánb?n y?ngg?i sh?yòng Hàny? P?ny?n, dàn chéngb?osh?ng què f?sh?ng cuòwù, mùqián y?jing y?oqiú g?ijìn; zhìyú zài x?ng dàlù f?ngmiàn, y? huì y?oqiú chéngb?o yèzh? ji?y? g?izhèng.

source: Lù míng p?ny?n luànz?oz?o — kàn dé rén wùshàsha (??????? ??????), Zìyóu Shíbào (Liberty Times), March 21, 2009

Lugang signs

My wife and I also recently traveled to Lugang (Lùg?ng / ?? / often spelled “Lukang”). This is in Zhanghua (Changhua) County, not far from Taizhong. It makes a nice day trip from Taipei, especially if using the high-speed rail for transportation.

Despite this being the second photo-laden post in a row, I haven’t dropped my general love of low-bandwidth entries. These photos are in part evidence toward an important point that I think is getting overlooked in the discussions of how much it will cost Taiwan to change to Hanyu Pinyin: The signs in much of Taiwan remain inconsistent and something of a mess despite the at-best partially instituted change several years ago to Tongyong Pinyin. More on that in a later post.

Now for the signs.

Lugang, whose name means “deer harbor,” put deer signs atop some signposts.

Many of the signs in Lugang are in Tongyong Pinyin (e.g., Jhongshan and Mincyuan, for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be Zhongshan and Minquan). Note that other signs are in English — or in Chinese characters with no romanization at all. (Note, too, that the two signs for Minquan Road (???) — one of which is partially covered — point in different directions!)

But Tongyong Pinyin certainly isn’t the only romanization system found there. Here, for example, we have Wade-Giles (“Longshan,” “Zhongshan”). (Note that there’s no romanization given for S?nmín Road / ???.)
Lungshan Temple, Jhongshan Road Old Street, ???, Folk Arts Museum

And here’s yet another romanization system on official signage within Lugang. In the photo below the top sign is in the rarely seen Gwoyeu Romatzyh: Cherng-Hwang Temple, which in Hanyu Pinyin is Chénghuáng (“city god”) Miào (???). The sign below that (“San-Shan Kuo-Wang”) is in Wade-Giles. And the two signs below that don’t have any romanization at all. None of these signs are likely very old.

About 150 years ago “bilingual” signage meant something very different in Taiwan than it does today. Back then it was Literary Sinitic and Manchu, as seen on this stela outside a temple in Lugang.

While in the Lugang Folk Arts Museum I spotted a photo from the Japanese era of a building with romanization. Note, too, the “Huang” (?) at the top, which marks the ownership of the Huang family. Many buildings in Lugang bear that mark.

Here’s the whole building:

I didn’t notice that particular building while I was walking around the town. But I did see this one, with “CHIN” in large letters:

No less interesting are the letters, now largely effaced, near the top of the same building (click to enlarge). They were used to write something in Taiwanese.

After leaving Lugang, what should I see at the Taizhong high-speed rail station but InTerCaPiTaLiZation. That practice is a cancer on romanization everywhere.
exit sign at the Wuri (Taizhong) high-speed rail station, reading 'Bus to Taichung County, ChangHua, NanTou'

I feel a little guilty because much of Lugang — at least its historic section — is lovely and worth visiting. But here I’ve been showing you a bunch of signs. If you’d like to see what Lugang looks like beyond its signs, try parts one, two, and three of Craig Ferguson’s posts on his visit there.

Penghu street signs

My wife and I recently spent a weekend in Penghu, a beautiful, stark archipelago between the main island of Taiwan and China.

Since Penghu is under KMT rule, I expected to find street signs in Magong, the capital, in some old system (e.g., MPS2 or perhaps bastardized Wade-Giles) or perhaps even Hanyu Pinyin. (Highway signs, however, are a different matter. They’re put up by the central government, which means that relatively recent ones are in Tongyong Pinyin, regardless of which party might control the area.)

This first street sign, however, is unmistakably in Tongyong Pinyin, giving “Wunsyue” (for what in Hanyu Pinyin would be “Wenxue”).
street sign reading 'Wunsyue Rd.' (Wenxue Road)

But I looked around some more and saw signs in Hanyu Pinyin, such as “Huimin” for what in Tongyong would be “Hueimin” and “Hui[']an” for what in Tongyong would be “Huei[-]an.”
street sign reading 'Huimin Road'

street sign reading 'Huian first Road'

So were there some signs in Hanyu Pinyin after all? Apparently only coincidentally. The previous two hui signs were probably just a mistake, the result of Taiwan’s standard, sloppy chabuduo jiu keyi approach to signage. Here’s a sign on the same street as above; but in this case “?” is romanized huei and not hui. (And “first” is missing, from both the Hanzi and romanization.)
street sign reading 'Hueian Rd.'

Most signs were in Tongyong, such as these. (Note that Penghu, too, has a Hot Milk Road.)
street signs: 'Jhongjheng Road' (Zhongzheng Road) and 'Renai Road' (Ren'ai Road)

So, Tongyong after all. Well, at least they don’t have InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion … or do they?
street signs reading 'JhongShan Rd.' -- note InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion -- (Zhongshan Road) and 'Jhongjheng Rd.' (Zhongzheng Road) -- no intercapping

Fortunately, that sign was a one-off. I didn’t spot InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion elsewhere. Here’s another sign from the same road:
street sign reading 'Jhongshan Rd.' (Zhongshan Road)

So, in short, Penghu’s street signs are in Tongyong Pinyin — but with plenty of mistakes and inconsistencies (e.g., missing apostrophes/hyphens, “first” rather than “1st”, and both “Road” and “Rd.”). It’s especially ridiculous that the KMT-administered Penghu bothered with Tongyong, especially since it was free to adopt Hanyu Pinyin. Now it’s going to have to change its signs over to Hanyu Pinyin. But some of the signs would need to be updated anyway, since many already show signs of age, with letters missing. (My guess is that Penghu put up such low-quality signs that in the annual windy season some of the letters just get blown away.)

Here’s a sign in little danger of having its writing blow away any time soon. This is what a much older Magong street sign looks like. Note that it must be read from right to left: ??? (Fuguo Road — “Recover Atlantis the Lost Country Road”).
old concrete street sign reading, right to left, '???' (Fuguo Road)

Finally, here’s something that isn’t a street sign at all. But it is nonetheless a sign of historic importance, since it’s a stela that commemorates the Ming Chinese official Shen Yourong telling the red-haired barbarians (i.e., Westerners — in this case, the Dutch) to get the hell out of Penghu. (The Dutch were told they could instead go to Taiwan, since back then China didn’t care about it in the least.) The composite photo shows both the 400-year-old stone original and a modern reproduction in wood.

photos of the original stone stela and a modern reproduction in wood

The text reads “Sh?n Y?uróng yù tuì hóngmáo f?n[zi] Wéimálàng d?ng” (??????????????): “Shen Yourong orders the red-haired foreigners under [Dutch commander] Wybrand van Warwijck to withdraw.”

Gaoxiong education chief backs city retaining Tongyong

The news on Taiwan’s romanization situation has been coming in fast over the past few days. Unfortunately I’ve been too busy to report much on this. But rest assured that I am trying to get some things done behind the scenes … for all the good that will do given Taiwan’s piss-poor record on this issue. Still, I’m trying to remain hopeful.

Last week the deputy chief of Gaoxiong’s (Kaohsiung’s) Bureau of Education said that he was in favor of the city adopting the international system for romanizing Mandarin, Hanyu Pinyin. But on Friday his boss, Cài Q?nghuá, slapped down that idea.

Cai said that almost no schools reported problems with Tongyong Pinyin. I have no idea what that has to do with anything. But that was part of his justification for backing Tongyong.

He also said it would cost too much money to change, throwing out a reportedly conservative estimate of NT$900 million (US$28 million), which I think is likely a gross overestimate.

Here’s the story:

G?oxióng shìzhèngf? dàod? zh? bù zh?chí Hàny? P?ny?n? G?oxióng Shì Jiàoyùjú zh?ng Cài Q?nghuá zuóti?n bi?oshì, quán shì y? sì w? su? huíbào xuéxiào zh?ng, zh?y?u sì su? tíjí T?ngyòng P?ny?n sh?yòng de wèntí, juédàdu?shù xuéxiào bìngwú yìjian, G?oxióng shìzhèngf? jiù “zh?gu?n d?nwèi zài yèwù tu?dòng shàng, shì-f?u y?u x?yào xiézhù shìxiàng” wèntí shí, huífù “p?ny?n zhèngcè x? y? guójì ji?gu?, jiànyì c?iyòng guójì ji?n du?shù sh?yòng de p?ny?n xìt?ng Hàny? P?ny?n.” Shì Jiàoyùjú zh? mì de yìjian, t? méi zhùyìdào.

Cài Q?nghuá shu?, mùqián háishi zh?zh?ng yányòng T?ngyòng P?ny?n, f?uzé g?ngg?i G?oxióng Shì gu?ngshì lùbi?o, dìbi?o, bi?ozhì d?ng, b?osh?u g?jì jiù x? hu?fei y?di?n ji?yì yuán.

source: G?oxióng Shì Jiàoyùjú zh?ng zh?zh?ng: yányòng T?ngyòng P?ny?n (?????? ????????), Zìyóu Shíbào (Liberty Times), September 20, 2008

Taiwan Google searches: Hanyu Pinyin vs. Tongyong Pinyin

Taiwan’s still official but probably-not-long-for-this-world romanization system for Mandarin is Tongyong Pinyin. Tongyong Pinyin, however, is basically unknown outside Taiwan and, in truth, very little known even within Taiwan. (And many of those — like me — who do know it don’t like it.) But still, it’s what the Chen administration forced into use on highway signs, within train stations, and on some other signage throughout the country. So there’s certain to be some interest for it here. But in Taiwan how does interest in it compare against interest in Hanyu Pinyin, use of the latter system being regarded as something close to a sign of the apocalypse among some Tongyong supporters? The new Google Insights provides some clues.

Here’s a relative look at Google searches from Taiwan in 2008 for the terms “????” (Hanyu Pinyin) and “????” (Tongyong Pinyin).

In Taiwan, searches for Hanyu Pinyin have clearly been more popular this year.

What about in the longer term? Below is a chart from 2004 to the present. (The lines are a little different because in the long-term chart averages are by month; but the monthly averages probably give a clearer picture anyway.)

Again, interest in Hanyu Pinyin comes out on top — consistently — even in Taiwan.

Not surprisingly, in searches worldwide, Tongyong Pinyin basically doesn’t even register against Hanyu Pinyin, so great is the disparity.

If you’d like to run some searches on your own, note that Google Insights distinguishes between traditional and “simplified” Chinese characters, i.e., a search for “????” will yield substantially different results than one for “????”.

Gaoxiong street signs

Sinle StDuring an extremely brief trip a few weeks ago to G?oxióng, Taiwan’s second-largest city, I was able to grab a few photos of signage there. Most of these were taken from a moving taxi; thus the poor quality and lack of much diversity. But these are the best I could do under the circumstances.

First, a few basic points:

  • they’re in Tongyong Pinyin (bleah — but at least they’re consistent)
  • they don’t use InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion (This lack is, of course, a good thing. If only Taipei hadn’t screwed this up!)
  • in most cases the text in romanization is large enough to read even at a distance (Very good — unlike all too many relatively recent signs elsewhere, such as Taipei County.)

In short, other than the choice of romanization most of these signs aren’t all that bad. They’re certainly much better (and more consistent) than the ones that Taipei County put up in Tongyong Pinyin a few years ago. (Although Taipei County’s current magistrate said more than two years ago that he was in favor of switching to Hanyu Pinyin, as far as I can see he has done absolutely nothing about this. Of course, some might say that he’s done absolutely nothing about anything; but I’ll leave discussion of that to the political blogs.)

Here’s another G?oxióng sign with romanization that isn’t too small.
Dacheng St.

I’m not a fan of the practice of force-justifying the Chinese characters and romanization/English to the same width. This style can be seen in many of these signs. Sometimes this results in the romanized/English words being spaced too far apart; more often, though, the Chinese characters are left with lots of space between them — so much space that it would be easy to have spaces indicate word divisions for the texts in Hanzi (something Y.R. Chao recommended nearly a century ago), which might be an interesting thing to try on signs. I wonder if anyone has ever performed any experiments on this.

The full Mandarin name of the school indicated by the blue sign on the left is rather long:

G?oxióng shìlì G?oxióng n?z? g?ojí zh?ngxué

Whoever made the sign wisely desided to cut that down to ???? (G?oxióng n? zh?ng). If only someone had realized that it would have been better to use something shorter than the full English name, too. “Kaohsiung Municipal Girls’ Senior High School” is a lot to fit on one small sign. “Kaohsiung Girls’ High School”, “Girls’ Municipal High School”, or something even shorter would have been much better.

Here are some more signs.

And finally an address plate on a building. This style could certainly be better.
Dayi St.

Hanyu Pinyin backer to return to Taiwan’s Cabinet

Dr. Ovid Tzeng (Z?ng Zhìl?ng / ??? ) will be returning to government as a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet of the incoming administration of Ma Ying-jeou.

Tzeng has done important work in psycholinguistics and is known to support Taiwan’s adoption of Hanyu Pinyin. Indeed, this support was one of the reasons he was pushed out of office the last time he was in government service, as minister of education at the beginning of President Chen Shui-bian’s first term.

Tasked with choosing a romanization system for Taiwan, Tzeng recommended Hanyu Pinyin. He was promptly replaced by someone who backed the adoption of the newly minted Tongyong Pinyin.

Tzeng’s name is often misspelled “”Ovid Tseng” in news reports.

Web site for stroke-order practice

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has put online new a Web site devoted to stroke order for Chinese characters.

Unlike the older MOE stroke-order online handbook, this new site provides animations of the stroke order for 4,808 of the most frequently used traditional Chinese characters. And they really are traditional, too. For example, a Pinyin search for tai (it doesn’t accept tone marks or numbers) doesn’t return ?, even though it is more commonly seen in Taiwan than the full form of ?. But perhaps that’s a glitch, since ? is within the system, as a search for that particular character reveals.

Users can also test their knowledge of official stroke order, since each character’s animation also comes with an interactive feature in which users trace the strokes with their mouse. (Click on the button to the top right of the character.) It can be a little picky, as I suppose befits the prescriptive nature of the site. (In the real world, people write many characters using orders other than what Taiwan’s Ministry of Education and your Mandarin teacher might tell you is the One True Way. But that’s another matter.)

Although there’s no English interface at present, the files are labeled in English, so positioning your mouse over the navigation elements will usually reveal enough for non-Hanzi readers to make their way around.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t appear to work with anything other than @#$%! Internet Explorer. Also, at first the search feature allowed the entry of no more than four letters, making it impossible to use Pinyin (Hanyu Pinyin is offered along with Taiwan’s official Tongyong Pinyin) to look up characters for, say, zhong and guang, or for the Pinyin syllables with the most letters: chuang, shuang, and zhuang (not counting -r forms); but someone there is on the ball, since that was fixed after I wrote the ministry about it yesterday.

partial screenshot, showing the character ? (TAI) being written

site and further reading: