Windows computer systems and Pinyin input of Chinese characters

I often get messages from people asking how to use Hanyu Pinyin to input Chinese characters on their English-language Windows systems. But the most I’ve ever added to my site on this topic is a brief page on using Pinyin to type Chinese characters on a U.S. English Windows 2000 system. Fortunately for everyone, now there’s Pinyin Joe’s Chinese computing resources, which explains in user-friendly detail how to set up Western-language Windows XP computers to input Chinese characters using Pinyin and even zhuyin fuhao. I certainly don’t recommend using zhuyin; but it’s nice to know the information on how to type it (both by itself and for character input) is available and put forward so clearly.

The site covers a few other areas as well. Check it out. Pinyin Joe’s also promises to cover Vista once Microsoft finally releases it.

Another good place to ask related questions is Forumosa‘s technology forum, especially within the thread on Hanyu Pinyin input for XP.

writing Taiwanese: language, script, and myths

I’ve been fortunate to be able to add to this site a major essay on Taiwan’s language situation, etymology, and scripts: “How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language,” by Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here is the abstract:

The concept of guoyu (“national language”) is deeply embedded in the consciousness of everyone who has grown up in Taiwan during the past half century. Lately, however, people have begun to speak of their muyu (“mother tongue”) as being worthy of inculcation. Guoyu, of course, refers to Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), which in China is called putonghua (“common speech”). Mandarin is not native to Taiwan, yet it is the national language of Taiwan’s citizens and is the sole official written language. In contrast, the citizens of Taiwan are discouraged from writing their native languages (viz., Taiwanese, Hakka, and various aboriginal languages) and it is only recently that it has been possible to teach them in the schools. This paper will examine the complicated processes whereby the citizens of Taiwan are transformed from speakers of their mother tongues to speakers and writers of the national language. This transformation does not rely purely on educational activities carried out in the schools, but involves political, social, and cultural factors as well. The transformation of Cantonese and Shanghainese speakers into Mandarin speakers and writers will also be examined for comparative purposes.

This, however, hardly does justice to the scope of the essay.

I strongly recommend reading this. Again, here is the link to the full essay.

zhuyin and difficult characters

Here’s the business card of a traditional Chinese medicine clinic not far from my home:
namecard with zhuyin

Note that in the top line (臻興中醫診所 — zhēn xīng Zhōngyī zhěnsuǒ) the first two characters are annotated with zhuyin fuhao. That’s because many people do not know the first character.

Most likely the store owner chose to go with a name many people would not understand or know how to say because a fortune-teller said it would bring good luck and riches.

script reform in the Qing era

I recently came across W.K. Cheng’s “Enlightenment and Unity: Language Reformism in Late Qing China,” an interesting article from 2001 that covers much of the same ground as Victor Mair’s “Sound and Meaning in the History of Characters: Views of China’s Earliest Script Reformers,” but from a wider, social perspective.

Taiwanese skit competition

My mother in law will be a judge tomorrow in the Taipei County junior high school Taiwanese play contest, so my wife and I went over to the site of the competition today to pick up some material for her that hadn’t arrived through the mail yet. The stage was occupied today by groups from the county’s elementary schools, so we stayed to watch some of the 10-minute skits. A few things stood out, beyond the usual charming amateurism of youngsters in school plays.

All of the skits featured adults as well as children — actual adults, not just kids playing a role. Perhaps this is a cultural difference, because I can’t imagine that grownups would be included in children’s plays in America.

All of the skits also featured rural themes and/or the elderly. While there’s nothing wrong with this, I would have been much happier to see some skits in Taiwanese about astronauts, CEOs, scientists, glamorous movie stars, or even rap music stars. If Taiwanese speakers see their language as just of the past, or just of the countryside, it’s going to die.

I had a look at the script for one of the plays. It was almost entirely in Chinese characters, with a few words written in romanization and a sprinkling of zhuyin fuhao. Most unfortunate.