Chinese characters no longer required for Taiwan Aborigine names

Last week Taiwan’s legislature passed an amendment stating that members of Taiwan’s tribes will no longer be forced to adopt names written in Chinese characters. Instead, their names can be presented solely in romanization if so desired. Thus, at least in this specialized category, Chinese characters have been stripped of their primacy and romanization is officially allowed to stand on its own (not appear only in conjunction with Chinese characters).

Source: Lìyuàn tōngguò: yuánzhùmín shēnfen zhèngjiàn — kě zhǐ xiě pīnyīn zúmíng (立院通過:原住民身分證件 可只寫拼音族名), United Daily News, May 15, 2024

Further reading:

Hsiao Bi-khim promotes speaking aboriginal languages, Taiwanese

Hsiao Bi-khim speaks at a December 23, 2023, campaign rally in Banqiao.

Earlier this evening I went to a rally for Hsiao Bi-khim, the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate for vice president of Taiwan.

Most of the speakers at the rally, including Hsiao, spoke in Taiwanese, or in fluent code switching between Taiwanese and Mandarin. Hsiao, who spoke mainly in Taiwanese with some Mandarin mixed in, is more of a policy wonk than a tub-thumper. Although she struck me as better at campaign rallies than Tsai Ing-wen was earlier in her career, her remarks did include coverage of some things, important though they are, that aren’t typically used to boost crowd enthusiasm, such as working toward a tax treaty with the United States. But I was happy to hear her mention the importance of learning not just English but also keeping Taiwanese (Hoklo) and the languages of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples alive.

Part of the rally was in support of this, with a children’s group organized to help promote the speaking of Taiwanese among young people performing a skit in Taiwanese and then a rousing version of “Jingle Bells” in that language.

Hsiao is also a native speaker of English. I heard her speak (in English) about ten years ago and was impressed with her intelligence and thoughtfulness.

Children performing a skit in the Taiwanese language (Hoklo) during a DPP campaign rally.

‘My Bunun name is …’

A candidate for the Indigenous constituency in Taiwan’s Legislature has, in protest over government policies mandating the use of Chinese characters, changed her name to “李我要單列族名我的布農族名字是Savungaz Valincinan,” which translates as “Li I want to list my tribal name separately; my Bunun name is Savungaz Valincinan.”

photo of the Taiwan national ID card of Savungaz Valincinan, showing her long official name, as detailed in this post.
(photo by Savungaz Valincinan)

Here’s a ChatGPT translation of a story in the Liberty Times about this:

The registration of candidates for the 2024 legislative election concluded on the 24th. According to data from the Central Election Commission (CEC), there are a total of 10 candidates running for mountain indigenous legislator positions. One candidate stands out with a name that spans 34 characters, and it reads, “李我要單列族名我的布農族名字是Savungaz Valincinan,” making it the longest name among this year’s legislative candidates.

Following the successful administrative lawsuit regarding the “Administrative Appeal for Single Listing of Tribal Names on Indigenous Identification Cards” in early November, the New Taipei City Government Civil Affairs Bureau issued the first identification card with a single-listed tribal name. However, as this was a local “case remedy,” other indigenous individuals wishing to list only their tribal names are still unable to complete the process.

Savungaz Valincinan expressed that for this election, she chose not to use the transliteration of her Bunun tribal name in Chinese characters. Two days before registration, she officially changed her name at the household registration office to “李我要單列族名我的布農族名字是Savungaz Valincinan.”

Emphasizing that the name change is not a mere joke but a sincere and poignant appeal, Savungaz Valincinan questioned, “Why should such a small matter like adjusting administrative procedures make us shout so hard and still be unattainable?”

Other indigenous individuals have also inquired with local governments about listing only Romanized Pinyin for their names. However, according to the responses received, currently, there are only three options: traditional name transliterated into Chinese characters, traditional name transliterated into Chinese characters with Romanized Pinyin, and Chinese name alongside traditional name with Romanized Pinyin.

She urged that if the government continues to overlook the demands of indigenous people, and if she is fortunate enough to become a legislator in the future, every government official addressing her must recite the “demand for single-listing tribal names” every time until they genuinely amend the administrative procedures.

In the 2024 legislative election, aside from the 315 regional legislative candidates, there are 10 candidates for plain indigenous legislator positions and 10 candidates for mountain indigenous legislator positions who have completed their registrations.

For more about this general topic, please see Some Indigenous people in Taiwan want to drop their Chinese names: ‘That history has nothing to do with mine’, an excellent article by Stephanie Yang and David Shen (Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2023).

source: 34 zì! Míngnián dàxuǎn míngzi zuìcháng Lìwěi cānxuǎn rén — pàn zhèngfǔ zhòngshì dān liè zúmíng sùqiú (34字!明年大選名字最長立委參選人 盼政府重視單列族名訴求), Liberty Times, November 26, 2023.

further reading: Savungaz Valincinan Facebook page.

Taiwan completes its zhuyin fuhao stamp series

In March, Taiwan’s Chunghwa Post (Zhōnghuá Yóuzhèng / 中華郵政) issued new postage stamps commemorating Zhuyin Fuhao (註音符號) (aka bopomofo, bopo mofo, or bpmf). The postal service has released another three sheets of these stamps, finishing the series.

Full sheet of two blocks of "5 by 2 blocks of postage stamps of various colors, each highlighting a different zhuyin fuhao/bopomofo letter/symbol. Extra material on the sheet describes the stamps and gives tone marks.

sources:

Taiwan 2024 presidential campaign English slogans

Until ten years ago or so, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the Taiwan political party most likely to use English in its campaign material. But other parties have jumped on that bandwagon, even if that English is not necessarily very good.

This presidential campaign we have several examples of English slogans, with half of them based on the candidate’s name.

My previous post showed a poster for Terry Gou (Hanyu Pinyin: Guo Tai-ming) with the slogan of “GOOD TiMING.” (His Mandarin given name, “Tai-ming,” is largely homophonous with the English word “timing.”) The other day I came across a same-same but different poster, this latter one in Zhonghe.

The Zhonghe one, though, has the less successful variant English slogan of “GOOD TiMEING” (with an e).

large billboard for the Taiwan presidential campaign of Terry Gou, with the slogan of 'Good Timeing' (sic)

Gou’s campaign website currently has the e-less version, as does his recently released (and soon withdrawn) ill-advised video, so it would appear that the “TiMEING” version is older, as is the inclusion of Mandarin (改變 好時機 / gǎibiàn — hǎo shíjī / change — good opportunity). Yesterday I also saw the e-less version on the side of a bus.

FWIW, using English’s -ing ending with Mandarin has already been around for several election cycles.

The campaign for Ko Wen-je (Hanyu Pinyin: Ke Wen-zhe) is employing the vaguely positive-sounding but clunky English slogan of “Keep Promise”, which is meant to echo his nickname of “Ko P” (from Professor Ko). Ko’s own level of English is surely better than that, but he used it anyway.

The candidate whose personal command of English is strongest might be the Harvard-educated Lai Ching-te (Hanyu Pinyin: Lai Qing-de) of the DPP. His English slogan, however, does not evoke the sound of his name, likely because his family name of “Lai” sounds very much like the English word “lie.” Instead, he has “TEAM TAIWAN”, along with the related Mandarin of 挺台灣 / tǐng Táiwān. Ting (endure, stand) and team are phonetically similar though certainly not identical.

The remaining presidential candidate of note, Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) of the Kuomintang, does not appear to have an English slogan. Incidentally, I have no idea how he came up with the romanization of his name. It doesn’t match any of the main romanization systems in Taiwan for Mandarin, nor is it an English-friendly ad hoc version. In Hanyu Pinyin, his name would be written Hou You-yi / Hóu Yǒu-yí.

I have no idea how good his English might be — not that it’s a job requirement. When I was introduced to him about five years ago, he didn’t bother to speak to me in any language beyond perhaps a cursory ni hao.

T-shirts with romanized Taiwanese

If you’re in Taiwan, make a trip to your local 50% Fifty Percent Píngjià Shíshàng (50% FIFTY PERCENT 平价时尚) (50 percent bargain-price fashion) and pick up one of their shirts of various Taiwanese foods, each of which is labeled in romanized Taiwanese. (Place name hashtags (e.g., #Yilan) are not included on the shirts.)

The only problem is that you may want to carry a magnifying glass with you, because the images and letters are tiny. (C’mon, people! When you want people to read something, size matters.)

This is the one I picked for myself: tshang-iû-piánn (in Mandarin: cōngyóubǐng / 蔥油餅 / 葱油饼). Those scallion pancakes are wonderful.

Advertising image of the graphic for a T-shirt that has a drawing of Taiwanese scallion pancake (congyoubing in Mandarin) and the text 'tshang-iu-piann' (partially obscured by a superimposed image of a T-shirt.

More images on the 50% Fifty Percent Facebook page.

OEC is D-licious

Recently, on my way to Wulai (just south of Taipei), I spotted an interesting sign. Normally, the combination of “interesting sign” and “Wulai” means something in a language of one of Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples. But for today I have something different: Japanese, Taiwanese, and Mandarin. Plus another bonus sign in Japanese (I think) — but more on that later.

I wasn’t able to get a good photo of my own, so here’s one from Google Street View.

Sign labeled 'OEC', plus another store's sign reading '一豆'

The “OEC” on the sign on the left is meant to represent Japanese “oishī” (美味しい / おいしい), which means “delicious.” Knowledge of some Japanese words is very common in Taiwan, much as knowing a few words in Spanish is common in parts of the USA.

The whole top line is “OEC 手工麵線” (OEC shǒugōng miànxiàn) = “delicious handmade noodles.” The letters on the sign work like the hyphenated combinations in William Steig’s charming C D B.

The line below the sign’s headline is also linguistically interesting.

大腸, 蚵仔, 肉羹
(intestines, oysters, meat soup)

The second word, 蚵仔, would be pronounced kezi in Mandarin. But in Taiwan it’s standard for that to be read in Taiwanese as “ô-á.” Also notable is the use of handwriting — rather rare these days — instead of a computerized font.

The brunch shop next door also has what I strongly suspect is an interesting sign: 一豆, which in Mandarin is yi dou (lit. “one bean”). Someone who knows Japanese help me out with this one.