US doctorates in Chinese and Japanese over time

US Doctorates in Chinese and Japanese, 1983-2014

As you can see, in most years more doctorates were awarded in Chinese than in Japanese. The total doctorates over the covered period are 666 for Chinese and 471 for Japanese. By way of comparison, during the same period 870 doctorates were awarded in the United States in Italian.

Interestingly, undergraduate enrollments are typically higher in Japanese than in Mandarin, the reverse of the situation with doctorates.

Although the most recent report on this was issued way back in 2016, recent trends in foreign language enrollments in U.S. postsecondary institutions (to be detailed in a later post) show a steep decline that may well be reflected in the number of people earning doctorates in Mandarin and Japanese in U.S. universities.

source: Report on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2013–14, MLA Office of Research, December 2016

further reading:

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.


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.

Terry who?

photo of a large poster on a building. It reads 'GT GOOD TiMING 郭台銘' and has a photo of Terry Gou against a blue and purple background

Terry Gou, the billionaire head of Foxconn, has been running an independent campaign for president of Taiwan. He doesn’t seem to be running this very well — but that’s not a romanization-related matter.

Anyway, I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about his name, and a photo in today’s news offers just that.

First, let’s get the biggest oddity out of the way: Why does Terry Gou misspell his own name?

His English name is “Terry Gou” (spelled as such). His Mandarin name, however, is Guō Tái-míng/ Guo Tai-ming / 郭台銘. Why is he a G-O-U and not a G-U-O (or, for that matter, not a K-U-O, the spelling most people in Taiwan with that surname use)?

Sorry, I have no answer to this. I’m just noting that it’s weird.

Both of his parents are mainlanders from Shanxi, in the north of China, so this wouldn’t be related to a Taiwanese pronunciation. No major romanization system in Taiwan for Mandarin uses G-O-U for this surname. And G-O-U doesn’t make sense as an ad-hoc spelling for G-U-O/K-U-O.


  • He just got tired of people mispronouncing his name (which correctly is pronounced a bit like English’s whoa with a g stuck in front of it) and decided that if they were going to do that, they’d do it on his terms. (In Mandarin G-O-U is pronounced much like the English word go.)
  • He thought “Gou” (go!) sounds like an appropriately dynamic name for a businessman.
  • Someone at the passport office made a typo that never got corrected.
  • Other.

Has anyone heard any stories about this?

“Good timing” and “GT,” on the other hand, are more transparent. Gou/Guo’s given name is “Tai-ming,” which is indeed pronounced much like the English word “timing.” Note too the typographic touch of using a lowercase i in “TiMING” to help indicate this is both English and not English. Nicely done. Now if only the campaign had worked a bit harder to get anyone to show up at his empty campaign building to sign the petition to put him on the ballot….

Also notable about this photo is the use of “Cing” on the streetsign at right for what would be written “Qing” in Hanyu Pinyin (as part of the name of Qīngnián Lù / Qingnian Road /青年路). The “C” indicates the presence of Tongyong Pinyin, which is standard in Kaohsiung.

Source: Guō Táimíng “Gāoxióng lián shǔ zǒngzhàn” qiāoqiāo kāizhāng gōngzuò rényuán bǐ lián shǔ mín zhòngduō (郭台銘「高雄連署總站」悄悄開張 工作人員比連署民眾多), Liberty Times, September 24, 2023

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.

Prevalence of single-syllable Taiwanese given names

How common are single-syllable given names in Taiwan? (I suppose most people would phrase the question differently as “How common are one-character given names in Taiwan?”)

The answer: not common at all.

In 2018 (the most recent year for which I could find such figures), just 1.67 percent (394,220) of Taiwan’s approximately 23.6 million people had a single-syllable given name (dānmíng/單名/单名) — in other words, a given name that takes only one Chinese character to write).

These figures come from the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Household Registration and should thus be considered authoritative.

In China, however, single-syllable given names are several times more common than in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, single-syllable names are more common among women than among men, with females holding 232,853 such names, compared with just 161,367 males (59% and 41%, respectively).

Here are the top ten single-Chinese-character names, in declining order of popularity, for each sex. I am including the spelling in Wade-Giles, even though I don’t recommend using that system, because that is what is commonly seen in Taiwan — albeit without apostrophes or umlauts.

Most popular single-syllable names for boys

  Chinese Character Wade-Giles Pinyin (w Tone Mark) Pinyin (w/o Tone Mark)
1 Chieh Jié Jie
2 Chieh Jié Jie
3 I Yi
4 Ming Míng Ming
5 Hsiang Xiáng Xiang
6 P’ing Píng Ping
7 Wei Wěi Wei
8 Ching Jìng Jing
9 Wei Wēi Wei
10 Hao Hào Hao

Note that the first and second most popular single-syllable boys names are the same, not just in sound but in meaning; they differ only in the character used to write them, with the “simplified” form taking second place. Do not be confused by this into thinking that Taiwanese use the PRC’s so-called simplified Chinese characters; they don’t. Rather, what’s going on is that Taiwanese are using forms that have been around for a very long while and which were later adopted by China’s script reformers as official. (For example, both 臺 and 台 — two ways of writing tai — are commonly seen in Taiwan.)

Most popular single-syllable names for girls

  Chinese Character Wade-Giles Pinyin (w Tone Mark) Pinyin (w/o Tone Mark)
1 Min Mǐn Min
2 Mei Méi Mei
3 Hsüeh Xuě Xue
4 滿 Man Mǎn Man
5 Yu
6 Mei Měi Mei
7 Ching Jìng Jing
8 Wei Wēi Wei
9 T’ing Tíng Ting
10 Hsiu Xiù Xiu

None of the girls’ names share meanings or are homophonous (note differences in tone).

I feel I should stress that these names in isolation are rare (less than 2 percent!). Thus, they would probably make poor choices if you want to name a character in a novel with one of these. Instead, you should look to my posts on the most common family names in Taiwan and the most common given names in Taiwan.

In this post, “Taiwanese” refers to the people of Taiwan, not the language. Here, I give only Mandarin forms, out of familiarity, not preference.

Source: Quánguó xìngmíng tǒngjì fēnxi (全國姓名統計分析). Department of Household Registration, Ministry of the Interior, Taiwan, 2018, pp. 60-63.

Popularity of single-syllable names (male and female given separately) in different locations throughout Taiwan

(Alas, the people compiling the statistics didn’t show the numbers as a percentage of the population of the areas in question. And I’m not feeling motivated to run the numbers myself; but it appears that such names are more popular per capita in the north than the south.)
table of the popularity of single-syllable names (male and female given separately) in different locations throughout Taiwan

Mi casa es su kasha

I occasionally snap photos of instances of Chinese characters being used to write English (e.g., dog, butterfly, crunchy, oh my god). Here’s something that at least in Taiwan is far more rare: Chinese characters used to write Spanish.

store sign that reads 'Mi Casa' in large letters and 米卡莎 in Chinese characters


米卡莎 is pronounced “Mǐ kǎshā”. In isolation, those characters are used in writing words associated with rice , card , sha sound, respectively — so nothing to do with “my house.”

Although Mandarin does have a “sa” syllable, which is associated with various Chinese characters (e.g., 撒, 仨, 挲, 灑, 撒, 靸, 卅, 颯, 摋, or 脎), making a closer phonetic match with mi casa possible, sa was not used. As the ABC Chinese–English Dictionary notes, 莎/sha is often “used in transcriptions, personal and place names,” whereas sa is not as much.

This store, near the border between Taiwan’s aesthetic Banqiao and Zhonghe, is now closed.