(Edited from Wikipedia)

Taiwanese (Chinese: 台語, 台灣話 or 福佬話; Taiwanese Pe̍h-oē-jī: Tâi-oân-oē or Hō-ló-oē; Hanyu Pinyin: Táiyǔ or Táiwānhuà) is spoken by about 70% of the Taiwanese population. The sub-ethnic group in Taiwan for which Taiwanese is considered a native language is known as Holo (Hō-ló) or Hoklo (the correspondence between language and ethnicity is not absolute, however, as some Holo speak Taiwanese poorly while some non-Holo speak Taiwanese fluently). Pe̍h-oē-jī (POJ) is a popular orthography for this language, and Min-nan in general (see below).

Conceptualization and history Edit

In the 18th and 19th centuries, civil unrest and armed conflicts were frequent in Taiwan. In addition to resistance against the government (both Chinese and Japanese), battles between ethnic groups were also significant: the belligerent usually grouped around the language they use. History recorded battles between the Hakka and the Taiwanese-language speakers; between these and the aborigines; and between those who spoke the Choâⁿ-chiu variant of what became the Taiwanese language and those who spoke the Chiang-chiu variant.

Later, in the 20th century, the conceptualization of Taiwanese is more controversial than most variations of Chinese because at one time it marked a clear division between the Mainlanders who arrived in 1949 and the pre-existing majority native Taiwanese. Although the political and linguistic divisions between the two groups have blurred considerably, the political issues surrounding Taiwanese have been more controversial and sensitive than for other variants of Chinese.

The history of Taiwanese and the interaction with Mandarin is complex and at times controversial. Even the name is somewhat controversial. Some dislike the name Taiwanese as they feel that it belittles other variants such as Mandarin, Hakka, and the aboriginal languages which are spoken on Taiwan. Others prefer the name Min-nan or Hokkien as this views Taiwanese as a variant of the speech which is spoken on Fujian province in Mainland China. Others dislike the name Min-nan and Hokkien for precisely the same reason. One can get into similar controversial debates as to whether Taiwanese is a language or a dialect.

Politics Edit

Until the 1980s, the use of Taiwanese was discouraged by the Kuomintang through measures such as banning its use in schools and limiting the amount of Taiwanese broadcast on electronic media. These measures were removed by the 1990s, and Taiwanese became an emblem of localization. Mandarin remains the predominant language of education, although there is a "mother tongue" language requirement in Taiwanese schools which can be satisfied with student's choice of mother-tongue: Taiwanese, Hakka, or aboriginal languages.

Although the use of Taiwanese over Mandarin was historically part of the Taiwan independence movement, the linkage between politics and language is not as strong as it once was. Fluency in Taiwanese has become a de facto requirement for political office in Taiwan for both independence and unificationist politicians. At the same time even some supporters of Taiwan independence have played down its connection with Taiwanese language in order to gain the support of the Mainlanders and Hakka.

James Soong restricted the use of Taiwanese and other local tongues in broadcasting while serving as Director of the Government Information Office earlier in his career, but later became one of the first Mainlander politicians to use Taiwanese in semi-formal occasions. Since then, politicians opposed to Taiwan independence have used it frequently in rallies even when they are not native speakers of the language and speak it badly. Conversely, politicians who have traditionally been identified with Taiwan independence have used Mandarin on formal occasions and semi-formal occasions such as press conferences. An example of the latter is President Chen Shui-bian who uses Mandarin in all official state speeches, but uses Taiwanese in political rallies and some informal state occasions such as New Year greetings, although in the latter case he never uses Taiwanese exclusively.

In the early 21st century, there are few differences in language usage between the anti-independence leaning Pan-Blue Coalition and the independence leaning Pan-Green Coalition. Both tend to use Taiwanese at political rallies and sometimes in informal interviews and both tend to use Mandarin at formal press conferences and official state functions. Both also tend to use more Mandarin in northern Taiwan and more Taiwanese in southern Taiwan. However at official party gatherings (as opposed to both Mandarin-leaning state functions and Taiwanese-leaning party rallies), the DPP tends to use Taiwanese while KMT and PFP tend to use Mandarin. The Taiwan Solidarity Union, which advocates a strong line on Taiwan independence, tends to use Taiwanese even in formal press conferences. In speaking, politicians will frequently code switch. In writing, almost everyone uses vernacular Mandarin which is farther from Taiwanese, and the use of semi-alphabetic writing or even colloquial Taiwanese characters is rare.

Despite these commonalities, there are still different attitudes toward the relationship between Taiwanese and Mandarin. In general, while supporters of Chinese reunification believe that all languages used on Taiwan should be respected, they tend to believe that Mandarin should have a preferred status as the common working language between different groups. Supporters of Taiwan independence tend to believe that either Taiwanese should be preferred or that no language should be preferred.

In 2002, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, a party with about 10 % of the Legislative Yuan seats at the time, suggested making Taiwanese a second official language. This proposal encountered strong opposition not only from Mainlander groups but also from Hakka and aboriginal groups who felt that it would slight their home languages, as well as others who objected to the proposal on logistical grounds and on the grounds that it would increase ethnic tensions. Because of these objections, support for this measure is lukewarm among moderate Taiwan independence supporters, and it appears very unlikely to pass.

In 2003, there was a controversy when parts of the civil service examination for judges were written in characters used only in Taiwanese. After strong objections, these questions were not used in scoring. As with the official-language controversy, objections to the use of Taiwanese came not only from Mainlander groups, but also Hakka and aborigines.

References Edit

(As not too much English literature is available on learning Taiwanese, also Japanese and German books are listed here.)

  • Bodman, Nicholas C.: Spoken Taiwanese with Cassette(s), 1980/2001, ISBN 0879504617 or ISBN 0879504609 or ISBN 0879504625
  • Campbell, William: Ē-mn̂g-im Sin Jī-tián (Dictionary of the Amoy Vernacular). Tainan, Taiwan: Tâi-oân Kàu-hoē Kong-pò-siā (Taiwan Church Press, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan). 1993-06 (First published 1913-07).
  • Iâu Chèng-to: Cheng-soán Pe̍h-oē-jī (Concise Colloquial Writing). Tainan, Taiwan: Jîn-kong (an imprint of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan). 1992.
  • Tân, K. T: A Chinese-English Dictionary: Taiwan Dialect. Taipei: Southern Materials Center. 1978.
  • Klöter, Henning. Written Taiwanese. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005. ISBN 3-447-05093-4 78,00 € [D]
  • Maryknoll Language Service Center: English-Amoy Dictionary. Taichung, Taiwan: Maryknoll Fathers. 1979.
  • Tiuⁿ Jū-hông: Principles of Pe̍h-oē-jī or the Taiwanese Orthography: an introduction to its sound-symbol correspondences and related issues. Taipei: Crane Publishing, 2001. ISBN 957-2053-07-8
  • Wi-vun Taiffalo Chiung: Tone Change in Taiwanese: Age and Geographic Factors.
  • 樋口 靖: 台湾語会話, 2000, ISBN 4497200043 (Good and yet concise introduction to the Taiwanese language in Japanese; CD: ISBN 449720006X)
  • 趙 怡華: はじめての台湾, 2003, ISBN 4756906656 (In Japanese: Introduction to Taiwanese and Chinese)
  • Katharina Sommer, Xie Shu-Kai: Taiwanisch Wort für Wort, 2004, ISBN 389416348 (Taiwanese for travellers, in German. CD: ISBN 3831760942)
  • Taiwanese learning resources (a good bibliography in English) (Google cache as a web page)

External links Edit