Analysis: Future of Taiwan and Chinese language?

Hanyu pinyin is very pervasive in the PRC. You bring up good points, and I guess 99% is a pretty high standard, but I would claim that many of those who’re illiterate (5% of the population > 15) are capable of reading hanyu pinyin. The population that grew up without being taught hanyu pinyin is a pretty small (and declining) segment of the population, and most have since learned.

The number in the PRC and world-wide has gotta be 90%+.

Hanyu Pinyin is very pervasive in the PRC. You bring up good points, and I guess 99% is a pretty high standard, but I would claim that many of those who’re illiterate (5% of the population > 15) are capable of reading hanyu Pinyin. The population that grew up without being taught hanyu Pinyin is a pretty small (and declining) segment of the population, and most have since learned.

The number in the PRC and world-wide has gotta be 90%+.[/quote]
“99%”, I’m sure, was just being used as a short hand for “vast majority” or “almost everyone” rather than being used as an accurate figure. I was just being annoyingly pedantic. But if I were to continue along that line, you can argue that out of the estimated 60 million overseas Chinese, a clear majority of them do not use HYPY. That would futher drag down that number although I’m sure it would still be above 90%.

I’m all for a single romanization standard; however, when we were naming our children and were deciding on how to romanize their Chinese names, we deliberately avoided “zh” and “x” because the locals simply can’t pronounce it. I would also have traded “c” for “ts” if it was applicable. I decided to use my own romanization scheme instead based on English. I guess if I were to live long term in a Spanish speaking area, I’d probably avoid using any “j” for the same reason.

I have a ‘q’ and a ‘z’ in the hanyu pinyin version of my name, so definitely understand where you’re coming from on the naming issue. I’m also planning to limit my kids’ names to something non-intimidating for English-speakers. It’s an interesting challenge!

sjcma, i did the same thing with my daughters’ names- i used a pronunication system (don’t know the name of it) that every native speaker should know. so instead of jia-qing, i wrote jiah-ching, and instead of jia-zhen, i wrote jiah-jun. the jiah is a little weird, but actually the chinese names are more out of respect for their heritage than anything else because no one ever uses them. even my husband calls them by their english names. but their social security cards still have their chinese middle names. also, it was my father-in-law who, following custom, gave them their chinese names- so it also was done to show him respect.

For our kids, deciding on the romanization was a bit more complicated because my wife’s native tongue is Cantonese and our language of communication is Cantonese. Thus, when the first kid came along, we pondered whether his Chinese name would be romanized into Mandarin or Cantonese. Mandarin won out at the end. He’s also attending Mandarin Chinese school rather than Cantonese Chinese school.

To get back on topic a little, here’s my crystal ball prediction. In the long term (many decades), Hanyu Pinyin will be adopted in Taiwan. However, confusion in romanization will continue be the SOP in Taiwan for at least the next decade. As far as characters go, traditional characters will continue to be used in Taiwan and Hong Kong for the foreseeable future while Macau may succumb easier to switching to simplified. Hong Kong will, however, see an increase in the use of simplified characters in low level usage such as handwritten store signs, some advertisement aimed at mainlanders, etc. If Taiwan becomes closer to China politically, this will happen as well although on a lesser scale than Hong Kong. On the mainland, the unofficial use of traditional characters will continue to increase as it has for the past 2 decades mainly due to the influence of Hong Kong and later Taiwan. Again, if cross-straits relations improve significantly, I’m guessing that the rules regarding the use of traditional characters will be relaxed although simplified will continue to be used for official and formal purposes.

Currently simplified characters are in the 5th generation of change. If Taiwan and Hong Kong could influence the mainland to roll back to the 3rd or even the 2nd generation of simplification, I would be very happy indeed. But then it would mean the mainland would have to go through another 2 more generation of character changes.

I’d have to agree with sjcma, in the long run Taiwan is going to be influence by the PRC simplification. People follow the money and the money is on the mainland these days.

[quote=“ac_dropout”]Currently simplified characters are in the 5th generation of change. If Taiwan and Hong Kong could influence the mainland to roll back to the 3rd or even the 2nd generation of simplification, I would be very happy indeed. But then it would mean the mainland would have to go through another 2 more generation of character changes.

I’d have to agree with sjcma, in the long run Taiwan is going to be influence by the PRC simplification. People follow the money and the money is on the mainland these days.[/quote]

Fifth generation? Which five and when?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified … _character

I refer to each of the changes and retractions as a generation. The five changes I refer to are

1956 - 1st phase, this is not too bad
1964 - 2nd phase, which no one paid much attention too
1977 - official 2nd phase, to stress how important it was
1986 - retraction of 2nd phase, because no one was paying it much mind
1986 - Reissue new 2nd phase, under a “new” name what’s not to love

Basically, I’m for the reintroduction of 一简on the mainland, that is my 一简意见.
Or back to generation 2 in 1964, where people wrote whatever they want and ignored the “official” character set.

OK, I thought you were talking about these five major generations and that you wanted to go back to bronzeware script. :wink:

甲骨文 - orcale bones
金文 - bronzeware script
小篆 - seal script
楷體 - standard script (or traditional characters)
簡體 - simplified script

While we’re on the subject, what is “stone drum writing” (shr gu wen)? I saw some painted at at art exhibition in Hsinchu, and the caretaker explained that it was some sort of ancient Chinese writing. (It didn’t look even remotely like characters as we know them–more like runes.)

Earlier tonight I glanced at the wikipedia entry for 石鼓文。 That entry’s the extent of my knowledge. Doesn’t look like it was a “ancient” precursor script to modern writing; it was just a random, rare form of character writing dating from the Tang dynasty… occasionally used in later dynasties as well.

From these websites (先秦書法–石鼓文 Pre-Qin Writing – Shiguwen; 東周石鼓文 Eastern Zhou “Stone Drum” Writing), it appears that these characters are pre-Qin era writing (Zhou dynasty, Warring States) that are typical of the Qin state. The characters look very much like bronzeware script and if you go to the website, some of the characters are quite easily recognizable (i.e. 馬, 車). According to scholars, this writing along with bronzeware script are precursors to 小篆 small seal characters. It appears later than bronzeware script and is sometimes referred to as 大篆 big seal characters.

Oh you’re right. I just quickly glanced at the Wikipedia entry. They were first discovered in the Tang dynasty.

Thanks guys! I’ll have to look into this further…

I’m not sure what you mean by “to begin with.” In 1945, hardly anybody in Taiwan could speak PTH/Guoyu.

Actually, there was a fairly strong drive, mostly popular but also in the schools, in the 1950s. People easily forget that a whole lot of Shanghai people and people from further north who came to HK in the late forties and early fifties. At that time, PTH was very strong in mass media. Most movies produced or shown in HK in the 50s were in PTH, not Canto. The PTH speaking performers and directors from up north were way ahead of what local counterparts were doing in the 50s. This all changed, though, partly because a.) the northerners didn’t come in numbers great enough to form a critical mass; and b.) Chinese language education in general, whether in Canto or PTH, was not considered important by the government and the locals. The result was that the children of the mainlanders assimilated. Most of them can speak good PTH if their parents could, but their strongest language is Canto. Most migrants from the mainland that came from the 60s onwards were southerners who either spoke Canto as their first dialect or as a second dialect.

IMO, in the dialect areas where PTH/Guoyu has flourished, it is due less to government policies and promotional measures and more to migration and mixing of people from different dialect backgrounds. Go to Shenzhen, and you will find no one dialect group that has enough in numbers to impose their dialect on others. The reason most people there speak at least decent PTH isn’t because they learned it well back in the bumpkin patch, but because they have to speak the common language to get by in Shenzhen. People learn damn fast when put in that kind of situation. If you go to GZ, you will find that locals can speak PTH, but that they still form a large enough core of the population that settlers from non-Canto areas of China very often learn Canto rather than polish up their PTH. The problem in HK, if you are a PTH promoter, is that even though the teaching colleges are turning out lots of decently qualified PTH teachers and more and more primary schools are at least teaching the Chinese subject in PTH, there is hardly anybody to speak it with unless you are a camera salesman on Nathan Road or a low rate hotel receptionist.

Here are a few readings for anybody interested in langauge standardization and bi-dialectalism in China:

Tsao, F. (1999). The language planning situation in Taiwan. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 20(4), 328-374.–This article is a bit long-winded, but he gives a pretty good account. His references are extensive if you’re interested in doing some further reading, but his accuracy in listing them is a bit off.

Zhou, M. (Ed.), Language Policy in the People’s Republic of China: Theory and Practice since 1949 . Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.–The quality of scholarship in this book is not so high, but some of the articles will get the slow Chinese reader (me) pointed in the right direction for reading Chinese material on language policy and practice in the PRC.

呂冀平與戴昭銘,《當前我國語言文字的規範化問題》,上海:上海教育出版社,2000年。—There’s a good section in this on the PTH situation in different dialect areas.

周有光,《中國語文縱橫談》,北京:人民教育出版社,1992年。–This author is apparently a big name among applied linguists and PTH promoters on the mainland. Unlike a lot of writers in the popular press, he does not take the piss with Taiwan’s Guoyu. In fact, he’s written in a few places that he thinks Taiwan has been more successful than any other dialect area in promoting the national language. That isn’t news to a lot of people posting here, but saying so in public in the PRC is a tad blasphemous.

陳恩泉(主編) 《雙語雙方言與現代中國》,北京:北京語言文化大學出版社, 1999年。 This is one of the bigger books on the mainland on bi-dialectalism. Some of the readings are interesting, but the quality of scholarship is still a bit low by western standards. The main thing I like about this book and other writings by its contributors is that their scholarship, while underdeveloped, isn’t completely tinged with a PTH promotion agenda. A lot of them look at dialects as things worth studying in and of themselves rather than something to be studied so as to figure out how to promote PTH among dialect speakers.

I would have to concur with Jive Turkey on this particular point about PTH and percieved status of those that speak it.

In Taiwan there is positive status attributed to those that speak PTH which motivates people to learn it and speak it.

On HK there is a shift in the paradigm of Cantonese and PTH as status attibutors. PTH is not seen the FOB langauage anymore. And given HK’er love of status and demostrating it. It will just be in few decades HK’er will be bastardizing Cantonese with PTH terms.

This is a fact that quite surprised me when I visited Guangzhou. I has always just assumed that Mandarin speakers would simply insist on speaking the national language rather than bothering themselves with learning Cantonese. During my first visit, I met a native-Mandarin speaker that speaks almost accentless Cantonese after having arrived in GZ for only 2 years. She started to be able to converse in Cantonese after about 3 months.

But what’s really interesting is meeting a tour guide in Chengdu that speaks excellent Cantonese and yet he’s never been to Guangdong or Hong Kong. He leads mostly HK tourists and tells me that it’s really just a matter of survival.

Hmm… my old co-worker went to HK with his Taiwanese girlfriend last year. He said that in HK, people were more likely to answer his Mandarin with Mandarin (even though there’s more English in HK). Maybe it was still bad Mandarin, though. I’ll have to go check it out.

[quote=“sjcma”]OK, I thought you were talking about these five major generations and that you wanted to go back to bronzeware script. :wink:

甲骨文 - orcale bones
金文 - bronzeware script
小篆 - seal script
楷體 - standard script (or traditional characters)
簡體 - simplified script[/quote]

I’m sure somewhere else some other guy’s labeling them like this:

甲骨文 - oracle bone script
金文 - bronzeware script
小篆 - seal script
繁体- traditional script
简体- modern script

My HK experience in recent years is limited to friends. Other than a brief day-trip two years ago, and longer trips 6-7 years ago, I haven’t been more recently. But my impression is that English-usage in HK is eroding badly, while mandarin-usage is climbing quickly. Both English and Mandarin is of the “bad” type. :slight_smile:

And yes, those working in Guangzhou pick up Cantonese quickly. The only exception seems to be Shenzhen (and maybe Dongguan?). Shenzhen is known as an “immigrant” city, having literally risen up from the ground within the past 15 years. As such, Cantonese-usage is less prevalent. A similar situation is also the case in Shanghai; anyone who attends college in Shanghai ends up speaking Shanghai-ese pretty well.

Regional dialects are definitely a fact of life in China. The % of people who speak PTH exclusively (and properly!) is very low. I think the Taiwanese, including Chen Shui-bian, are ahead of most mainland Chinese regions on that account.