Anyone learning Taiwanese? (Native speakers welcome, too)

It’s just like how Norsk, Dansk, Svenska are three mutually intelligible languages. In the Northern European case, each of the three deserves its own name and none is called a dialect of another.

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Not exactly the same.

It’s a very complicated topic both politically and linguistically.

Short version:

  • Taiwanese and modern Hokkien dialects in China do share a common ancestor (~like 400 years ago or so)
  • Taiwanese has never had a widely accepted standardization, although many attempts have been made. It is therefore very flexible in terms of pronunciation to a degree: Zhangzhou and Quanzhou dialect pronunciations are used sort of interchangeably, sometimes seemingly randomly. Xiamen-style pronunciation exists in some dialects of Taiwanese.
  • Lots of imported vocabulary from Japanese and some other European languages, which don’t exist in the current China-based dialects.
  • Linguistic categorization is heavily influenced by both actual linguistic features and political demands. Much like the country of Taiwan, I would say that the linguistic status of Taiwanese as a language in its own right is “de facto separate, de jure undetermined”. But also much like the country, it has been moving slowly towards “separate”.

To use an analogy in European languages:

  • Mandarin = German
  • Min as a language family = Scandinavian
  • Taiwanese = Danish
  • China Hokkien = Swedish

Don’t interpret that too literally.


What’s interesting is my grandma spoke a very “polite” register of Taiwanese. Instead of pai-seh she said the Taiwanese equivalent of 失禮. I think this was because she worked as a telephone operator, but it’s interesting to think of Taiwanese as having a formal tone at all.

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There are lots of registers in Taiwanese. There is classical Taiwanese, mostly not understandable to modern illiterate speakers. There is polite/formal Taiwanese, vulgar (in the linguistic sense) Taiwanese, etc.


That’s still pretty common, a bit more like “sorry” than “buhaoyise” if that makes any sense :slight_smile:

What Greves said. I used to have a teacher who sometimes would get fired up that people only thought of the less formal sides. I think she blamed the KMT :slight_smile:

I can’t say this helped me at all in understanding.

See the chart in the Classification section.

Min isn’t a language. It’s a language family consisted of many smaller language families.

People in South East Asia use Fujian or Hokkien to refer to the local mixture of Minnan languages because Minnan language speakers were the most active in oversea trades and it became the lingua franca on the seas after the middle of the Ming dynasty. So much so that many parts of coastal Guangdong also speak Minnan langauges. So much so, that the name Macau was translated from Minnan word 媽口, which refers to the harbor in front of the Mazu temple, which is a religion that Minnan speakers introduced to Macau.

But Minnan is merely just one of 7 or 8 language families with in the Min super language family.

People on Mazu island speak a version of the Mindong (Eastern Min) language, and it is not mutually intelligible with Minnan, unless you’ve learned it.

With in Minnan, there are many varieties as well, and although most are mutually intelligible, some requires a bit of training to understand as well. For example, the Teochew language, classified as a Minnan language, definitely presents a learning curve for an average Taigi speaker to understand.


Why do people call Hakka “Hakka” but not Ke jia hua? But the same ppl insist on Min and not Ban?

Most likely just habit. Why do people call Mandarin 普通話,國語,漢語,or 中文?

You mean in English? What people?

The term “Mandarin” predates國語, 普通話 etc. The same cannot be said about Minnan

I don’t know if all Hakka languages pronounce 客 as Hak. However not all Min languages pronounce 閩 as Ban. For example, Mingdong languages pronounce 閩 as Mìng.

Ah, I think I misunderstood your question.
People in Mandarin call 客家話 ‘ke jia hua’ because that’s the word for it in Mandarin. People in English call it Hakka because that’s the word for it in English, the same reason we say ‘Hokkien’ in English. Why is this the word? Probably historical reasons, and cultural habits are hard to change. Words are just words, there aren’t set rules and it’s not always logically consistent.

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Can’t decide on which variation to use, so instead, pick something that’s actually not even how it is pronounced?

Using Min to categorize all Fujian languages probably happened fairly early on. It could be a Romanization system thing, like Canton or Japan. At least 3 Fujian language sub-families would pronounce 閩 fairly close to Min.

I see. So it’s a categorization at best. It’s etymology and should not be confused with the actual name of the languages. French is French and should not be called “Western Latin” and English is English and should not be called “Southern Britain”

I think you’re reading too deep into this. They’re just names, and if the name for 客家話 was ‘glorp’ in English then that’s what people would call it.
Here’s an example - it’s inaccurate to say ‘Chinese’ when you mean ‘Mandarin’. But most people say ‘Chinese’ unless they’re trying to be more specific. What’s most important is that people understand what you mean in context.

French and English are named after their original Germanic tribal names.

Even Minnan and Mingdong aren’t a single language on their own, they are just the sub-language-family to many actual Minnan and Mingdong languages. For example, in Taiwan, the branch of Minnan language is called Tai-uan-ue or Taigi.

The problem is with those people who insist, and even abuse their political power to force others to use the name of a language family to refer to one single language. It would be like forcing people of England to call their language West German instead of English.


This is all political, and there’s no “one right answer” - it varies depending on your political positions.

Here are the names I use in English/Mandarin/Taiwanese:

  • Taiwanese/台語/Tâi-gí, Tâi-oân-ōe
  • Mandarin/華語/Pak-kiaⁿ-ōe, Koaⁿ-ōe, Man-da-lín, Hôa-gí