Who put the K in 高雄 (Kaohsiung)


This is illustrative of an issue Wade Giles also faced I believe. “Pak-kiann” will basically register as “bak-giann” to an English speaker. But Taiwanese has more possible consonants in the “p” range for example which need to be represented. There’s an aspirated p “represented as 'ph '” much like the English p sound, a harder b sound as represented by p above, which would only appear in English in combination in words like “sapper”, and a softer b sound which is closer to the b in buy. So there’s no prefect answer in terms of using the Roman alphabet for it. I think the Mandarin “b” is closer to the hard “b” sound, and maybe this was more pronounced historically? This could have influenced some of the choices made by WG. I’m not sure how the j-k scenario fits in here, but I suspect something similar. This may be true of Asian languages in general; Thai consonants definitely exhibit this.

It’s interesting that the Taiwanese literary pronunciations reflect a relatively late influx from north China. I forget the exact date range.


Pak-kiann is spelt in Tailo (Taigi Romanization), which itself is largely based on the IPA.

If you replace all ’ from complete Wade Giles with an h, you would have pretty much the same thing as Tailo, where “ph” stands for a voiceless aspirated bilabial stop, as in “pack”, and “p” stands for a plain voiceless bilabial stop, as in span.

Most Taigi literary pronunciation reflect Middle Chinese at its peak, which would be Tang and Song era pronunciations. Although Taigi has seen its share of change changes, and shows some weakening and elision of the Enter tone (stop consonants), and a complete loss of the Yang rising tone.


That’s not quite what I’m talking about. Aluminum is American, aluminium British. A good dictionary will show you both of them.

It’s like tomato-tomato, Shenzhen-Shenjun, or covfefe-covfefe (coming soon!).

It’s quite another thing to say aruminum, anuminum, or awuminum, and it’s still another thing to say alumi or alumo or whatever people might come up with, yet some radical descriptivists would call me nasty things for saying those are incorrect/slang/lazy.


So if an authoritative body in Taiwan produced an official mandarin dictionary that used si4 instead of shi4, that would satisfy you? It’s in the dictionary, so now it’s OK?


Satisfaction is a complex subject. I support the rule of law yet recognize the extreme stupidity of many laws. I support democracy for the same reason Churchill did. I’m not really satisfied with either of those.

Languages evolve whether we want them to or not, but attempts to speed up the process are usually misguided.


Who is attempting to speed up language evolution? I just don’t think the Taiwanese accent is ‘wrong’, any more than I think an Irish accent is wrong, or a New Zealand accent, or a Canadian one. You can’t just characterise a whole country as having a lazy speech impediment, even if British comedians love playing out that trope.


Maybe you need to tell that to the Taiwanese. :slight_smile:


Right, I pointed out else where in this thread that even the most fierce Taiwanese nationalist thinks their accent is wrong. It’s strange to me - but I think it used to be common in a lot of the former British colonies as well (they’d try and use an upper class British accent when reading the news as recently as a few decades ago).


I’m speaking generally. If you go out of your way to legitimize things that wouldn’t otherwise achieve legitimacy so easily, you’re hastening evolution, or trying to. Other ways of doing it include spelling reform and pronoun reform, which usually fail.

Glorifying sisi because it’s “Taiwanese” is like glorifying awuminum because it’s “American”. That day may come, but until it does I will sit back and enjoy the sishi. :slight_smile:


I read that as “sushi.” It must be lunchtime.


:sushi: :sushi: :sushi:
:sushi: :grinning: :sushi:
:sushi: :sushi: :sushi:


With all the heavy metals and roundworms, I usually stay away from raw fish these days.


And I bet all four of your stomachs thank you for that. :relieved:


if i ask my gf to speak clearly she will include the H sound where as she wouldn’t if just speaking causually. why does this need to be discussed, accents are a thing. if i need to speak clear english it will sound a bit different to my casual speak also.


Do younger Taiwanese today feel that their accent is “wrong”? I was under the impression that many younger folks were more proud of their local accents and looked somewhat askance at Mainland standard accents like CCTV or Beijing. The being said, I just hear it second hand.

I speak with a mix of an ABC and a Taiwanese accent (noticeable enough that most people from China I meet peg me as Taiwanese). I admit that some of my accent is a little bit of a conscious choice in that I sometimes choose to emphasize my “si” over my “shi.”


I’m not trying to glorify si. I just think it’s already legitimate because it’s already what 95% of Mandarin speakers in Taiwan will say.

95% of English speakers in the US don’t say Awuminum.


I think so. They do say that the pronunciation shift in Mandarin started in the north and spread from there. Much as the great vowel shift started in the south of England, and spread from there. In fact if you look at stronger regional accents in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland many are closer to Dutch pronunciations for cognate words like “house”, “old”, “mother”, “father”: sounds something like howsh, aul’, muddir, faadir.


I’ve had Taiwanese people in their 20s “correct” my subconscious sh -> s, ch -> ts pronunciations. You know, the ones I picked up from listening to and speaking with Taiwanese people. They’ll then briefly dip into an affected standard mandarin pronunciation to show me the error of my ways.

Immediately after this they’ll go right back to suoing jongwen in their regular fashion.


Really? I can’t recall that. Maybe my pronunciation is just too standard :whistle:


The regions that are most influenced by other languages, to the point that non-native speakers are the ones in power, often ends up being ground-zero for sound changes.