Taiwan to switch to Hanyu pinyin?

I’ll believe it when I see it but it is certainly about time. Source article here; the article they got it from, in Chinese, is here.

This is one of those super-sensitive topics in Taiwan, and whenever I asked my friends over there if they wanted Taiwan to standardize using dalu pinyin they nearly shouted at me, “No!” Thus one shop window is selling xiabu xiabu, another shabu shabu, another syabu syabu, etc., all on the same road.

If it’s true, it could be an important turning point as Taiwan faces reality and returns to the motherland.

Update: Just to be safe, knowing how hysterical some readers get: that last line is semi-tongue-in-cheek. Semi. I do think Taiwan has already faced the reality that it is tied to China in many ways, and that most of its people favor some form of reconciliation, if only to help shore up their woeful economy. Being something of a pragmatist, I would have to say that a joining of the two is a matter of when and not if, even if such a joining is not justified by history (and what a bitter debate that topic can ignite).

English description of the new legislation, from a message board and unverified at the moment:

Hanyu Pinyin will be adopted as the main transliteration in Taiwan, instead of the Tongyong Pinyin, which had been used island-wide for the last six years. The Cabinet approved a proposal by the Ministry of Education (MOE) Tuesday. Hanyu Pinyin is to help Taiwan’s internationalization and international competitiveness, said the MOE.

Now, onto simplifying the characters….

The Discussion: 62 Comments


You still think China is “that communist state”. Yet you have the nerve to call yourself “A sinologist”?

September 19, 2008 @ 5:38 am | Comment

Wow, coming to the Romanization/simplified-vs.-traditional debate pretty late. Sorry for not chiming in earlier; I guess I just thought I’d read these comments a million times already.

Advocates of “traditional” characters: look, I agree that fanti are a lot prettier, and I prefer reading columnar printing too, but face it: Barring a radical policy change that will require a fifth of the world’s population to re-learn how to write some of their favorite characters, the future of Chinese will be in simplified characters. Kind of a bummer on aesthetic grounds, but the notion that character simplification ‘cuts people off from history and tradition’ is just horsepuckey. Most educated Chinese maintain a passive literacy in fanti (though most are unable to write the characters), and I don’t see any reason why that should change. And if we’re so concerned about preserving our connection to history, why not go back to writing seal script? It’s a hell of a lot cooler-looking than jianti or fanti.

It’s great news that Taiwan is going to standardize on Hanyu Pinyin instead of the freakish menagerie of half-witted folk-Romanizations they abused before. (And don’t get me started on the abortion that is Tongyong Pinyin. Tongyong, indeed!) Now let’s all wait while they update every road sign on the island, and explain to young Ms. Chern that Gwoyeu Romatzyh was a noble and ingenious attempt at a Romanization system with tonal spelling, but she’s Ms. Chen now and she’ll have to update her business cards, e-mail address, and Facebook profile. And convince people that Zhuyin was a dumb-ass, failed attempt at creating a phonetic script independent of existing norms. And teach the locals how to convert from Wade-Giles and MPS-2 to Pinyin, first pausing to teach them how to use W-G and MPS-2 correctly since nobody ever uses the damned things right in the first place except for elderly Sinologists.
Personally, I would be very happy if mainland Chinese people would learn to use Pinyin properly as well. The number of times I’ve seen ‘pinyin’ as ‘pin yin’ or ‘PinYin’ or ‘pingying’ or some other such idiocy…

This takes us to the real problem, which is that Pinyin is thought of as a convenience for foreigners, which it is not. It was developed as a candidate replacement for Chinese characters, and is perfectly capable of serving as such when used correctly for vernacular texts. (Whether or not it should be is another matter and one I’m not going to get into here.) Instead, it’s used as a crutch for first-graders and as an intermediary writing system for people trying to type in characters on computer keyboards and phone pads. But I feel a rant coming on. Go read Zhou Youguang or John DeFrancis on the subject.

September 22, 2008 @ 7:49 am | Comment

What are you doing up so early, Brendan?

September 22, 2008 @ 8:21 am | Comment

Up so late, more like. Couldn’t get to sleep. Writing about script reform helped calm me down.

September 22, 2008 @ 4:44 pm | Comment

For a Taiwanese, viewing the simplified han zi is like an educated American viewing the simplest street slang with poor grammar. Not attractive.

September 23, 2008 @ 2:35 am | Comment

I have the nerve to call myelf a “Sinologist” because I am one…and China definitely still employs communist tactics in political and legal matters … or does anyone argue that China has an independant judiciary system? You know on what charges Hu Jia has been put into prison: 煽動顛覆國家政權罪 … typical for communist states for putting away people forever (perhaps they by chance contract pneumonia and just die, who knows?) … The threat of China is a combination of good old communism with a modern touch in economics.

November 4, 2008 @ 2:12 am | Comment

To Steve:

That’s why schticky rice suggested there might be some justification in calling China “fascist” (witness the nationalism and, some might argue, suppression of minority cultures such as Tibet’s). But “communist”? No. Communism implies much, much more than totalitarianism.

January 4, 2009 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

[…] asked about the “level of difficulty” of switching to Tongyong Pinyin, 19 percent of the items were regarded as “difficult,” […]

February 16, 2009 @ 10:30 pm | Pingback

think Richard ( plus all the Chinese people) are the ones who needs to face the reality that Taiwan is NOT part of China and never will be. Taiwanese are NOT Chinese, never was, and never will be. Two separate countries, so wake up to reality!

August 31, 2010 @ 8:42 am | Comment

Taiwanese, I believe in Taiwan independence, but I also believe it will not happen. I would like it to happen, but the deck is stacked mightily against it. That doesn’t mean it will be one with China anytime soon – it won’t, and it shouldn’t be. But they will draw ever closer, and ultimately Taiwan will be all but subsumed.

August 31, 2010 @ 9:29 am | Comment

But…but…Merp said that all Taiwanese WANT to be a part of China!


August 31, 2010 @ 10:56 am | Comment

LOL at all of those people mocking simplified Chinese. If it weren’t for simplification and standardization of new character forms, you’d all still be writing in your primitive oracle bone scripts. Would you prefer to slowly draw pictures (which is what the oracle bone script amounts to) to write Chinese?

Enough ranting is what I’m saying. Many Chinese are already forgetting how to write simplified characters, there is no way in hell the mainland is going to switch BACK to traditional.

May 10, 2011 @ 4:28 am | Comment

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