Phoney pinyin war
I am shocked to read Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators’ opinion continuing the pinyin “phony war” by supporting the revival of the ill-designed Tongyong pinyin (“Language: A tool for messages or identity,” Jan. 18, page 8). They should spend their time instead on a wholesome language policy and real struggles of identity, rather than playing vainly with a few consonants.
When I wrote about this subject 17 years ago in this newspaper (“Letters,” Jan. 12, 2000, page 8), Tongyong pinyin was still a nascent system in a state of flux. Now we know its inconsistencies and defects.
One reason for these is that it was designed by amateurs rather than linguists. Another is the lack of public consultation and “road test” before being hastily promulgated — for crude ideological reasons.
We know how Tongyong has been designed, intentionally or not, to clash with Hanyu pinyin.
For example, the same two letters “ci” refers to one Mandarin syllable in Hanyu, but another in Tongyong.
The result is that many signs in Tongyong appear as irritating misspellings for those who have studied Mandarin through Hanyu pinyin.
At worst, lives might be at stake if such confusion appears in, say, mountaineering maps.
While proponents of Tongyong pinyin despise the international standard Hanyu pinyin, they gladly take for granted the privileged status of English as the dominant reference. They then mistakenly equate the Latin script with the English language.
However, the Latin letters’ sounds are not universally bound to those in English: They can be assigned different values depending on the language being written.
What is written as “ch” is pronounced differently in Italian, Spanish and German from that in English. This can be also the case in Mandarin, Taiwanese (also known as Hoklo) and Hakka — that is just fine. It does not have to be one-size-fits-all (tongyong, 通用)
As I wrote 17 years ago, the legislators should focus on developing a wholesome language policy.
The pro-localization groups could better spend their effort to change place names that do not accord with local identity and transitional justice (eg, Songjiang Road, Dihua Street, references to Chiang Kai-shek [蔣介石]).
They could promote signs written in the local languages: Zhongli/Chung-lak being the Hakka capital of northern Taiwan, perhaps signs in Taoyuan/Tho-yen airport metro can also show Hakka written in its Latin orthography?
Most importantly, we should support the established orthographies rather than new inventions.
Hanyu pinyin is no longer the property of this or that nation, but the common heritage of all Mandarin-speaking people, no matter their nationality.
Zhou Youguang (周永光) — the father of Hanyu pinyin — passed away this week at age 111. He was one of the very few modern intellectuals who had such stature to be able to criticize the Chinese regime without being brutally silenced.
May we remember his spirit of progressive rationality, especially when we consider issues of language policy.
For China observers, especially those in Taiwan, the past decade has brought awareness of an increasing obsession by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with control. It seeks to control not simply national policy, but all aspects of its citizens’ lives. Not a week passes without some new aspect of Chinese life being brought under CCP control. This forces obvious questions: Why this obsession? And what is driving it? When any one-party state, which already controls government, yet seeks to expand and tighten that control, it bodes ill. With a country the size of China, it bodes ill for Taiwan, Asia and the
Taiwan is now entering a period of maximum danger from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to an accelerating Chinese military challenge now emboldened by a shocking dive in American strategic credibility occasioned by its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means there is a much higher chance that in the next one to three years CCP leader Xi Jinping (習近平) may order the PLA to invade Taiwan because he believes the PLA can win and that the Americans can be dissuaded from coming to Taiwan’s aid in time. It is still possible for Taiwan and Washington
Another year, and another UN General Assembly is convening without Taiwan. Today marks the opening of the assembly’s 76th session at the UN headquarters in New York City, with the option to attend remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which once again promises to be its main focus under the theme “Building resilience through hope.” As they do every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas compatriot groups are organizing campaigns to call for Taiwan’s participation in the global body. However, unlike previous years, Taiwan seems to be riding a higher wave of support than usual. The pandemic has exposed countless shortcomings
On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a news conference via video link to announce a major strategic defense partnership, dubbed “AUKUS.” In an indication of the sensitivity and strategic weight attached to the pact, discussions were kept under wraps, with the announcement taking even seasoned military analysts by surprise. AUKUS represents a significant escalation of the transatlantic strategic tilt to the Indo-Pacific and should bring wider security benefits to the region, including Taiwan. At the forefront of the trilateral partnership is a bold plan to transfer highly sensitive US and