To carry out its policy of adopting Hanyu Pinyin (漢語拼音) as the official Romanization system for Chinese, the central government will not grant financial assistance or aid to local government events in which Tongyong Pinyin (通用拼音) is used, a government minister said yesterday.
The Cabinet on Dec. 18 approved an amendment to the Guidelines on Using Chinese Phonetic Spelling (中文譯音使用原則) and a three-year plan to replace Tongyong with Hanyu nationwide.
Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺), minister of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission, said yesterday that the central government could not force local governments to abide by the guidelines as the administrative directive was not legally binding.
However, she said the central government was committed to promoting Hanyu Pinyin step by step to replace Tongyong Pinyin.
Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said that the seven cities and counties governed by the DPP in the southern Taiwan would continue to adopt Tongyong Pinyin.
The guidelines stipulate that in case of discrepancies in Romanization, Hanyu Pinyin shall prevail unless otherwise specified — overriding the regulation set up by the former DPP government in 2002 that Tongyong Pinyin shall be the national standard.
Chen Hsuch-yu (陳雪玉), executive secretary and a senior inspector at the Ministry of Education's National Languages Committee, said yesterday that the guidelines would apply to the Romanization of road signs, street names, names on passports, names of schools and Mandarin-learning resources.
In addition to Zhuyin Fuhao (注音符號, or Bopomofo), Hanyu Pinyin will be the official linguistic tool used to teach Mandarin phonetics in language centers across the country, she said.
Chen said the ministry would also replace Tongyong Pinyin with Hanyu Pinyin in its Mandarin Chinese dictionary and the Web site created to demonstrate the stroke order for Chinese characters.
The guidelines suggest putting an individual's surname in front of his or her given name, without a dash between syllables when the given name is composed of multiple characters. For example, “Chen Chih-ming” (陳志明) in Wade-Giles, the Romanization system traditionally used by the government, would become “Chen Zhiming” in Hanyu.
While requiring government agencies to abide by the guidelines, the rules state that individual preferences on which Romanization system to use for their names will be respected.
The Cabinet had approved an appropriation of NT$5.45 million (US$165,905) from the budget earmarked for the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission this year.
Commission Deputy Minister Sung Yu-hsieh (宋餘俠) said the first step to standardize Mandarin Romanization would be street names and traffic signs — one of the most perplexing problems for foreigners as many surveys have shown.
The merits of Tongyong Pinyin and Hanyu Pinyin have been the subject of debate — often descending into political arguments — for years, despite the fact that the two systems are 85 percent similar.
Tongyong Pinyin was developed by Taiwanese linguists in 1998, with advocates saying the system preserves Taiwan's cultural sovereignty and accommodates sounds in Hoklo, Hakka and Aboriginal languages.
Hanyu Pinyin was designed in 1958 in China and accepted by the UN in the 1970s. Advocates say that adopting the system would put the country in line with international norms.