An investigation of written Taiwanese

Ota, Katsuhiro J.
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Taiwanese is the language that has the largest number of native speakers on the island of Taiwan. However, the use of the language had been politically suppressed in the past hundred years, the first fifty years by a Japanese colonial government and the second fifty years by a Nationalist government from China that had been ousted by the Communists. With the recent democratization of Taiwan, Taiwanese has steadily been gaining official recognition in many public domains. In this paper, I will use the term Taiwanese to refer to the varieties of Southern Min languages spoken on Taiwan, since Tai-oan-oe (lit., Taiwanese) is the most common term used by Taiwanese speakers to refer to their own native language. Written Taiwanese, however, is still in the process of being standardized. The current situation somewhat resembles that of the early stages of the standardization process for written Japanese in the mid-nineteenth century, during the Meiji Restoration. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the problems pertaining to standardization of written Taiwanese. In Section One, I will provide an overview of the current language situation in Taiwan. In Section Two, I will investigate the history of written Taiwanese and its current status. I will provide a detailed discussion of Church romanization and other romanization methods, and the method of writing exclusively with sinographs. In Section Three, I will discuss the merits and drawbacks of different systems for writing Taiwanese. I will also argue for the importance of teaching some type of romanization in elementary education in order to successfully implement any kind of standardized written Taiwanese. Even though written Taiwanese has a history of at least a century, production of texts written in it has been limited to certain groups of people such as people in the church community, Taiwanese opera (koa-a-hi) singers, and those who write and sing Taiwanese pop songs. Therefore, the general public is not aware of the availability of the full range of writing system options mentioned above. People are only familiar with the near-exclusive use of sinographs broken up by the occasional use of National Phonetic Symbols, popularly known as bo-po-mo, which are used to teach Mandarin in elementary schools throughout Taiwan. Under normal circumstances, people do not read materials published in Taiwanese. One of the major exceptions is the lyrics of Taiwanese language pop songs, found in the inserts of music tapes, compact discs, and karaoke displays. In Section Four, I will report on a study of the use of sinographs in Taiwanese song lyrics, and will provide the results of the study. I will give examples of the most popular strategies for writing Taiwanese using sinographs. Finally, I will provide some suggestions for the standardization of written Taiwanese.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 45-50).
ix, 71 leaves, bound 29 cm
Southern Min dialects -- Taiwan -- Orthography and spelling, Taiwan languages -- Orthography and spelling, Southern Min dialects -- Taiwan -- Writing, Taiwan languages -- Writing, Southern Min dialects -- Taiwan -- Standardization, Taiwan languages -- Standardization
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Theses for the degree of Master of Arts (University of Hawaii at Manoa). East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese); no. 3246
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