2009年9月3日 星期四

Pe̍h-ōe-jī 白話字

白話字 (pronounced Peh-oe-ji in Hoklo) is the script of vernacular speech, in contrast to the formal, stylized and far more condensed WenYen Wen 文言文 in Chinese writing. Because the Hoklo spoken language often lacks corresponding Han characters 漢字, one of the ways of writing it is to use phonetics, for example, the Roman alphabet. This, however, never really gained wide acceptance in Taiwan except in the churches.

The Bible used in Danshui Presbyterian Church is printed in Romanized Hoklo, for example.

[Top left]: This is the first church monthly and the first ever newspaper written in Peh-oe-ji published by Rev Thomas Barclay (1849-1935). Barclay, the 5th missionary from the Presbyterian Church of England, arrived in Tainan in 1875 from Glasgow. He oversaw the translation of the Bible into Hoklo using the Poe-oe-ji alphabet - first the New Testament in 1916 and then the Old Testament in 1932. Both are still in use today.

The news monthly headings read as follows:

Taiwan Prefecture-City Church Newspaper
GuanXu Year 17, the 3rd Month
Page 71
and the article title Siau-sit = news or 消息.

The use of Taiwanese dialects方言was discouraged during the Japanese colonial rule, a policy that ironically had continued after Taiwan was returned to China in 1945. In 1957, the government decreed that all preaching must be conducted in Mandarin Chinese. Sin Iok新約, the Romanized Hoklo New Testament was even seized at one point. Political reforms have since reversed the mono-linguistic policy.

Over the years, while the national language policy was quite effectively enforced through the education systems, the ban on the mother tongue was never successful. The Presbyterian Church in Danshui in fact has an uninterrupted history of Hoklo Bible use, for instance.

14 則留言:

  1. My father-in-law and his friends used to get in trouble for speaking Mandarin at school when they were boys in Wanhua. When I hear stories of the fines, signs "I spoke Taiwanese" [translation: "I spoke my language" - how ludicrous], etc. I'm reminded of the boarding school experiences of native North Americans in Canada and the US; they were also punished for speaking their mother tongue, made to feel it was dirty, they were inferior for using it, etc. But the policy seems to have achieved its goal. 300 languages were spoken in the New World in 1492. That might be down to 20 by the end of my lifetime.

    I see Hoklo is now popular in Western universities (Havard, Cal, etc.). But living in Taiwan, I can't help but feel it's on the decline. Most young people seem to prefer Mandarin; in fact, I'd be surprised to hear them use it amongst themselves. I wonder what the stats are on this.

    This is an interesting post. When I ask people how to write Hoklo, they usually just shrug and say it can't be done.

  2. "My father-in-law and his friends used to get in trouble for speaking Mandarin at school when they were boys in Wanhua."

    Correction: Hoklo, not Mandarin. They were supposed to speak the latter, but it did not come naturally to them.

  3. As far as the daily use, it seems to depend on the location. In the south, a conversion may contain both Mandarin and Hoklo. In Taipei City, Mandarin dominates. Most people, kids too, can switch between the two quite easily. The recent push by the government towards wider English use will be interesting to follow. Singapore adopted English as the national language until recently when they realized that old tradition and value were lost together with the languages. Now the use of Chinese (not Hokkien) is especially encouraged. Implementation of language policies is never a trivial matter.

  4. Visited relative in a hospital, a few years back, I realized for the first time that doctors wrote medical record either using English or Mandarin (Kanji) in Taiwan. The spoken language between doctors and nurses was Mandarin yet conversation between nurses and patients was mostly with Hoklo. In the movies, those people who are master’s family members always speak Mandarin and their servants, the working class, all speak local dialect namely Hoklo. My feeling is that most of the people in Taiwan are Mandarin users if they are educated or consider themselves in a higher social classes. The fact is that Japanese had tried to force Taiwanese to speak Japanese with a little success yet the same effort by the Chinese has returned with a much better result.

  5. Those who feel Holo Taiwanese is declining in importance are probably right:


    On writing: The now standardized romanization (normally abbreviated "TL" for Tai-lo 台羅, and based almost completely on POJ) is complete and being implemented in schools; standardization for hanji/characters 漢字 is ongoing but very nearly complete. I called the MOE last week to see when the third and final block of suggested characters will be published, and it will be any day now (first half of this month).

    As I plan on posting once that announcement is made, even with this important standardization ground work done, I don't expect people to become literate in Taiwanese any time soon. Those out of school will probably not learn the romanization at all. Private organizations (KTV video companies) that write in Taiwanese are unlikely to quickly adopt the new standard characters. And TV shows, even those in Taiwanese, will continue to publish subtitles exclusively in Mandarin. So I don't see much impending improvement in Taiwanese literacy.

    If the government works hard at teaching it in schools and encouraging kids to write in Taiwanese more, perhaps we will see a generational change. But I doubt it, given the otherwise declining value of Taiwanese among youth.

  6. "Most people, kids too, can switch between the two quite easily."

    I hope so. I've been pushing my in-laws to use Hoklo with my daughter. I should also, as a new Taiwanese, learn the native language of my country better. I was taking Hakka before, because it was free. But I am mightily interested in Hoklo; I think I have an ear for it too. Hoklo seems to be an expressive language, very rich. I am intrigued by how Mandarin speakers in Taipei switch to this language to bring out some of their emotive points. For example, who says "You are tacky" in Mandarin? They've even got an English transliteration for the Hoklo rendering: "SPP" - Song Piaow Piaow!" I had a professor at UBC from Switzerland complain about how English was such a dull language for swearing in. He said: "You guys just pull out the F word for every situation, like throwing ninja stars. French and Italian are much deeper for swearing! We would never stoop to such rudimentary terms. We put our hearts into every curse."

    I've heard there is a professor at NTU who teaches his calculus classes in Taiwanese. Many Taipeiers are critical, but I think it's cool.

  7. BTW, you've been back to teach in Taiwan, eyedoc. What language did you use?

  8. A-gu sian-siⁿ,

    I must agree with you. My lô-má-jī learning experience in my childhood was not a positive one - often skipped class and went fishing instead. Girls were doing better, I guess - maybe that is the saving grace. The Singapore "experiment" has taught us that language is an integral part of the culture. Remove the language, then the heritage collapses. Perhaps romanization of Hoklo is not the answer, the Cantonese seem to write on happily with their unique set of Han characters.

  9. Patrick,

    You mean languages. Mainly Mandarin supplemented with Hoklo and English when I could not figure out what the proper translation of some medical terms was. All three were, quite naturally, spoken at meetings.

  10. How about the Hakka in Danshui? Did they have a community too?

  11. Of course, the 鄧公廟 near Tamkang Univ was built with the contribution and maintained with income from the surrounding lands, all from the Hakka. They were from 汀州府 in Fujian.

  12. hi there,
    they say that ex president lee, teng-hue's ancesters are hakka from hokken province though nobody dare to call his father as 客人仔金龍, may be from respecting him as a 警察大人
    by the way, the current hoklo language spoken in taiwan is not the standard one we pre war generation know of. for instant, new taiwanese can not tell the difference between good 好and toger 虎.
    our family use english to communicate with outsiders and speak standard pre war hoklo at home. visiting taiwan, they accept our hoklo since we are the old generation but they refuse to accept our daughters who only speak hoklo or english, funny they keep asking; where is your mandarin?

  13. Cho-san: No wonder I could not understand Hoklo spoken by some younger people. This was in Taichung. I was beginning to wonder if my Hoklo was outdated. Looks like it is.