Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), who
campaigned to be her party’s candidate in the Tainan mayoral election, proposed
abolishing Mandarin phonetic symbols — also known as zhuyin fuhao (注音符號,
commonly known as Bopomofo) — and adopting romanized spelling — also called
pinyin (拼音) — as one of her platform policies.
is the only nation that uses Mandarin phonetic symbols, while Chinese-language
education around the world uses “romanization,” she said, adding that Taiwan’s
practice puts more of a burden on schoolchildren, while failing to connect with
the international community.
largely agree with Yeh and support most of her political views. However,
adopting romanized spelling is one thing, but abolishing Mandarin phonetic
symbols is a more radical idea and no trivial matter. If such a policy were to
ever be adopted, it would likely have considerable repercussions.
there is something that Yeh needs to clarify: namely, what she means by
“romanization.” Does she mean the dominant Chinese spelling system used
worldwide, Hanyu pinyin (漢語拼音), or Tongyong pinyin (通用拼音),
which was a flash in the pan some time ago? Or does she mean the Wade-Giles
spelling system, which used to have pride of place, or some other system of romanization?
is an umbrella term that means using Latin letters, or the Roman alphabet, to
transliterate other kinds of script. There are many romanization systems for
Chinese. The process was started by Western missionaries, and after several
centuries of competition and evolution, Hanyu pinyin eventually emerged the
pinyin is the international standard for spelling Chinese and is now the main
system used in the international community.
that, Wade-Giles was for a long time the dominant system, while other kinds of
romanization, such as the postal system, Gwoyeu Romatzyh, Yale romanization,
Mandarin Phonetic Symbols II, Tongyong pinyin and so forth, have all taken the
stage for a while, but have later gone quiet and been relegated to history.
Yeh means by romanization is Hanyu pinyin, that is the standard in Taiwan.
However, after the DPP got into government in 2000, it adopted Tongyong pinyin,
a system designed by Yu Bor-chuan (余伯泉), who at the time was an
associate researcher at Academia Sinica, as Taiwan’s official romanization
reasonable to think that Tongyong pinyin was derived from China’s Hanyu pinyin,
with certain adjustments and revisions. The purpose of these changes was to
make it different, thereby expressing the difference between the two sides of
the Taiwan Strait.
the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) got back into office in 2008, it stopped
using Tongyong pinyin and started using Hanyu pinyin instead, in an attempt to
be more similar to China. In part, it was done for the sake of cross-strait
integration and aligning more with international standards.
the DPP in 2016 got back into power, it has continued the policy of its
predecessor. It remains to be seen what will happen, but Yeh’s policy proposal
might guide official attitudes.
uses Hanyu pinyin mainly to transliterate the names of streets and other
places. Not all counties and municipalities use it and it has very little
impact on the general public.
Yeh’s Hanyu pinyin policy ends up being implemented, thereby establishing a
unified system instead of Taiwan’s spelling mess, it would be a boon.
Mandarin phonetic symbols have been a foundation of education in Taiwan for
decades. Abolishing them would be an enormous challenge and any attempt to do
so would no doubt provoke a powerful backlash from many quarters.
upside is that Yeh is a well-known DPP politician, so she need not worry about
the pan-green camp painting her as pro-Chinese for wanting to use Hanyu pinyin.
At the same time, by calling for Mandarin phonetic symbols to be abandoned, she
can “de-blue” the idea by drawing a line between her proposal and the KMT, and
standing on her own authority.
Premier William Lai (賴清德) was mayor of Tainan, he called
for English to become Taiwan’s second official language. Now Yeh, although she
failed in her bid for Tainan mayoral candidacy, has been calling for Mandarin
phonetic symbols to be abolished in favor of romanized spelling. Tainan
deserves a round of applause for its courage and determination.
Tseng is an associate professor and former chair of Soochow University’s
Department of English Language and Literature.
English Dictionary，簡稱 OED），它大約收錄了 300 個直接源自中文的詞彙，其中也包含了食物元宵的音譯 yuan hsiao。此 yuan hsiao 乃傳統的威妥瑪拼音（Wade-Giles），1986 年始為 OED 所收，三十餘年來未曾增減一詞，倘若日後修訂，則毫無疑問地，必將以新式的漢語拼音改為 yuanxiao。
根據 OED 的定義，yuan hsiao 是 “（陰曆正月十五）中國元宵節所食之一種糯米湯糰甜品”【a sweet rice-flour dumpling made for the
Chinese Lantern Festival (15 January in the lunar calendar)】。OED 收錄了 3 條書證（有書面證據的例句），最早的一條時間落在 1956 年，出自趙元任夫人楊步偉所寫的英文書《中國食譜》（How to
Cook and Eat in Chinese），講的是做元宵用什麼材料、加多少分量的分步作法：
Orange soup with yüan-hsiao... Knead the glutinous
rice flour with 1/ 2 cup hot..water. Then make into globules of about 3/ 8 inch
in diameter. These are the yüan-hsiao.【橙汁元宵……糯米粉加二分之一杯的熱水揉捏，再做成直徑約八分之三英吋（約一公分，譯注）的多個小團，這就是元宵】。
話說回來，這本 How to Cook and Eat in Chinese，名義上雖為楊步偉所作，不過一般相信，背後有很大一部分實乃趙元任代筆。英文的《中國食譜》舉足輕重，影響廣泛，受到美國知名的美食記者與烹飪史學家安妮‧門德爾松（Anne Mendelson）的高度評價，稱其為 “第一本真正有深刻見解、以英文撰寫的中國菜譜”（the first truly insightful English-language
Chinese cookbook）。英文裡有幾個常見的中餐烹飪詞彙，如 stir-fry（炒）、pot