Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Taiwanese" Language

I made a couple claims about the Taiwanese language in the Breaking Down Borders: Korea course this past week; I fail to see what's so Taiwanese about it. First, I claimed that the Taiwanese Language actually derives from settlers that came from the Chinese mainland less than a few centuries ago. I didn't know the name of this province in China, but thankfully, one of the students in the class did -- the one completely surrounded by mountains -- [Fuzhou, 福州].

And, this map is a lot more detailed than the one I drew in class. I'm getting quite accustomed to chalk, by the way -- much more amenable to discussion than a stale PowerPoint Presentation. Anyways:

"Regional variations within Taiwanese may be traced back to Hokkien variants spoken in Southern Fujian" (The map on the left is from Wikipedia as well the quote above).

Nonetheless, I made this point because the Taiwanese dialect was not introduced by settlers from Mainland China until the 16th century[1]. Of course, there exists the real "indigenous" languages in Taiwan as well. And, this was made in the context to refute that Taiwan has been a part of China since time immemorial. The Qing dynasty (by the way -- technically a Manchurian dynasty, so it was never part of a Han Chinese dynasty) annexed the island in only 1684, only after defeating the Dutch who had already controlled the island for a century or so. Of course, then Japan took control of the island after the first Sino-Japanese War, who kept it from 1894-1945. On a side note, you can probably tell, I'm not a big fan of "China" controlled Taiwan since the beginning of time nonsense.

So anyways, the point is, "Taiwanese" is actually a dialect of mainland Chinese that comprise about 70% of the population that date back to settlers from the 16th century. And, Mandarin is an even more recent addition to the island. And, of course, ther are the indigenous speakers of the Taiwanese indigenous languages scattered in the mountaineous middle part of the island.

Primary Source:
[1]Shepherd, John R. (1993), Statecraft and Political Economy on the Taiwan Frontier, 1600–1800, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p. 7 Reprinted Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1995.

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