Standard Taiwanese Mandarin closely resembles and is mutually intelligible with Standard Chinese, the official language of mainland China (simplified Chinese: 普通话; traditional Chinese: 普通話; pinyin: Pǔtōnghuà), with some divergences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. These divergences are the result of a number of factors, including the unique influence of other languages in Taiwan, mainly, Japanese, Taiwanese Hokkien, and to a lesser extent, Taiwanese Hakka. Additionally, the de facto political separation of Taiwan (formally, the Republic of China) and mainland China (the People's Republic of China) after the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 contributed to many differences in vocabulary, especially for words created after 1949, such as those related to computer science. The PRC adopted simplified Chinese characters beginning in the 1950s, while Taiwan maintained the more complex traditional characters from which simplified characters were derived, resulting in a systematic difference in the written script as well.
Large-scale Han Chinese settlement of Taiwan began in the 17th century, with Hoklo immigrants from Fujian province speaking Southern Min (Hokkien), and to a lesser extent, Hakka immigrants speaking their language. Official communications were done in Mandarin (官話 guānhuà, literally: 'Official language'), but the primary languages of everyday life were Hokkien or Hakka, to a lesser extent. After its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan to the Empire of Japan, which governed the island as an Imperial colony from 1895 to 1945. By the end of the colonial period, Japanese had become the high dialect of the island as the result of decades of "Japanization" policy.
After the Republic of China under Kuomintang fled to Taiwan in 1945, Mandarin was introduced as the official language and made compulsory in schools, despite the fact that few native Taiwanese spoke it. The Mandarin Promotion Council (now called National Languages Committee) was established in 1946 by Taiwan Chief Executive Chen Yi to standardize and popularize the usage of Standard Mandarin in Taiwan. The Kuomintang highly discouraged the use of Hokkien and other vernaculars, even portraying them as inferior, and school children could be punished for speaking their home languages. Mandarin was thus established as a lingua franca among the various groups in Taiwan.
Mandarin remains the dominant language in Taiwan, but following the end of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, the country underwent a liberalization of language policy. Local languages were no longer proscribed in public discourse, mass media, or schools. Mandarin is still the main language of public education, with English and "mother tongue education"(Chinese: 母語教育; pinyin: mǔyǔ jiàoyù) being introduced as subjects in primary school. Mother tongue classes generally occupy much less time than Mandarin classes, however, and English classes are often preferred by parents and students over mother tongue classes. Overall, while the government at both national and local levels has promoted the use of non-Mandarin Chinese languages, younger generations generally prefer using Mandarin.
Taiwanese Mandarin (as with Singlish and many other situations of a diglossia) is spoken at different levels according to the social class and situation of the speakers. More formal occasions call for the acrolectal level of Guoyu (Standard Mandarin). Less formal situations often result in the basilect form, which has more uniquely Hokkien features. Bilingual speakers often code-switch between Mandarin and Hokkien, sometimes in the same sentence.
Mandarin is spoken fluently by almost the entire Taiwanese population, except for some elderly people who were educated under Japanese rule. In the capital Taipei, where there is a high concentration of Mainlanders whose native variety is not Hokkien, Mandarin is used in greater frequency and fluency than other parts of Taiwan. As of 2010, in addition to Mandarin, Hokkien is natively spoken by around 70% of the population, and Hakka by 15%.
Taiwanese Mandarin users may use informal shorthand suzi (Chinese: 俗字; pinyin: súzì; lit.: 'custom/conventional characters'; also 俗體字 sútǐzì) when writing. Often, suzi are identical to their simplified counterparts, but may also take after Japanese kanji, or differ from both, as shown in the table below. Some suzi are used as frequently as standard characters in printed media, such as the tai in Taiwan being written 台, as opposed to 臺.:251
In addition, various other historical romanization systems also coexist across the island, sometimes together in the same locality. Following the defeat of the Kuomintang and subsequent retreat to Taiwan, little emphasis was placed on romanizing Chinese characters, and the default was the Wade-Giles system. The Gwoyeu Romatzyh method, invented in 1928, also was in use during this time period, but to a lesser extent.:12 In 1984, Taiwan's Ministry of Education began revising the Gwoyeu Romatzyh method out of concern that Hanyu Pinyin was gaining prominence internationally. Ultimately, a revised version of Gwoyeu Romatzyh was released in 1986, formally called the National Phonetic Symbols, Second Scheme, but this was not widely adopted.
There are two categories of pronunciation differences. The first is of characters that have an official pronunciation that differs from Putonghua, primarily in the form of differences in tone, rather than in vowels or consonants. The second is more general, with differences being unofficial and arising through Taiwanese Hokkien influence on Guoyu.
There are many notable differences in official pronunciations, mainly in tone but also in initials and finals, between Guoyu and Putonghua. Some differences only apply in certain contexts, while others are universal.
Taiwanese Mandarin has been strongly influenced by Hokkien, especially in areas where Hokkien is more common, namely, in Central and Southern Taiwan. These Hokkien-influenced Mandarin accent in Taiwan is generally similar to the Hokkien-influenced Mandarin accent in Minnan region of Fujian.
Isochrony is considerably more syllable-timed than in other Mandarin dialects (including Putonghua), which are stress-timed. Consequently, the "neutral tone" (輕聲 qīngshēng) does not occur as often, and the final syllable retains its tone.
The syllable written as pinyin: eng after b, f, m, p and w is pronounced as [oŋ].
In basilectal Taiwanese Mandarin, sounds that do not occur in Hokkien are replaced by sounds from Hokkien. These variations from Standard Mandarin are similar to the variations of Mandarin spoken in southern China. Using the Hanyu Pinyin system, the following sound changes take place (going from Putonghua to Taiwanese Mandarin followed with an example):
Complete replacement of retroflex sounds (zh, ch, sh, r) by alveolar consonants (z, c, s, l). r may also become [z]. The ability to produce retroflex sounds is considered a hallmark of "good" Mandarin, and may be overcompensated in some speakers, causing them to pronounce alveolar consonants as their retroflex counterparts when attempting to speak "proper" Mandarin. (e.g. 所以 suǒyǐ → shuǒyǐ)
f- becomes a voiceless bilabial fricative (⟨ɸ⟩), closer to a light 'h' in standard English (fǎn → huǎn反 → 緩) (This applies to native Hokkien speakers; Hakka speakers maintain precisely the opposite, e.g. huā → fā花 → 發)
Taiwanese Mandarin exhibits widespread elision in its spoken form. For instance, 這樣子 zhè yàngzi 'so, this way, like this' frequently elides into an utterance pronounced like 醬子 jiàngzi 'paste, sauce'; wherein the "theoretical" retroflex (so called because it is often not realized in everyday speech) is assimilated into the palatal glide [j]. Often the elision involves the removal of initials in within compound words, such as dropping the t in 今天 jīntiān 'today' or the ch in 非常 fēicháng 'extremely, very'. Such elisions are not necessarily a function of speed of speech but rather register; it is much more common in casual conversation than in formal contexts.
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For non-recurring events, the construction involving 有 (yǒu) is used where the sentence final particle 了 (le) would normally be applied to denote perfect. For instance, Taiwanese Mandarin more commonly uses "你有看醫生嗎？" to mean "Have you seen a doctor?" whereas Putonghua uses "你看醫生了嗎？". This is due to the influence of Hokkien grammar, which uses 有 (ū) in a similar fashion. For recurring or certain events, however, both Taiwanese and Mainland Mandarin use the latter, as in "你吃飯了嗎？", meaning "Have you eaten?"
Another example of Hokkien grammar's influence on Taiwanese Mandarin is the use of 會 (huì) as "to be" verbs before adjectives, in addition to the usual meanings "would" or "will". For instance:
Taiwanese Mandarin: 你會冷嗎? (lit. "you are cold INT?")
Taiwanese Mandarin: 我會冷 (lit. "I am cold.")
Taiwanese Mandarin: 我不會冷 (lit. "I not am cold.")
This reflects Hokkien syntax, as shown below:
Hokkien: 你會寒𣍐? (lit. "you are cold, not?")
Hokkien: 我會寒 (lit. "I am cold.")
Hokkien: 我𣍐寒 (lit. "I not cold.")
In Putonghua, sentences would more likely be rendered as follows:
Putonghua: 你冷不冷? (lit. "you cold, not cold?"), or 你冷嗎? (lit. "you cold INT?").
Vocabulary differences can be divided into several categories – particles, different usage of the same term, loan words, technological words, idioms, and words specific to living in Taiwan. Because of the limited transfer of information between mainland China and Taiwan after the Chinese civil war, many items that were invented after this split have different names in Guoyu and Putonghua. Additionally, many terms were adopted from Japanese both as a result of its close proximity (Okinawa) as well as Taiwan's status as a Japanese territory in the first half of the 20th century.
Some terms have different meanings in Taiwan and China, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings between speakers of different sides of the Taiwan Strait. Often there are alternative, unambiguous terms which can be understood by both sides.
Meaning in Taiwan
Meaning in China
huāshēng 花生 (peanut)
mǎlíngshǔ 馬鈴薯/马铃薯 (potato).
to carry out something insidious, to have sex (vulgar/slang)
to do, to perform a task
As such, it is a verb that is rarely seen in any official or formal setting in Taiwan, whereas it is widely used in China even by its top officials in official settings.
The word 弄 (nòng) can be used inoffensively in place of 搞 in both Taiwan and China to convey the action "to do; to perform a task" as 弄 is widely used in both places and does not carry the vulgar connotation. While many Mainland speakers are in fact aware of the term's connotations (and it can mean the same thing in China), it is still used normally and is rarely misunderstood.
In Taiwan, taxis are called 計程車 / 计程车 (jìchéngchē), which is used less frequently in China. However, many taxis in Taiwan have 個人出租汽車 written on them. Despite the fact that the term chuzuche literally means "car for rent," the term is almost completely unheard of in Taiwan.
研究所 yánjiūsuǒ (China) yánjiùsuǒ (Taiwan)
愛人 (T) 爱人 (S) àirén
Miss (formal); prostitute (informal, mostly in the North)
While it is common to address women with unknown marital status as xiǎojie in Taiwan, it can make a negative impression in China's North, although it is still widely used in formal and informal circumstances on the Mainland. The standard definition on the Mainland has a broader range, however, and could be used to describe a young woman regardless of if she is married or not.
In addition, words with the same literal meaning as in Standard Chinese may differ in register in Taiwanese Mandarin. For instance, éryǐ 而已 'that's all, only' is very common in Taiwanese Mandarin, influenced by speech patterns in Hokkien, but in Standard Chinese the word is used mainly in formal writing, not spoken language.
This also applies in the use of some function words. Preference for the expression of modality often differs among northern Mandarin speakers and Taiwanese, as evidenced by the selection of modal verbs. Compared to native speakers from Beijing, Taiwanese Mandarin users very strongly prefer 要 yào and 不要 búyào over 得 děi and 別 bié to express 'must' and 'must not', for instance, though both pairs are grammatical in either dialect.
Loan words may differ largely between Putonghua and Taiwanese Mandarin, as different characters or methods may be chosen for transliteration (phonetical or semantical), even the number of characters may differ. For example, former U.S. President Barack Obama's surname is called 奥巴馬Àobāmǎ in Putonghua and 歐巴馬 or 歐巴瑪Ōubāmǎ in Guoyu.
The term (麻吉májí) borrowed from the English term "match", is used to describe items or people which complement each other well. Note that this term has become popular in mainland China as well.
The English term "hamburger" has been adopted in many Chinese-speaking communities. In Taiwan, the preferred form is 漢堡 (hànbǎo) rather than the mainland Chinese 漢堡包 (hànbǎobāo) though 漢堡 (hànbǎo) is used as abbreviated form in Mainland as well.
The terms "阿公agōng" and "阿媽amà" are more commonly heard than the standard Mandarin terms 爺爺yéye (paternal grandfather), 外公wàigōng (maternal grandfather), 奶奶nǎinai (paternal grandmother) and 外婆wàipó (maternal grandmother).
Some local foods usually are referred to using their Hokkien names. These include:
弁当 in Japanese was borrowed from a Classical Chinese term using different characters but reintroduced to Taiwan via Mandarin as 便當 via different characters via 便 instead of 弁 because 便 means "convenient" which certainly is what a bento box is. In China, they used the semantic approach.
^Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Taibei Mandarin". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
^"LEARNING MANDARIN". Taiwan.gov.tw The official website of the Republic of China. Retrieved 6 October 2019. In modern Taiwan, traditional Chinese characters are utilized as the written form of Mandarin, one of the nation’s official languages.
^Su, Jinzhi (21 January 2014). "Diglossia in China: Past and Present". In Árokay, Judit; Gvozdanović, Jadranka; Miyajima, Darja (eds.). Divided languages?: Diglossia, Translation and The Rise of Modernity in Japan, China, and the Slavic World. pp. 61–2. ISBN978-3-319-03521-5.
^Wang, Boli; Shi, Xiaodong; Chen, Yidong; Ren, Wenyao; Yan, Siyao (March 2015). "语料库语言学视角下的台湾汉字简化研究" [On the Simplification of Chinese Characters in Taiwan: A Perspective of Corpus Linguistics]. Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Pekinensis (in Chinese). 51 (2). doi:10.13209/j.0479-8023.2015.043.
^Lin, Peiyin (December 2015). "Language, Culture, and Identity: Romanization in Taiwan and Its Implications". Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies. 12 (2). doi:10.6163/tjeas.2015.12(2)191.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)