Ministry of Education’s List of 400 Characters for Taiwanese

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education some time ago published a standardised list of 300 characters used for writing Taiwanese (those that differ from the obvious equivalents in Mandarin, that is), which I have linked to on this site. However, the Ministry then published a follow-up list of 100 characters but neglected to put on their website in a convenient form for interested people to download (unlike the first list). A helpful reader passed the pdf document on to me and I will now host it on the site for anyone to download:

> Ministry of Education’s Combined List of 400 Characters for Taiwanese (PDF)

I believe that doing so does not violate any copyrights and that it was not the Ministry’s intention to keep this list off the internet. When the MoE corrects their oversight and puts the list up I will change the link to point to their version.

EDIT: As SJCMA points out in the comments below, this is a draft version not yet formally approved, hence the reason why it had not been released officially.

11 Responses to “Ministry of Education’s List of 400 Characters for Taiwanese”

  1. Movenon says:

    So, are these 400 characters supposed to be immediately used? When is there going to be a new set of these “recommended characters?”

    By the way, does anyone know how to find fonts that include characters specific to Taiwanese/Minnan/Hokkien, such as “in1” (they, them) or “be7” (can’t).

  2. admin says:

    Well, as it took the ministry a scant four years to come up with the first 300 characters, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    The MoE has no power to mandate their use, but it is trying to act as a standardising body in this debate.

    As for fonts, you’ve hit upon the central problem of making up new characters for Taiwanese (or indeed resurrecting archaic ones) – the lack of support. The best bet is probably Mojikyo as it contains the largest amount of characters, but realistically the difficulties of inputting these unusual characters presents a big hurdle to the easy use of a completely character-based system.

    Lô-má-jī bān sòe! (Long live romanization!)

  3. sjcma says:

    The second set of characters is only a draft and have not been officially released. Hence, they remain separate documents at the MoE.

    Hong Kong can serve as an example of how to get these characters into common use because as everyone is well aware, POJ (or gasp, Tongyong) will never go mainstream in Taiwan.

  4. admin says:

    Ah, that makes sense if it’s a draft version. Thanks for letting me know – I’ve amended the post to reflect your comment.

    Tongyong for Taiwanese is dead (and not really mourned). The MoE killed it when they selected Tâi-lô as their standard, as previously they were pretty much the only ones supporting Tongyong. POJ still has a community of users (both inside and outside the church), but as you say it’s nowhere near the mainstream.

    Realistically the only way any form of romanization is going to come into widespread use is with the help of massive assistance from government to mandate proper bilingual teaching (not this couple-of-hours-a-week cop-out we currently have), with Tâi-lô or POJ as the only method of writing. In other words, it’s very unlikely indeed.

  5. sjcma says:

    I’m not a fan of the list. In many instances, it suggests character usage that are wrong, yet popular, over the original characters (本字).

    It’s like teaching “lite” instead of “light” because everyone understands “lite” anyway and it’s easier to spell and teach. Not an exact analogy, but close enough.

    If the MoE is serious about Taiwanese characters, it should collaborate with its mainland Minnan counterparts to flush out any potential errors. Then, it should jointly publish this list on both sides of the strait that uses original characters as much as possible, including as much major regional variants as practical(i.e. Quanzhou, Zhangzhou). The remaining ones should either use phonetic loans or better yet, be created anew, keeping in mind the semantic/phonetic structure of many Chinese characters.

    Again, I’ll point to Hong Kong as a good example. Before an official list was published, many Cantonese words were created by the media and their use became widespread. After the HK gov’t published an official list of characters based on research, some of these widely used characters fell by the wayside in favour of the original characters on the list. Change is possible and it all depends on the competencies of the bureaucrats running the show. But given MoE’s stellar *cough* record on the issue, I’m not holding out much hope.

  6. Movenon says:

    Can you point out which ones on the list were not “pún-chī?”

    This is interesting to me as someone who is trying to learn Taiwanese, but does not yet have access to that many materials.

    I think it’s possible to submit characters to the Hong Kong government if you have a specific character you want in their HKSCS (Hong Kong Supplementary Character Set) that includes most of the Cantonese-exclusive characters, as well as random rare characters needed here and there for proper names. I haven’t had time to look into this yet though, so don’t take my word for it.

  7. sjcma says:

    “Ian-tâu” (handsome) should be 嫣頭 rather than the suggested 緣投. 嫣 means pretty and 頭 means head.

    “O-ló” (to praise) should be 謳咾 rather than 呵咾.

    There may be others. Despite this shortcoming, I think it’s a good first effort.

  8. Lu says:

    SCJMA, cooperation with the mainland is very unlikely to happen. Not just because of the obvious cross-strait reasons, but also because the Chinese government is trying to have everyone speak Putonghua, and thus will not want any kind of promotion for fangyan like Minnanyu.

    Your HK example sounds great. I do wonder how they did it though: how do you make newspapers and KTV places and all the rest change their habits, short of forcing them? However they did it, the MOE should learn from that.

  9. admin says:

    Lu, I think what sjcma is suggesting is not that the Taiwanese deal with central government – there they would certainly encounter the problems you outline.

    However, there are a number of links with the University of Xiamen, for example, which could serve as the basis for greater co-operation. There are also a number of quasi-official bodies in Fujian which promote Southern Min.

  10. sjcma says:

    As Admin has pointed out, my thinking was never that the MoE in Taipei would talk with the MoE in Beijing (even though I did use the word ‘counterpart’). Rather, I believe it would be wise to cooperate with Southern Min researchers/academics/quasi-gov’t organizations on the mainland. Such cooperation should, ideally, be removed from any cross-straits politics and stick strictly to the linguistic issues at hand.

    Obviously, such an exercise does have a political component to it as this is a result of a deliberate language policy.

    However, seeing how both Minnan speaking sides have a vested interest in seeing the Southern Min language survive and thrive, I see that as strong basis for close cooperation.

  11. sjcma says:

    Lu, as for the Hong Kong example, it didn’t happen overnight. Even though an official list has been in existence for some time, you’ll still find writings doing it the old way. One example is the character 啲, which used to be written with just the roman capital letter ‘D’. The usage of ‘D’ is still quite common although I’d say that 啲 has probably slightly outpaced ‘D’ in the written media.

    One thing has helped is having the entire set of special Cantonese characters be accepted within the Unicode character set so they can be typed. Once this barrier was overcome, their use becomes significantly easier.

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