Mixed Mandarin-Taiwanese-Japanese orthography

« previous post | next post »

Instagram posts from Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Kaohsiung, Taiwan:

The large characters in the middle read:

wú suǒ wèijù no chéngdān
"fearless commitment"

duì shēngmìng no jué zhào
"awareness of life"

In both cases, I have rendered the Japanese hiragana as "no", though I think that it is actually standing in for Taiwanese "e", which, like Japanese "no" and Mandarin "de 的", is an attributive, possessive particle.

Selected readings

[h.t. Sun Dang]


  1. John Swindle said,

    October 29, 2021 @ 11:15 pm

    の in Chinese can be a cursive form of 乃、之、or 的,and not only in Taiwan or in Taiwanese. You've shown that in Taiwan it gets mixed with more formal characters. Taiwan has experienced Japanese rule. It's reasonable to see Japanese influence. But isn't の still 乃、之、or 的?

  2. Victor Mair said,

    October 30, 2021 @ 7:12 am

    As I have demonstrated in other posts (see "Selected readings"), there is no fixed orthographical convention / form for the most frequent morpheme in Taiwanese, the possessive / attributive particle ê [e], which is written variously as "e", "ㄟ" [ei], "の", "的", etc.

  3. ~flow said,

    November 1, 2021 @ 5:58 am

    I think to say that "の in Chinese can be a cursive form of 乃、之、or 的" is more than a bit of a stretch, and I don't know this from experience nor could I validate with data from http://www.guoxuedashi.net/. Rather, の is a straightened-up form of one way to write 乃 in cursive that has become prevalent in Japan where it can still occasionally (but not in standard orthography) be replaced by a number of less-streamlined forms or indeed 乃 itself, so sometimes one can see stuff like "京都の東山" rendered as "京都乃東山", for the fun of it. I suspect this usage to be primarily sound-based; the meaning of the character fits somewhat but not quite in this role. It is not normally allowable to write Chinese "我的課本" as *"我の課本" or "事成乃回" as *"事成の回"; as such, when の is used seriously in a Chinese context, it must be counted as a distinct character, not as "still 乃、之、or 的". In the phrases shown here, の could be replaced by 之 or 的, but not 乃; and even then, the fact that "無所畏懼的承擔" may be expressed as "無所畏懼之承擔" without change in meaning (but in register) doesn't make 之 a variant of 的.

  4. John Swindle said,

    November 1, 2021 @ 9:11 am

    @~flow: I suspect that you're right and I was wrong. I can't find my calligraphy dictionary, but Web sources suggest that の is used informally in writing various Chinese languages in Taiwan (especially, and probably for the reasons Prof. Mair adduced), Hong Kong, and Mainland China and is recognized as coming from the Japanese possessive particle. I thought I'd seen “Xの墓” ("So-and-so の grave") on a grave marker for a Chinese person, either in person or in a photograph, but I can't pin that down either.

RSS feed for comments on this post