Taiwanese in France

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On a wall at INALCO (Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales [National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations]) (established 1669) in Paris:

Note that Taiwanese is referred to as "Taiwanais" in French and Tâi-gú / Tâi-gír / Tâi-gí  (MSM Táiyǔ in sinoglyphs.  According to the author of this article, where the photograph comes from, those designations are preferable to Bân-lâm-gí/gú 閩南語 (MSM Mǐnnányǔ) because, unlike Bân-lâm-gí/gú 閩南語 (MSM Mǐnnányǔ), they can directly bring the topic of discussion into the context of "Taiwan".  "In fact, the term 'Taiwanese' does clearly and directly represent a part of Taiwan's linguistic and cultural subjectivity."

Selected readings

[h.t. Chau Wu]



25 Comments »

  1. Philip Taylor said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 3:01 am

    Probably a typo. at "Tâi-gú / Tâi-gír / Tâi-gí (MSM Táiyǔ in sinoglyphs" — the Sinoglyphs are missing, and the parenthesis unclosed).

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 3:02 am

    Unlike my comment above, where there is a spurious closing parenthesis glyph … !

  3. Michael Vnuk said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 5:36 am

    I'm puzzled why INALCO's name refers to 'Oriental' languages and civilisations, but its coverage seems to be worldwide. I couldn't quickly find an answer on its website or or Wikipedia.
    The characters for the language names in French seem to be all over the shop. For instance, H is rendered as 'H' or 'h', and even both in one name. Similarly, T sometimes has a curl at the base and sometimes not. There are at least three varieties of E, and A is also quite variable. Every Q appears to be unique. And so on. A number of letters are occasionally joined together that I would not expect: U and K, A and B.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 5:45 am

    Looking at this version, Michael, my suspicion is that the sign is hand-lettered, by a calligrapher who opted for what Fowler would have deemed “elegant variation” …

  5. David Morris said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 5:56 am

    'Oriental' seems to mean 'anywhere further east than France'.

    What is Libanais if not another variety of Arabe?

  6. Victor Mair said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 6:40 am

    @David Morris

    I am preparing a separate post that will focus on the Arabic vernaculars. It started out as just that, but has now grown into a comparative discussion of South Asian, Sinitic, and other groups as well.

  7. Anthony said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 9:34 am

    Canto LXXXI: "We call all foreigners frenchies"

  8. Noam said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 10:32 am

    > 'Oriental' seems to mean 'anywhere further east than France'.

    and wrapping around to the Americas

  9. Joshua K. said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 10:35 am

    I was going to say that the only language families that appeared to be outside INALCO's scope are the Germanic and Romance languages, but then I saw Yiddish listed, and then Romanian too.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 10:47 am

    Isn't the mystery most simply explained by parsing the name of the institution as "(Institut National) des (Langues) et (Civilisations Orientales)" (= "National Institute of Languages and Oriental Civilisations")?

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 2:01 pm

    The large number of Arabic "topolects" they list separately on the wall does make the recognition of Taiwanese sort of less noteworthy because there's a certain consistency of approach. Although I suppose the politics may be different, if we assume that e.g. the Moroccan government has no complaint about the recognition of "Arabe Marocain" as a distinct thing.

  12. Joshua K. said,

    May 12, 2024 @ 6:12 pm

    @Philip: But INALCO apparently does exclude some of the languages which are, at least, geographically closest to France, such as Italian, Spanish, English, Dutch, German, and Portuguese.

    https://www.inalco.fr/les-langues-et-civilisations-enseignees-linalco

  13. Philip Taylor said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 3:33 am

    Agreed, Joshua — another half-baked idea flies out of the window ! Incidentally, while trying to identify a single concept that would include all languages depicted whilst excluding at least those that you have identified as "missing", I came across <a href="https://triangulations.wordpress.com/wp-content/uploadsencountered — it may be of interest to others, as it represents a subset of the world’s languages as a dendrogram with PIE at the root.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 3:37 am

    Sorry, ill-formed HTML in the preceding — it should have read (fingers crossed)

    Agreed, Joshua — another half-baked idea flies out of the window ! Incidentally, while trying to identify a single concept that would include all of the languages depicted on the Inalco sign whilst excluding (at least) all of those that you have identified as "missing", I came across this chart, which I had not previously encountered — it may be of interest to others, as it depicts a subset of the world’s languages as a dendrogram with PIE at the root.

  15. Anthony said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 8:36 am

    I'm surprised that the French word for Yiddish is Yiddish.

  16. Rodger C said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 12:01 pm

    These dendrograms always tell a lot about the maker's relative knowledge of branches. Just to mention one thing, it's weird to have Catalan going off into the blue with no relation to Occitan (which is called Provencal). Or for that matter, to regard Italian as a language.

  17. David Marjanović said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 1:13 pm

    Isn't the mystery most simply explained by parsing the name of the institution as "(Institut National) des (Langues) et (Civilisations Orientales)" (= "National Institute of Languages and Oriental Civilisations")?

    I'm pretty sure that would require "et des civilisations orientales".

    And I think that last word is purely historical.

    I'm surprised that the French word for Yiddish is Yiddish.

    So am I; I've seen idiche elsewhere.

  18. chris said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 1:22 pm

    As amusing as it is to contemplate the mindset of someone who considers Estonians, Finns and Croats "oriental", when you start classifying Quechua, Nahuatl and Inuktitut as "oriental languages" something has clearly gone wrong.

    Yoruba, Wolof and Swahili are also unlikely to be found by starting in France and going east.

  19. Philip Taylor said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 1:36 pm

    « I'm pretty sure that would require "et des civilisations orientales" » — agreed — I should have realised that.

  20. Francis Deblauwe said,

    May 13, 2024 @ 5:09 pm

    They started with the usual suspects for "Oriental" languages being the Middle East through the Indian subcontinent leading to the Far East. Initially in 1795, only written and spoken Arabic, Turkish, "Tatar," Persian and Malay were taught. Then later more languages were added in service of the French state and its diplomatic and trade needs. I guess it was easier to just leave the name as it was even when expanding beyond the traditional "Oriental" sphere.

  21. Mappo Lappelin said,

    May 15, 2024 @ 4:30 am

    "These dendrograms always tell a lot about the maker's relative knowledge of branches."
    It's not a dendrogram though, is it.

    In this case "Oriental" apparently means "exotic".

  22. Philip Taylor said,

    May 15, 2024 @ 7:58 am

    Mappo — “It's not a dendrogram though, is it [?]” — well, admittedly the Classical Sanskirt [sic] / Middle Indic cluster is an outlier, but there are two dashes suggesting a possible connection with Vedic Sanskrit, are there not ?

  23. ktschwarz said,

    May 15, 2024 @ 3:25 pm

    On the French word for Yiddish: "Yiddish" is the title of the French Wikipedia page, but it begins "Le yiddish …, également orthographié en français yidich, d'après les recommandations de linguistes3, mais aussi yidish, jiddisch, jidisch, yiddisch, idiche ou yidiche…"

    TLFI indicates that this spelling was borrowed from English.

  24. Andreas Johansson said,

    May 16, 2024 @ 9:18 am

    chris wrote:
    "As amusing as it is to contemplate the mindset of someone who considers Estonians, Finns and Croats "oriental""

    My father has a Nazi German school atlas, which includes a racial map of the world where Finns are classified as members of the Mongol race.

    Since the authors' notion of "race" clearly involves linguistic as well as biological factors, the logic presumably is that all speakers of Ural-Altaic languages are "Mongols".

  25. Rodger C said,

    May 16, 2024 @ 1:28 pm

    My father has a Nazi German school atlas, which includes a racial map of the world where Finns are classified as members of the Mongol race.

    I've seen what must be the same map in a still older German atlas.

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