A trilingual, triscriptal ad in the Taipei subway

« previous post | next post »

Mark Swofford took these photographs of an advertisement for a very well-known brand of instant noodles in the Taipei MRT (subway system). It makes use of three scripts (Chinese characters [including some rare, non-standard forms], bopomofo / zhùyīn fúhào 注音符號 [Mandarin "Phonetic Symbols" of the Republic of China, and Roman letters) and possibly as many languages (Taiwanese, Japanese, English) — with Mandarin apparently *not* being among them.

Here's the wording on the ad:


Readers of Language Log are familiar with my custom of always putting Romanized transcription before Chinese characters or other non-Roman script. For this post, I am varying my practice somewhat, because — quite frankly — by far the hardest part of the preparation for writing it was to determine how to represent Taiwanese accurately in the Roman alphabet.

For Cantonese, we now have a quasi-official Romanization called Jyutping, so we can just follow the rules for that and be reasonably certain that our transcriptions will basically be accurate. For Taiwanese, there are the Taiwanese Romanization System (Tâi-lô) and Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ), but neither of them is currently in widespread use. Furthermore, I have found that very few people can use them accurately and precisely, and most people, especially those under the age of about forty, simply have no idea how to transcribe in any form their spoken Taiwanese. Even more alarming is that few young people — including those whose parents speak Taiwanese — are able to speak the language with confidence.

The same may be said of Shanghainese, the language of China's greatest, most dynamic city, for which we do not even have a semi-established Romanization, although the system of Richard VanNess Simmons offers a potential standard. Here's a brief IPA conversion chart for it.

With that as a preamble, and with much trepidation, here is the pre-sandhi POJ transcription of the wording on the ad:

It-tó chàn
Ū chia̍h ū lucky
Lú chia̍h lú chán

(with thanks especially to Michael Cannings)

In case that doesn't display properly, the "chiah" has a vertical line above the a.

Orthographical note: the characters in the slogan are obviously chosen to have Mandarin pronunciations which mimic the intended Taiwanese.

Phonological note: An o with a dot above right in POJ [o͘] signifies the low-mid back rounded vowel 〈ɔ〉. The same vowel is written [oo] in Tâi-lô. In any case this is a tangent, because it-tó has the entirely different vowel [o] 〈o〉. The only meanings of [tó͘] (with the dot) that I am aware of are "belly" and "to gamble".

Our next task is to sort out the various linguistic strata and attempt to figure out what they mean.

The fact that the second character, 度, which is normally read in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) as dù ("linear measure; degree; extent") or duó ("surmise; estimate"), here has the special reading ㄉㄨㄛˋ (i.e., duò), I believe, is to signal that we are to understand 一度 as Japanese ittō 一等 ("first class / rank; best"). If we were to read 一度 directly as Japanese it would be ichido ("once; one occasion; one time"), but that would fit neither with the sound nor the meaning of the first line as a whole.

There is a Taiwanese expression "it-tó-hó" (一度好), which means both "first rate" and "continuously". This gives us a hint about how to interpret It-tó chàn 一度(ㄉㄨㄛˋ)贊. The chàn 贊 used in the product name means "praise", and carries the obvious double meaning of the now-ubiquitous chán 讚 (used as "like" on Facebook and found in the third line of this ad). So, the product name is "highly praiseworthy" or "continuously great", or some variant of the two, depending on how you read it. The Mandarin Phonetic Symbols are there to reinforce the notion that this is to be read in Taiwanesey Japanese (or Japanesey Taiwanese), not Mandarin!

All right, now let's try for a translation of the last two lines of the ad:

(You're) lucky to eat (it),
The more (you) eat, the better (it) gets.

I'm sure that readers familiar with Taiwanese will offer other suggested translations that may be more direct and literal, but I believe that the one given here conveys the basic sentiment of the ad jingle.

As an extra, it's worth noting that the company name is romanized using Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR; "National Language Romanization", tonal spelling) — "Wei Lih" for 維力), though the romanized form isn't visible in the ad. Here's a link to the company's Web page on the product.

There's an awful lot packed into these three short lines consisting of fewer than twenty symbols, and it has taken considerable effort to do the unpacking. Now I need some Wéilì 維力 ramen to maintain my strength!

[Thanks to Mark Swofford, Michael Cannings, Henning Kloeter, Grace Wu, Melvin Lee, Sophie Ling-chia Wei, Chia-hui Lu, and Nathan Hopson]


  1. Vanya said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 4:16 am

    It's interesting that this is an ad presumably targeted at a broad swathe of the population, and not necessarily the best educated either. Where do ordinary Taiwanese learn to interpret Mandarin characters in non-standard ways? From the media? (On TV you would have the non-standard use of characters reinforced by voice over). At home? Not in school, I would guess. I suppose I'm trying to ask just how intuitive this advertisement is to a native Taiwanese speaker who has been taught Standard Mandarin in school.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 7:33 am

    Those are all great questions by Vanya, a very good way to start the comments to this post. I hope that readers from Taiwan provide some answers. The implications are important not just for Taiwanese, but for the rest of China and even for other multilingual countries.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    From a specialist on Cantonese writing:

    I found your analysis of this small text to be absolutely fascinating.

    However, frankly speaking, given the large number of linguists in and from Taiwan, I think it's not only incredible but also downright appalling and inexcusable that they still have not developed for Taiwanese an accurate, efficient, well-promoted, and widely-used romanization system. Surely it would be an indispensable tool in the promotion of Taiwanese language.

    As for Jyutping which is not being taught in schools here in Hong Kong (except in some Chinese-language subjects for South Asian minority students who may know how to speak some Cantonese but not how to write the Chinese characters), a while back I discovered that a few years ago even the Hong Kong Education Bureau had made limited use of Jyuptping in its campaign to promote standard Cantonese pronunciation among school children. In English this so-called movement was called "Say No to laan5 jam1" (laan5 jam1 corresponds to 懶音 'lazy articulation').

  4. julie lee said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

    Fascinating. Thanks for the exegesis, vhm. What I hear in the label is a distinctly triumphalist use of Japanese and Taiwanese. As a Mandarin speaker (with some knowledge of Japanese from graduate school in America), I could understand the Japanese in the label but didn't understand the Taiwanese. I think the label, by not using Mandarin, is a deliberate snub of Mandarin, which is still the standard Chinese language taught in Taiwan's schools. It is also, I believe, a deliberate snub of Mandarin speakers like myself, who were (perhaps still) called wai sheng ren 外省人(”people from outside provinces", that is, refugees from Mainland China who fled Mao's China) by Taiwanese-speakers.

    Let me explain. When Mao swept over China in 1948-1949, large numbers of people fled China, mostly the more educated and upper socio-economic class. Chiang, the Chinese leader who fought Mao, went with the remnants of his armies to Taiwan, and many refugees followed. For many decades before this, Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, had been ruled by Japan, but after WWII, Taiwan was surrendered to China. Japanese had been the language taught in schools, but now it was replaced by Mandarin. In the early days of the Chiang administration, conflicts between the Taiwanese and the Mainlanders led to riots, then to a massacre, killing many of the Taiwanese- and-Japanese-speaking elite (the "February 28, 1947 Incident"). The replacement of Japanese language and culture by Mandarin and Chinese culture, among other things, put the Taiwanese-speaking and Japanese-writing population at a disadvantage, as if they were demoted to second-class citizens, for naturally most jobs in government would go to people who could speak Mandarin and write Chinese. Humiliation and resentment followed. Some of the Taiwanese-speaking elite joined a separatist movement, clandestine until the passing of the Chiang dynasty.
    In the last few decades the tide has turned. The Taiwan independence movement is now open and influential. The Taiwanese language has gained pride and prestige. In many jobs now, Mandarin- but non-Taiwanese speakers are discriminated against. For example, Mandarin-speaking scientists have been discriminated against in job applications at the top Taiwan universities in favor of Taiwanese-speaking applicants.
    So to print a label for noodles only in Japanese and Taiwanese but not in Mandarin strikes me as a small but deliberate attempt to right old wrongs. Yes, the label is perky and fun, but it is a triumphalist perkiness and fun.

  5. Stephan Stiller said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    I have seen Jyutping in HK textbooks for subjects like history and literature, to indicate Cantonese pronunciations of rare characters. I want to look up the details (where exactly? was it precisely jyutping? how systematic was its use?) but don't have access to those materials right now.

    As for use of characters for Cantonese, that is known to be not taught in HK; students get so-called "demerits" for writing Cantonese (ie: using Cantonese-only words or using characters in a Cantonese way) in essays at school. They learn how to use characters for Cantonese through the environment (texting with friends and siblings, ads, the internet, …). The number of characters used for Cantonese in a consistent way is actually much smaller than some people think (I will write about this some other time), so that's why immersion "works". If Cantonese writing were fully developed and standardized, that would likely need at least some explicit instruction.

    To guess an answer at Vanya's question: I know that character use for Taiwanese is heavily underdeveloped, which could explain why there de facto might not be that much to learn in the first place. In addition, it will often be easy to match up Taiwanese morphosyllables with Mandarin ones. (Disclaimer: We know we frequently can't do it. And when we do it, we might end up with false friends.) But "matching of assumed cognates" will be one mechanism.

  6. Stephan Stiller said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

    But a difference is that HKers regularly pronounce entire MSM texts "in Cantonese" (syllable by syllable); I'm assuming that an analogous thing isn't done in TW. And then, Taiwanese isn't well-mastered by many young people anyways.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

    From Henning Kloeter:

    In the first line, the o plus dot stands for the open-mid back rounded vowel ɔ, without dot it's a close-mid back rounded vowel o. Both are phonemic. The dot has been used since the 1850s (but not in all works), now linguists often replece it with another o, thus |oo| vs |o|.

  8. Michael Cannings said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

    Julie Lee: To characterise the use of Taiwanese as a deliberate snub to "mainlanders" seems excessive. Taiwanese is used by a majority of the population every day. To many if not most of these people it evokes feelings of family, friends, informality, and Gemütlichkeit (tangent: why isn't there a good English word for Gemütlichkeit?). The advertising executives who came up with this likely want to identify their product with a homey "old school" taste – it's Taiwanese comfort food. In addition, many of the younger generation of people descended from "mainlanders" will also be able to understand such basic Taiwanese. The language is used all the time in advertisements (on radio and TV too), and I think it's less a case of intentional snubbing and more a case of marketing people knowing their audiences.

    Now this is not to say that language is never used to snub an out-group member in Taiwan. I've seen it happen both ways, with mocking of "local" basilectal pronunciation (especially "misuse" of retroflex initials) by acrolectal Mandarin speakers, and deliberate use of Taiwanese to exclude non-Taiwanese speakers.

  9. Matt said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

    Is the 一度 in 一度好 itself derived from 一等? If not, what necessitates/motivates bringing Japanese 一等 into the interpretation, rather than simply interpreting 一度* as a reference to 一度好? (I assume that there is a reason, but I can't figure it out from the post.)

    Incidentally, the pronunciation "It-tó chàn" reminded me of the Japanese instant noodle brand 一平ちゃん "Ippei-chan", where "Ippei" is a given name and "chan" is the affectionate/diminutive version of the honorific "san".

    (On that site, the company explains that the name "一平" was chosen to symbolize the company's desire to make the best (一番) instant noodles of the Heisei (平成) era. They also offer the full name 岡持一平, Okamochi Ippei, presumably for those who frown on the contemporary trend towards overfamiliarity with instant noodle products.)

  10. Michael Cannings said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

    Vanya: It's not taught anywhere, but use of this kind of "sound-alike" Taiwanese is not uncommon in short slogans and advertising. There's a quick process of interpretation going on – the 呷 is the trigger for people to realise that this is not Mandarin. In Cantonese the (口 + well-known character) characters that represent common morphemes are well-established, and in Taiwan this process is also understood, even though use of these characters is not as widespread. Most Taiwanese people would see that character and think not of its obscure Mandarin pronunciation (qiā), but rather that this is a Taiwanese word that sounds like 甲 (jiǎ). The obvious connection then is to chia̍h which, although the romanised form looks quite different, is very similar in pronunciation (in my rough IPA: Mandarin jia is tɕja, Taiwanese chiah is tɕjaʔ).

    Once "Taiwanese mode" is triggered inside the reader's head, the rest of the slogan can also be interpreted in the same way. The use of obscure characters that closely resemble well-known characters (呷 and 嚕) signals that these are Taiwanese words with sounds close to the well-known characters in Mandarin. I would also say that the 有 … 有 construction sounds very Taiwanese to me, which may be a secondary factor in tagging the phrase as Taiwanese.

    Passing this example around the office, nobody in my unscientific sample hesitated very long before correctly reproducing the desired Taiwanese (this includes people who I wouldn't class as anywhere-near-fluent speakers of the language). For some of my colleagues there was a sort of "oh!" or "aha!" before reading it in Taiwanese, which I presume to be the realisation that it's not Mandarin.

  11. Michael Cannings said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

    VM: Your Cantonese correspondent assumes that there is a desire to promote Taiwanese in Taiwan. The current government is decidedly unenthusiastic, and even the DPP while in power did precious little. There is an "official" standard, Tâi-lô, but as the normal habit of those in officialdom was to suppress Taiwanese at any opportunity until the late 1980s, people within the Taiwanese language movement are deeply distrustful of any standardisation moves coming from the government. No leadership is forthcoming from the Taiwanese language movement either, which is riven with factional in-fighting and a hundred different proposals for standards.

    Decades of touting the inferiority of local "dialects" from on high has also had its impact on the general population. Taiwanese is increasingly failing to make the jump to the younger generations, as parents decide to speak Mandarin at home, ostensibly to improve the child's chances in school and business.

    Both POJ and Tâi-lô are accurate, consistent, and efficient. In POJ there is a quite impressive canon of written material, including dictionaries, textbooks, novels, poetry, children's books, and scripture. The lack of a serviceable romanisation is not the problem. The problem lies in acceptance, promotion, and widespread usage. The politicians, linguists, and general public all have a share of the blame for this failing.

  12. michael turton said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

    I see ads like these all the time, as I suspect Michael C and Mark do. It is difficult to see how this could be "triumphalist" since it is a common cultural practice. Moreover, the ad itself shows how it should be pronounced, a behavior hard to square with Julie Lee's assertion that it is some kind of vengeful triumphalist text (why would it help if it wanted to exclude?). Rather, such multilingual signs are common in Taiwan, frequently containing wordplays and sometimes with bopomofo helpfully provided. This sign so wonderfully parsed by Dr Mair, simply follows normal and long accepted cultural practice. If there is anything unusual about this sign, it is that it does not contain a salacious multilingual pun. :-)

  13. Kellen said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

    In response to the Cantonese writing specialist:

    POJ is actually very widely used, even by younger people, if my always-full Facebook wall is any indication. I see it in texts for foreigners, pronunciation dictionaries and the like. There are a number of people in my department as well who romanise their name exclusively as Taiwanese in POJ. I can't speak to how official it is. Hanyu pinyin only became official here recently after years of inconsistencies (many of which still exist). But I can say that its use is widespread, and I've never seen any competing system.

  14. Guy said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 5:29 am

    Julie, as someone from a "mainlander / wai sheng ren" family, I understand the sentiment but I think you might be reading way too much into it. I personally don't find anything triumphalist or provocative about this ad – it’s just a noodle ad on the subway in a local dialect?
    Similarly, in Hong Kong you will often see ads written in Cantonese rather than standard Chinese or ads in Singapore in Singlish/Hokkien rather than English/Mandarin. It isn't so much a deliberate snub to the prestige language as it is a means to convey local humour or nuances better.
    As for the ad, I can't think of a better translation in English but it’s easy to translate this into Mandarin:
    I actually can’t see anything Japanese about the ad?? 一度is given a Taiwanese reading I think because 一度has a bit of a different meaning in Mandarin (“once” vs “continuously”).
    Having said that, most people refer to this noodle brand as Yi Du Zhan rather than anything else. I guess if the brand had a more “Mandarinified” equivalent it would be something like 一直讚.
    Also note he construction有X有X itself reads as very Taiwanese Mandarin. Standard Chinese does have that construction (e.g. 有吃有喝) but much more rare. If you want to sound Taiwanese use the word 有excessively!
    As for how an ordinary Taiwanese navigates our weird linguistic milieu, I really can’t explain it! You grow up with it, so after a while it becomes normal. As other posters above have noted, younger generations of Taiwanese (under 40) are rarely fluent in Taiwanese anyway, particularly in the north. I can confidently say I’ve never met any Taipei person  under 30 who could speak Taiwanese well, let alone as fluently as they could speak Mandarin.

  15. elizabeth yew said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 11:21 am

    I don't understand the reason for Jyutping. I thought the Yale system was the most commonly used. The standard Cantonese grammar by Matthews and Yip, and many dictionaries use it. Maybe it's a political thing because it was developed by American linguists.

  16. Stephan Stiller said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

    @ elizabeth yew

    (Wikipedia says that Yale for Cantonese was developed by Parker Po-fei Huang and Gerald P. Kok. I don't actually know about their heritage and place of upbringing. But you are right that Yale is a system from the US.)

    Jyutping is an impressively consistent system. Yale used to be harder to input (due to the accent marks, though that needs no longer be true, with the right input method defined on one's computer). To have a tone mark on the "g" for syllabic [ŋ] (eg: nǵh, =五/ng5) is certainly odd. (The low-tone -h- is a necessity in Yale, so I won't argue, except point out that a different letter would have made more sense: "h" makes me think "high [tone]".) In Yale you have the explicit exception that syllable-final -aa is written just as -a (the only use of this replacement might be cosmetic, but I prefer a consistent distinction between -aa- [aː] and -a- [ɐ]). Jyutping j- matches IPA [j], while Yale y- doesn't. Jyutping z- and c- are closer to MSM's Pinyin and save one character (Yale has ch- instead of c-). Jyutping is finer-grainer and distinguishes -oe and -eo, where Yale has only -eu (which I grant is contextually predictable). I think that the ambiguity of yu- is Yale's biggest problem: for -ung and -uk (velar finals) it's IPA [jʊ], while for -∅, -un, -ut (alveolar finals) it's IPA [yː]. Technically predictable, but very confusing for the learner. As far as I can tell, Cantonese [yː]-syllables do have a (weak) initial glide [j] (which some might write as IPA [ɥ]), so Jyutping reflects its existence, while Yale doesn't. (Note that in MSM's Pinyin, such dummy initial letters are purely cosmetic.) Finally (and this is a problem), in order to represent [ɛːu] (eg: 掉/deu6), you have to improvise and write -ew (→ dehw (= dew + 6th tone)) in Yale. In all, Jyutping really has no exceptions*, while there are plenty of irregularities in Yale.

    * There is some further phonetic variation that is not captured. Off the top of my head (ie this isn't exhaustive): the "a"-vowels vary in certain unintuitive ways, and there is some variation to the consonants that you could describe as "palatalization" (I don't like this imprecise term); this is poorly documented in all materials I've ever encountered.

  17. julie lee said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 6:34 pm

    @Michael Cannings, @Michael Turton, @ Guy:
    I did think my use of the word "triumphalist" might provoke objections. I found the noodle ad highly not-inclusive, but exclusivist. It doesn't include in its Gemutlichkeit the Mandarin-speakers in Taiwan who don't understand Taiwanese. Why do the marketers assume we are not interested in a bowl of noodles? Triumphalism can be in the air, and can pervade common cultural practice.
    Some foreigners or Mainlanders may not sense it, especially if they understand the ad's Taiwanese.
    As for ads in Cantonese in Hong Kong and ads in Hokkienese in Singapore, those, for all their humorous wordplay, are also exclusivist, excluding the vast majority of Mandarin-speakers, most of whom don't understand Cantonese or Hokkien. It seems Mainlanders are not that popular in Singapore or Hong Kong, taking jobs, hospital beds, etc. from the locals. There is a new pride in Cantonese and Hokkienese, and for all I know, those Cantonese and Hokkienese ads may also be colored by triumphalism.

  18. Stephan Stiller said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 6:42 pm

    Some informational addenda:

    Robert Bauer's ABC-Cantonese will use Jyutping. Jyutping is now the standard for Cantonese linguistics papers, but Yale still dominates Cantonese teaching/learning materials (which will have to do with the familiarity of educators with it). Converting between the two isn't too hard, except it is easy to forget to change a Yale y- to a Jyutping j-.

    Orthographically, the tone numbers prevent a straightforward way to indicate word segmentation, but one can invent workarounds, such as
    x⁻ x⸍ x− x⸜ x⸝ x₋
    (if this doesn't display right for you: that's minus signs and slash symbols ("/" as well as "\") at different heights) or something like
    x⁻ x⸍ x· x⸜ x⸝ x₋
    (with a centered dot for the third tone) to retain the possibility of ordinary hyphenation. (Don't copy these line symbols exactly: I haven't checked whether these specific Unicode codepoints would represent the best choices, plus – more importantly – you'd really want to work with LSHK. I'm merely laying out options.) One can in principle also run the syllables together, which doesn't look as odd if the tone numbers are properly raised: ¹²³⁴⁵⁶. To prevent a clash with footnote numbers one can in theory also position them as subscripts (₁₂₃₄₅₆). But again, I am merely saying that certain limitations can be overcome if a need arises; LSHK is the authority on proper usage.

  19. Michael Cannings said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 7:23 pm

    Julie Lee: Would you then accept the corollary of your argument, namely that ads in Mandarin are exclusionary and triumphalist in the opposite direction? There are still significant numbers of older people in Taiwan who speak the language poorly, if at all.

  20. julie lee said,

    January 22, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

    Michael Cannings:

    Ads in Mandarin are exclusionary but not triumphalist, as I see it. They exclude Chinese people who don't understand Mandarin, but that is a much smaller segment of the population in Taiwan than those who don't understand Taiwanese, since Mandarin has been the national language in Taiwan for more than 60 years and is taught in schools, which is not the case for Taiwanese.
    Ads in Mandarin are not triumphalist because Mandarin has always been the top prestige language. As I see it, If you've always been the top, there's no triumph or victory in that. But if you were at the bottom and climbed to the top or near the top, that's a triumph, a victory. Taiwanese has become much more important socially and professionally for getting ahead in Taiwan.

  21. Bob said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 12:27 am

    @Julie Lee: since the 2nd term of the Chen Administration, (surprisingly, in the current Ma Administration also), oral Taiwanese has been a subject for Taiwan's primary schools.
    btw, advertisement IS an exclusive thing. In Marketing 1, the code words are: targeted audience….

  22. John said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 12:42 am

    julie lee: I think you underestimate how much Taiwanese most Mandarin-speaking people in Taiwan know. I barely speak any Taiwanese, but I have no problem understanding the ad. Many common Taiwanese expressions and conventions on how to write them with characters (like 呷) are absorbed through cultural osmosis. It's like how certain Spanish words and expressions are now widely recognized in American English.

  23. julie lee said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 2:57 am

    Thanks. The 2nd term of the Chen Administration began in 2004, which means Taiwanese has been taught in primary schools for only 10 years, compared to more than 60 years of Mandarin in all school grades.
    (I was in marketing for years, and have written about marketing research and targeting audiences.)
    @John, thanks for the information. I lived in Taiwan for a number of years and didn't pick up enough Taiwanese to understand the noodle ad. The same with almost all my Mandarin-speaking friends and relatives.

  24. Stephan Stiller said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 4:49 am

    Important corrections to the second half of my most recent comment: Clarifications regarding proper usage of Jyutping

    I corresponded with Prof. Kwan Hin Cheung (張群顯), presently the Jyutping Group Convener of the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK). He gave very helpful answers to questions of tone number styling and word segmentation. With his permission, I am providing his information, with some added explanations:

    1. Placement of tone numbers: (a) The official placement is as normal-size numerals. (b) Placement as superscript or subscript numerals would be unofficial, but it is not officially disallowed. It can be useful for visual clarity. (‌c) While Unicode offers specific codepoints for superscript and subscript numerals [what I used in my previous comment], using them in a document or database incurs the risk that a search procedure might not find/match them. Therefore it is generally better to use markup with ordinary numerals if something like superscript placement is desired. (This point is important in contexts where one can search or copy-and-paste text.)

    2. Word segmentation: (a) Jyutping defines a phonetic representation of Cantonese on the syllable-level. As a standard, it is silent on orthographic matters above the syllable-level. (b) Thus Jyutping itself is silent on how to string syllables together or on punctuation. (‌c) The user thus has different options for representing word units (eg: as run-together Jyutping syllables, with hyphens, mixed to reflect morphological structure) and word segmentation (not at all or with spaces; the latter would of course require that syllables are word-internally not separated by spaces).

    Specifically, my previous comment's assumptions that (i) Jyutping prefers or requires superscript tone numbers and that (ii) Jyutping requires spaces between every syllable were not correct.

  25. elizabeth yew said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 9:01 am

    @Stephan Stiller
    Many thanks for the information about Jyutping.

    The inventor of the Yale Cantonese romanization system, Parker Po-fei Huang, died in 2008 in California. He was born in 1914 in Guanggzhou. In 1947 he emigrated to the United States, settling in San Francisco. In 1952, during the Korean War, he began an association with Yale which lasted until his retirement in 1985. (This information from a memorial notice in the Yale Bulletin.)

  26. Victor Mair said,

    January 23, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

    Speaking of instant noodles…

    "Why A Popular Brand Name For Instant Noodles Is Censored On China's Weibo"


  27. Eric Vinyl said,

    January 28, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

    POJ not widespread? Well, there’s a 萬-someodd articles using that orthography on Holopedia (台灣/福建話維基百科), and AFAICT most Hokkien-language websites and blogs, such as 鷺水薌南‏否勢田中人.blogspot, and the Penang Hokkien Podcast seem to use it as the exclusive romanization, while the 台灣羅馬字協會 makes no mention of others. Perhaps it can’t be called by any measure be called “widespread,” but I always thought Church Romanization was the de facto transliteration for Southern Min varieties.

    Also, Tailingua, if you’re out there… we miss you.

  28. ScrippsBruin said,

    February 8, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

    Very clever use of Taiwanese in advertisement.

    And unlike Julie, this second generation WSR is amused at the cleverness of the ad and picked up on the Taiwanese saying quickly.

    @Julie, you and I are both products of refugees that would have faced certain death if Taiwan, our adopted homeland, did not take us in with open arms (see the over one million Into killed by Mao immediately after the establishment of the PRC). Instead of assimilating into the local way of life, we forced the locals to give up their language and forced them to assimilate into our way of life. And now you get all bend out of shape because you now see an ad that is written with the local language in mind. Time to get rid of that chip input shoulder and be proud you can call Taiwan home.

  29. ScrippsBruin said,

    February 8, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    Sorry, meant to say "one million KMT killed" , autocorrect be damned!

RSS feed for comments on this post