[Wikipedia-l] Re: Peh-oe-ji on minnan.wikipedia.org
Henry H. Tan-Tenn
share2002nov at lomaji.com
Sun Aug 8 16:28:03 UTC 2004
(I'm sorry for the lengthy response below, but I felt it was necessary
to supply some historical context in response to a lengthy criticism of
how a Wikipedia should be named. Neither the language/dialect nor the
Wikipedia, as productive as it has been, is not well-known, particularly
to Anglo/European editors.)
Tim Starling wrote:
> Contrary to what Shizhao said, it seems that the Peh-oe-ji orthography,
> as seen on minnan.wikipedia.org, is not even representative of
> Taiwanese, let alone Min Nan. In fact it is only used by a small
Of course the Peh-oe-ji (hereafter POJ) orthography is used by a "small
minority". This is in large part due to the fact that Min Nan
everywhere is historically not a written language. In fact historically
the vast majority of Min Nan speakers were illiterate. Those elite who
could afford to read and write primarily did so in Classical Chinese,
albeit pronounced in Literary Min Nan (a form of Vulgar Classical
Chinese, if you will). But there were piecemeal and largely
non-cumulative attempts to write down the speech, though nothing
systematic has come out of it. Historically.
More recent development: In the early part of the 19th century US and
later British missionaries started to proselytize in Min Nan speaking
regions, starting from the large "expatriate" communities in Southeast
Asia, then Amoy (Xiamen), Shantou, eventually Formosa (Taiwan). The
orthography used was thus not limited to the Taiwanese population. (See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Van_Nest_Talmage. I wrote this but
feel free to check the sources.) Now of course, as you can imagine, its
usage was at first limited only to the Min Nan-speaking Christian
population, which had always been small, but the variety of works in
this corpus was much broader, and not all of a blatantly religious
nature, than anything that had been written in any other scripts
including Chinese characters, to this day. Since the end of martial law
in Taiwan, school children are no longer punished for speaking Min Nan
and although no authority in Min Nan-speaking region anywhere has
regulated how Min Nan *ought* to be written, in Taiwan POJ is taught.
This could be misconstrued as evidence that POJ is intrinsically
"Taiwanese" but that's simply not so.
Also see my previous response to your contention that "[the POJ] writing
there [i.e. minnan.wikipedia.org] is thus not representative of min-nan
"To keep discussion short I'll just say, for now, that most variants of
Minnan are generally and historically *not* written and when written,
generally without reference to a standard (lots of words written
inconsistently). The genra have also been limited to songs and other
poetic forms. So it's difficult to talk about representativeness in
that context. The current Minnan Wikipedia *is* the "state of the art"
to the extent that Minnan has been written and read historically."
>Now I have every respect for the goals of those who promote
> Peh-oe-ji, but I don't think Wikipedia should assign subdomains which
> support one political viewpoint over another.
Now I am puzzled by your assertion that using the Peh-oe-ji orthography
to write Min Nan constitutes a "political viewpoint". Which viewpoint
is that? A Christian viewpoint? A Taiwan-centric Min Nan viewpoint? A
pro-alphabet, anti-character viewpoint?
I will say for now that people use the orthography for many reasons.
Many like the fact that they are able to write in a consistent manner in
an orthography attested by a century-and-half of works. Many are
Taoist, Buddhist, atheists, etc. (I am certainly not Christain in case
you are wondering -- not that this should be relevant.) If some people
would like to politicize a writing system, well, they are feel to do so
but that does not necessarily mean their viewpoint has wide currency.
> Currently the predominant form of writing in Taiwan is "Traditional
> Chinese", given the code zh-tw. Writing of this form is commonly used on
Traditional Chinese has been widely taught in Taiwan's educational
system since the end of WWII, for the purpose of writing the (de facto)
official Mandarin language (or dialect, if you will). The ISO code
zh-tw specifies the regional variety of the "zh language", which is
generally interpreted as meaning Mandarin.
But since the Taiwanese are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society, how
official Mandarin is written does not dictate how other native languages
must be written. The Government certainly does not prescribe that Min
Nan in Taiwan should be written in Chinese characters.
>The Taiwanese people who write in zh.wikipedia.org
> speak the exact same language as those who write on
> minnan.wikipedia.org. That language is a form of Min Nan, referred to in
> Taiwan as Ho-lo-oe.
Note that Min Nan is not the native language of every Taiwanese and
therefore only some Taiwanese speak Min Nan. Other people who are not
Taiwanese also speak some form of Min Nan. When those Min Nan speakers
(regardless of nationality) participate in an xx-language Wikipedia,
they use whatever the dominant writing system is. Thus they do not
attempt to, for example, write Japanese in Roumaji (romanization) in
Nor is every editor in minnan.wikipedia.org Taiwanese. We also have
editors from Amoy, PRC.
I hope you would not try to confuse the issue by implying that since
Mandarin speakers write Mandarin in Chinese characters, that they
therefore necessarily must write Min Nan similarly. It should not be
difficult to understand that related languages, for historical reasons,
may well be treated to different scripts. I need not cite the many
examples in this category (but I will if requested).
> Based on the information I have now, I would like to move
> minnan.wikipedia.org to peh-oe-ji.wikipedia.org. I'm expecting
> objections to this from the users of that wiki, who seem to be keen
> promoters of the Peh-oe-ji orthography. All the same, I'd like to hear
> any comments or objections anyone has.
In June 2004 you very nicely asked:
> > How about minnan.wikipedia.org? It's shorter, doesn't conflict with
> > anything, and is easy to remember.
> > -- Tim Starling
But to the surprise of several Min Nan editors, you went ahead without
waiting for any feedback, even though you appeared to invite it in a
non-rhetorical fashion. Given this experience I have concluded that I,
as a Min Nan editor, is powerless to influence whatever you believe,
rightly or wrongly, to be the best course of action. I trust your
judgement as a developer but I am not convinced by your arguments to the
effect that the Minnan Wikipedia, as written, is somehow unrepresentive
(even "unauthentic"?). You are of course free to conduct further
research and show Min Nan editors works that you regard as representive
of Min Nan (or Min Nan Taiwanese) writing.
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