Who speaks "Guo Yu"? (Part 2)

Note: This text is an English translation of the article 誰愛說國語?(二) by Richter. Both the text and image are his original works.

Translator's Note: "Guo Yu" in Mandarin literally translates to "Language of the state".




History never fails to amaze us by showing how phenomenons occur over and over again. Although the dominance of Japanese has been replaced by Mandarin, the distribution of the both are strikingly familiar.

After the war, a complete language usage survey of Taiwan was never conducted, so a Mandarin prevalence map is not readily available. Fortunately in 2004, the "Survey on Taiwan democracy and elections" provided us with some valuable information. The focus of the survey was on political actions, but information on language usage was also collected. The distribution pattern of "Guo Yu" families are clearly shown, despite only 63 of 358 towns in Taiwan were selected for survey.

We divide participants into three categories according to language used in the family: 3 points if usage of Holo, Hakka, or Aboriginal languages were found; 2 points if they were used collaterally with Mandarin; 1 point if only Mandarin was used. The average of all participants was 2.28 points. Average scores was calculated for the 63 towns. Lower scores indicates more "Guo Yu" families in the region, and shown on the map as smaller circles.

The first conclusion we draw from the map is, there are obviously more "Guo Yu" families in urban areas, identical to the distribution of Japanese in 1930. Smaller circles are present in central Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, surrounded by larger circles. The whole Taipei area even lacks a single circle above the national average.

Secondly, Hakka towns have more "Guo Yu" families, also similar to Japanese in 1930. Scores of Jhongli, Yangmei, Miaoli were all below the national average. Southern Hakka towns were not included in this survey, neither were more rural Hakka towns, so we are unable to determine if the difference is due to its Hakka population or the result of urban-rural or north-south differences.

Finally, northern Taiwan has higher proportions of "Guo Yu" families, still adhering to the 1930 Japanese distribution. Likewise, rural towns were not included in this survey, and the possibility that the variation is caused by urban-rural differences cannot be eliminated. The three trends described above are preliminary observations, and further inspection is required.

What's the big deal with speaking "Guo Yu" in the family? It's a very big deal. Language is not only a tool of communication, it is inseparable with national identity. According to the same survey, in those whose familial language is not Mandarin, 58.1% consider themselves Taiwanese, 36.4% both Taiwanese and Chinese, and a mere 5.5% think of themselves as Chinese. In those who speak other languages alongside Mandarin in their family, 43.5% consider themselves Taiwanese, 51.1% both Taiwanese and Chinese, and 5.5% think of themselves as Chinese. As for the "Guo Yu" families, only 26.7% consider themselves Taiwanese, 63.7% both Taiwanese and Chinese, and 9.6% Chinese. The usage of "Guo Yu" in the family correlates with the probability of self-identifying with Chinese.

Some may doubt, non-Mandarin families may be biased to the Holo population, as they constitute the largest proportion. The national identities of Haaka- and Aboriginal-speaking families may differ from that of Holo ones. We now break down this segment, and the results show 50% of Hakka families, along with 65% of Aborigine, and 58.3% of Holo families consider themselves Taiwanese. Clearly, all three have a preference for choosing Taiwanese as their national identity.

Again, among those who identify themselves as Taiwanese, 64.4% are non-Mandarin families, 21.9% use both, and only 13.7% use only Mandarin; of the Taiwanese-and-Chinese group, 40.9% are non-Mandarin, 26.1% both, and 33% Mandarin; of the Chinese group, 44.3% are non-Mandarin, 20% use both, and 35.7% Mandarin. We can easily discover the similarity between the Chinese-identifying group and the Taiwanese-and-Chinese group. As a matter of fact, these two groups show little differences in their political behaviours. Thus it is concluded that the national identity crisis of modern Taiwan is whether one identifies oneself to Chinese, rather than if they identify as Taiwanese. In the present political atmosphere, all participants are willing to throw in a "I'm a Taiwanese too" from time to time.

Since language has such a close interaction with national identity, which happens to be the most important disagreement in Taiwan, inevitably makes language a much-discussed political matter.

Who speaks "Guo Yu"? (Part 1)

Note: This text is an English translation of the article 誰愛說國語?(一) by Richter. Both the text and image are his original works.

Translator's Note: "Guo Yu" in Mandarin literally translates to "Language of the state".


The "Guo Yu" in 1930s Taiwan is, of course, not Mandarin as it is today, but rather Japanese. The exact same phrase, conveyed a different underlying meaning. Obviously the term "Guo Yu" is not a specific linguistic term, but a political expression.

Seventy years before present time, who spoke "Guo Yu"?

We gain insight of the popularity of Japanese from a survey conducted in 1930. Interestingly, the east and the so-called "barbarian areas" (areas occupied by aborigines) had a higher level of penetrance relative to the rest of the island. This is explained by the fact that Japanese authorities of the time had put a great deal of effort into "assimilating" the aboriginals with quite some results. In fact, to this day, Japanese is still a common language among the elders of aborigines. On one occasion, I actually had to rely on a Taiwanese-Japanese translator to communicate with the aboriginal elders.

Excluding the east and "barbarian areas", three trends of distribution of Japanese were observed. Not surprisingly, higher prevalence was found in urban than rural areas. Over 1/4 of the local population in Taipei city, Taichung city, and Tainan city spoke Japanese. Hakka acceptance of "Guo Yu" seemed wider than Holo people both in the north or and in the south. Other than this, using the Jhuoshuei river as the border, the north part of Taiwan spoke "Guo yu" more readily than the south.

Intuitively, we expect the portion of Japanese in the population, the population density(reflecting the urban-rural differences), and the composition of the local population (Holo/Haaka/Aborigine) fully explains the prevalence of Japanese. However, as regular readers might have expected, language is the most typical collective behavior. Unless one lives in a totally isolated environment, the language we choose to use is often decided by the language commonly used around us. The more people use a particular language, the more likely we choose to use this language. The popularity of a language is obviously a type of "diffusion".

Unfortunately as a student, I don't have the time to deeply research this topic. Nevertheless, I am going to point out the distribution pattern of "Guo Yu" today is identical to the one 70 years ago, although they are two completely different languages.


 

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