Saturday, October 4, 2008

Taiwanese kana

Taiwanese kana is a katakana-based writing system once used to write , when Taiwan was by Japan. It functioned as a phonetic guide to hanzi, much like furigana in or in . There were similar systems for other languages in Taiwan as well, including and Formosan languages.

The system was imposed by Japan at the time, and used in a few dictionaries, as well as textbooks. The Taiwanese-Japanese Dictionary , published in 1931-1932, is an example. It uses various signs and diacritics to denote sounds that do not exist in Japanese. The system is chiefly based on the Amoy dialect of Min Nan.

Through the system, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan aimed to help Taiwanese people learn the Japanese language, as well as help Japanese people learn the Taiwanese language. Linguistically speaking, however, the syllabary system was cumbersome for a language that has phonology far more complicated than Japanese. After Japanese administration ended, the system soon became obsolete. Now, only a few scholars, such as the ones who study aforementioned dictionary, learn Taiwanese kana.

Currently, Mojikyo is the only piece of / that fully supports the system. Unicode lacks some overlined kanas and tone signs.

The system has some varieties throughout the times. This article is mainly about the last edition, used roughly from 1931.

Basic rules

Mapped sounds are mostly similar to katakana in Japanese. Notable differences include:
* All the syllables are written with 2 or 3 kana. When a vowel is not followed by or a consonant, kana for the vowel is repeated.
* When a syllable contains 3 vowels, or 2 vowels followed by a consonant, a vowel in middle is written with a small vowel kana.
* The sound /?/ is spelt オ, while /o/ is ヲ. Therefore, POJ ''o·'' is always オ, while ''o'' may be spelt オ or ヲ, depending on the pronunciation. Unlike in Japanese, ヲ is never /wo/.
* Cosonant is written with a vowel "o", when it precedes ヲ.
* Final ''n/m/ng'' are ヌ/ム/ン respectively. ヌ/ム can also be used for ''nu/mu'' in initials.
* Syllabic ''ng'' is spelt as ン. The syllable ''"ng"'' is ン, not ウン or ンン.
* Syllabic ''m'' is spelt as ム. The syllable ''"m"'' is ム, not ウム or ムム.
* Initial ''ng'' is spelt as ''g'' with a nasal tone sign.
* Final consonants ''k/t/p'' are small /ツ/ respectively, similar to the kana used in .
* Final consonant ''h'' is written as a small kana after the preceding vowel.
* are written as kana with a dot under it.
* There are five overlined kana to deal with ''t'' and ''ch''. sounds similar to ''ティ'' in modern Japanese katakana. is similar to ''トゥ'', to ''ツァ'', to ''ツェ'', and to ''ツォ''.

* フ is not /?u/ as in Japanese, but /hu/.
* ヤ, ユ, ヨ, ワ, ヰ, or ヱ are not used.
* There are two optional vowel kana for Cho??-chiu dialect. for /?/, for /?/.

Tone signs

There are different signs for normal vowels and .

* When a text is , those signs are written on the right side of letters. Taiwanese kana is known to be written vertically only, so it is unknown how to put the signs if it were written horizontally.
* Initial consonants ''m/n/ng'' are always written with nasal vowel tone signs.

Comparison chart with

* Some combinations don't exist in reality.
* You always have to put tone signs.
*1: ''g'' always takes normal vowel tone signs, ''ng'' always takes nasal vowel tone signs.
*2: Some spellings are not clear. 仔 was sometimes written as ア rather than アア. 的 was sometimes written as エ rather than エエ.
*3: Nasal vowels are spelt with オ, such as オオ, ポオ, イオ, ピオ, and so on.


:シェヌ シイ コン、ハ シェン ァム ァム チ?ア。

:Pe?h-ōe-jī: Sian-si? kóng, ha?k-seng tiām-tiām thia?.
:: 先生講、學生恬恬聽。
:Translation: A teacher is speaking. Students are quietly listening.

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