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Taiwan’s linguistic inscrutability complex – Joshua Samuel Brown wrote an interesting post concerning Taiwanese  reverting to Min Nam (Hokkien) dialect over Mandarin in everyday use.

I first noticed this as an undergrad, in the late 1990’s.  We had a lot of Taiwanese exchange students at my school, a couple of which I became good friend with. One was a Mainlander (外省人; Wàishěng rén), most of the rest were “native Taiwanese” (Chinese: 本省人; Běnshěng rén). The Mainlanders are from families who came directly from the Mainland after the Guo Ming Dong (KMT; 中國國民黨) lost the Chinese Civil War to the Communists. They were seen as oppressors by most “Native Taiwanese” (not to be confused with Aboriginal Taiwanese), whose families had been trickling into Taiwan from the adjacent Chinese Fujian province since 3 Kingdoms Period.  After the Guo Ming Dong took over administration of Taiwan from Japan after 1945, and especially after the Civil War concluded, they went about deJapanizing and “re-Sinicizing” the local population. The Guo Ming Dong suppressed the Taiwanese Min Nan dialect, and attempted to replace it with the lingua franca of the Mainland, Mandarin.

Since the late 1980’s, there has been renewed vigor in younger Taiwanese to revive public use of Taiwanese throughout the island, but especially in the south. To make a long story short, my friend, like most Mainlanders, did not speak Taiwanese (Min Nan dialect of Taiwan). The Native Taiwanese students would often exclude him by speaking Taiwanese when he was around.

After years of discrimination by the Mainlanders against the Native Taiwanese, it is somewhat reversing. I was told that it used to be Native Taiwanese who would immigrate to American for better opportunities, now it is the Mainlanders. Nationalist upheavals always have victims. It does not help that many of the Mainlanders are still for “Chinese Reunification” and not “Taiwanese Independence”.

What I wonder is how is this effecting the 15% of the population who are Hakka (kejia ren) on the island. They do not usually speak Taiwanese either, but have been there as long or longer than many “Native Taiwanese” families.

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