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Say It Right Series

The "Taiwanese" Accent

Posted by pulosm October 16, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

A lot of to do has been made of the so-called Taiwanese accent, that I think a post is warranted on this topic.  First off, let me point out that what is called the Taiwanese accent is really something that you will here in most of southern China, not just Taiwan.

Three types:  Taiwanese Mandarin, Mandarin with Taiwanese Accent, and Standard Taiwanese Mandarin. 

(1)  The first type is best exemplified by Chen Shui-Bian.  When he speaks Mandarin, he has an extremely heavy Taiwanese accent.  This is no different than the type of "problem" Cantonese speakers have when they speak Mandarin and it comes from a person's prominent langauge being something other than Mandarin.  There are SO many attributes to this, but they are not worth mentioning because this accent is seen less and less by younger people and in big cities.

(2)  Mandarin with a Taiwanese accent is just a regional difference that is NOT considered proper even in Taiwan, but is quite common.  This accent is seen all over southern China, not just in Taiwan.  Some examples:

(a)  Failure to "juan3she2" (curl the tongue), so "sh, zh, ch" all sound like "s, z, c"
(b)  No distinction between "ang, eng, ing" and "an, en, in." 
(c)  Pronounciation of "eng" as "ong" sometimes (as in "feng1", which sounds like "fong1")

(3)  Standard Taiwanese Mandarin:  Even here there are differences, but they are relatively few, I'd say:

  1. Use of traditional characters
  2. Tonal/Pronunciation differences:  For example, the word for "ripe" is pronounced "shou2" in Taiwan, but "shu2" in the Mainland.  The "qi" of "xingqi" (week), is pronounced "qi2" in Taiwan and "qi1" in Mainland China.   The "ye" meaning "coconut" is pronounced "ye2" in Taiwan and "ye1" in the Mainland,  etc., etc.  [on these differences are always denoted, so check that out!]
  3. Tones in General:  Taiwanese people don't use the "fifth" or neutral tone as much (at all?).  In Beijing, it seems like every other word loses its tone, but in Taiwan, you pronounce all the tones in a word.  Also, the Beijing third tone is much sharper and crisper than in Taiwan.
  4. Lexical differences:  Of course, there are different words.  What comes to mind is the word for "pineapple" in Taiwan is "feng4li2" and in Mainland is "bo1luo2" (the latter is also the Cantonese version); "potato" is "ma3ling2shu3" in Taiwan, but "tu3dou4" in Mainland (the latter means "peanut" in the Taiwanese language, so this is why they have probably shied away from this word in Mandarin).  You roommate is your "tong2wu1" in Mainland, meaning literally "same room" (so!), but your "shi4you3" (room friend) in Taiwan.

Anyway, these aren't exhaustive lists...just trying to point out some general principles. 





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