Taiwanese Mandarin

Taiwanese Mandarin or Guoyu (traditional Chinese: 國語; simplified Chinese: 国语; pinyin: Guóyǔ; lit. 'National Language') refers to any of the varieties of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Taiwan. This comprises two main forms: Standard Guoyu and Taiwan Guoyu.

Taiwanese Mandarin
臺灣華語, Táiwān Huáyǔ
中華民國國語, Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guóyǔ
PronunciationStandard Mandarin [tʰai˧˥wan˥xwa˧˥ɥy˨˩˦]
Native toTaiwan
Native speakers
(4.3 million cited 1993)[1]
L2 speakers: more than 15 million (no date)[2]
Traditional Chinese characters
Official status
Official language in
 Taiwan (Republic of China)
Regulated byMinistry of Education (Taiwan)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6goyu (Guoyu)
Taiwanese Mandarin Usage Map.svg
Percentage of Taiwanese aged 6 and above who spoke Mandarin at home in 2010
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Taiwanese Mandarin
Traditional Chinese臺灣華語
Simplified Chinese台湾华语
National language of the Republic of China
Traditional Chinese中華民國國語
Simplified Chinese中华民国国语

Standard Guoyu (標準國語) refers to the formal variety that serves as the official national language of the Republic of China (Taiwan), being used in the education system, official communications, and most news media. The core of this standard variety is described in the dictionary Guoyu Cidian (國語辭典), which is maintained by the Ministry of Education of Taiwan,[3] and is based on the phonology of the Beijing dialect and the grammar of vernacular Chinese.[4] Standard Guoyu closely resembles, and is mutually intelligible with the Standard Mandarin (普通話; 普通话; Pǔtōnghuà) of mainland China, but with some divergences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Taiwan Guoyu (台灣國語) refers to the colloquial, basilectal, form of the language, which comprise varieties of Mandarin used in Taiwan that diverge from Standard Guoyu. These divergences are often the result of Taiwan Guoyu incorporating influences from other languages in Taiwan, primarily Taiwanese Hokkien, and, to a lesser extent, Japanese. While Taiwan Guoyu is mutually intelligible with Putonghua, it exhibits greater differences and is more identifiably "Taiwanese" than Standard Guoyu.

All forms of written Chinese in Taiwan use traditional characters, alongside other Sinophone areas such as Hong Kong, Macau, and many overseas Chinese communities. This is in contrast to mainland China, where simplified Chinese characters were adopted beginning in the 1950s.


In English, Mandarin can refer to any of the Mandarin dialects, which are not necessarily mutually intelligible.[5] However, the term is most commonly used to refer to Standard Chinese.[6][7] Standard Chinese in mainland China is called Putonghua (普通话 Pǔtōnghuà, lit. 'common speech') and in the Republic of China (Taiwan) Guoyu (國語 Guóyǔ, lit. 'national language'). Both of these dialects of Mandarin are based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin and are mutually intelligible, but also feature various lexical, phonological, and grammatical differences.[8]

Linguists have further differentiated between the Standard Guoyu, the formal, standardized variety of Mandarin in Taiwan (標準國語 Biāozhǔn Guóyǔ) and Taiwan Guoyu (臺灣國語 Táiwān Guóyǔ), which refers to Mandarin as it is commonly spoken, incorporating significant influences from mutually unintelligible Southern Min Chinese dialects (namely, Hokkien).[9][10]

More formal occasions—such as television news broadcasts or books—will generally use Standard Guoyu, which bears a greater resemblance to mainland Putonghua, and is not used as a day-to-day languge by most native speakers.[11] Less formal situations will often result in the use of the basilect, which features unique characteristics from Hokkien. In this context, bilingual speakers will often code-switch between Mandarin and Hokkien, sometimes in the same sentence.[12] [note 1]

This article uses Taiwan Guoyu to refer to the colloquial varieties of Mandarin in Taiwan, Standard Guoyu for the prescribed standard form, and simply Guoyu or Mandarin when a distinction is unnecessary.

History and usageEdit

Large-scale Han Chinese settlement of Taiwan began in the 17th century with Hoklo immigrants from Fujian province who spoke Southern Min languages (predominantly Hokkien), and, to a lesser extent, Hakka immigrants who spoke their respective language.[13] Official communications were made in Mandarin (官話 guānhuà, lit. 'official language'), but the primary languages of everyday life were Hokkien or Hakka.[14] After its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan to the Empire of Japan, which governed the island as an Imperial colony from 1895 to 1945. By the end of the colonial period, Japanese had become the high dialect of the island as the result of decades of Japanization policy.[14]

After the Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) regained control of Taiwan in 1945, Mandarin was introduced as the official language and made compulsory in schools, despite the fact that it was rarely spoken by the local population.[15] Many who had fled the mainland after the fall of the KMT also spoke non-standard varieties of Mandarin, which would later influence colloquial pronunciations.[16]

The Mandarin Promotion Council (now called National Languages Committee) was established in 1946 by then-Chief Executive Chen Yi to standardize and popularize the usage of Standard Chinese in Taiwan. The Kuomintang heavily discouraged the use of Hokkien and other non-Mandarin dialects, portraying them as inferior,[17] and school children were punished for speaking their native languages.[15] Mandarin/Guoyu was thus established as a lingua franca among the various groups in Taiwan at the expense of other, preexisting, languages.[18]

Following the end of martial law in 1987, language policy in the country underwent liberalization, but Guoyu remained the dominant language in Taiwan. Local languages were no longer proscribed in public discourse, mass media, and schools.[19] Guoyu is still the main language of public education, with English and "mother tongue education" (Chinese: 母語教育; pinyin: mǔyǔ jiàoyù) being introduced as subjects in primary school.[20] However, mother tongue classes generally occupy much less time than Standard Guoyu classes, and English classes are often preferred by parents and students over mother tongue classes.[21] A 2004 study found that Mandarin was spoken more fluently by Hakka and Taiwanese aboriginals than their respective mother tongues; Hoklo groups, on average, spoke better Hokkien, but young and middle-aged Hoklo (under 50 years old) still spoke significantly better Mandarin (with comparable levels of fluency to their usage of Hokkien) than the elderly.[22][note 2] Overall, while both national and local levels of government have promoted the use of non-Mandarin Chinese languages, younger generations generally prefer using Mandarin.[23][24]

Mandarin is spoken fluently by the vast majority of the Taiwanese population, with the exception of some of the elderly population, who were educated under Japanese rule. In the capital of Taipei, where there is a high concentration of Mainlanders who do not natively speak Hokkien, Mandarin is used in greater frequency and fluency than other parts of Taiwan. The 2010 Taiwanese census found that in addition to Mandarin, Hokkien was natively spoken by around 70% of the population, and Hakka by 15%.[25]


Guoyu employs traditional Chinese characters (which are also used in the two special administrative regions of China, Hong Kong and Macau), rather than the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China.

Shorthand charactersEdit

In practice, Taiwanese Mandarin users may write informal, shorthand suzi (Chinese: 俗字; pinyin: súzì; lit. 'custom/conventional characters'; also 俗體字 sútǐzì) in place of the full traditional forms. These variant Chinese characters are generally easier to write by hand and consist of fewer strokes. Often, suzi are identical to their simplified counterparts, but they may also take after Japanese kanji, or differ from both, as shown in the table below. A few suzi are used as frequently as standard traditional characters, even in formal contexts, such as the tai in Taiwan, which is written as (5 strokes), as opposed to the official traditional form, (14 strokes).[26]: 251 

Suzi [27] Standard traditional Notes
Identical to simplified (huì)
Identical to simplified ()
Identical to Japanese, cf. simplified ()
Differs from both simplified Chinese and Japanese , although is also a hyōgai kanji (diǎn)
Identical to Japanese, cf. simplified (tiě)


Taiwanese braille is based on different letter assignments than Mainland Chinese braille.[28]



While pinyin is used in applications such as in signage, most Taiwanese speakers learn phonetics using the Zhuyin Fuhao (國語注音符號 Guóyǔ Zhùyīn Fúhào lit. Mandarin Phonetic Symbols) system, popularly called Zhuyin or Bopomofo after its first four glyphs. Taiwan is the only Chinese-speaking polity to use the system, which is taught in schools and represents the dominant digital input method on electronic devices. It has accordingly become a symbol of Taiwanese nationalism.[29]


Chinese language romanization in Taiwan somewhat differs from on the mainland, where Hanyu Pinyin is almost exclusively used.[30] A competing system, Tongyong Pinyin, was formally revealed in 1998 with the support of then-mayor of Taipei Chen Shuibian.[31] In 1999, however, the Legislative Yuan endorsed a slightly modified version of Hanyu Pinyin, creating parallel romanization schemes along largely partisan lines, with Kuomintang-supporting areas using Hanyu Pinyin, and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) areas using Tongyong Pinyin.[31] In 2002, the Taiwanese government led by the DPP promulgated the use of Tongyong Pinyin as the country's preferred system, but this was formally abandoned in 2009 in favor of Hanyu Pinyin.[32]

In addition, various other historical romanization systems also exist across the island, with multiple systems sometimes existing in the same locality. Following the defeat of the Kuomintang in the Chinese Civil War and their subsequent retreat to Taiwan, little emphasis was placed on the romanization of Chinese characters, with the Wade-Giles system used as the default. It is still widely used for transcribing people's legal names today.[33] The Gwoyeu Romatzyh method, invented in 1928, also was in use during this time period,[when?] albeit to a lesser extent.[33][34] In 1984, Taiwan's Ministry of Education began revising the Gwoyeu Romatzyh method out of concern that Hanyu Pinyin was gaining prominence internationally. Ultimately, a revised version of Gwoyeu Romatzyh was released in 1986,[33] which was formally called the 'National Phonetic Symbols, Second Scheme'. However, this system was not widely adopted.[35]


Standard GuoyuEdit

Like mainland Putonghua and all other Sinitic languages, both Standard and Taiwanese Guoyu are tonal. Pronunciation of many individual characters differs in the standards prescribed by language authorities in Taipei and Beijing. Mainland authorities tend to prefer pronunciations popular in Northern Mandarin areas, whereas Taiwanese authorities prefer traditional pronunciations recorded in dictionaries from the 1930s and 1940s.[36]

These character-level differences notwithstanding, Standard Guoyu pronunciation is largely identical to Putonghua, but with two major systematic differences:[37]

  • Erhua, the rhotacization of certain syllables via the suffix -兒 (儿), is very rare in Guoyu.
  • Isochrony is considerably more syllable-timed than in other Mandarin dialects (including Putonghua), which are stress-timed. Consequently, the "neutral tone" (輕聲 qīngshēng) does not occur as often, and the final syllable retains its tone.

Hokkien influence on non-standard formEdit

Taiwan Guoyu is also strongly influenced by Hokkien. This is especially prominent in areas where Hokkien is common - namely Central and Southern Taiwan. The Hokkien-influenced Mandarin accent in Taiwan is generally similar to its counterpart in the Minnan region of Fujian.[citation needed]

Influence can be seen in the presence of sounds from Hokkien, which do not normally exist in Guoyu. These variations from Standard Guoyu are similar to variations of Putonghua spoken in southern China. Using the Hanyu Pinyin system, the following sound changes take place (going from Putonghua to Taiwan Guoyu, followed by an example):

  • The retroflex sounds (Pinyin: zh, ch, sh, r) in Putonghua tend to merge with the alveolar series (z, c, s), becoming more retracted versions of alveolar consonants like [t͡s̠ʰ][t͡s̠][s̠][z̠].[37][38]
  • Retroflex sounds (zh, ch, sh) are replaced by alveolar consonants (z, c, s, l). r may also become [z]. The ability to produce retroflex sounds is considered a hallmark of "good" Mandarin (i.e. Standard Guoyu), and may be overcompensated in some speakers, causing them to incorrectly pronounce alveolar consonants as their retroflex counterparts when attempting to speak "proper" Mandarin.[39] (for example, pronouncing 所以 suǒyǐ as shuǒyǐ)
  • f- becomes a voiceless bilabial fricative (⟨ɸ⟩), closer to a light 'h' in standard English (fǎn → huǎn 反 → 緩)[40] (This applies to native Hokkien speakers; Hakka speakers maintain precisely the opposite, e.g. huā → fā 花 → 發)[citation needed]
  • The syllable written as pinyin: eng ([əŋ]) after labials like b, f, m, p and w is pronounced pinyin: ong [oŋ].[41]
  • n and l sometimes become interchangeable, particularly preceding finals ending in nasals (-n, -ng)[41]
  • endings -uo, -ou, and -e (when it represents a close-mid back unrounded vowel, like in 喝 'to drink') merge into the close-mid back rounded vowel -o
  • -ie, ye becomes ei (tie → tei)[citation needed]
  • the close front rounded vowel in words such as 雨 'rain' become unrounded, transforming into [42][37]
  • the diphthong ei is monophthongized into [e], as is the triphthong [uei] (as in duì 對)[42]


The non-standard Taiwanese Guoyu tends to exhibit frequent, informal elision when spoken.[43] For example, 這樣子 zhè yàngzi 'this way, like so' can be pronounced similar to 醬子 jiàngzi 'paste, sauce'; wherein the "theoretical" retroflex (so called because it is rarely realized in everyday speech, as zh- is usually pronounced z-) is assimilated into the palatal glide [j].[44]

Often the elision involves the removal of initials in compound words, such as dropping the t in 今天 jīntiān 'today' or the ch in 非常 fēicháng 'extremely, very'.[45] Such elisions are not necessarily a function of speed of speech than of register, as it is more commonly used in casual conversation than in formal contexts.[44]

Differences from Mainland MandarinEdit

Standard pronunciationsEdit

In addition to differences in elision and influence from Hokkien, which are not features that are codified in the standard Guoyu, there are differences in pronunciation that arise from conflicting official standards in Taiwan and the mainland. These differences are primarily but not exclusively tonal.

Approximately 18.3% of the 7000 characters in the List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese differed in pronunciation between Guoyu and Putonghua. 12.7% of the 3500 most commonly used words differed from between the mainland and Taiwan.[46]

Official pronunciations given by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education are considered formal standards. The Ministry of Education tends to prefer language features present in traditional Beijing Mandarin, on which Guoyu is formally based, but these may not always reflect actual pronunciations commonly used by native Taiwanese Mandarin speakers.[47][48]

The following is a table of common characters pronounced with differing tone in Guoyu and Putonghua in most or all contexts:[49]

Character (Simp.) Guoyu Putonghua Character (Simp.) Guoyu Putonghua Character (Simp.) Guoyu Putonghua
識 (识) shì shí 擁 (拥) yǒng yōng
jiù jiū 夾 (夹) jiá jiā
擊 (击) 跡 (迹) 諷 (讽) fèng fěng
wéi wēi dié diē
亞 (亚) zhuó zhuō

Characters with non-tonal phonemic differences are rarer. Some examples include:

Char. Guoyu Putonghua Char. Guoyu Putonghua Char. Guoyu Putonghua
yái guā kuò
顫 (颤) zhàn chàn 暫(暂) zhàn zàn xiě xuè/xuě
shóu shú 勁(劲) jìng jìn guā

Some differences are not universal and may be relevant only in certain contexts. The following is a list of examples of such differences from the Cross-strait language database:[50]

Taiwanese Mandarin
Mainland Mandarin
lèsè lājī The pronunciation of lèsè originates from Wu Chinese and was the most common pronunciation in China before 1949.[citation needed] This is one of the few words where both characters are pronounced differently in Taiwan and the Mainland.

hàn,   The hàn pronunciation only applies when 和 is used as a conjunction. This proununication does not apply in words like hépíng 和平 'peace'.
'to expose'
bào The pronunciation bào is used in all other contexts in Guoyu.
質量 (质量)

'mass' (Taiwan) 'mass; quality' (mainland)

zhíliàng zhìliàng 質 is pronounced zhí in most contexts in Guoyu, except in select words like 'hostage' (rénzhì 人質 ) or 'to pawn' (zhìyā 質押). The word means 'mass' in both Guoyu and Putonghua, but Guoyu speakers do not use it to mean 'quality', instead using pǐnzhí 品質.[51]
髮型 (发型)


xíng xíng In Taiwan, ('hair') is pronounced as . The simplified form of 髮 is identical to that of the semantically unrelated 發  'to emit, send out'.


kǒu kǒuchī 吃 is only read in this specific context.


Guoyu and Putonghua share a large majority of their vocabulary, but significant differences do exist.[note 3] Some, but not all, of these differences may affect mutual understanding between speakers of their respective dialects. These differences can be classified in one of multiple ways: same word, different meaning (同實異名); same meaning, different word (同實異名); and words referring to concepts specific to either Taiwan or the mainland (臺詞 and 陸詞, respectively, in the Cross-Straits Dictionary).

Differing usage or preferenceEdit

Guoyu and Putonghua speakers may display strong preference for one of a set of synonyms. For example, while both jièjù 借據 and jiètiáo 借條 refer to an IOU in either dialect, Taiwanese speakers tend to use jièjù, and mainland speakers tend to prefer jiètiáo.[52] Additionally, words with the same meaning and usage might have different grammatical properties. The verb bāngmáng 幫忙 'to help' in Taiwanese Mandarin can take on a direct object, which is ungrammatical in Putonghua[52]—我幫忙他 'I help him' must be rendered as 我帮他个忙.

Likewise, words with the same literal meaning in Putonghua may differ in register from Guoyu. For instance, éryǐ 而已 'that's all, only' is very common even in Standard Guoyu in both its spoken and written forms, influenced by speech patterns in Hokkien, but in Putonghua the word is largely confined to formal, written contexts.[53] Guoyu also tends to preserve older lexical items that are less common in the mainland. For example, Taiwanese commonly use zǎo'ān 早安 to say 'good morning', whereas mainland speakers tend to prefer zǎoshang hǎo 早上好.[54]

The following table highlights some terms where one or more of a particular set of synonyms is strongly preferred in either Guoyu or Putonghua.

Term Guoyu Putonghua
tomato fānqié (番茄), literally "foreign eggplant" xīhóngshì (西红柿), literally "western red persimmon"
(番茄 - fānqié is the preferred term in southern China)
bicycle jiǎotàchē (腳踏車), literally "pedaling/foot-stamp vehicle"; tiémǎ (鐵馬), literally "metal horse", from Taiwanese Hokkien zìxíngchē (自行车), literally "self-propelled vehicle"
(脚踏车 - jiǎotàchē is the preferred term in Wu-speaking areas)
(单车 - dānchē is the preferred term in southern China)
kindergarten yòuzhìyuán (幼稚園),
(loanword from Japanese yōchien 幼稚園)
yòu'éryuán (幼儿园)
pineapple fènglí (鳳梨) bōluó (菠萝)
dress liánshēnqún (連身裙), yángzhuāng (洋裝), literally "western clothing" liányīqún (连衣裙), qúnzi (裙子)
hotel 飯店 (fàndiàn) lit. 'food store' 酒店 (jĭudiàn) lit. 'alcohol store'
Mandarin 國語 (guóyŭ) 'national language', 華語 (huáyŭ) 'Chinese language', 中文 (zhōngwén) 'Chinese language' 普通话 (pŭtōnghuà) 'common speech'

This also applies to the use of some function words. Preference for the expression of modality often differs among northern Mandarin speakers and Taiwanese, as evidenced by the selection of modal verbs. For example, Taiwanese Mandarin users strongly prefer 要 yào and 不要 búyào over 得 děi and 別 bié to express 'must' and 'must not', compared to native speakers from Beijing, though both pairs of characters are grammatically correct in either dialect.[55]

Same word, different meaningEdit

Some terms have different meanings in Taiwan and China, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings between speakers of different sides of the Taiwan Strait. Often there are alternative terms which can be used unambiguously by speakers on both sides.

Word/phrase Guoyu meaning Putonghua meaning Notes Ref
油品(yóupǐn) Oils (cooking, etc.) Petroleum products [56]
影集(yǐngjí) TV series Photo album [56]
土豆(tǔdòu) peanut potato Mǎlíngshǔ (馬鈴薯), another synonym for potato, is also used in both dialects. Huāshēng (花生), the Putonghua term for peanut, is an acceptable synonym in Guoyu. [56][57]
公車(gōngchē) bus government vehicle 公共汽車 gōnggòng qìchē is unambiguous for both dialects. [56]
窩心(wōxīn) to feel warm and cozy to feel irritated, hold a grudge [56]
愛人(àirén) lover spouse [56][57]

Same meaning, different wordEdit

The political separation of Taiwan (formally, the Republic of China, ROC) and mainland China (formally, the People's Republic of China, PRC) after the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 contributed to many differences in vocabulary. This is especially prominent in words and phrases which refer to things or concepts invented after the split, which frequently have totally different names in Guoyu and Putonghua.[58] Because of this, scientific and technological terminology shows great variation between Putonghua and Guoyu.

In computer science, for instance, the differences are prevalent enough to hinder communication.[58][59] Zhang (2000) selected four hundred core nouns from computer science and found that while 58.25% are identical in Standard and Taiwanese Mandarin, 21.75% were "basically" or "entirely" different.[60]

As cross-strait relations began to improve in the early 21st century, direct interaction between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese increased, and some vocabulary began to merge, especially by means of the Internet.[61] For example, the words píngjǐng 瓶頸 'bottleneck (in a production process, etc.)' and zuòxiù 作秀 'to grandstand, show off' were originally unique to Taiwanese Mandarin, but have since become widely used in mainland China.[61] Likewise, Taiwanese Mandarin users have incorporated mainland phrases and speech patterns as well. For example, Taiwanese Mandarin traditionally uses the word guǎndào 管道 for a figurative "channel" (as in "communications channel", etc.), as opposed to qúdào 渠道 in the mainland, but qúdào has become common in Taiwan as well.[62]

The following is a small selection of vocabulary items that differ from between Guoyu and Putonghua.

Meaning Guoyu Putonghua Notes Ref
Internet/network 網路(wǎnglù) 网络(wǎngluò) [63]
Briefcase 公事包(gōngshìbāo) 公文包(gōngwénbāo) [64]
Taxi 計程車(jìchéngchē) 出租车(chūzūchē) In Hong Kong Cantonese, the term is dik1 si2 (的士, a loan from English), which has influenced Putonghua; taking a cab is called dǎdī (打的). [65]
bento 便當(biàndāng) 盒饭(héfàn) The Japanese word is originally an adaptation (Wasei-kango) of 便當, a literary Chinese word for "convenient" (Wiktionary: 便當). Héfàn is descriptive (lit. case-meal). [66]
software 軟體(ruǎntǐ) 软件(ruǎnjiàn) [64]
information 資訊(zīxùn) 信息(xìnxī) [64]
digit, digital 數位(shùwèi) 数字(shùzì) [64]
middleman, broker 仲介(zhòngjiè) 中介(zhōngjiè) [64]

Words may be formed from abbreviations in one form of Mandarin but not the other. For example, in Tabiwan, bubble tea (珍珠奶茶 zhēnzhū nǎichá) is often abbreviated zhēnnǎi (珍奶), but this usage is not common on the mainland.[67] Likewise, 'traffic rules/regulations' (交通规则 jiāotōng guīzé) is abbreviated as jiāoguī (交规) on the mainland, but not in Taiwan.[68]

In other cases, the same word may carry different connotations or usage patterns, and may be polysemous in one form of Mandarin but not the other. For example, lǒngluò 籠絡 in Taiwan's Guoyu means 'to convince, win over', but in mainland Putonghua, it carries a negative connotation[69] (cf. 'beguile, coax'). Kuāzhāng 誇張 means 'to exaggerate,' but in Taiwan, it can also be used to express exclamation at something absurd or overdone, e.g., "(他們) 居然到現在還沒回來, 是不是太誇張了" '(They) still haven't even come back yet, isn't that absurd?'[52] Another example is xiǎojiě 小姐, which literally mean 'miss' or 'young lady', which is regularly used to address any young woman in Taiwan. On the mainland, however, the word is also a euphemism for a prostitute and is therefore not used as a polite term of address.[54]

Words specific to Taiwanese MandarinEdit

Authors of the Cross-Straits Dictionary (《两岸差异词词典》) estimate there are about 2000 words unique to Taiwanese Mandarin, around 10% of which come from Hokkien.[70] Sometimes, Hokkien loanwords are written directly in Bopomofo (for example, ㄍㄧㄥ). Likewise, Standard Mandarin from the mainland contains significant amounts of vocabulary that are not present in Taiwan.

Some of these differences stem from different social and political conditions, which gave rise to concepts that were not common between different areas, e.g. fúcǎi 福彩, a common abbreviation for the China Welfare Lottery of the People's Republic of China, or shíbāpā 十八趴, which refers to the 18% preferential interest rate on civil servants' pension funds in Taiwan.[69] (趴 pā used as "percent" also being unique to Taiwanese Mandarin.)

Additionally, many terms unique to Taiwanese Mandarin were adopted from Japanese both as a result of its geographical proximity, as well as Taiwan's status as a Japanese territory in the first half of the 20th century.[13]

In other cases, the same concept might exist in both China and Taiwan, but one side might not have a specialised term for it; for example, 'flight safety' is commonly abbreviated as fēi'ān 飛安 in Taiwan, but this usage is not present on the mainland.[69]


Spoken Taiwanese Mandarin uses a number of Taiwan specific (but not exclusive) final particles, such as 囉 (luō), 嘛 (ma), 喔 (ō), 耶 (yē), 咧 (lie), 齁 (hō), 咩 (mei), 唷 (yō), etc.[citation needed]

In informal writing, Taiwanese Mandarin speakers may replace possessive particles de 的 or zhī 之 with the Japanese particle no の in hiragana (usually read as de), which serves a nearly identical grammatical role.[71] No is often used in advertising, where it evokes a sense of playfulness and fashionability,[71] and handwriting, where it is easier to write.[72]

Loan words and transliterationEdit

Loan words may differ between Putonghua and Guoyu. Different characters or methods may also be chosen for transliteration (phonetic or semantic), and the number of characters may differ. In some cases, loans may be calqued in one variety and transliterated in the other (as in the word for blues music, below).

Generally, Guoyu tends to imitate the form of Han Chinese names when transliterating foreign persons' names.[73][note 4]

Word Guoyu Putonghua Reference
punk (music) 龐克(pángkè) 朋克(péngkè) [74]
(Ronald) Reagan 雷根(Léigēn) 里根(Lǐgēn) [75]
(Leonardo) da Vinci 達文西(Dá Wénxī) 达芬奇(Dá Fēnqí) [76]
Obama 歐巴馬(Ōubāmǎ) 奥巴马(Àobāmǎ) [75]
Kenya 肯亞(Kěnyǎ) 肯尼亚(Kěnníyà) [77]
salmon 鮭魚(guīyú) 三文鱼(sānwényú) [64]
Yemen 葉門(Yèmén) 也门(Yěmén) [78]
New Zealand 紐西蘭(Niǔ Xīlán) 新西兰(Xīn Xīlán) [78]
blues music 藍調(lándiào) 布鲁斯(bùlǔsī) [64]
blog 部落格(bùluògé) 博客(bókè) [64]
yogurt 優格(yōugé) 酸奶酪(suānnǎilào) [79]
From Taiwanese HokkienEdit

The terms "阿公 agōng" and "阿媽 amà" are more commonly heard than the standard Mandarin terms 爺爺 yéye (paternal grandfather), 外公 wàigōng (maternal grandfather), 奶奶 nǎinai (paternal grandmother) and 外婆 wàipó (maternal grandmother).

Some local foods are usually referred by their Hokkien names. These include:

Hokkien (mixed script) Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ) IPA English
礤冰[80]/chhoah冰[81][note 5] chhoah-peng [tsʰuaʔ˥˧piŋ˥] baobing: shaved ice with sliced fresh fruit on top (usually strawberry, kiwi or mango)
麻糍[80]/麻糬[81] môa-chî [mua˧tɕi˧˥] glutinous rice cakes (see mochi)
蚵仔煎 ô-á-chian Southern Min pronunciation: [o˧a˥tɕiɛn˥] oyster omelette

Some Taiwanese Hokkien words are commonly found in local Mandarin-language newspapers and periodicals:

As seen in two popular newspapers[note 6] Hokkien (POJ) Mandarin equivalent (Pinyin) English
China Times
Liberty Times
Southern Min pronunciation: [aʔ˥˧pa˨˩]
a local tyrant; a bully
China Times
Liberty Times
( (lo) -bà-khā)
Southern Min pronunciation: [lopa˨˩ka]
incompetent; foolish person; a person whose ability is unmatched with those around him. (compare to baka)
China Times
Liberty Times
(adj, adv) obstinate(ly), tense (as of singing/performing)
China Times
Liberty Times
to like
見笑[note 7]
China Times
Liberty Times
shy; bashful; sense of shame
China Times
Liberty Times
to end up with nothing
龜毛[note 8]
China Times
Liberty Times
(bù gāncuì)
picky; high-maintenance
Q 𩚨[80]
(ruǎn rùn yǒu tánxìng)
description for food—soft and pliable (like mochi cakes)
China Times
Liberty Times
[lau˨˩ kʰɔk˥kʰɔk˩]
old and senile
China Times
Liberty Times
to muck around
China Times
Liberty Times
I beg your pardon; I am sorry; Excuse me.
China Times
Liberty Times
(adj) well-suited to each other
China Times
Liberty Times
an event; a matter; an affair
China Times
Liberty Times
(shòu bù liǎo)
(dǎng bù zhù)
1can not bear something
²compelled to do something
China Times
Liberty Times
to win an election[note 9]
China Times
Liberty Times
(thâu-khak pháiⁿ-khì)
Southern Min pronunciation: [tʰau˧kʰak˥pʰãi˥˧kʰi˨˩]
(nǎojīn yǒu wèntí)
(you have/he has) lost (your/his) mind!
China Times
Liberty Times
(thut-chhôe / thut-chhê)
to go off the rails; to go wrong
China Times
Liberty Times
driver (of automotive vehicles; from Japanese unchan (運ちゃん), slang for untenshi (運転士), see (運転手))
China Times
Liberty Times
depressed; sulky; unhappy; moody
From JapaneseEdit

Japanese loanwords are based on phonetics, and are transliterated using Chinese characters with similar pronunciation in Mandarin or Taiwanese Hokkien.

Japanese (Romaji) Taiwanese Mandarin[83] (Pinyin) English
気持ち (kimochi) 奇檬子 (qíméngzǐ)[note 10] Mood; Feeling.
おばさん (obasan) 歐巴桑 (ōubāsāng)[note 11] Old lady; Auntie.
おでん (oden) 黑輪 (hēilún)[note 12] A type of stewed flour-based snack/sidedish.
おじさん (ojisan) 歐吉桑 (ōujísāng)[note 13] Old man; Uncle.
オートバイ (ōtobai) 歐多拜 (ōuduōbài) motorcycle ("autobike", from "autobicycle").

Idioms and proverbsEdit

Taiwanese Mandarin (Pinyin)
Google hits: .tw
Google hits: .cn
Mainland Chinese Mandarin (Pinyin)
Google hits: .tw
Google hits: .cn
一蹴可幾 (yī cù kě jī)
.tw: 10,700
.cn: 1,320
一蹴而就 (yī cù ér jiù)
.tw: 3,680
.cn: 309,000
to reach a goal in one step
一覽無遺 (yī lǎn wú yí)
.tw: 75,800
.cn: 184,000
一览无余 (yī lǎn wú yú)
.tw: 2,530
.cn: 373,000
to take in everything at a glance
入境隨俗 (rù jìng suí sú)
.tw: 22,400
.cn: 7,940
入乡随俗 (rù xiāng suí sú)
.tw: 1,980
.cn 144,000
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
.tw: 39,900
.cn: 18,100
.tw: 49,300
.cn 579,000


For non-recurring events, the construction involving (yǒu) is used where the sentence final particle (le) would normally be applied to denote perfect. For instance, Taiwanese Mandarin more commonly uses "你有看醫生嗎?" to mean "Have you seen a doctor?" whereas Putonghua uses "你看医生了吗?". This is due to the influence of Hokkien grammar, which uses (ū) in a similar fashion. For recurring or certain events, however, both Taiwanese and Mainland Mandarin use the latter, as in "你吃饭了吗?", meaning "Have you eaten?"

Another example of the influence of Hokkien Grammar on both Guoyu and Taiwan Mandarin[note 14] is the use of (huì) as "to be" (a copula) before adjectives, in addition to the usual meanings "would" or "will". Compare typical ways to render "Are you hot?" and "I am (not) hot" in Putonghua, Guoyu, and Taiwanese Hokkien:[84][85]

Putonghua: 你熱不 (熱) (Nǐ rè bù (rè))? — 我不熱 (Wǒ bù rè)
Taiwanese Mandarin: 你會不會熱 (Nǐ hùi bù hùi rè)? — 我不會熱 (Wǒ bù hùi rè)
Taiwanese Hokkien: 你會熱嘸 (Lí ē jia̍t bô)? — 我袂寒 (Guá bē jia̍t)


  1. ^ This can be compared to the usage of Modern Standard Arabic alongside localized varieties of Arabic in the Arab world.
  2. ^ A standardized 5.00-scaled test of Mandarin ability was administered to participants. Among Minnanren (Hoklo) the mean was 4.81 for young (under 31 years old) participants, 4.61 for middle aged participants (31–50), and 3.24 for the elderly (>50). The mean score for mainland descendants as a whole was 4.90.
  3. ^ Chinese Wikipedia maintains a more extensive table of vocabulary differences between Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and mainland China.
  4. ^ Barack Obama is thus referred to as Ōubāmǎ 歐巴馬 as opposed to Àobāmǎ 奥巴马 in the mainland. Ōu is a common Han surname, while Ào is not.
  5. ^ This is often written using the Mandarin equivalent 刨冰, but pronounced using the Taiwanese Hokkien word.
  6. ^ Google hits from the China Times (中時電子報) and Liberty Times (自由時報) are included.
  7. ^ This example can be a tricky one, because 見笑 means "to be laughed at" in Standard Mandarin. The meaning can often be inferred from context.
  8. ^ Many Taiwanese speakers will use the Mandarin pronunciation (guīmáo).
  9. ^ The phrase 凍蒜 (lit. freeze garlic) probably originated in 1997, when the price of garlic was overly inflated. This gave rise to popular demands for the government to control price rises.
  10. ^ Derived from Taiwanese 起毛-chih (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: khí-mo͘-chih; [ki˧mɔ˥ʑi˧]. See 起毛).
  11. ^ Most Taiwanese speakers will use the Taiwanese pronunciation (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: o·-bá-sáng; Southern Min pronunciation: [ɔ˧ba˥saŋ˥˧]).
  12. ^ Derived from Hokkien 烏輪 (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: o͘-lián; Southern Min pronunciation: [ɔ˧liɛn˥˧])
  13. ^ Most people in Taiwan will use the Taiwanese pronunciation (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: o·-jí-sáng; Southern Min pronunciation: [ɔ˧ʑi˥saŋ˥˧]).
  14. ^ Neither Yang (2007) nor Sanders (1992) explicitly delineate between Guoyu and the divergent Taiwan Mandarin. While the usage of 會 described here is heavily influenced by Southern Min, it is still used in official sources; for example, refer to the Ministry of Education's dictionary entry for 會, which includes an example sentence 「他會來嗎?」(cf. Putonghua "他來不來?)


  1. ^ Mandarin Chinese (Taiwan) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Mandarin Chinese (Taiwan) at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  3. ^ "首頁 > 凡例 > 本辭典編輯首頁 > 凡例 > 本辭典編輯目標" (in Chinese). 本辭典係以正編為基礎,企能編輯成一本簡易且符合實用的工具書,建立今日(五年以內)國語形音義的使用標準,並附上常用易混名物及概念等插圖,以利教學及海內外一般人士研習國語文所需。
  4. ^ Chen, Ping (1999). Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-521-64572-0.
  5. ^ Szeto, Pui Yiu; Ansaldo, Umberto; Matthews, Stephen (28 August 2018). "Typological variation across Mandarin dialects: An areal perspective with a quantitative approach". Linguistic Typology. 22 (2): 233–275. doi:10.1515/lingty-2018-0009.
  6. ^ Weng, Jeffrey (2018). "What is Mandarin? The social project of language standardization in early Republican China". The Journal of Asian Studies. 59 (1): 611–633. doi:10.1017/S0021911818000487. in common usage, 'Mandarin' or 'Mandarin Chinese' usually refers to China's standard spoken language. In fact, I would argue that this is the predominant meaning of the word
  7. ^ Szeto, Pui-Yiu (5 October 2019). "Mandarin dialects: Unity in diversity". Unravelling Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  8. ^ Bradley, David (1991). "Chinese as a pluricentric language". In Clyne, Michael (ed.). Pluricentric Languages: Differing Norms in Different Nations. De Gruyter Mouton. p. 313. ISBN 9783110128550. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  9. ^ Shi, Feng; Deng, Dan (2006). 普通話與台灣國語的語音對比 [Phonetic Comparison of Putonghua and Taiwan Guoyu] (PDF). In He, Da'an; Zhang, Hongnian; Pan, Wuyun; Wu, Fuxiang (eds.). 山高水長:丁邦新先生七秩壽慶論文集 [High Mountains and Long Rivers: Essays Celebrating the 70th Birthday of Pang-hsin Ting] (in Chinese). Taipei: Academia Sinica Institute of Linguistics. p. 372. ISBN 978-986-00-7941-8. OCLC 137224557. "Gu Baili (1985, cited in Chiu-chung Liao (1989) in researching the status of languages in Taiwan classified the lingua franca of Taiwan into two, namely 'Standard Mandarin' (標準國語) and 'Taiwan Mandarin' (台灣國語) [English in original]. Standard Mandarin refers to the language used in formal writing and television broadcasts, which in essence is Northern Mandarin absent more extreme dialect elements and features. It is the form of the language promoted as a shared tongue in the mainland and Taiwan, and is largely identical to Putonghua. Taiwan Mandarin is the common language spoken by Taiwanese and mainland descendants in Taiwan under thirty who have received at least a high school education. The influence of Southern Min, has produced differences from standard Putonghua in onsets and rimes, tone, vocabulary, and syntax. This article is concerned with Taiwan Mandarin as described by Gu, the form of Guoyu influenced by Southern Min." [Original: 顧百里(1985,轉引自廖秋忠 1989)在研究台灣語言的現狀時,把台灣的通用語分為兩種,即 "Standard Mandarin" (標準國語)和 "Taiwan Mandarin" (台灣國語)。"標準國語"指用於正規的書面語言以及電視廣播中的通用語,基本上是北京方言減去帶極端口語味道的地方特徵,是大陸和台灣都作為共同語來推行的言語形式,和大陸的普通話基本一致。"台灣國語"指在台灣三十歲以下至少受過高中教育的台灣籍和大陸籍人士所說的通用語,也就是因受閩南話影響而聲、韻、調以及詞彙、句法方面與標準普通話產生某些差異的語言。本文以顧文所說的"台灣國語",即受閩南話影響的台灣國語為研究對象。]
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Further resourcesEdit

Transliteration and romanization of Hokkien done with reference to: