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Taiwanese language


Taiwanese Hokkien (Chinese: 臺灣閩南語; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tâi-oân Bân-lâm-gí / Tâi-oân Bân-lâm-gú; Tâi-lô: Tâi-uân Bân-lâm-gí / Tâi-uân Bân-lâm-gú), commonly known as Taiwanese (Tâi-oân-oē 臺灣話 or Tâi-gí / Tâi-gú 臺語), is a variant of Hokkien spoken by over 80% of the Taiwanese citizens and is also one of the national official languages of the high-tech democratic industrialized developed country of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The largest linguistic group in Taiwan, in which Hokkien is considered a native language, is known as Hoklo orHō-ló. Classification Taiwanese Hokkien is a distant variant of Hokkien, as is the Amoy dialect. Classification of Chinese to polects as dialects, languages, or otherwise is contentious among scholars of Chinese. The Chinese term for these languages, fāngyán (方言;Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hong-giân / hong-gân), was translated as "dialect". However, this is a misnomer, as the term "dialect" in linguistics assumes mutual intelligibility, a trait lacking between fāngyán. The Chinese term, in fact, simply refers to a language variety specific to a region. Regional variations The prestige variant of Taiwanese Hokkien is the southern speech found in Tainan and Kaohsiung. Other major variants are the northern speech, the central speech (near Taichung and the port town of Lukang), and the northern (northeastern) coastal speech (dominant in Yilan). Fluency A great majority of people in Taiwan can speak both Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese although the degree of fluency varies widely. There are however small but significant numbers of people in Taiwan, mainly but not exclusively Hakka and Mainlanders, who cannot speak Taiwanese fluently. A shrinking percentage of the population, mainly people born before the 1950s, cannot speak Mandarin at all, or learned to speak Mandarin later in life, though some of these speak Japanese fluently. Urban, working-class Hakkas as well as younger, southern-Taiwan Mainlanders tend to have better, even native-like fluency.