An overview of Taiwan’s 22 living languages
By: Keoni Everington, Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Taipei (Taiwan News) — Despite its small size, Taiwan is home to over 20 living
languages and Island Folklore, a site dedicated to translating and sharing Taiwan’s folk heritage, has created some illustrations to map this unique linguistic lineage.
Almost all languages spoken by the the indigenous people of Taiwan are categorized under the Formosan branch of Austronesian because they are unique to Taiwan, with the exception of Yami, which is spoken by the people of Orchid Island and originates from the northern Philippines.
In terms of numbers of speakers, Sinitic (Chinese) languages dominate Taiwan and
comprise one of the two main branches of the Sino-Tibetan language family. There are three main Chinese languages found in Taiwan: Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka. Though the three are often described as “dialects,” the fact that the spoken versions are mutually unintelligible makes them closer to distinct languages like Romance languages in Europe.
As can be seen in the chart below, Min and Middle Chinese diverged from Old Chinese, before further splitting into various offshoot languages. Min evolved into Southern Min and then Hokkien before becoming modern Taiwanese (台語). While Middle Chinese evolved into Old Mandarin, which then became Mandarin, before developing into Beijing Mandarin, and then splitting into the Taiwanese Mandarin (台灣國語) and Standard Mandarin (國語) dialects that currently exist in Taiwan today. The third language, Hakka, has not diverged since it branched off from Middle Chinese, like its cousin Cantonese. [FULL STORY]