Taiwanese Mandarin
臺灣華語, Táiwān Huáyǔ
中華民國國語, Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guóyǔ
PronunciationStandard Beijing Mandarin [tʰäi˧˥wän˥xwä˧˥ɥy˨˩˦]
Standard Taipei Mandarin [tʰɐɪ˧˥ʋɐn˦hʊɐ˧˥ɹ̠˔ʏ˨˩]
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
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
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

Taiwanese Mandarin, Guoyu (Chinese: 國語; pinyin: Guóyǔ; lit. 'National Language') or Huayu (Chinese: 華語; pinyin: Huáyǔ; lit. 'Mandarin Language') refers to Mandarin Chinese spoken in Taiwan. This comprises two main forms: Standard Guoyu, the formal standard variety, and Taiwan Guoyu, its more colloquial, localized form. A large majority of the Taiwanese population is fluent in Mandarin, though many also speak Taiwanese Hokkien.

Standard Guoyu (標準國語 Biāozhǔn Guóyǔ) refers to the formal variety that serves as the official national language of the Republic of China (Taiwan). This variety is used in the education system, in official communications, and in most news media. The core of this standard variety is described in the Ministry of Education Mandarin Chinese Dictionary. The standard is based on the phonology of the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese and the grammar of written vernacular Chinese.[3] Standard Guoyu closely resembles and is mutually intelligible with the Standard Mandarin (普通話, simp. 普通话, pinyin: Pǔtōnghuà) of mainland China. However, some divergences and differences exist in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Taiwan Guoyu (台灣國語 Táiwān Guóyǔ) refers to the more colloquial form of the language, namely, 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 used in Taiwan, primarily Taiwanese Hokkien. Like Standard Guoyu, Taiwan Guoyu is mutually intelligible with Putonghua. However, when compared with Standard Guoyu, Taiwan Guoyu exhibits greater differences from Putonghua.

All forms of written Chinese in Taiwan often use traditional characters alongside other Sinophone areas such as Hong Kong, Macau, and many overseas Chinese communities. This is in contrast to mainland China and Singapore, where simplified Chinese characters were adopted beginning in the 1950s and 1980s, respectively.

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

Terms and definition

Chinese is not a single language, but a group of languages in the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan family, which includes varieties such as Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hakka. They share a common ancestry and script, Chinese characters, and among Chinese speakers they are popularly considered dialects (方言 fāngyán) of the same, overarching language. These dialects are often extremely divergent in the spoken form, however, and not mutually intelligible. Accordingly, Western linguists tend to treat them as separate languages, likening their relationship to that of English and Dutch, for example (both being West Germanic languages).[4][5]

Mandarin Chinese is a grouping of Chinese languages that includes at least eight subgroups (often also called dialects). In English, "Mandarin" can refer to any of these Mandarin dialects, which are not necessarily mutually intelligible.[6] However, the term is most commonly used to refer to Standard Chinese,[7][8] the prestige dialect.

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, as Mandarin languages, are based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin and are mutually intelligible, but also feature various lexical, phonological, and grammatical differences.[9] There exists significant variation within Putonghua and Guoyu as well.[10] Many linguists argue that Putonghua and Guoyu are abstract, artificial standards that, strictly speaking, do not represent the native spoken language of any significant number of people.[11][12]

Some linguists have thus further differentiated between Standard Guoyu (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 influence from mutually unintelligible Southern Min Chinese dialects (namely, Hokkien).[13][14] More formal settings—such as television news broadcasts—will feature speakers using Standard Guoyu, which closely resembles mainland Putonghua, but is not generally used as a day-to-day language.[15] Not all linguists emphasize the differences between the prescribed Standard Guoyu and Guoyu as is generally spoken in Taiwan; instead, some only distinguish between relatively standard "Taiwan Guoyu/Mandarin" and "Taiwanese Guoyu/Mandarin". The former refers to Guoyu as used by those fully educated in the language, and the latter refers to an even more heavily Southern Min-influenced variety often spoken by older people who learned Guoyu only as a second language.[16] This Taiwanese Guoyu diverges greatly from standardized forms of the language and is somewhat stigmatized as uneducated.[17]

This article focuses on the features of both Standard Guoyu, particularly its relationship to Putonghua, as well as non-standard but widespread features of Mandarin in Taiwan, grouped under Taiwan Guoyu.

History and usage

Large-scale Han Chinese settlement of Taiwan began in the 17th century by Hoklo immigrants from Fujian province who spoke Southern Min languages (predominantly Hokkien), and, to a lesser extent, Hakka immigrants who spoke their respective language.[18] Taiwanese indigenous peoples already inhabited the island, speaking a variety of Austronesian languages unrelated to Chinese. In the centuries following Chinese settlement, the number of indigenous languages dropped significantly, with several going extinct, in part due to the process of sinicization.[19]

Official communications among the Han were done in Mandarin (官S Guānhuà, lit. 'official language'), but the primary languages of everyday life were Hokkien or Hakka.[20] 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.[20]

Under KMT rule

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.[21] Many who had fled the mainland after the fall of the KMT also spoke non-standard varieties of Mandarin, which may have influenced later colloquial pronunciations.[22] Wu Chinese dialects were also influential due to the relative power KMT refugees from Wu-speaking Zhejiang, Chiang Kai-shek's home province.[23]

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 Mandarin in Taiwan. The Kuomintang heavily discouraged the use of Hokkien and other non-Mandarin languages, portraying them as inferior,[24] and school children were punished for speaking their native languages.[21] Guoyu was thus established as a lingua franca among the various groups in Taiwan at the expense of other, preexisting, languages.[25]

Post-martial law

Following the end of martial law in 1987, language policy in the country underwent liberalization, but Guoyu remained the dominant language. Local languages were no longer proscribed in public discourse, mass media, and schools.[26] Guoyu is still the main language of public education, with English and "mother tongue education" (母語教育 mǔyǔ jiàoyù) being introduced as subjects in primary school.[27] Greater time and resources are devoted to both Mandarin and English, which are compulsory subjects, compared to mother tongue instruction.[28]

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 Mainlander descendants 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%.[29] 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.[30][note 1] Overall, while both national and local levels of government have promoted the use of non-Mandarin Chinese languages, younger generations generally prefer using Mandarin.[31]

Government statistics from 2020 found that 66.3% of Taiwanese residents use Guoyu as their primary language, and another 30.5% use it as a secondary language (31.7% used Hokkien as their primary language, and 54.3% used it as a secondary language).[32] Guoyu is the primary language for over 80% of people in the northern areas of Taipei, Taoyuan, and Hsinchu.[32] Youth is correlated with use of Guoyu: in 2020, over two-thirds of Taiwanese over 65 used Hokkien or Hakka as their primary language, compared with just 11% of 15–24-year-olds.[33]


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. Literate Taiwanese can generally understand a text in simplified characters.[34]

Shorthand characters

See also: Variant Chinese character and Ryakuji

In practice, Taiwanese Mandarin users may write informal, shorthand characters (俗字 súzì, lit. 'customary/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 shorthand characters are used as frequently as standard traditional characters, even in formal contexts, such as the tai in Taiwan, which is often written as , as opposed to the standard traditional form, .[35]

Shorthand Traditional Notes
[36] Identical to simplified (huì)
[36] Identical to simplified ()
[36] Identical to Japanese, cf. simplified ()
[36] Differs from both simplified Chinese and Japanese , although is also a Japanese ryakuji shorthand variant (diǎn)
[37] Identical to Japanese, cf. simplified (zhuàn, zhuǎn)
[37] Differs from both simplified Chinese () and Japanese or katakana
[37] Identical to Japanese, cf. simplified (duì)
[38] 餐 is standard simplified as well. 歺 is formally a variant of the unrelated dǎi but is identical to the short-lived second-round simplification version of 餐.[39] (cān)
[37] Unlike simplified , retains the radical for 'ear' ( tīng).


Taiwanese braille is based on different letter assignments than Mainland Chinese braille.[40]


Zhuyin Fuhao

Main article: Bopomofo

While pinyin is used in applications such as in signage, most Guoyu users learn phonetics through the Zhuyin Fuhao (國語注音符號 Guóyǔ Zhùyīn Fúhào, lit. Guoyu 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 as well.[41]


Road sign in Nanzih District, Kaohsiung, showing Tongyong pinyin without tone marks. The sign in Hanyu pinyin would be Junxiao Road.
Road sign in Nanzih District, Kaohsiung, showing Tongyong pinyin without tone marks. The sign in Hanyu pinyin would be Junxiao Road.

Chinese language romanization in Taiwan somewhat differs from on the mainland, where Hanyu Pinyin is almost exclusively used.[42] A competing system, Tongyong Pinyin, was formally revealed in 1998 with the support of then-mayor of Taipei Chen Shuibian.[43] 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.[43] 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.[44]

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 in 1945, 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.[45] The Gwoyeu Romatzyh method, invented in 1928, also was in use in Taiwan during this time period, albeit to a lesser extent.[46] 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,[45] which was formally called the 'National Phonetic Symbols, Second Scheme'. However, this system was not widely adopted.[47]


Standard Guoyu

Like Putonghua, 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.[48]

These character-level differences notwithstanding, Standard Guoyu pronunciation is largely identical to Putonghua, but with two major systematic differences (also true of Taiwan Guoyu):

In addition, two other phenomena, while nonstandard, are extremely common across all Mandarin speakers in Taiwan, even the highly educated:[22]

Taiwan Guoyu

Taiwan Guoyu pronunciation is strongly influenced by Hokkien. This is especially prominent in areas where Hokkien is common, namely, in Central and Southern Taiwan. Many, though not all, of the phonological differences between Taiwan Guoyu and Putonghua can be attributed to the influence of Southern Min.

Notable phonological features of Taiwan Guoyu include:[note 2]


The non-standard Taiwanese Guoyu tends to exhibit frequent, informal elision and cluster reduction when spoken.[57] 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 a feature of Standard Guoyu but rarely realized in everyday speech, as zh- is usually pronounced z-; see above section) is assimilated into the palatal glide [j].[58]

Often the reduction 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'.[59] These reductions are not necessarily a function of speed of speech than of register, as it is more commonly used in casual conversations than in formal contexts.[58]

Tone quality

Generalized representation of the four tones of Mandarin speakers from Beijing.
Generalized representation of the four tones of Mandarin speakers from Beijing.
Generalized representation of the four tones of Mandarin speakers from Taiwan.
Generalized representation of the four tones of Mandarin speakers from Taiwan.

Like all varieties of Mandarin, Guoyu is a tonal language. Standard Mandarin as spoken in the mainland has five tones, including the neutral tone.[60] Tones in Guoyu differ somewhat in pitch and contour.

Research suggests that speakers of Guoyu articulate the second and third tones differently from the standards of Beijing Mandarin.[61] The precise nature of the tonal differences is not well attested, however, as relevant studies often lack a sufficiently large variety of speakers.[62] Tones may vary based on age, gender, and other sociolinguistic factors, and may not even be consistent across every utterance by an individual.[63]

In general, for Guoyu speakers, the second tone does not rise as high in its pitch, and the third tone does not "dip" back up from the low, creaky voice range.[64] Overall, Guoyu speakers exhibit a lower and more narrow pitch range than speakers of the Standard Mandarin of Beijing. Acoustic analysis of 33 Mandarin speakers from Taiwan in 2008 also found that for many speakers, the second tone tends to have a dipping contour more akin to that of the prescriptive third tone.[63]

Differences from mainland Putonghua

Standard pronunciations

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.

Quantification of the extent of pronunciation differences between Guoyu and Putonghua vary, and peer-reviewed, scholarly research on the subject is scarce. Estimates from graduate-level research include a 2008 study, based on the 7,000 characters in the List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese, which found approximately 18.3% differed between Guoyu and Putonghua, and 12.7% for the 3,500 most commonly used characters.[65] A 1992 study, however, found differences in 22.5% of the 3,500 most common characters.[66]

Much of the difference can be traced to preferences of linguistic authorities on the two sides; the mainland standard prefers popular pronunciations in northern areas, whereas the Taiwanese standard prefers those documented in dictionaries in the 1930s and 1940s.[48] The Taiwanese formal standards may not always reflect actual pronunciations commonly used by native Taiwanese Mandarin speakers.[note 3]

The following is a table of relatively common characters pronounced differently in Guoyu and Putonghua in most or all contexts (Guoyu/Putonghua):[68]

  • xí/xī
  • () shì/shí
  • () jí/jī
  • () yǒng/yōng
  • xí/xī
  • wéi/wēi
  • qí/qī
  • dié/diē
  • () zhí/zhì
  • () jī/jì
  • jiù/jiū
  • tú/tū
  • yái/yá
  • () zhàn/zàn
  • xiě/xuè
  • shóu/shú

Some pronunciation differences may only appear in certain words. The following is a list of examples of such differences:


Guoyu and Putonghua share a large majority of their vocabulary, but significant differences do exist.[note 4] The lexical divergence of Guoyu from Putonghua is the result of several factors, including the prolonged political separation of the mainland and Taiwan, the influence of Imperial Japanese rule on Taiwan until 1945, and the influence of Southern Min.[75] The Cross Strait Common Usage Dictionary categorizes differences as "same word, different meaning" (同名異實 tóngmíng yìshíhomonyms); "same meaning, different word" (同實異名 tóngshí yìmíng); and "Taiwan terms" (臺灣用語 Táiwān yòngyǔ) and "mainland terms" (大陸用語 dàlù yòngyǔ ) for words and phrases specific to a given side.

Same meaning, different word

The political separation of Taiwan and mainland China 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; thus, modern scientific and technological terminology often differs greatly between Putonghua and Guoyu.[76]

In computer science, for instance, the differences are prevalent enough to hinder communication between Guoyu and Putonghua speakers unfamiliar with each other's respective dialects.[76][77] 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.[78]

As cross-strait relations began to improve in the early 21st century, direct interaction between mainland China and Taiwan increased, and some vocabulary began to merge, especially by means of the Internet.[79] For example, the words 瓶頸 (瓶颈) píngjǐng 'bottleneck' and 作秀 zuòxiù 'to grandstand, show off' were originally unique to Guoyu in Taiwan but have since become widely used in mainland China as well.[79] Guoyu has also incorporated mainland phrases and words, such as 渠道 qúdào, meaning 'channel (of communication)', in addition to the traditional Guoyu term, 管道 guǎndào.[80]

Further examples of vocabulary that differ from between Guoyu and Putonghua include:[81]

Words may be formed from abbreviations in one form of Mandarin but not the other. For example, in Taiwan, bubble tea (珍珠奶茶 zhēnzhū nǎichá) is often abbreviated 珍奶 zhēnnǎi, but this is not common on the mainland.[82] Likewise, 'traffic rules/regulations' (交通規則/交通规则, jiāotōng guīzé) is abbreviated as 交规 jiāoguī on the mainland, but not in Taiwan.[83]

Same word, different meaning

Some identical terms have different meanings in Guoyu and Putonghua. There may be alternative synonyms which can be used unambiguously by speakers on both sides. Some examples include (Guoyu/Putonghua meanings):

The same word carry different connotations or usage patterns in Guoyu and Putonghua, and may be polysemous in one form of Mandarin but not the other. For example, 籠絡 (笼络) lǒngluò in Guoyu means 'to convince, win over', but in Putonghua, it carries a negative connotation[89] (cf. 'beguile, coax'). 誇張 (夸张) kuāzhāng means 'to exaggerate,' but in Taiwan, it can also be used to express exclamation at something absurd or overdone, a meaning that is not present in Putonghua.[90] Another example is 小姐 xiǎojiě, meaning 'miss' or 'young lady', regularly used to address young women in Guoyu. On the mainland, however, the word is also a euphemism for a prostitute and is therefore not used as a polite term of address.[91]

Differing usage or preference

Guoyu and Putonghua speakers may also display strong preference for one of a set of synonyms. For example, both 禮拜 lǐbài (礼拜) and 星期 xīnqqí (xīngqī in Putonghua) are acceptable words for 'week' in Guoyu and Putonghua, but 禮拜 is more common in Taiwan.[92]

Guoyu tends to preserve older lexical items that are less used in the mainland. In Taiwan, speakers may use a more traditional 早安 zǎo'ān to say 'good morning', whereas mainland speakers generally default to 早上好 zǎoshang hǎo, for instance.[91] Both words are acceptable in either dialect.

Likewise, words with the same literal meaning in either dialect may differ in register. 而已 éryǐ 'that's all, only' is common both in spoken and written Guoyu, influenced by speech patterns in Hokkien, but in Putonghua the word is largely confined to formal, written contexts.[93]

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 yào and 不要 búyào over děi and bié, respectively, to express 'must' and 'must not', compared to native speakers from Beijing. However, yào and 不要 búyào are also predominantly used among Mandarin speakers from the south of the mainland. Both pairs are grammatically correct in either dialect.[94]

Words specific to Guoyu

Some words in Putonghua may not exist in Guoyu and vice versa. Authors of the Dictionary of Different Word Across the Taiwan Strait (《两岸差异词词典》) estimate there are about 2000 words unique to Guoyu, around 10% of which come from Hokkien.[79] Sometimes, Hokkien loanwords are written directly in Bopomofo (for example, ㄍㄧㄥ).

Some of these differences stem from different social and political conditions, which gave rise to concepts that were not shared between the mainland and Taiwan, e.g. 福彩 fúcǎi, a common abbreviation for the China Welfare Lottery of the People's Republic of China, or 十八趴 shíbāpā, which refers to the 18% preferential interest rate on civil servants' pension funds in Taiwan.[89] ( as "percent" is also unique to Guoyu.)[95]

Additionally, many terms unique to Guoyu were adopted from Japanese as a result of Taiwan's status as a Japanese colony during the first half of the 20th century.[75]

Street signs in Taipei. The protruding green sign, for a bento shop, uses a stylistic Japanese の.
Street signs in Taipei. The protruding green sign, for a bento shop, uses a stylistic Japanese の.

Modal particles convey modality, which can be understood as a speaker's attitude towards a given utterance (e.g. of necessity, possibility, or likelihood that the utterance is true).[96] Modal particles are common in Chinese languages and generally occur at the end of sentences and so are commonly called sentence-final particles or utterance-final particles.[97]

Guoyu employs some modal particles that are rare in Putonghua. Some are entirely unique to spoken, colloquial Taiwan Guoyu, and identical particles may also have different meanings in Putonghua and Guoyu.[97] Conversely, particles that are common in Putonghua — particularly northern Putonghua, such as that spoken in Beijing — are very rare in Guoyu. Examples include () bei, me, and 罷了 (罢了) bàle.[98]

is a very common modal particle in Guoyu, which also appears in Putonghua with less frequency and always as a contraction of le and a. In Guoyu, it has additional functions, which Lin (2014) broadly defines as "to mark an explicit or implicit adjustment" by the speaker to a given claim or assessment.[99] In more specific terms, this use includes expression of impatience or displeasure (a, below); an imperative, such as a suggestion or order, especially a persistent one (b), and rejection or refutation (c).[100]

Wu (2006) argues is influenced by a similar la particle in Hokkien.[101] (Unlike in Putonghua, Guoyu speakers will use immediately following le,[102] as seen in (a).)

(a) Impatience or displeasure
睡覺了啦!明天還要上課耶!(Shuìjiāo le lā! Míngtiān hái yào shàng kè yē)
Go to sleep already! [You] have to go to class tomorrow!
(b) Suggestion or order
A: 我真的吃飽了!(Wǒ zhēnde chī bǎo le!) I'm so full!
B: 不要客氣,再吃一碗啦!(Búyào kèqì, zài chī yī wǎn lā!) Don't be so polite, have another bowl!
(c) Rejection or refutation
A: 他那麼早結婚,一定是懷孕了。(Tā nàme zǎo jiéhūn, yīdìng shì huáiyùn le.) He married so early, it has to be [because of] a pregnancy.
B: 不可能啦。(Bù kěnéng lā.) There's no way.

Taiwan Guoyu has functionally adopted some particles from Hokkien. For example, the particle hoⁿh[note 5] [hɔ̃ʔ] functions in Hokkien as a particle indicating a question to which the speaker expects an affirmative answer (c.f. English "..., all right?" or "..., aren't you?").[104] Among other meanings, when used in Taiwan Guoyu utterances, it can indicate that the speaker wishes for an affirmative response,[104] or may mark an imperative.[105]

In informal writing, Guoyu speakers may replace possessive particles de or zhī with the Japanese particle no in hiragana (usually read as de), which serves a nearly identical grammatical role.[106] No is often used in advertising, where it evokes a sense of playfulness and fashionability,[106] and handwriting, as it is easier to write.[107] is also used to represent the Southern Min particle ê, for which there is no standard Chinese character, and its usage as a shorthand for de appears to have spread from Taiwan to other Chinese speaking regions, according to one linguist.[108]

Loan words and transliteration

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, words may be loaned as transliterations in one dialect but not the other. Generally, Guoyu tends to imitate the form of Han Chinese names when transliterating foreign persons' names.[109][note 6]

Examples of differing transliterations (Guoyu, traditional characters / Putonghua, simplified) include:

From Taiwanese Hokkien

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

Both Standard Guoyu and Taiwan Guoyu make use of Hokkien loanwords. Some compound words or phrases may combine characters representing Hokkien and Guoyu words.[note 7]

Some local foods are usually referred by their Hokkien names.

From Japanese

Japanese in the early 20th century had a significant influence on modern Chinese vocabulary. The Japanese language saw the proliferation of neologisms to describe concepts and terms learned through contact with the West in the Meiji and Taisho eras.[115] Thus, the creation of words like 民主 minshu 'democracy', 革命 kakumei 'revolution' and 催眠 saimin 'hypnotize', which were then borrowed into Chinese and pronounced as Chinese words.[116]

Guoyu has been further influence by Japanese. As a result of Imperial Japan's 50-year rule over Taiwan until 1945, Hokkien (and Hakka) borrowed extensively from Japanese,[117] and Guoyu in turn borrowed some of these words from Hokkien, such that Japanese influence can be said to have come via Hokkien.[9] For example, the Hokkien word 摃龜 (Peh-oe-ji: kòngku; IPA: kɔŋ˥˩ku˥˥) 'to lose completely', which has been borrowed into Guoyu, originates from Japanese sukanku (スカンク, 'skunk'), with the same meaning.[118]


The grammar of Taiwanese Mandarin is largely identical to Standard Mandarin as spoken in mainland China, Putonghua. As is the case with lexicon and phonology described above, grammatical differences from Putonghua often stem from the influence of Hokkien.

Perfective 有 yǒu

To mark the perfect verbal aspect, Guoyu employs (yǒu) where (le) would be used in the strictly standard form of the language.[119] For instance, a Guoyu speaker may ask "你有看醫生嗎?" ("Have you seen a doctor?") whereas a Putonghua speaker would prefer "你看医生了吗?". This is due to the influence of Min grammar, which uses (ū) in a similar fashion.[120] For recurring or specific events, however, both Taiwanese and Mainland Mandarin use , as in "你吃饭了吗?" ("Have you eaten?").

Auxiliary verbs

Another example of the influence of Hokkien grammar on Guoyu[note 8] 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:[121]

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

Compound (separable) verbs

Speakers of Guoyu may frequently avoid splitting separable verbs, a category of verb + object compound words that are split in certain grammatical contexts in standard usage.[122] For example, the verb 幫忙 bāngmáng 'to help; to do a favor', is composed of bāng 'to help, assist' plus máng 'to be busy; a favor'. The word in Guoyu can take on a direct object without separation, which is ungrammatical in Putonghua:[90] 我帮忙他 'I help him', acceptable in Guoyu, must be rendered as 我帮他个忙. This is not true of all separable verbs in Guoyu, and prescriptive texts still opt to treat these verbs as separable.[123]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Note that not all of these features may be present in all speakers at all times.
  3. ^ For example, the Ministry of Education standards dictate that some words (e.g. 熱鬧 rènào, 認識 rènshì, 衣服 yīfú, 力量 lìliàng) be pronounced with the second character in neutral tone, in contrast to how most Taiwanese speakers of Mandarin actually say them.[67]
  4. ^ Chinese Wikipedia maintains a more extensive table of vocabulary differences between Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and mainland China.
  5. ^ The Ministry of Education gives the original character for hoⁿh as ,[103] a particle common in Classical Chinese.
  6. ^ 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 (see list of common Chinese surnames).
  7. ^ Wu and Su (2014) give the example of "逗热闹" 'to join in the fun' in a 2014 Liberty Times headline. The Guoyu phrase is 凑熱鬧 còu rènào; the headline substituted the verb còu for the Hokkien verb (dòu, read tàu in Hokkien).[113] The native Hokkien word is 逗鬧熱 (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tàu‑lāu‑jia̍t) (also written 鬥鬧熱)[114]
  8. ^ Neither Yang (2007) nor Sanders (1992) explicitly delineate between standard and nonstandard Guoyu. 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) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Mandarin Chinese (Taiwan) at Ethnologue (14th ed., 2000).
  3. ^ Chen 1999, p. 22.
  4. ^ DeFrancis 1984, p. 56. "To call Chinese a single language composed of dialects with varying degrees of difference is to mislead by minimizing disparities that according to Chao are as great as those between English and Dutch."
  5. ^ See Mair for an overview of the terminology and debate: Mair, Victor H. (September 1991). "What Is a Chinese "Dialect/Topolect"? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms". Sino-Platonic Papers (29). Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  6. ^ Szeto, Ansaldo & Matthews 2018.
  7. ^ Weng 2018, p. 613. "...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."
  8. ^ Szeto 2019.
  9. ^ a b Bradley 1991, p. 314.
  10. ^ a b Chen 1999, p. 48.
  11. ^ Her 2009, p. 377. "國語:教育部依據北京話所頒定的標準語,英文是Standard Mandarin,其內涵與北京話相似。但只是死的人為標準,並非活的語言。" ["Guoyu: The standard language determined by the Ministry of Education based on the Beijing dialect, with which it is similar. Called Standard Mandarin in English. It is a dead, artificial standard, and not a living language.]
  12. ^ Sanders 1987.
  13. ^ Shi & Deng 2006, p. 376. "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,……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。 ["'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 ... 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."]
  14. ^ Brubaker 2003. Brubaker refers to the standard form as Standard Mandarin, and the basilectal form as "Taiwan-guoyu".
  15. ^ Shi & Deng 2006, p. 372–373.
  16. ^ Fon, Chiang & Cheung 2004, p. 250; Hsu 2014.
  17. ^ Hsu 2014.
  18. ^ Scott & Tiun 2007.
  19. ^ Zeitoun 1998, p. 51.
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  21. ^ a b Scott & Tiun 2007, p. 57.
  22. ^ a b c d Chen 1999, p. 47.
  23. ^ Cheng 1985, p. 354; Her 2009.
  24. ^ Su 2014.
  25. ^ Yeh, Chan & Cheng 2004.
  26. ^ Scott & Tiun 2007, p. 58.
  27. ^ Scott & Tiun 2007, p. 60.
  28. ^ Scott & Tiun 2007, p. 64.
  29. ^ 99年人口及住宅普查 [2010 Population and Household Census] (PDF) (Report) (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (行政院主計總處). September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  30. ^ Yeh, Chan & Cheng 2004, pp. 86–88.
  31. ^ Scott & Tiun 2007, pp. 59–60; Yap 2017.
  32. ^ a b 109 年人口及住宅普查初步統計結果 [2021 Population and Residence Census Preliminary Statistics] (PDF) (Report) (in Chinese). Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics. 31 August 2021. p. 4. Retrieved 27 February 2022. 6歲以上本國籍常住人口計2,178.6 萬人,主要使用語言為國語者占 66.3%,閩南語占 31.7%;主要或次要使用國語者占 96.8%,閩南語者占86.0%,客語者占 5.5%,原住民族語者占 1.1%。 [There are 21,786,000 permanent resident nationals over the age of six. 66.3% primarily use Guoyu, and 31.7% Southern Min [i.e. Hokkien]. 96.8% use Guoyu either primarily or secondarily, 86.0% use Southern Min, 5.5% use Hakka, and 1.1% use aboriginal languages.]
  33. ^ Lin, If (30 September 2021). "最新普查:全國6成常用國語,而這6縣市主要用台語" [Newest Census: 60% Nationally Use Guoyu Regularly, But These 6 Cities and Counties Use Taiyu]. The News Lens 關鍵評論網 (in Chinese). Retrieved 5 November 2022.
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  51. ^ Kubler 1985, p. 157.
  52. ^ Chen 1999, p. 48; Kubler 1985, p. 159.
  53. ^ Wiedenhof 2015, p. 46.
  54. ^ Hsu & Tse 2007; Bradley 1991, p. 315.
  55. ^ a b Kubler 1985, p. 160.
  56. ^ Kubler 1985, p. 160; Chen 1999, p. 47.
  57. ^ Chung 2006; Cheng & Xu 2013.
  58. ^ a b Chung 2006, p. 71.
  59. ^ Chung 2006, pp. 75–77.
  60. ^ Wiedenhof 2015, pp. 12–16.
  61. ^ Fon, Chiang & Cheung 2004, p. 250.
  62. ^ Sanders 2008, p. 88.
  63. ^ a b Sanders 2008, pp. 104–105.
  64. ^ Fon, Chiang & Cheung 2004, pp. 250–51.
  65. ^ Nan 2008, p. 65. 在《現代漢語常用字表》3500 字中,讀音差異的有 444 處,佔 12.7%。 在《現代漢語通用字表》7000 字中,讀音差異的有 1284 處,佔 18.3%。 ["Among the 7000 characters in List of Commonly Used Characters in Modern Chinese, 1284, or 18.3%, had different readings. Among the 3500 characters in the List of Frequently Used Characters in Modern Chinese, 444, or 12.7%, had different readings."]
  66. ^ Chen 1999, pp. 46–47; Li 1992.
  67. ^ "熱「ㄋㄠˋ」改「ㄋㄠ˙」 教育部字典被網罵:演古裝劇?" ["'Rènào' to 'rènao'—Ministry of Education Dictionary criticized online: Are they pretending to be in some period piece?"]. ETtoday (in Chinese). 27 February 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  68. ^ Per the respective Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary entries in the Taiwanese Ministry of Education's dictionary website. Each character is present on the List of Most Frequently Used Characters in Modern Chinese (现代汉语常用字表), also available on Wikisource in translation here.
  69. ^ "和". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  70. ^ "暴露". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  71. ^ "質". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  72. ^ Lu, Wei (20 February 2010). "詞彙研究所-質量 vs.品質". 中國時報 [China Times] (in Chinese). Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  73. ^ "從". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  74. ^ "吃". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  75. ^ a b Chen 1999, pp. 106–107.
  76. ^ a b Yao 2014.
  77. ^ Zhang 2000, p. 38. 随着大陆与台湾、香港、澳门 ... 的科技交流、商贸活动的日益频繁,人们越来越感到海峡两岸计算机名词(以下简称两岸名词)的差异,已成为一个不小的障碍,影响着正常的业务工作。 ["With the growing frequency of scientific and technological exchange and commerce among the mainland and Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau ... people increasingly feel that the differences in computer terminology (hereafter referred to as cross-strait terms) on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have become a sizable hindrance affecting normal work."]
  78. ^ Zhang 2000, p. 40. 通过分析,得出了各类名词的数量及其比例关系:完全相同名词占总数58.25%,基本相同名词占总数20%,基本不同名词占总数10.25%,完全不同名词占总数11.5%。 ["Through analysis [I] drew out the number and proportion of various nouns: identical nouns account for 58.25% of the total, basically identical nouns for 20% of the total, basically different nouns for 10.25% of the total, and entirely different nouns for 11.5% of the total."]
  79. ^ a b c Li 2015, p. 344.
  80. ^ Chien, Amy Chang (22 September 2017). ""项目"、"视频":台湾人不会讲的中国话" ['Xiangmu', 'Shipin': The Chinese that Taiwanese Can't Speak]. New York Times (in Simplified Chinese).
  81. ^ a b c "同實異名". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  82. ^ Zhou & Zhou 2019, p. 212.
  83. ^ Zhou & Zhou 2019, p. 213.
  84. ^ "油品". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  85. ^ "影集". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  86. ^ "土豆". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  87. ^ "公車". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
  88. ^ "愛人". Cross-Strait Common Vocabulary Dictionary [兩岸常用詞典] (in Chinese). Taipei: General Association of Chinese Culture. 2016.
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  103. ^ "", Taiwanese Minnan Dictionary [臺灣閩南語辭典], Ministry of Education of the Republic of China, Taipei.
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  108. ^ Cook 2018, p. 10. "Another factor favoring its widespread acceptance, at least in Taiwan, is that since there is no Mandarin Chinese cognate for the Southern Min attributive or possessive morpheme, ê, there is no obvious choice of Modern Standard Chinese character to represent this grammatical morpheme when writing Southern Min. This, coupled with the pervasive influence of Japanese culture in Taiwan from the period of colonization through to the present, may well have been a sufficient consideration to ensure the linguistic success of の de/ê in Taiwan, from whence it seems to be spreading to other Chinese speaking regions."
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  112. ^ Zhou & Zhou 2019.
  113. ^ Wu & Su 2014.
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  116. ^ Zhao 2006, p. 312.
  117. ^ Yao 1992.
  118. ^ Yao 1992, pp. 337, 358–59.
  119. ^ Tan 2012, p. 2.
  120. ^ Tan 2012, pp. 5–6.
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  122. ^ Diao 2016.
  123. ^ Teng, Shou-Hsin, ed. (4 November 2021). 當代中文課程 教師手冊1 [A Course in Contemporary Chinese, Teacher's Manual 1] (in Chinese) (2nd ed.). Taipei: 國立臺灣師範大學國語教學中心 [The Mandarin Training Center of National Taiwan Normal University]. p. 22. ISBN 9789570859737. Retrieved 23 December 2021. 離合詞的基本屬性是不及物動詞... 當然,在臺灣已經有些離合詞,如:「幫忙」,傾向於及物用法。因為仍不穩定,教材中仍以不及物表現為規範。 [A fundamental attribute of separable verbs is their intransivity ... of course, in Taiwan there are some separable verbs, such as bangmang, that tend to be transitive. As this [usage] is still unstable, the teaching materials still use the intransitive as the standard.]