Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Friday, January 11, 2013
Thursday, January 10, 2013
DAKANUA, Taiwan – Her eyes lit bright with concentration, Taiwanese linguist Sung Li-may leans in expectantly as one of the planet's last 10 speakers of the Kanakanavu language shares his hopes for the future.
"I am already very old," says 80-year-old Mu'u Ka'angena, a leathery faced man with a tough, sinewy body and deeply veined hands. A light rain falls onto the thatched roof of the communal bamboo hut, and smoke from a dying fire drifts lazily up the walls, wafting over deer antlers, boar jawbones and ceremonial swords that decorate the interior like trophies from a forgotten time.
"Every day I think: Can our language be passed down to the next generation? It is the deepest wish in my heart that it can be."
Kanakanavu, Sung says, has a lot more going for it than just its intrinsic value. It belongs to the same language family that experts believe spread from Taiwan 4,000 years ago, giving birth to languages spoken today by 400 million people in an arc extending from Easter Island off South America to the African island of Madagascar. "Taiwan is where it all starts," says archaeologist Peter Bellwood, who with linguist Robert Blust developed the now widely accepted theory that people from Taiwan leveraged superior navigation skills to spread their Austronesian language far and wide. At least four of Taiwan's 14 government-recognized aboriginal languages are still spoken by thousands of people, but a race is on to save the others from extinction. The youngest good speaker of Kanakanavu, also known as Southern Tsou, is 60, and the next youngest, 73.
"To survive a language has to be spoken," Sung said. "And with this one it isn't happening."
It's a story repeated in the remote corners of the earth, as younger generations look to the dominant language for economic survival and advancement, whether it be English or, in Taiwan's case, Chinese. Aboriginals account for only 2 percent of the Taiwanese population of 23 million. Many young people are leaving Dakanua, a picturesque village in the south that is home to the Kanakanavu language, to work in the island's cities.
Sung is clearly revered by Dakanua's tiny cadre of Kanakanavu speakers, who are happy to spend long hours going over their language with her and a small group of graduate students she brings to the village from National Taiwan University in Taipei. On a recent Saturday afternoon, they sat outside a well-ordered cluster of whitewashed concrete buildings, painstakingly documenting the proper use of the imperative and the grammatical subtleties of concepts like "it could be that" or "it is possible that." In the background the bamboo and palm tree covered contours of Mt. Anguana protruded through a moving blanket of fog and mist, and a thin rain fell in the Nanzixian River valley below.
... Even many 40- and 50-year olds are incapable of mouthing anything more than a few simple phrases in their native tongue.
Regarding their struggles including Typhoon Morakat
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Following is a brief introduction written by Jeanette Yu, representative of the San Francisco Symphony and a member of the board of directors of the Tsunah Taiwan Culture and Education Foundation.
Tyzen Hsiao, born in Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung in 1938, has been a figurehead in the Taiwanese musical community as a composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher since the late 1960s. His compositions are strongly associated with the Taiwanese cultural movement that revitalized the country’s literary and performing arts in the 1970s and 1980s, and which restored a national pride in traditions and history.
An Angel from Formosa is on many levels a work of remembrance. The piece evokes a sense of the quiet, rural life in Hsiao’s homeland of Taiwan (historically called Formosa, from the Portuguese "Ilha Formosa," meaning "Beautiful Island")—a simple opening melody is warmed by the slow, breathtaking rise of a solitary flute, lifted by the oboe as if by a gust of wind over Taiwan’s idyllic rural landscape, embraced and strengthened by a sea of undulating strings, and finally embodied in an achingly lush brass solo. For its pure melody without pretentious effect, brilliant orchestral colors, and honest emotion, Tyzen Hsiao’s An Angel from Formosa has drawn numerous comparisons to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most popular of twentieth-century orchestral works. The composer dedicated An Angel from Formosa to the late Taiwanese pianist Wen-wan Chen (陳文婉), who championed and performed Tyzen Hsiao’s works on the international stage. Full of pathos, the piece closes with the strumming of the harp, an angelic final call for remembrance." --- Jeanette Yu
UPDATE: The latest press release says "13th Annual Lunar New Year Concert." However, its own webpage title and everything linked from it still says "Chinese" New Year.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
President of ROC in Exile -- Ma's new years speech: "The people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are all ethnic Chinese..."
Why do the Austronesians of Taiwan still vote for the KMT?
We could add, that unless the Austronesian peoples begin to do something about their children going to Chinese language schools, in 50 or 100 years, the Austronesian cultures will be virtually obliterated. This is the intent of the ROC government education policy. One hour a week of language class in a mother tongue is not enough. It is enough to lull people into complacency while their language and culture dies.
If you are in Taipei, visit the National Taiwan University Library. There is one room that is supposed to be for Austronesian / Aboriginal cultures and languages. Almost all the books are in Mandarin. The children's books that tell traditional stories from Taiwan's Austronesian peoples are also in Mandarin. They did not even bother to try to write the Austronesian language of the story alongside the Mandarin. When there is some Austronesian language included, it is often included as a simple "gloss" for sounds, but without any order that would show the Romanization to be true written language -- that is, capitalization and punctuation of sentences.
P.S. Also please remember that even the Hakka and the Hoklo "Taiwanese" speakers of Taiwan are ethnically mixed, that is, they have both Austronesian and Chinese ancestry with a little Dutch thrown in.