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Language, Literacy, and Nationalism:
A Comparative Study of Vietnam and Taiwan


Wi-vun Taiffalo Chiung

The University of Texas at Arlington


Both Vietnam and Taiwan adopted the Han character (Hanji) as the official writing system prior to the twentieth century, and were introduced to the romanized writings by Western missionaries in the seventeenth century. In Vietnam, romanization has finally replaced the Hanji and became Chu Quoc Ngu, the official national orthography in 1945. However, the use of romanization in Taiwan is still limited to church activities. Although many Taiwanese language promoters have attempted to promote romanized writing, Hanji is still the dominant orthography in the contemporary Taiwanese society. This paper examines the developments and influences of romanization in the traditional Hanji dominant Taiwanese and Vietnamese societies. Both internal and external factors have contributed to the different outcomes of romanization in these two countries. Internal factors include the general publicís demands for literacy and anti-feudal hierarchy; external factors include the political relationships between these countries and the origin of Hanji (i.e. China).