Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: J.R. Wells (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Mandarin-plus to Mandarin-inclusive: conceptualising a pluralistic approach to language policy in Taiwan

Abstract: Taiwan is filled with a diverse multicultural and multilingual population, and like many other places, has seen its local and indigenous cultures and languages limited and suppressed. Today however, Taiwan is attempting to change this history by recognising its cultural-linguistic diversity on a national level. Previous language policy and language planning has been very successful in changing the language of use in Taiwan. At the handover of rule from the Japanese to the Kuomintang in 1945, most of the Taiwanese population had high proficiency in Japanese. Within a generation the Japanese language was mostly gone from use and Mandarin was the main language between Taiwan’s cultural-linguistic groups. Local languages also declined in use due to suppressive Mandarin only education and bans on local languages use in public. During the 1990s and 2000s the bans on local languages were officially lifted, and “mother tongue classes” were added to the national school curriculum (Dupré 2014). The term “Mandarin-plus” has been used in the past to explain the status quo of language policy and hierarchy in Taiwan since the 1990s; Mandarin as the sole national language with local languages being tolerated (Scott and Tuin 2007). Since 2017, there have been three major legislations passed in Taiwan, giving over 20 languages the status of national language and protecting them under law. In this talk, I outline these new legislations and explain how they change the current language policy in Taiwan. I also introduce a new term: “Mandarin-inclusive” as a new way of understanding the current language policy of Taiwan. This paper forms the background of a larger project looking into the impact of these legislations on Taiwan’s diverse cultural-linguistic groups. This project hopes to aid future studies on the indigenous and minoritized languages of Taiwan.


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Stephen McNulty

Sarah Van Eyndhoven

Co-ordinators of LinC

Nov 26 2021 -

Language in context seminar

2021-11-26: Mandarin-plus to Mandarin-inclusive: conceptualising a pluralistic approach to language policy in Taiwan

Online via link invitation