Pinyin News (“Most of what most people think they know about Chinese is wrong”) has a fascinating post on the centuries-old romanization of Taiwan’s aboriginal language Siraya (now extinct):

About 80 percent of the “Sinkang Manuscripts” (新港文書) have been deciphered in the ongoing collaboration project between Academia Sinica‘s Institute of Taiwan History and Institute of History and Philology. These documents, in the language of the Siraya people, were written in a romanization system devised by the Dutch colonists in Taiwan in the seventeenth century. Although the Dutch were forced out of Taiwan in the 1660s, writing in this system continued for at least 150 years.
The name Siraya, however, has been applied to the people of that group only since the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945). It was derived from the group’s pronunciation of the word for “I.” The documents get their name from Sinkang Sia, the largest Siraya settlement near the Dutch stronghold Fort Zeelandia.
Most of the documents are records of land contracts and business transactions. Some are bilingual: in Siraya and Dutch, or Siraya and Chinese. One long bilingual document is a translation by the Dutch of the Book of Matthew

THere are plenty of great links; check it out. (Via the always via-ble No-sword; as he says, “I wish the sample wasn’t one of the boring parts of the Bible, though. On the plus side I am now pretty confident that if a Siraya speaker ever asks me who begat someone, I will be able to answer in their native language.”)


  1. What an interesting blog! I’ve added it to the mix, maybe it will inspire me to get back to learning Mandarin. 😉

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