taiwanchurch.org -- Church Romanization for Taiwanese (Hokkien/Minnan) Language

My philosophy on Romanizations: They are good for rendering names into English but I think it can be awkward as far as regular usage, since the letters represent sounds that do not always match the English spelling. This difference slows the whole process down. As you peruse the Taiwanese Romanization table below, I think you will see what I mean. Things are not always as they seem. I have developed a completely new phonetic script for Taiwanese based on Oxford Professor J.R.R. Tolkien's script (twscript.html). However, since the PCT Church Romanization is the most commonly used in Taiwan, and has a lot of Taiwanese articles, hymns and even the whole Bible written using it, it must be learned for those who wish to use Taiwanese.

- Joel Linton, Feb. 2005

PCT Romanization Tables... for TAIWANESE


Romanization: "h" added to the consonant means aspiration.

Sound: When two consonants together, the capitalized one is stronger sound.

In addition to the consonant/vowels below, above the vowel is words is written one of eight tones. See the next table for that.

PCT RomanizationSound
p"soft b/p"
k"soft g/k"
s"s" or "sh"
ch + (a/e/o/u)"dz"
chh + (a/e/o/u)"ts"
j"soft z"
ilong e = "ee"
o"soft o" almost a shwa
o + ."guttural o"
u"u" = "oo"
^n or ^*"nasalize vowel"
ai"long i"
and so on

TONES There are a total of eight tones in Taiwanese.. if you count the neutral tone. Tone number 2 and number 6 are so similar that usually Tone Number 6 is left out. So the standard numbering is like this:

Tone NumberDescriptionPCT Romanization SymbolTone Contour
1high level pitchno symbol (default)44
2high to middle falling/51
3mid to low falling\31
4glottal stop - descendingno symbol, words ending in (h/k/p/t)32
5mid fall then up ^324
7mid level pitch-33
8glottal stop - ascending' + h/k/p/t ending34
zero toneextremely short sound ^o

One more rule about Tones:
When words are combined in a sentence, the last word of a phrase (or wherever you pause) is pronounced with the original tone. The tones of the words before are changed in a consistent manner.

1 changes to 7
2 changes to 1
3 changes to 2
4 w/ -h ending becomes 2
4 w/ -p,k,t endings becomes 8
5 flattens to 7
7 goes to 3
8 goes to 3

Look and listen to reading from fhl.net. Change your browser setting to VIEW:Text Encoding: UTF-8 to view this page.

Typing Rules

For typing emails without a speciallized font, use the PCT romanization. Type the vowels and consonants first. Then add any vowel markings... Add a period immediatly after the o vowel "o." to show a glottal "o"
Add an asterisk "*" after the syllable to indicate nasalized vowels.
Then you finally indicate tone markings listed after their tone number below. I think putting the actual tone markings instead of the tone number makes it easier to read on emails. Connect words with a tilda "~"
1 (no marking)
2 /
3 \
4 ending in h,k,t,p
5 ^
7 -
8 ending in h', k', t', p'
Now you can email your friends using Taiwanese.

Here is an example from the Taiwanese Bible. Can you read it?

So./ sim/~phoa*\ e^, chiu-~si- kng jip' se\~kan,
iah' lang^ ai\ am\ khah ke\~thau^ ti- kng,
in~ui- i so./ kia*^ siu- chek~pi-.
Tok'~tok' kia*^ chin~li/ e^ lang^ chiu-~kun- kng,
lai^ hian/~beng^ i e^ so./ kia*^ si- ti- Siong-~te\ lai^ kia*^.

Iok~han- 3:19-21

Check out other Taiwanese quotes: twverse1.html

More information on Taiwanese:
  • Another new Taiwanese script has been invented at www.taioanji.com. It is extremely fascinating, has great theoretical foundations, and would be a great cipher for you to use for code. However because of the similarity of the different letters, I think it would not be very writable or very readable. You'll just have to try it out and see if it works.
  • Romanization

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last updated 2/20/2005