According to Wikipedia entry on Taiwanese Mandarin:

The official Guoyu is almost identical to the official language of the People's Republic of China, called Pǔtōnghuà, with the exception of their writing systems. However, Mandarin as spoken informally in Taiwan has some notable differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation with Standard Mandarin

I wonder whether Standard Mandarin can be understood by Taiwanese if simplified characters are mapped to traditional ones (in written context). There still seem to be differences in vocabulary and grammar but how are that different?

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    While this is a good question, the title makes little sense. "Mutual intelligibility" has nothing to do with written language. It is strictly a property of spoken language. – sami.spricht.sprache Aug 24 '17 at 0:07
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    @sami.spricht.sprache I also thought about it... How about the edit? Or I don't mind it if you change it to anything more suitable. – Blaszard Aug 24 '17 at 0:12
  • Cool! That sounds better. – sami.spricht.sprache Aug 24 '17 at 0:14

It's not very different at all. I'd say the difference is much smaller than the difference between say Spanish in Spain and Chilean Spanish, which have undergone 500 years of evolution after all. Yet they are still classified as both Spanish and certainly people from both countries would understand each other's written texts. The separation of China (the end of the Chinese civil war) is not even 100 years old. One would naturally expect the difference to be much smaller.

One would also consider the fact that written text is much more formal than spoken language and involves much fewer slangs, as is the case across different languages just like Spanish.

In fact you don't even need to map the characters for the language to be understood. Simplified Chinese is mostly just that. "Simplified". It might take longer for a Taiwanese to react but they can still make out the meaning just fine. Vice versa.

Unfortunately I don't have references at all but this is based on my experience as a native Chinese speaker and my interaction with Chinese/Taiwanese.

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  • I think you misunderstand the use of Mandarin in Taiwan. For the bulk of Taiwanese, Mandarin is not their mother tongue. Most Taiwanese have "Taiwanese" (aka Hoklo or Southern Min) as their first language and then Mandarin is what they learn at school. The Mandarin they learn was brought to Taiwan by the KMT in the late 1940s and 1950s by the Chinese occupiers. So the Mandarin of Taiwan has undergone changes not just because of the length of time (about 75 years) but also the adoption by non-native speakers. Consider for comparison how the English of India or Singapore differs from England. – Readin Sep 20 '17 at 1:59
  • I'm not a native speaker so I can't say much, but I think you're answer would be better to focus on your experience rather than the history. It might be useful to note whether your experience has been with Taiwanese from north or south (I've been told the Mandarin in the north tends to be much better because that is where the occupiers settled) and whether the people you spoke with were from families that were in Taiwan prior to the 1940s or not. Even with my extremely poor command of Mandarin I can often pick up the difference in accent between such people. – Readin Sep 20 '17 at 2:04
  • "Hoklo" should be "Hokkien" in the first comment. Sorry about that goof. – Readin Sep 20 '17 at 11:56
  • I've heard, because of the simplification of some characters in PRC, that it is much easier for ROC people to read things from mainland than the other way round; PRC people have a hard time figuring out the more complex characters even in context. – Mitch Sep 27 '17 at 19:19

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