I would like to know in which languages is the lastname always written before the name. I know Taiwanese people do it. I was reading about the creator of Taekwondo Choi Hong Hi and I wondered if Choi is name or lastname.

closed as off-topic by Tommi Brander, bytebuster, user800 Apr 15 at 17:23

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  • 1
    At the top of the Wikipedia page, it states: "This is a Korean name; the family name is Choi." – Michaelyus Apr 15 at 13:38
  • 2
    Welcome to Language Learning! This question is not about the language acquisition. It asks about an attribute of language(s) itself. It may better fit at Linguistics. – bytebuster Apr 15 at 15:47
  1. Chinese - This is a left-branching language.

  2. Korean - This is also left-branching. In addition, most Koreans actually make their names in Hanja before transliterating those Hanja names in Hangul and anglicizing the Hangul names in English.

  3. Vietnamese - I am not sure if Vietnamese people have the surname first, because they make the names in the Chinese fashion or because Vietnamese is a left-branching language.

  4. Japanese - Japanese surnames are relatively new. They are self-chosen, and they usually come in two-character form. Nevertheless, they still place the surname first. I think it's due to the fact that it's actually a left-branching language, so it makes sense to put the surname first.

  5. Hungarian - I once searched on the Internet why Hungarian puts the surname first, and someone on Quora mentions it's because Hungarian is a left-branching language, making it different from the surrounding European languages.

Conclusion: One big reason for the surname first, given name last pattern is simply because of grammar. Left-branching languages put the surname first; right-branching languages put the surname last. It just makes sense that way, grammatically speaking.

In our current world, America is the big superpower, and English is the global language. So, people may write their names in the English fashion. This is where it becomes tricky. When a Chinese name is Romanized into Pinyin, Wade-Giles, or Jyutping, the name normally follows Chinese name order, because, like I said, Chinese is a left-branching language. When a Chinese person studies abroad in an English-speaking country, this person may select an English name and write in English order. If the person does not select an English name, then the person may just write in some kind of standard Romanized form (Pinyin for most of China, Wade-Giles for Taiwan, Jyutping for Hong Kong, and some kind of non-standard romanization for Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese) in English order.

In Romanized form, it is hard to tell which component of the name is the surname. Is it following English order or Chinese order? In Chinese-character form, it is much easier to tell, because surnames are easily identifiable. The first character (or maybe the first two characters for those people with rare two-character surnames) would unquestionably be the surname.

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