Hokkien (/ˈhɒkiɛn, hɒˈkiɛn/;[a] from Chinese: 福建話; pinyin:
Fújiànhuà; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hok-kiàn-oē)[b] or Minnan
Proper (閩南語/閩南話), is a Southern Min
dialect group spoken in the
Fujian Province in Southeastern China,
Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the
Philippines and other
parts of Southeast Asia, and by other overseas Chinese. Hokkien
originated in southern Fujian, the Min-speaking province. It is the
mainstream form of Southern Min.
It is closely related to Teochew, though it has limited mutual
intelligibility with it, whereas it is more distantly related to other
variants such as
Hainanese and Leizhou dialect. Besides Hokkien, there
are also other Min and
Hakka dialects in
Fujian province, most of
which are not mutually intelligible with Hokkien.
Hokkien historically served as the lingua franca amongst overseas
Chinese communities of all dialects and subgroups in Southeast Asia,
and remains today as the most spoken variety of Chinese in the region,
including in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia,
Philippines and some
Indochina (particularly Thailand, Laos and Cambodia)..
Betawi Malay language, spoken by some five million people in and
around the Indonesian capital Jakarta, includes numerous Hokkien
2 Geographic distribution
3.1 Southeast Asia
4.4 Early sources
6.1 Mutual intelligibility
7.2 Copula ("to be")
8.1 Literary and colloquial readings
8.2 Semantic differences between
Hokkien and Mandarin
8.3 Words from Minyue
9 Standard Hokkien
10 Writing systems
10.1 Chinese script
11 Cultural and political role
12 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
Chinese speakers of the Quanzhang variety of
Southern Min refer to the
Southern Min language as
Bân-lâm-gú / Bân-lâm-ōe (闽南语/闽南话;
閩南語/閩南話, literally 'language or speech of Southern Min')
China and Taiwan.
Tâi-gí (臺語, literally 'Taiwanese language') in Taiwan.
Hok-kiàn-ōe (福建话; 福建話, literally '
Fujian speech') in
Malaysia and Indonesia.
Lán-lâng-ōe (咱儂話, literally 'our people's language') in the
In parts of
Southeast Asia and in the English-speaking communities,
Hokkien ([hɔk˥kiɛn˨˩]) is etymologically derived from
Southern Min pronunciation for
Fujian (福建), the province from
which the language hails. In
Southeast Asia and the English press,
Hokkien is used in common parlance to refer to the Southern Min
dialects of southern Fujian, and does not include reference to
dialects of other Sinitic branches also present in
Fujian such as
Eastern Min or Hakka. In Chinese linguistics, these dialects are known
by their classification under the Quanzhang division (Chinese:
泉漳片; pinyin: Quánzhāng piàn) of Min Nan, which comes from the
first characters of the two main
Hokkien urban centers of
Hokkien originated in the southern area of
Fujian province, an
important center for trade and migration, and has since become one of
the most common Chinese varieties overseas. The major pole of Hokkien
varieties outside of
Fujian is Taiwan, where, during the 200 years of
Qing dynasty rule, thousands of immigrants from
Fujian arrived yearly.
The Taiwanese version mostly have origins with the
Zhangzhou variants, but since then, the
Amoy dialect is becoming the
modern prestige standard for the language.
There are many Minnan(Hokkien) speakers among overseas Chinese in
Southeast Asia as well as in the
United States (Hoklo Americans). Many
Han Chinese emigrants to the region were Hoklo from southern
Fujian, and brought the language to what is now
Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies) and present day
Singapore (formerly Malaya and the British Straits Settlements). Many
of the Minnan dialects of this region are highly similar to Xiamen
Taiwanese Hokkien with the exception of foreign
Hokkien is reportedly the native language of up to 80% of
the Chinese people in the Philippines, among which is known locally as
Lan-nang or Lán-lâng-oē ("Our people’s language"). Hokkien
speakers form the largest group of overseas Chinese in Singapore,
Indonesia and Philippines.
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Hokkien (Quanzhang) varieties in Fujian
Fujian is home to three principal Minnan Proper (Hokkien)
dialects: Chinchew, Amoy, Chiangchew, originating from the cities of
Xiamen and Zhangzhou(respectively).
Quanzhou dialect spoken in
Quanzhou is the
Traditional Standard Minnan, it is the dialect that is used in Liyuan
Opera (梨园戏) and Nanying music (南音). Being the Traditional
Quanzhou dialect is considered to have the purest
accent and the most conservative Minnan dialect.
In the late 18th to the early 19th century,
Xiamen (Amoy) became the
principal city of southern Fujian.
dialect is adopted as the Modern Standard Minnan. It is a hybrid of
Zhangzhou dialects. It has played an influential role
in history, especially in the relations of Western nations with China,
and was one of the most frequently learnt dialect of Quanzhang variety
by Westerners during the second half of the 19th century and the early
Same as Amoy dialect, the Modern Standard form of Quanzhang accent
spoken around the city of
Taiwan is a hybrid of the Quanzhou
Zhangzhou dialects. All Quanzhang dialects spoken throughout the
Taiwan are collectively known as
Taiwanese Hokkien or just
Taiwanese. Used by a majority of the population, it bears much
importance from a socio-political perspective, forming the second (and
perhaps today most significant) major pole of the language due to the
popularity of Taiwanese-language media.
The varieties of
Southeast Asia originate from these
The Singaporeans, Southern Malaysians and people in Indonesia's Riau
and surrounding islands variant is from the
Quanzhou area. They speak
a distinct form of
Hokkien called Southern Peninsular
Among ethnic Chinese inhabitants of Penang, and other states in
Malaysia and Medan, with other areas in North Sumatra,
Indonesia, a distinct form of
Hokkien has developed. In
Penang, it is called
Penang Hokkien while across the
Malacca Strait in
Medan, an almost identical variant is known as
Philippines variant is mostly from
Quanzhou or Amoy (Xiamen), as
most of their ancestors are from the aforementioned area.
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Hokkien dialects can be traced to two sources of origin:
Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. Both Amoy and most Taiwanese are based on a
Zhangzhou dialects, while the rest of the
Hokkien dialects spoken in South East Asia are either derived from
Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, or based on a mixture of both dialects.
Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, there was constant
warfare occurring in the Central Plain of China. Northerners began to
Fujian region, causing the region to incorporate parts of
northern Chinese dialects. However, the massive migration of northern
Han Chinese into
Fujian region mainly occurred after the Disaster of
Yongjia. The Jìn court fled from the north to the south, causing
large numbers of northern
Han Chinese to move into
Fujian region. They
Old Chinese spoken in Central Plain of
prehistoric era to 3rd century into Fujian. This then gradually
evolved into the
In 677 (during the reign of Emperor Gaozong), Chen Zheng, together
with his son Chen Yuanguang, led a military expedition to suppress a
rebellion of the She people. In 885, (during the reign of Emperor
Xizong of Tang), the two brothers Wang Chao and Wang Shenzhi, led a
military expedition force to suppress the
Huang Chao rebellion.
These two waves of migration from the north brought the language of
Middle Chinese into the
Fujian region. This then gradually
evolved into the
Amoy dialect is the main dialect spoken in the Chinese city of Xiamen
and its surrounding regions of Tong'an and Xiang'an, both of which are
now included in the greater
Xiamen area. This dialect developed in the
Ming dynasty when
Xiamen was increasingly taking over Quanzhou's
position as the main port of trade in southeastern China. Quanzhou
traders began travelling southwards to
Xiamen to carry on their
Zhangzhou peasants began traveling northwards to
Xiamen in search of job opportunities. A need for a common language
Zhangzhou varieties are similar in many ways
(as can be seen from the common place of Henan Luoyang where they
originated), but due to differences in accents, communication can be a
Quanzhou businessmen considered their speech to be the
prestige accent and considered Zhangzhou's to be a village dialect.
Over the centuries, dialect leveling occurred and the two speeches
mixed to produce the Amoy dialect.
Several playscripts survive from the late 16th century, written in a
Quanzhou and Chaozhou dialects. The most important is the
Romance of the Litchi Mirror, with extant manuscripts dating from 1566
In the early 17th century, Spanish missionaries in the Philippines
produced materials documenting the
Hokkien varieties spoken by the
Chinese trading community who had settled there in the late 16th
Diccionarium Sino-Hispanicum (1604), a Spanish-
giving equivalent words, but not definitions.
Doctrina Christiana en letra y lengua china (1607), a Hokkien
translation of the Doctrina Christiana.
Bocabulario de la lengua sangleya (c. 1617), a Spanish-Hokkien
dictionary, with definitions.
Arte de la Lengua Chiõ Chiu (1620), a grammar written by a Spanish
missionary in the Philippines.
These texts appear to record a
Zhangzhou dialect, from the area of
Haicheng (an old port that is now part of Longhai).
Chinese scholars produced rhyme dictionaries describing Hokkien
varieties at the beginning of the 19th century:
Huìyīn Miàowù (彙音妙悟 "Understanding of the collected
sounds") was written around 1800 by Huang Qian (黃謙), and describes
Quanzhou dialect. The oldest extant edition dates from 1831.
Huìjí yǎsútōng shíwǔyīn (彙集雅俗通十五音 "Compilation
of the fifteen elegant and vulgar sounds") by Xie Xiulan (謝秀嵐)
Zhangzhou dialect. The oldest extant edition dates from
Walter Henry Medhurst
Walter Henry Medhurst based his 1832 dictionary on the latter work.
Hokkien has one of the most diverse phoneme inventories among Chinese
varieties, with more consonants than Standard Mandarin,
Shanghainese. Vowels are more-or-less similar to that of Standard
Hokkien varieties retain many pronunciations that are no
longer found in other Chinese varieties. These include the retention
of the /t/ initial, which is now /tʂ/ (
Pinyin 'zh') in Mandarin (e.g.
'bamboo' 竹 is tik, but zhú in Mandarin), having disappeared before
the 6th century in other Chinese varieties.
Southern Min has aspirated, unaspirated as well as voiced consonant
initials. For example, the word khui (開; "open") and kuiⁿ (關;
"close") have the same vowel but differ only by aspiration of the
initial and nasality of the vowel. In addition,
Southern Min has
labial initial consonants such as m in m̄-sī (毋是; "is not").
Another example is cha-po͘-kiáⁿ (查埔囝; "boy") and
cha-bó͘-kiáⁿ (查某囝; "girl"), which differ in the second
syllable in consonant voicing and in tone.
Hokkien retains all the final consonants
corresponding to those of Middle Chinese. While Mandarin only
preserves the n and ŋ finals,
Southern Min also preserves the m, p, t
and k finals and developed the ʔ (glottal stop).
The following table illustrates some of the more commonly seen vowel
shifts. Characters with the same vowel are shown in parentheses.
Xiamen, Zhangzhou, Tainan
Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taipei
Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taiwan
Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taipei
Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taipei
Quanzhou, Taiwan, Xiamen
Hokkien dialects have 5 to 7 phonemic tones. According to
the traditional Chinese system, however, there are 7 to 9 tones if the
two additional entering tones (see the discussion on Chinese tone).
Tone sandhi is extensive. There are minor variations between the
Zhangzhou tone systems. Taiwanese tones follow the
patterns of Amoy or Quanzhou, depending on the area of Taiwan. Many
dialects have an additional phonemic tone ("tone 9" according to the
traditional reckoning), used only in special or foreign loan
Amoy dialect (Xiamen) is a hybrid of the
Quanzhou and Zhangzhou
dialects. Taiwanese is also a hybrid of these two dialects. Taiwanese
in northern and coastal
Taiwan tends to be based on the Quanzhou
variety, whereas the Taiwanese spoken in central, south and inland
Taiwan tends to be based on
Zhangzhou speech. There are minor
variations in pronunciation and vocabulary between
Zhangzhou dialects. The grammar is generally the same. Additionally,
extensive contact with the
Japanese language has left a legacy of
Japanese loanwords in Taiwanese Hokkien. On the other hand, the
variants spoken in
Malaysia have a substantial number of
loanwords from Malay and to a lesser extent, from English and other
Chinese varieties, such as the closely related Teochew and some
Penang Hokkien and
Medan Hokkien are based on
Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien
Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien is based on Quanzhou
Zhangzhou dialect, Taiwanese are
mutually intelligible. The overseas variants such as
Singaporean Hokkien are slightly less mutually intelligible to
Min Nan dialects and Taiwanese dialects due to the existence
of foreign loanwords.
Min Nan varieties of Teochew and Amoy are 84% phonetically
similar, and 34% lexically similar,
whereas Mandarin and Amoy
Min Nan are 62% phonetically
similar and 15% lexically similar.
In comparison, German and English are 60% lexically similar.
Hainanese, which is sometimes considered Southern Min, has almost no
mutual intelligibility with any form of Hokkien.
Hokkien is an analytic language; in a sentence, the arrangement of
words is important to its meaning. A basic sentence follows the
subject–verb–object pattern (i.e. a subject is followed by a verb
then by an object), though this order is often violated because
Hokkien dialects are topic-prominent. Unlike synthetic languages,
seldom do words indicate time, gender and plural by inflection.
Instead, these concepts are expressed through adverbs, aspect markers,
and grammatical particles, or are deduced from the context. Different
particles are added to a sentence to further specify its status or
A verb itself indicates no grammatical tense. The time can be
explicitly shown with time-indicating adverbs. Certain exceptions
exist, however, according to the pragmatic interpretation of a verb's
meaning. Additionally, an optional aspect particle can be appended to
a verb to indicate the state of an action. Appending interrogative or
exclamative particles to a sentence turns a statement into a question
or shows the attitudes of the speaker.
Hokkien dialects preserve certain grammatical reflexes and patterns
reminiscent of the broad stage of Archaic Chinese. This includes the
serialization of verb phrases (direct linkage of verbs and verb
phrases) and the infrequency of nominalization, both similar to
Archaic Chinese grammar.
你(Lí) 去(khì) 買(bé) 有(ū) 錶仔(pió-á) 無(bo)？
You-go-buy-have watch-no (Gloss)
"Did you go to buy a watch?"
Choice of grammatical function words also varies significantly among
Hokkien dialects. For instance, 乞 khit (denoting the causative,
passive or dative) is retained in Jinjiang (also unique to the
Jinjiang dialect is 度 thoo) and in Jieyang, but not in Longxi and
Xiamen, whose dialects use 互 (hoo) instead.
Hokkien dialects differ in their preferred choice of pronouns. For
instance, while the second person pronoun lí (你) is standard in
Taiwanese Hokkien, the Teochew loanword lú (汝) is more common among
Hokkien-speaking communities in Southeast Asia. The plural personal
pronouns tend to be nasalized forms of the singular ones. Personal
pronouns found in the
Hokkien dialects are listed below:
阮1, 3gún, góan
咱2, 3 or 俺
lán or án
3 儂 (-lâng) is typically suffixed in Southeast Asian Hokkien
Possessive pronouns are marked by the particle ê (的), or its
literary version chi (之).
Plural pronouns are typically unmarked
(the nasalized final serves as the possessive indicator):
阮(góan) 翁(ang) 姓(sèⁿ) 陳(Tân)。
"My husband's surname is Tan."
Reflexive pronouns are made by appending the pronouns ka-kī, ka-tī
(家己) or chū-kí (自己).
Hokkien dialects use a variety of differing demonstrative pronouns,
which are as follows:
this - che (這, 即), chit-ê (這個, 即個)
that - he (許, 彼), hit-ê (彼個)
here - chia (者), hia/hiâ (遮, 遐), chit-tau 這兜)
there - hia (許, 遐), hit-tau (彼兜)
The interrogative pronouns are:
what - siáⁿ-mih (啥物), sīm-mi̍h (甚麼)
when - tī-sî (底時), kī-sî (幾時), tang-sî (當時),
where - to-lo̍h (倒落), tó-uī (佗位, 叨位)
who - siáⁿ-lâng (啥人) or siáⁿ (啥)
why - án-chóaⁿ (按怎), khah (盍)
how - án-chóaⁿ (按怎) lû-hô (如何) chóaⁿ-iūⁿ (怎樣)
Copula ("to be")
States and qualities are generally expressed using stative verbs that
do not require the verb "to be":
我(goá) 腹肚(pak-tó͘) 枵(iau)。
"I am hungry." (lit. I-stomach-hungry)
With noun complements, the verb sī (是) serves as the verb "to be".
昨昏(cha-hng) 是(sī) 八月節(peh-go̍eh-cheh)。
"Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn festival."
To indicate location, the words tī (佇) tiàm (踮), teh/leh (咧),
which are collectively known as the locatives or sometimes coverbs in
Chinese linguistics, are used to express "(to be) at":
我(goá) 踮(tiàm) 遮(chia) 等(tán) 你(lí)。
"I am here waiting for you."
伊(i) 這馬(chit-má) 佇(tī) 厝(chhù) 裡(lí) 咧(teh)
"He's sleeping at home now."
Hokkien dialects have a variety of negation particles that are
prefixed or affixed to the verbs they modify. There are five primary
negation particles in
m̄ (毋, 呣, 唔)
bē, bōe (袂, 未)
mài (莫, 勿)
put (不) - literary
Other negative particles include:
biàu (嫑) - a contraction of bô iàu (無要), as in biàu-kín
The particles m̄ (毋, 呣, 唔) is general and can negate almost any
伊(i) 毋(m̄) 捌(bat) 字(jī)。
"He cannot read." (lit. he-not-know-word)
The particle mài (莫, 勿), a concatenation of m-ài (毋愛) is
used to negate imperative commands:
The particle bô (無) indicates the past tense:
伊(i) 無(bô) 食(chia̍h)。
"He did not eat."
The verb 'to have', ū (有) is replaced by bô (無) when negated
伊(i) 無(bô) 錢(chîⁿ)。
"He does not have any money."
The particle put (不) is used infrequently, mostly found in literary
compounds and phrases:
伊(i) 真(chin) 不孝(put-hàu)。
"He is truly unfilial."
The majority of
Hokkien vocabulary is
monosyllabic.[better source needed] Many
have cognates in other Chinese varieties. That said, there are also
many indigenous words that are unique to
Hokkien and are potentially
Sino-Tibetan origin, while others are shared by all the Min
dialects (e.g. 'congee' is 糜 mê, bôe, bê, not 粥 zhōu, as in
As compared to
Standard Chinese (Mandarin),
Hokkien dialects prefer to
use the monosyllabic form of words, without suffixes. For instance,
the Mandarin noun suffix 子 (zi) is not found in
Hokkien words, while
another noun suffix, 仔 (á) is used in many nouns. Examples are
'duck' - 鸭 ah or 鴨仔 ah-á (SC: 鸭子 yāzi)
'color' - 色 sek (SC: 顏色 yán sè)
In other bisyllabic morphemes, the syllables are inverted, as compared
to Standard Chinese. Examples include the following:
'guest' - 人客 lâng-kheh (SC: 客人 kèrén)
In other cases, the same word can have different meanings in Hokkien
and standard written Chinese. Similarly, depending on the region
Hokkien is spoken in, loanwords from local languages (Malay, Tagalog,
Burmese, among others), as well as other
Chinese dialects (such as
Chinese dialects like
Cantonese and Teochew), are commonly
integrated into the vocabulary of
Literary and colloquial readings
The existence of literary and colloquial readings is a prominent
feature of some
Hokkien dialects and indeed in many Sinitic varieties
in the south. The bulk of literary readings (文讀, bûn-tha̍k),
based on pronunciations of the vernacular during the Tang Dynasty, are
mainly used in formal phrases and written language (e.g. philosophical
concepts, surnames, and some place names), while the colloquial (or
vernacular) ones (白讀, pe̍h-tha̍k) are basically used in spoken
language and vulgar phrases. Literary readings are more similar to the
pronunciations of the Tang standard of
Middle Chinese than their
However, some dialects of Hokkien, such as
Penang Hokkien as well as
Philippine Hokkien overwhelmingly favor colloquial readings. For
example, in both
Penang Hokkien and Philippine Hokkien, the characters
for 'university,' 大學, are pronounced tōa-o̍h (colloquial
readings for both characters), instead of the literary reading
tāi-ha̍k, which is common in Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese
The pronounced divergence between literary and colloquial
pronunciations found in
Hokkien dialects is attributed to the presence
of several strata in the Min lexicon. The earliest, colloquial stratum
is traced to the
Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE); the second colloquial
one comes from the period of the
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Southern and Northern Dynasties (420
- 589 CE); the third stratum of pronunciations (typically literary
ones) comes from the
Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) and is based on the
prestige dialect of
Chang'an (modern day Xi'an), its capital.
Some commonly seen sound correspondences (colloquial → literary) are
p- ([p-], [pʰ-]) → h ([h-])
ch-, chh- ([ts-], [tsʰ-], [tɕ-], [tɕʰ-]) → s ([s-], [ɕ-])
k-, kh- ([k-], [kʰ-]) → ch ([tɕ-], [tɕʰ-])
-ⁿ ([-ã], [-uã]) → n ([-an])
-h ([-ʔ]) → t ([-t])
i ([-i]) → e ([-e])
e ([-e]) → a ([-a])
ia ([-ia]) → i ([-i])
This table displays some widely used characters in
Hokkien that have
both literary and colloquial readings:
Spoken pronunciations / †explications
seⁿ / siⁿ
jîn / lîn
This feature extends to Chinese numerals, which have both literary and
colloquial readings. Literary readings are typically used when the
numerals are read out loud (e.g. phone numbers), while colloquial
readings are used for counting items.
Semantic differences between
Hokkien and Mandarin
Quite a few words from the variety of
Old Chinese spoken in the state
of Wu, where the ancestral language of Min and Wu dialect families
originated, and later words from
Middle Chinese as well, have retained
the original meanings in Hokkien, while many of their counterparts in
Mandarin Chinese have either fallen out of daily use, have been
substituted with other words (some of which are borrowed from other
languages while others are new developments), or have developed newer
meanings. The same may be said of
Hokkien as well, since some lexical
meaning evolved in step with Mandarin while others are wholly
This table shows some
Hokkien dialect words from Classical Chinese, as
contrasted to the written Chinese standard, Mandarin:
For other words, the classical Chinese meanings of certain words,
which are retained in
Hokkien dialects, have evolved or deviated
significantly in other Chinese dialects. The following table shows
some words that are both used in both
Hokkien dialects and Mandarin
Chinese, while the meanings in
Mandarin Chinese have been modified:
(and Classical Chinese)
tiny, small, young
to hang, to suspend
Words from Minyue
Some commonly used words, shared by all[dubious –
Min Chinese dialects, came from the ancient Minyue languages.
Jerry Norman suggested that these languages were Austroasiatic. Some
terms are thought be cognates with words in
Tai Kadai and Austronesian
languages. They include the following examples, compared to the Fuzhou
dialect, a Min Dong language:
foot and leg
son, child, whelp, a small amount
chuó, chió [tsʰuɔ˥˧]
to kill, to slaughter
Loanwords are not unusual among
Hokkien dialects, as speakers readily
adopted indigenous terms of the languages they came in contact with.
As a result, there is a plethora of loanwords that are not mutually
Taiwanese Hokkien, as a result of linguistic contact with Japanese
and Formosan languages, contains many loanwords from these languages.
Many words have also been formed as calques from Mandarin, and
speakers will often directly use Mandarin vocabulary through
codeswitching. Among these include the following examples:
'toilet' - piān-só͘ (便所) from Japanese benjo (便所)
Hokkien variants: 屎礐 (sái-ha̍k), 廁所 (chhek-só͘)
'car' - chū-tōng-chhia (自動車) from Japanese jidōsha
Hokkien variants: 風車 (hong-chhia), 汽車 (khì-chhia)
'to admire' - kám-sim (感心) from Japanese kanshin (感心)
Hokkien variants: 感動 (kám-tōng)
'fruit' - chúi-ké / chúi-kóe / chúi-kér (水果) from Mandarin
(Chinese: 水果; pinyin: shuǐguǒ)
Hokkien variants: 果子 (ké-chí / kóe-chí / kér-chí)
Penang Hokkien and other Malaysian Hokkien
dialects tend to draw loanwords from Malay, English as well as other
Chinese dialects, primarily Teochew. Examples include:
'but' - tapi, from Malay
Hokkien variants: 但是 （tān-sī）
'doctor' - 老君 lu-gun, from Malay dukun
Hokkien variants: 醫生(i-sing)
'stone/rock' - batu, from Malay batu
Hokkien variants: 石头(tsio-tau)
'market' - 巴剎 pa-sat, from Malay pasar from Persian bazaar
Hokkien variants: 市場 (chhī-tiûⁿ)
'they' - 伊儂 i lâng from Teochew (i1 nang5)
Hokkien variants: 𪜶 (in)
'together' - 做瓠 chò-bú from Teochew 做瓠 (jo3 bu5)
Hokkien variants: 做夥 (chò-hóe), 同齊 (tâng-chê) or
茶箍 (Sap-bûn) from Malay sabun from Arabic ṣābūn
Philippine Hokkien dialects, as a result of centuries-old contact with
both Philippine language and Spanish also incorporate words from these
languages. Examples include:
'cup' - ba-su, from Spanish vaso and Tagalog baso
Hokkien variants: 杯子 (poe-á)
'office' - o-pi-sin, from Spanish oficina and Tagalog opisina
Hokkien variants: 辦公室 (pān-kong-sek)
'soap' - sa-bun, from Spanish jabon and Tagalog sabon
'but' - ka-so, from Tagalog kaso
Hokkien variants: 但是 (tan-si)
Hokkien-Taiwanese originated from
Quanzhou.[better source needed] After the
Opium War in
Xiamen (Amoy) became one of the major treaty ports to be opened
for trade with the outside world. From mid-19th century onwards,
Xiamen slowly developed to become the political and economical center
of the Hokkien-Taiwanese speaking region in China. This caused Amoy
dialect to gradually replace the position of dialect variants from
Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. From mid-19th century until the end of World
War II, western diplomats usually learned Amoy as the
preferred dialect if they were to communicate with the
Hokkien-speaking populace in
China or South-East Asia. In the 1940s
and 1950s, Taiwan[who?] also held Amoy Minnan as its standard and
tended to incline towards Amoy dialect.
However, from the 1980s onwards, the development of Taiwanese Min Nan
pop music and media industry in
Taiwan caused the
Hokkien cultural hub
to shift from
Xiamen to Taiwan. The flourishing
Min Nan entertainment and media industry from
Taiwan in the
1990s and early 21st century led
Taiwan to emerge as the new
significant cultural hub for Hokkien.
In the 1990s, marked by the liberalization of language development and
mother tongue movement in Taiwan,
Taiwanese Hokkien had undergone a
fast pace in its development. In 1993,
Taiwan became the first region
in the world to implement the teaching of
Taiwanese Hokkien in
Taiwanese schools. In 2001, the local Taiwanese language program was
further extended to all schools in Taiwan, and Taiwanese Hokkien
became one of the compulsory local Taiwanese languages to be learned
in schools. The mother tongue movement in
Taiwan even influenced
Xiamen (Amoy) to the point that in 2010,
Xiamen also began to
implement the teaching of
Hokkien dialect in its schools. In 2007,
the Ministry of Education in
Taiwan also completed the standardization
Chinese characters used for writing
Hokkien and developed Tai-lo as
Hokkien pronunciation and romanization guide. A number of
Taiwan also offer Taiwanese degree courses for
training Hokkien-fluent talents to work for the
Hokkien media industry
Taiwan also has its own
Hokkien literary and cultural
Hokkien poets and writers compose poetry or literature
Thus by the 21st century,
Taiwan has truly emerged as one of the most
Hokkien cultural hubs of the world. The historical changes
and development in
Taiwan had led
Taiwanese Hokkien to become the more
influential pole of the
Hokkien dialect after mid-20th century. Today,
Taiwanese prestige dialect (Taiyu Youshiqiang/Tongxinqiang
台語優勢腔/通行腔), which is based on
Tainan variant and heard
Taiwanese Hokkien media.
Main article: Written Hokkien
Further information: Comparison of
Hokkien writing systems
Hokkien dialects are typically written using Chinese characters
(漢字, Hàn-jī). However, the written script was and remains
adapted to the literary form, which is based on classical Chinese, not
the vernacular and spoken form. Furthermore, the character inventory
used for Mandarin (standard written Chinese) does not correspond to
Hokkien words, and there are a large number of informal characters
(替字, thè-jī or thòe-jī; 'substitute characters') which are
Hokkien (as is the case with Cantonese). For instance, about
20 to 25% of Taiwanese morphemes lack an appropriate or standard
Hokkien morphemes have standard designated characters, they
are not always etymological or phono-semantic. Similar-sounding,
similar-meaning or rare characters are commonly borrowed or
substituted to represent a particular morpheme. Examples include
"beautiful" (美 bí is the literary form), whose vernacular morpheme
suí is represented by characters like 媠 (an obsolete character),
婎 (a vernacular reading of this character) and even 水
(transliteration of the sound suí), or "tall" (高 ko is the literary
form), whose morpheme kôan is 懸. Common grammatical particles
are not exempt; the negation particle m̄ (not) is variously
represented by 毋, 呣 or 唔, among others. In other cases,
characters are invented to represent a particular morpheme (a common
example is the character 𪜶 in, which represents the personal
pronoun "they"). In addition, some characters have multiple and
unrelated pronunciations, adapted to represent
Hokkien words. For
Hokkien word bah ("meat") has been reduced to the
character 肉, which has etymologically unrelated colloquial and
literary readings (he̍k and jio̍k, respectively). Another
case is the word 'to eat,' chia̍h, which is often transcribed in
Taiwanese newspapers and media as 呷 (a Mandarin transliteration,
xiā, to approximate the
Hokkien term), even though its recommended
character in dictionaries is 食.
Moreover, unlike Cantonese,
Hokkien does not have a universally
accepted standardized character set. Thus, there is some variation in
the characters used to express certain words and characters can be
ambiguous in meaning. In 2007, the Ministry of Education of the
China formulated and released a standard character set to
overcome these difficulties. These standard
Chinese characters for
Taiwanese Hokkien are now taught in schools in Taiwan.
Hokkien, especially Taiwanese Hokkien, is sometimes written in the
Latin script using one of several alphabets. Of these the most popular
is POJ, developed first by
Presbyterian missionaries in
later by the indigenous
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Use of this
script and orthography has been actively promoted since the late 19th
century. The use of a mixed script of Han characters and
is also seen, though remains uncommon. Other Latin-based alphabets
Min Nan texts, all Hokkien, can be dated back to the 16th century. One
example is the
Doctrina Christiana en letra y lengua china, presumably
written after 1587 by the Spanish Dominicans in the Philippines.
Another is a
Ming Dynasty script of a play called Tale of the Lychee
Mirror (1566), supposedly the earliest
Southern Min colloquial text,
although it is written in Teochew dialect.
Taiwan has developed a
Latin alphabet for Taiwanese Hokkien, derived
from POJ, known as Tai-lo. Since 2006, it has been officially promoted
by Taiwan's Ministry of Education and taught in Taiwanese schools.
Xiamen University has also developed an alphabet based on Pinyin
called Bbánlám pìngyīm.
The character for the third person pronoun (they) in some Hokkien
dialects, 𪜶 (in), is now supported by the
Unicode Standard at
Hokkien is registered as "Southern Min" per RFC 3066 as
Hokkien in Chinese characters, some writers create 'new'
characters when they consider it impossible to use directly or borrow
existing ones; this corresponds to similar practices in character
usage in Cantonese, Vietnamese chữ nôm, Korean hanja and Japanese
kanji. Some of these are not encoded in
Unicode (or the corresponding
ISO/IEC 10646: Universal Character Set), thus creating problems in
Latin characters required by
Pe̍h-ōe-jī can be represented
Unicode (or the corresponding ISO/IEC 10646: Universal Character
Set), using precomposed or combining (diacritics) characters. Prior to
June 2004, the vowel akin to but more open than o, written with a dot
above right, was not encoded. The usual workaround was to use the
(stand-alone; spacing) character
Interpunct (U+00B7, ·) or less
commonly the combining character dot above (U+0307). As these are far
from ideal, since 1997 proposals have been submitted to the ISO/IEC
working group in charge of ISO/IEC 10646—namely, ISO/IEC
JTC1/SC2/WG2—to encode a new combining character dot above right.
This is now officially assigned to U+0358 (see documents N1593, N2507,
N2628, N2699, and N2713). Font support is expected to follow.
Cultural and political role
Hokkien (or Min Nan) can trace its roots through the
Tang Dynasty and
also even further to the people of the Baiyue, the indigenous non-Han
people of modern-day southern China.
Min Nan (Hokkien) people call
themselves "Tang people," (唐人; Tn̂g-lâng) which is synonymous to
"Chinese people". Because of the widespread influence of the Tang
culture during the great Tang dynasty, there are today still many Min
Nan pronunciations of words shared by the Vietnamese, Korean and
In 2002, the
Taiwan Solidarity Union, a party with about 10% of the
Legislative Yuan seats at the time, suggested making Taiwanese a
second official language. This proposal encountered strong
opposition not only from Mainlander groups but also from
Taiwanese aboriginal groups who felt that it would slight their home
languages, as well as others including Hoklo who objected to the
proposal on logistical grounds and on the grounds that it would
increase ethnic tensions. Because of these objections, support for
this measure was lukewarm among moderate
supporters, and the proposal did not pass.
Lan-nang (Philippine dialect of Hokkien)
Languages of China
Languages of Taiwan
Min Nan Swadesh list
^ They are the most common pronunciations while there is another one
cited from OxfordDictionaries.com, /hoʊˈkiːn/, which is almost
never used actually.
^ also Quanzhang (Quanzhou-
Zhangzhou / Chinchew–Changchew; BP:
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^ West (2010), pp. 289-90.
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^ Kane, Daniel (2006). The Chinese language: its history and current
usage. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 100–102.
^ for Teochew Peng'Im on the word 'two', ri6 can also be written as
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September 16, 2010.
^ 周長楫 (2006). 闽南方言大词典 (in Chinese).
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^ Ratte, Alexander T. (May 2009). "A DIALECTAL AND PHONOLOGICAL
ANALYSIS OF PENGHU TAIWANESE" (PDF). Williamstown, Massachusetts:
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Klöter, Henning (2011). The Language of the Sangleys: A Chinese
Vernacular in Missionary Sources of the Seventeenth Century. BRILL.
ISBN 978-90-04-18493-0. An analysis and facsimile of the
Arte de la Lengua Chio-chiu (1620), the oldest extant grammar of
Lìzhī jì 荔枝記 [Litchi Mirror Tale]. A playscript from
the late 16th century.
Doctrina Christiana. Manila. 1607.
Hokkien translation of the
Arte de la Lengua Chio-chiu. Manila. 1620. A manual for learning
Hokkien written by a Spanish missionary in the Philippines.
Huìjí yǎ sú tōng shíwǔ yīn 彙集雅俗通十五音
[Compilation of the fifteen elegant and vulgar sounds]. 1818.
The oldest known rhyme dictionary of a
Douglas, Carstairs (1899). Chinese-English dictionary of the
vernacular or spoken language of Amoy. London:
Presbyterian Church of
Medhurst, Walter Henry (1832). A dictionary of the Hok-këèn dialect
of the Chinese language, according to the reading and colloquial
idioms. Macao: C.J. Steyn.
當代泉州音字彙, a dictionary of
Voyager - Spacecraft - Golden Record - Greetings From Earth - Amoy,
includes translation and sound clip
(The voyager clip says: Thài-khong pêng-iú, lín-hó. Lín
chia̍h-pá--bē? Ū-êng, to̍h lâi gún chia chē--ô͘!
Northern Malaysian Hokkien
Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien
Shantou dialect (Swatow)
Kienning Colloquial Romanized
Taiwanese Romanization System
Taiwanese Language Phonetic Alphabet
Daighi tongiong pingim
Teochew Transliteration Scheme
Hainanese Transliteration Scheme
Fuzhou dialect Transliteration Scheme
Jian'ou dialect Transliteration Scheme
Qi Lin Bayin
Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien
Standard Chinese (Mandarin)
Literary and colloquial readings
Mainland Chinese Braille
Two-Cell Chinese Braille
List of va