The Info List - Taishanese

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TAISHANESE, or in the Cantonese
romanization TOISHANESE (simplified Chinese : 台山话; traditional Chinese : 台山話; Taishanese: ), is a dialect of Yue Chinese
Yue Chinese
. The dialect is related to and is often referred to as Cantonese
but has little mutual intelligibility with the latter. Taishanese is spoken in the southern part of Guangdong Province in China, particularly around the city-level county of Taishan located on the western fringe of the Pearl River Delta . In the late 19th century and early 20th century, a significant number of Chinese emigration to North America
North America
originated from this four-counties area called Sze Yup , making Toishanese a dominant variety of the Chinese language spoken in Chinatowns in Canada
and the United States . It was formerly the lingua franca of the overseas Chinese residing in the United States
United States


* 1 Names * 2 History * 3 Relationship with Cantonese
* 4 Tones * 5 Writing system * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links


The earliest linguistic studies refer to the dialect of LLIN-NEN or XINNING (simplified Chinese : 新宁; traditional Chinese : 新寧). Xinning was renamed Taishan in 1914, and linguistic literature has since generally referred to the local dialect as the TAISHAN DIALECT, a term based on the pinyin romanization of Standard Mandarin Chinese pronunciation. Alternative names have also been used. The term TOISHAN is a convention used by the United States
United States
Postal Service , the Defense Language Institute and the 2000 United States
United States
Census . The terms _Toishan_, _Toisan_, and _Toisaan_ are all based on Cantonese
pronunciation and are also frequently found in linguistic and non-linguistic literature. HOISAN is a term based on the local pronunciation, although it is generally not used in published literature.

These terms have also been anglicized with the suffix _-ese_: TAISHANESE, TOISHANESE, and TOISANESE. Of the previous three terms, _Taishanese_ is most commonly used in academic literature, to about the same extent as the term _ Taishan dialect_. The term HOISANESE is rarely used in print literature, although it appears on the internet.

Another term used is SìYì (_ Sze Yup _ or _Seiyap_ in Cantonese romanization; Chinese : 四邑; literally: "four counties"). Sìyì or Sze Yup refers to a previous administrative division in the Pearl River Delta consisting of the four counties of Taishan, Kaiping , Enping and Xinhui . In 1983, a fifth county (Heshan ) was added to the Jiangmen prefecture; so whereas the term Sìyì has become an anachronism, the older term Sze Yup remains in current use in overseas Chinese communities where it is their ancestral home. The term _Wuyi_ (Chinese : 五邑), literally "five counties", refers to the modern administrative region, but this term is not used to refer to Taishanese.


Taishanese originates from the Taishan region, where it is spoken. Taishanese can also be seen as a group of very closely related, mutually intelligible dialects spoken in the various towns and villages in and around Siyi (the four counties of Toisan , Yanping , Hoiping , Sanwui ).

A vast number of Taishanese immigrants journeyed worldwide through the Taishan diaspora. The Taishan region was a major source of Chinese immigrants in the Americas from the mid-19th and late-20th centuries. Approximately 1.3 million people are estimated to have origins in Taishan. Prior to the signing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 , which allowed new waves of Chinese immigrants, Taishanese was the dominant dialect spoken in Chinatowns across North America .

Taishanese is still spoken in many Chinatowns throughout North America, including those of San Francisco , Oakland , Los Angeles , New York City
New York City
, Boston , Vancouver
, Toronto
, Chicago
, and Montreal by older generations of Chinese immigrants and their children, but is today being supplanted by mainstream Cantonese
and increasingly by Mandarin in both older and newer Chinese communities alike, across the continent.


Taishanese is a dialect of the Yue branch of Chinese, which also includes Cantonese
. However, due to ambiguities in the meaning of "Cantonese" in the English language, as it can refer to both the greater Yue dialect group or its prestige standard (Standard Cantonese), "Taishanese" and "Cantonese" are commonly used in mutually exclusive contexts, i.e. Taishanese is treated separately from "Cantonese". Despite the closeness of the two, they are not entirely mutually intelligible .

The phonology of Taishanese bears a lot of resemblance to Cantonese, since both of them have common historical roots. Like other Cantonese dialects, such as the Goulou dialects , Taishanese pronunciation and vocabulary may sometimes differ greatly from Cantonese. Despite the fact that Taishan stands only 60 miles (100 km) from the city of Guangzhou, a linguist suggested that the dialect of Taishan is linguistically far removed from the Guangzhou dialect because of the numerous rivers that separate the two. However, because Cantonese
is one of the _linguae francae _ of Guangdong
, virtually all Taishanese-speakers also understand it. In fact, most Sze Yup people in Guangdong
regard their own tongue as merely a differently-accented form of Cantonese.

Standard Cantonese
functions as a _lingua franca_ in Guangdong province, and speakers of other Chinese varieties (such as Chaozhou , Minnan , Hakka ) living in Guangdong
may also speak Cantonese. On the other hand, Standard Mandarin Chinese is the standard language of the People's Republic of China
and the only legally-allowed medium for teaching in schools throughout most of the country (except in minority areas), so residents of Taishan speak Mandarin as well. Although the Chinese government has been making great efforts to popularize Mandarin by administrative means, most Taishan residents do not speak Mandarin in their daily lives, but treat it as a second language, with Cantonese
being the lingua franca of their region.

One distinction between Taishanese and Cantonese
is the use of the voiceless lateral fricative (IPA ɬ), e.g., 三 (meaning "three") is pronounced _saam1_ in Cantonese
and _lhaam2_ in Taishanese. Voiceless lateral fricatives can also be found in many other western dialects of Cantonese, such as the Gaoyang and Guinan dialects.


Taishanese is tonal . There are five contrastive lexical tones : high, mid, low, mid falling, and low falling. In at least one Taishanese dialect, the two falling tones have merged into a low falling tone. There is no tone sandhi .


high (yin shang) ˥ (55) hau˥ 口 (mouth) (none) - 1

mid (yin ping) ˧ (33) hau˧ 偷 (to steal) mid rising ˧˥ (35) 3

low (yang ping) ˨ or ˩ (22 or 11) hau˨ 頭 (head) low rising ˨˥ (25) 6 (qu)

mid falling ˧˩ (31) hau˧˩ 皓 (bright) mid dipping ˧˨˥ (325) -

low falling (yang shang) ˨˩ (21) hau˨˩ 厚 (thick) low dipping ˨˩˥ (215) 4

Taishanese has four changed tones : mid rising, low rising, mid dipping and low dipping. These tones are called changed tones because they are the product of morphological processes (e.g. pluralization of pronouns) on four of the lexical tones. These tones have been analyzed as the addition of a high floating tone to the end of the mid, low, mid falling and low falling tones. The high endpoint of the changed tone often reaches an even higher pitch than the level high tone; this fact has led to the proposal of an expanded number of pitch levels for Taishanese tones. The changed tone can change the meaning of a word, and this distinguishes the changed tones from tone sandhi, which does not change a word's meaning. An example of a changed tone contrast is 刷 /tʃat˧/ (to brush) and 刷 /tʃat˨˩˥/ (a brush).


Writing uses Chinese characters and Mandarin vocabulary and grammar, with many common words used in spoken Taishanese having no corresponding Chinese characters. No standard romanization system for Taishanese exists. The ones given on this page are merely traditional.

The sound represented by the IPA symbol ⟨ɬ⟩ (the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative ) is particularly challenging, as it has no standard romanization. The digraph "lh" used above to represent this sound is used in Totonac , Chickasaw and Choctaw , which are among several written representations in the languages that include the sound. The alternative "hl" is used in Xhosa and Zulu , while "ll" is used in Welsh . Other written forms occur as well.

The following chart compares the personal pronouns among Taishanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin. In Taishanese, the plural forms of the pronouns are formed by changing the tone, whereas in Cantonese
and Mandarin, a plural marker (地/哋/等 dei6 and 们/們 men, respectively) is added.


TAISHANESE Standard Cantonese


FIRST ngoi (我)

ngo5 (我) wǒ (我) ngoi (呆/我)

ngo5 dei6 (我地/我哋/我等) wǒmen (我们/我們)

SECOND ni (你)

nei5 (你) nǐ (你) niek (聶/偌)

nei5 dei6 (你地/你哋/你等) nǐmen (你们/你們)

THIRD kui (佢)

keoi5 (佢) tā (他) kiek (劇/𠳞/佉)

keoi5 dei6 (佢地/佢哋/佢等) tāmen (他们/他們)


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* Varieties of Chinese


* Anderson, Stephen R. (1978), "Tone features", in Fromkin, Victoria A., _Tone: A Linguistic Survey_, New York, NY: Academic Press * Bauer, Robert S.; Benedict, Paul K. (1997), _Modern Cantonese Phonology_, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter * Chao, Yuen-Ren (1951), " Taishan Yuliao", _Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Philology (Academia Sinica)_, 23: 25–76 * Chen, Matthew Y. (2000), _Tone Sandhi: Patterns Across Chinese Dialects_, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press * Cheng, Teresa M. (1973), "The Phonology of Taishan", _Journal of Chinese Linguistics_, 1 (2): 256–322 * Chung, L. A. (2007), "Chung: Chinese \'peasant\' dialect redeemed", _San Jose Mercury News_, San Jose, CA * Defense Language Institute (1964), _Chinese- Cantonese
(Toishan) Basic Course_, Washington, DC: Defense Language Institute * Don, Alexander (1882), "The Lin-nen variation of Chinese", _China Review _: 236–247 * Him, Kam Tak (1980), "Semantic-Tonal Processes in Cantonese, Taishanese, Bobai and Siamese", _Journal of Chinese Linguistics_, 8 (2): 205–240 * Hom, Marlon Kau (1983), "Some Cantonese
Folksongs on the American Experience", _Western Folklore_, Western Folklore, Vol. 42, No. 2, 42 (2): 126–139, JSTOR 1499969 , doi :10.2307/1499969 * Hom, Marlon Kau (1987), _Songs of Gold Mountain: Cantonese
Rhymes from San Francisco_, Berkeley, CA: University of California
Press * Hsu, Madeline Y. (2000), _Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States
United States
and China, 1882-1943_, Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press * Ladefoged, Peter ; Maddieson, Ian (1996), _The Sounds of the World's Languages_, Blackwell Publishing, p. 203, ISBN 0-631-19815-6 * Lee, Gina (1987), "A Study of Toishan F0", _Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics_, 36: 16–30 * Leung, Genevieve Yuek-Ling (2012), _Hoisan-wa reclaimed: Chinese American language maintenance and language ideology in historical and contemporary sociolinguistic perspective_, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. Dissertation) * Light, Timothy (1986), "Toishan Affixal Aspects", in McCoy, John; Light, Timothy, _Contributions to Sino-Tibetan Studies_, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, pp. 415–425 * Ma, Laurence; Cartier, Carolyn L., eds. (2003), _The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility, and Identity_, Rowman & Littlefield, p. 57, ISBN 0-7425-1756-X * McCoy, John (1966), _Szeyap Data for a First Approximation of Proto-Cantonese_, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University (Ph.D. Dissertation) * Ramsey, S. Robert (1987), _The Languages of China_, Princeton University Press, pp. 23–104, ISBN 0-691-06694-9 * Pulleyblank, Edwin (1984), _Middle Chinese: A Study in Historical Phonology_, UBC Press, p. 31, ISBN 0-7748-0192-1 * Szeto, Cecilia (2000), "Testing intelligibility among Sinitic dialects" (PDF), _Proceedings of ALS2K, the 2000 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society_, retrieved 2008-09-06 * Wong, Maurice Kuen-shing (1982), _Tone Change in Cantonese_, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign * Yang, Fenggang (1999), _Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities_, Penn State Press, p. 39 * Yip, Moira (2002), _Tone_, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press * Yiu, T'ung (1946), _The T'ai-Shan Dialect_, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University (Ph.D. Dissertation) * Yu, Alan (2007), "Understanding near mergers: The case of morphological tone in Cantonese", _Phonology_, 24 (1): 187–214, doi :10.1017/S0952675707001157 * Yue-Hashimoto 余, Anne O. 霭芹 (2005), _The Dancun Dialect of Taishan 台山淡村方言研究_, Language Information Sciences Research Centre, City University of Hong Kong, ISBN 962-442-279-6


* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Toishanese". _ Glottolog 2.7 _. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. * ^ (Yang 1999 ) * ^ (Don 1882 ) * ^ _A_ _B_ (Chen 2000 ) * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ (Cheng 1973 ) * ^ Cantonese
speakers have been shown to understand only about 31.3% of what they hear in Taishanese (Szeto 2000 ) * ^ (Yiu 1946 ) * ^ _A_ _B_ (Yu 2007 ) * ^ (Anderson 1978 ) * ^ _A_ _B_ (Lee 1987 ) * ^ ( Defense Language Institute 1964 ) * ^ "Language code list" (PDF). _ United States
United States
Census, 2000_. University of Michigan Library . Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2008. * ^ (Hom 1983 ) * ^ (Light 1986 ) * ^ (McCoy 1966 ) * ^ (Hom 1987 ) * ^ (Grimes 1996 ) * ^ (Him 1980 ) * ^ (Hsu 2000 ) * ^ Taishan (Hoisanese Sanctuary) from asianworld.pftq.com * ^ (Chung 2007 ) * ^ Taishan International Web * ^ Although the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the signing of the Magnuson Act in 1943, immigration from China
was still limited to only 2% of the number of Chinese already living in the United States (Hsu 2000 ) * ^ http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/chinatown-decoded-what-language-everybody-speaking * ^ Szeto, Cecilia (2001), "Testing intelligibility among Sinitic dialects", in Allan, Keith; Henderson, John, _Proceedings of ALS2k, the 2000 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society_ (PDF), retrieved 5 Jan 2014 * ^ Phonology of Cantonese
- Page 192 Oi-kan Yue Hashimoto - 1972 "... affricates and aspirated stops into consonant clusters is for external comparative purposes, because the Cantonese
aspirated stops correspond to /h/ and some of the Cantonese
affricates correspond to stops in many Si-yi (Seiyap) dialects." * ^ Language in the USA - Page 217 Charles A. Ferguson, Shirley Brice Heath, David Hwang - 1981 "Even the kind of Cantonese
which the Chinese Americans speak causes difficulties, because most of them have come from the rural Seiyap districts southwest of Canton and speak dialects of that region rather than the Standard Cantonese
of the city" * ^ _A_ _B_ (Ramsey 1987 ) * ^ (Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996 ) * ^ (Pulleyblank 1984 ) * ^ _A_ _B_ (Wong 1982 ) * ^ Chao\'s tone numbers are generally used in the literature. Each tone has two numbers, the first denotes the pitch level at the beginning of the tone, and the second denotes the pitch level at the end of the tone. Cheng modified the numerical range from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest): high tone as 66, mid tone as 44, and low tone as 22. In this article Chao's tone letters are used, as they've been adopted by the IPA . * ^ (Bauer & Benedict 1997 ) * ^ (Yip 2002 )


* "Hoisanese Sanctuary". Retrieved 2015-01-05. Includes short grammatical overview of Hoisanese. * Stephen Li. " Taishanese Language Home". Retrieved 2015-01-05. Taishanese Resources Website * Stephen Li.