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泉漳 Choân-chiang/Chôan-Chiang
福建話 Hok-kiàn-oē
福佬話 Hok-ló-oē
Spoken in People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, and other areas of Hoklo settlement
Region Southern Fujian province, Taiwan, Southeast Asia
Total speakers c. 35 million
Ranking 21 (Southern Min group as a whole)
Language family Sino-Tibetan
Official status
Official language in None (Legislative bills have been proposed for Taiwanese to be one of the 'national languages' in the Republic of China); one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the ROC [1]
Regulated by None (Republic of China Ministry of Education and some NGOs are influential in Taiwan)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 zh
ISO 639-2 chi (B)  zho (T)
ISO 639-3 nan

Distribution of Minnan dialects.

Hokkien (simplified Chinese: 福建话traditional Chinese: 福建話pinyin: FújiànhuàPe̍h-ōe-jī: Hok-kiàn-oē), also called Fulaohua (simplified Chinese: 福佬话; traditional Chinese: 福佬話; pinyin: Fúlǎohuà; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hok-ló-oē), or Quanzhou–Zhangzhou, is a dialect of Min Nan Chinese spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan, and by many overseas Chinese throughout Southeast Asia. It is closely related to Teochew, though mutual comprehension is difficult, and somewhat more distantly related to Hainanese, with which it shares only minimal intelligibility.

Hokkien includes a variety of dialects of which Amoy and the Tainan  variant of Taiwanese are considered standards, being in the middle of dialectic divides and thus enjoying the highest intelligibility amongst the varying dialects.


Geographic distribution

Hokkien originated in the Southern regions of Fujian province, an important centre for trade and migration, and has since been spread beyond China, being one of the most common Chinese languages overseas.

A form of Hokkien akin to that spoken in southern Fujian is also spoken in Taiwan, where it goes by the name Tâi-oân-oē or Hō-ló-oē. The ethnic group for which Hokkien is considered the native language is the Holo or Hoklo, the main ethnicity of Taiwan. The correspondence between language and ethnicity is not absolute, as some Hoklo have limited proficiency in Hokkien while some non-Hoklos speak it fluently.

There are many Hokkien speakers also among overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. Many ethnic 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 Malaysia and Singapore (formerly Malaya and the British Straits Settlements). Many of the Hokkien dialects of this region are highly similar to Taiwanese and Amoy. Hokkien is reportedly the native language of up to 98.5% of the community of ethnic Chinese in the Philippines, among whom it is also known as Lan-nang or Lán-lâng-oē ("Our people’s language"). Hokkien speakers form the largest group of Chinese in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.


Traditional Chinese 福建話
Simplified Chinese 福建话
alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 福佬話
Simplified Chinese 福佬话

Southern Fujian is home to three main Hokkien dialects. They are known by the geographic locations to which they correspond (listed north to south):

As Amoy is the principal city of southern Fujian, its dialect is considered the most important, or even prestige accent. The Amoy dialect is a hybrid of the Chinchew and Changchew dialects. Amoy and the Amoy dialect have played an influential role in history, especially in the relations of Western nations with China, and was one of the most frequently learnt of all Chinese languages/dialects by Westerners during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

The variants spoken in Taiwan are similar to the three Fujian variants, and are collectively known as Taiwanese. Taiwanese is used by a majority of the population and bears much importance from a socio-political perspective, forming the second (and perhaps today most significant) major pole of the language. The variants of Hokkien in Southeast Asia also originate from these variants.


Hokkien has one of the most diverse phonologies amongst Chinese languages, with more consonants than standard Mandarin or Cantonese. Vowels, on the other hand, are more or less similar to that of Standard Mandarin.



Southern Min has aspirated, unaspirated as well as voiced consonant initials. This distinction makes Southern Min one of the harder dialects for non-native speakers to learn. For example, the words for opening and closing (khui () vs. kuiⁿ ()) a door have the same vowel but differ only by aspiration of the initial and nasality of the vowel. In addition, Southern Min also has labial initial consonants such as m in m̄-sī (毋是) (meaning "is not"). Another example from Taiwanese is "boy" (cha-po) vs. "girl" (cha-bo), which differ in the second syllable in consonant voicing and in tone.


Unlike Mandarin, Southern Min retains all the final consonants 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).



In general, Hokkien dialects have five to six tones, and tone sandhi is extensive. There are minor variations between the Chinchew and Changchew tone systems. Taiwanese tones follow the schemes of Amoy and Changchew, depending on the area of Taiwan. See also Amoy dialect for more examples.

陰平 陽平 陰上 陽上 陰去 陽去 陰入 陽入
Tone Number 1 5 2 6 3 7 4 8
調值 Xiamen, Fujian 44 24 53 - 21 22 32 4
東 taŋ1 銅 taŋ5 董 taŋ2 - 凍 taŋ3 動 taŋ7 觸 tak4 逐 tak8
Taipei, Taiwan 44 24 53 - 11 33 32 4
Tainan, Taiwan 44 23 41 - 21 33 32 44
Zhangzhou, Fujian 34 13 53 - 21 22 32 121
Quanzhou, Fujian 33 24 55 22 41 5 24



Amoy speech is a hybrid of Chinchew and Changchew speech. Taiwanese is also a hybrid of these two dialects. Taiwanese in northern Taiwan tends to be based on Chinchew speech, whereas the Taiwanese spoken in southern Taiwan tends to be based on Changchew speech. There are minor variations in pronunciation and vocabulary between Chinchew and Changchew speech. The grammar is basically the same. Additionally, Taiwanese includes several dozen loanwords from Japanese. On the other hand, the variants spoken in Singapore and Malaysia have a substantial number of loanwords Malay and to a lesser extent, from English and other languages.

Mutual intelligibility

Teochew and Amoy Hokkien speech are 84% phonetically similar[2] and 34% lexically similar,[3] whereas Mandarin and Amoy Min Nan are 62% phonetically similar[2] and 15% lexically similar.[3] In comparison, German and English are 60% lexically similar.[4]

Scripts and orthographies

Like most ethnic Chinese, whether from mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, or other parts of Southeast Asia, Hokkien speakers write their language with Chinese characters. However, the inventory used for Mandarin in not a complete match for Hokkien, and there are a number of informal characters which are unique to Hokkien (as is the case with Cantonese). Where standard Chinese  characters are used, they are not always etymological or genetic; the borrowing of similar-sounding or similar-meaning characters is a common practice. However, unlike Cantonese, Hokkien does not have a standardized character set and thus there is some variation in the characters used to express certain words. Currently, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China is formulating and releasing a standard character set to overcome these difficulties.


Hokkien, especially Taiwanese, is sometimes transcribed with the Latin alphabet using one of several Romanized orthographies. Of these the most popular is Pe̍h-ōe-jī (simplified Chinese: 白話字; traditional Chinese: ). POJ was developed first by Presbyterian missionaries in China and later by the indigenous Presbyterian Church in Taiwan; use of the orthography has been actively promoted since the late 19th century. The use of a mixed orthography of Han characters and romanization is also seen, though remains uncommon. Other Latin-based orthographies also exist.

Minnan 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 Romance of the Lychee Mirror (1566 AD), supposedly the earliest Southern Min colloquial text. Xiamen University has also developed a romanisation system based on Pinyin, which has been published in a dictionary (Minnan Fangyan - Putonghua Cidian 閩南方言普通話詞典) and a language teaching book, which is used to teach the language to foreigners and Chinese non-speakers. This is known as Pumindian in the table below.

IPA a ap at ak ã ɔ ɔk ɔ̃ ə o e i ɪɛn
Pe̍h-ōe-jī a ap at ak ah aⁿ ok oⁿ o o e eⁿ i ian eng
Revised TLPA a ap at ak ah aN oo ok ooN o o e eN i ian ing
TLPA a ap at ak ah ann oo ok oonn o o e enn i ian ing
Pumindian a ap at ak ah na oo ok noo o o e ne i ien ing
MLT a ab/ap ad/at ag/ak aq/ah va o og/ok vo ø ø e ve i ien eng
DT a āp/ap āt/at āk/ak āh/ah ann/aⁿ o ok onn/oⁿ or or e enn/eⁿ i ian/en ing
Taiwanese kana アア アア オオ オオ オオ ヲヲ エエ エエ イイ
zhuyin ㄚㆴ ㄚㆵ ㄚㆶ ㄚㆷ ㆦㆶ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄥ
example (traditional Chinese)

example (simplified Chinese)

IPA ɪk ĩ ai au am ɔm ɔŋ ŋ̍ u ua ue uai uan ɨ (i)ũ
Pe̍h-ōe-jī ek iⁿ ai aiⁿ au am om m ong ng u oa oe oai oan i (i)uⁿ
Revised TLPA ik iN ai aiN au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan ir (i)uN
TLPA ik inn ai ainn au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan ir (i)unn
Pumindian ik ni ai nai au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan i n(i)u
MLT eg/ek vi ai vai au am om m ong ng u oa oe oai oan i v(i)u
DT ik inn/iⁿ ai ainn/aiⁿ au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan i (i)unn/uⁿ
Taiwanese kana エク イイ アイ アイ アウ アム オム オン ウウ ヲア ヲエ ウウ ウウ
zhuyin ㄧㆶ ㄨㄚ ㄨㆤ ㄨㄞ ㄨㄢ
example (traditional Chinese)

example (simplified Chinese)

IPA p b m t n l k ɡ h tɕi ʑi tɕʰi ɕi ts dz tsʰ s
Pe̍h-ōe-jī p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h chi ji chhi si ch j chh s
Revised TLPA p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h zi ji ci si z j c s
TLPA p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h zi ji ci si z j c s
Pumindian b bb p bb d t n lng l g gg k h zi li ci si z l c s
MLT p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h ci ji chi si z j zh s
DT b bh p m d t n nng l g gh k h zi r ci si z r c s
Taiwanese kana パア バア パ̣ア マア タア タ̣ア ナア ヌン ラア カア ガア カ̣ア ハア チイ ジイ チ̣イ シイ ザア サ̣ サア
zhuyin ㄋㆭ
example (traditional Chinese)

example (simplified Chinese)

IPA a˥˧ a˨˩ ap˩
a˧˥ a˥˧ ap˥
Pe̍h-ōe-jī a á à ap
â á ā a̍p
a1 a2 a3 ap4
a5 a2 (6=2) a7 ap8
a9 a0
Pumindian ā ǎ à āp
á ǎ â áp
af ar ax ab
aa aar a ap
DT a à â āp
ǎ ä ā ap
á å/aj
Taiwanese kana
(normal vowels)
アア アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 2.png アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 3.png Taiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 5.png アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 3.png アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 7.png Taiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana
(nasal vowels)
アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 1.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 2.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 3.png Taiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 5.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 3.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 7.png Taiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
zhuyin ㄚˋ ㄚᒻ ㄚㆴ
ㄚˊ ㄚˋ ㄚ⊦ ㄚㆴ̇
(traditional Chinese)

(simplified Chinese)


Hokkien is registered as "Southern Min" per RFC 3066 as zh-min-nan [2].

When writing 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. These are usually not encoded in Unicode (or the corresponding ISO/IEC 10646: Universal Character Set), thus creating problems in computer processing.

All Latin characters required by Pe̍h-ōe-jī can be represented using 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.

See also


  1. ^ 周長楫,《閩南方言大詞典》,福建人民出版社,2006年:17, 28頁。ISBN 7-211-03896-9。
  2. ^ a b glossika Southern Min Language phonetics
  3. ^ a b glossika Southern Min Language
  4. ^ Ethnologue: German

Further reading

  • Branner, David Prager (2000). Problems in Comparative Chinese Dialectology — the Classification of Miin and Hakka. Trends in Linguistics series, no. 123. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 31-101-5831-0.  
  • Chung, R.-f (196). The segmental phonology of Southern Min in Taiwan. Taipei: Crane Pub. Co. ISBN 95-794-6346-8.  
  • DeBernardi, J. E (1991). "Linguistic nationalism--the case of Southern Min ". Dept. of Oriental Studies, University of Pennsylvania..  

External links

Southern Min languages


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