Amoy dialect

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Amoynese, Xiamenese
廈門話 Ē-mn̂g-ōe
Native toPeople's Republic of China and Taiwan, Japan (due to large Taiwanese communities in the Greater Tokyo and Greater Osaka areas), Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines, as well as other overseas settlements of Hoklo people
RegionCity of Xiamen (Amoy) and its surrounding metropolitan area.
Native speakers
over 10 million (no recent data) (date missing)[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguasphere79-AAA-je > 79-AAA-jeb
Hokkien Map.svg
Distribution of Hokkien dialects. Amoy dialect is in magenta.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Amoy dialect or Xiamen dialect (Chinese: 廈門話; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ē-mn̂g-ōe), also known as Amoynese, Amoy Hokkien, Xiamenese or Xiamen Hokkien, is a dialect of Hokkien spoken in the city of Xiamen (historically known as "Amoy") and its surrounding metropolitan area, in the southern part of Fujian province. Currently, it is one of the most widely researched and studied varieties of Southern Min.[2] It has historically come to be one of the more standardized varieties.[3] Most present-day publications in Southern Min are mostly based on this dialect.[citation needed]

Spoken Amoynese and Taiwanese are both mixtures of the Quanzhou and Zhangzhou spoken dialects.[4] As such, they are very closely aligned phonologically. However, there are some subtle differences between the two, as a result of physical separation and other historical factors. The lexical differences between the two are slightly more pronounced.[citation needed] Generally speaking, the Southern Min dialects spoken in Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Overseas Communities are mutually intelligible, with only slight differences.[citation needed]

History[edit | edit source]

In 1842, as a result of the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, Amoy was designated as a trading port in Fujian. Amoy and Kulangsu rapidly developed, which resulted in a large influx of people from neighboring areas such as Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. The mixture of these various accents formed the basis for the Amoy dialect.

Over the last several centuries, a large number of Fujianese peoples from these same areas migrated to Taiwan during Dutch rule and Qing rule. Eventually, the mixture of accents spoken in Taiwan became popularly known as Taiwanese during Imperial Japanese rule. As in American and British English, there are subtle lexical and phonological differences between modern Taiwanese and Amoy Hokkien; however, these differences do not generally pose any barriers to communication. Amoy dialect speakers also migrated to Southeast Asia, mainly in the Philippines (where it is known as Lan-nang), Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Special characteristics[edit | edit source]

Spoken Amoy dialect preserves many of the sounds and words from Old Chinese. However, the vocabulary of Amoy was also influenced in its early stages by the languages of the ancient Minyue peoples.[5] Spoken Amoy is known for its extensive use of nasalization.

Unlike Mandarin, Amoy dialect distinguishes between voiced and voiceless unaspirated initial consonants (Mandarin has no voicing of initial consonants). Unlike English, it differentiates between unaspirated and aspirated voiceless initial consonants (as Mandarin does too). In less technical terms, native Amoy speakers have little difficulty in hearing the difference between the following syllables:

  unaspirated aspirated
bilabial stop bo po pʰo
velar stop go ko kʰo
  voiced voiceless

However, these fully voiced consonants did not derive from the Early Middle Chinese voiced obstruents, but rather from fortition of nasal initials.[6]

Accents[edit | edit source]

A comparison between Amoy and other Southern Min languages can be found there.

Tones[edit | edit source]

Amoy is similar to other Southern Min variants in that it makes use of five tones, though only two in checked syllables. The tones are traditionally numbered from 1 through 8, with 4 and 8 being the checked tones, but those numbered 2 and 6 are identical in most regions.

Tone number Tone name Tone letter
1 Yin level ˥
2 Yin rising ˥˧
3 Yin falling ˨˩
4 Yin entering ˩ʔ
5 Yang level ˧˥
6=2 Yang rising ˥˧
7 Yang falling ˧
8 Yang entering ˥ʔ

Tone sandhi[edit | edit source]

Amoy has extremely extensive tone sandhi (tone-changing) rules: in an utterance, only the last syllable pronounced is not affected by the rules. What an 'utterance' is, in the context of this language, is an ongoing topic for linguistic research. For the purpose of this article, an utterance may be considered a word, a phrase, or a short sentence. The diagram illustrates the rules that govern the pronunciation of a tone on each of the syllables affected (that is, all but the last in an utterance):

Taiwanese Hokkien tones.svg

Literary and colloquial readings[edit | edit source]

Like other languages of Southern Min, Amoy has complex rules for literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters. For example, the character for big/great, , has a vernacular reading of tōa (Template:IPA-nan), but a literary reading of tāi (Template:IPA-nan). Because of the loose nature of the rules governing when to use a given pronunciation, a learner of Amoy must often simply memorize the appropriate reading for a word on a case by case basis. For single-syllable words, it is more common to use the vernacular pronunciation. This situation is comparable to the on and kun readings of the Japanese language.

The vernacular readings are generally thought to predate the literary readings; the literary readings appear to have evolved from Middle Chinese.[citation needed] The following chart illustrates some of the more commonly seen sound shifts:

Colloquial Literary Example
[p-], [pʰ-] [h-] pun hun divide
[ts-], [tsʰ-], [tɕ-], [tɕʰ-] [s-], [ɕ-] chiâⁿ sêng to become
[k-], [kʰ-] [tɕ-], [tɕʰ-] kí chí finger
[-ã], [-uã] [-an] khòaⁿ khàn to see
[-ʔ] [-t] chia̍h si̍t to eat
[-i] [-e] sì sè world
[-e] [-a] ke ka family
[-ia] [-i] kh khì to stand

Vocabulary[edit | edit source]

For further information, read the article: Swadesh list

The Swadesh word list, developed by the linguist Morris Swadesh, is used as a tool to study the evolution of languages. It contains a set of basic words which can be found in every language.

Grammar[edit | edit source]

Amoy grammar shares a similar structure to other Chinese dialects, although it is slightly more complex than Mandarin. Moreover, equivalent Amoy and Mandarin particles are usually not cognates.

Complement constructions[edit | edit source]

Amoy complement constructions are roughly parallel to Mandarin ones, although there are variations in the choice of lexical term. The following are examples of constructions that Amoy employs.

In the case of adverbs:

English: He runs quickly.
Amoy: i cháu ē kín (伊走會緊)
Mandarin: tā pǎo de kuài (他跑得快)
Gloss: He-runs-obtains-quick.

In the case of the adverb "very":

English: He runs very quickly.
Amoy: i cháu chin kín (伊走真緊)
Mandarin: tā pǎo de hěn kuài (他跑得很快)
Gloss: He-runs-obtains-quick.
English: He does not run quickly.
Amoy: i cháu buē kín (伊走𣍐緊)
Mandarin: tā pǎo kuài (他跑不快)
Gloss: He-runs-not-quick
English: He can see.
Amoy: i khòaⁿ ē tio̍h (伊看會著)
Mandarin: tā kàn de dào (他看得到)
Gloss: He-see-obtains-already-achieved

For the negative,

English: He cannot see.
Amoy: i khòaⁿ buē tio̍h (伊看𣍐著)
Mandarin: tā kàn dào (他看不到)
Gloss: He-sees-not-already achieved

For the adverb "so," Amoy uses kah (甲) instead of Mandarin de (得):

English: He was so startled, that he could not speak.
Amoy: i kiaⁿ "kah" ōe tio̍h kóng boē chhut-lâi (伊驚甲話著講𣍐出來)
Mandarin: tā xià de huà dōu shuō bù chūlái (他嚇得話都說不出來)
Gloss: He-startled-to-the point of-words-also-say-not-come out

Negative particles[edit | edit source]

Negative particle syntax is parallel to Mandarin about 70% of the time, although lexical terms used differ from those in Mandarin. For many lexical particles, there is no single standard Hanji character to represent these terms (e.g. m̄, a negative particle, can be variously represented by 毋, 呣, and 唔), but the most commonly used ones are presented below in examples. The following are commonly used negative particles:

  1. m̄ (毋,伓) - is not + noun (Mandarin 不, )
    i m̄-sī gún lāu-bú. (伊毋是阮老母) She is not my mother.
  2. m̄ - does not + verb/will not + verb (Mandarin 不, )
    i m̄ lâi. (伊毋來) He will not come.
  3. verb + buē (𣍐) + particle - is not able to (Mandarin 不, )
    góa khòaⁿ-buē-tio̍h. (我看𣍐著) I am not able to see it.
  4. bē (未) + helping verb - cannot (opposite of ē 會, is able to/Mandarin 不, )
    i buē-hiáu kóng Eng-gú. (伊𣍐曉講英語) He can't speak English.
    • helping verbs that go with buē (𣍐)
      buē-sái (𣍐使) - is not permitted to (Mandarin 不可以 bù kěyǐ)
      buē-hiáu (𣍐曉) - does not know how to (Mandarin 不会, búhuì)
      buē-tàng (𣍐當) - not able to (Mandarin 不能, bùnéng)
  5. mài (莫,勿爱) - do not (imperative) (Mandarin 別, bié)
    mài kóng! (莫講) Don't speak!
  6. bô (無) - do not + helping verb (Mandarin 不, )
    i bô beh lâi. (伊無欲來) He is not going to come.
    • helping verbs that go with bô (無):
      beh (欲) - want to + verb; will + verb
      ài (愛) - must + verb
      èng-kai (應該) - should + verb
      kah-ì (合意) - like to + verb
  7. bô (無) - does not have (Mandarin 沒有, méiyǒu)
    i bô chîⁿ. (伊無錢) He does not have any money.
  8. bô - did not (Mandarin 沒有, méiyǒu)
    i bô lâi. (伊無來) He did not come.
  9. bô (無) - is not + adjective (Mandarin 不, )
    i bô súi. (伊無水 or 伊無媠) She is not beautiful.
    • Hó (好)(good) is an exception, as it can use both m̄ and bô.

Common particles[edit | edit source]

Commonly seen particles include:

  • 與 (hō·) - indicates passive voice (Mandarin 被, bèi)
    i hō· lâng phiàn khì (伊與人騙去) - They were cheated
  • 共 (kā) - identifies the object (Mandarin 把, )
    i kā chîⁿ kau hō· lí (伊共錢交與你) - He handed the money to you
  • 加 (ke) - "more"
    i ke chia̍h chi̍t óaⁿ (伊加食一碗) - He ate one more bowl
  • 共 (kā) - identifies the object
    góa kā lí kóng (我共你講) - I'm telling you
  • 濟 (choē) - "more"
    i ū khah choē ê pêng-iú (伊有較濟的朋友) - He has comparatively many friends

Romanization[edit | edit source]

A number of Romanization schemes have been devised for Amoy. Pe̍h-ōe-jī is one of the oldest and best established. However, the Taiwanese Language Phonetic Alphabet has become the romanization of choice for many of the recent textbooks and dictionaries from Taiwan.


See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Xiamen". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. Lee, Alan (January 1, 2005). Tone patterns of Kelantan Hokkien and related issues in Southern Min tonology (Ph.D. in Linguistics). ProQuest. OCLC 244974990. 
  3. Heylen, Ann (2001). "Missionary linguistics on Taiwan. Romanizing Taiwanese: codification and standardization of dictionaries in Southern Min (1837-1923)". In Ku, Wei-ying; De Ridder, Koen. Authentic Chinese Christianity : Preludes to its development (Nineteenth and twentieth centuries). Leuven: Leuven University Press. p. 151. ISBN 9789058671028. 
  4. Niú, Gēngsǒu. 台湾河洛话发展历程 [The Historical Development of Taiwanese Hoklo]. 中国台湾网 聚焦台湾 携手两岸 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2014-05-17. 
  5. "The Ancient Minyue People and the Origins of the Min Nan Language". Jinjiang Government website (in Chinese). Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  6. "Contact-Induced Phonological Change in Taiwanese". Retrieved 2015-01-19. 

Sources[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Template:Southern Min Languages Template:Chinese language Template:Xiamen