Min Nan

Min Nan
Southern Min
Min Nan
閩南語 / 闽南语 / Bân-lâm-gú
Spoken in China (PRC and ROC areas), Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, United States (New York City), and other areas of Southern Min and Hoklo settlement
Region Southern Fujian province; the Chaozhou-Shantou (Chaoshan) area and Leizhou Peninsula in Guangdong province; extreme south of Zhejiang province; much of Hainan province(if Hainanese or Qiong Wen is included); and most of Taiwan;
Native speakers 47 million  (1984–1997)
(no recent data available)
Language family
Official status
Official language in None (Legislative bills have been proposed for Taiwanese (Amoy Southern Min) to be one of the 'national languages' in Taiwan); one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the ROC [1]
Regulated by None (The Republic of China Ministry of Education and some NGOs are influential in Taiwan)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nan
Distribution of Southern Min.
Southern Min
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese 閩南語

The Southern Min languages, or Min Nan (simplified Chinese: 闽南语; traditional Chinese: 閩南語; pinyin: Mǐnnán Yǔ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Bân-lâm-gí/Bân-lâm-gú; literally "Southern Fujian language"), are a family of Chinese languages spoken in southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and southern Zhejiang provinces of China, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora.

In common parlance, Southern Min usually refers to Hokkien, in particular the Amoy and Taiwanese. Amoy and Taiwanese are both combinations of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. The Southern Min family also includes Teochew and Hainanese. Teochew has limited mutual intelligibility with the Amoy. However, Hainanese is generally not considered to be mutually intelligible with any other Southern Min variants.

Southern Min forms part of the Min language group, alongside several other divisions. The Min languages/dialects are part of the Chinese language group, itself a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Southern Min is not mutually intelligible with Eastern Min, Cantonese, or Mandarin. As with other varieties of Chinese, there is a political dispute as to whether the Southern Min language should be called a language or a dialect.


Geographic distribution

Southern Min is spoken in the southern part of Fujian province, three southeastern counties of Zhejiang province, the Zhoushan archipelago off Ningbo in Zhejiang, and the eastern part of Guangdong province (Chaoshan region). The Qiong Wen variant spoken in the Leizhou peninsula of Guangdong province, as well as Hainan province, which is not mutually intelligible with standard Minnan or Teochew, is classified in some schemes as part of Southern Min and in other schemes as separate.

A form of Southern Min akin to that spoken in southern Fujian is also spoken in Taiwan, where it has the native name of Tâi-oân-oē or Hō-ló-oē. The (sub)ethnic group for which Southern Min is considered a native language is known as the Holo (Hō-ló) or Hoklo, the main ethnicity of Taiwan. The correspondence between language and ethnicity is generally true though not absolute, as some Hoklo have very limited proficiency in Southern Min while some non-Hoklos speak Southern Min fluently.

There are many Southern Min 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, Burma, and the British Straits Settlements). In general, Southern Min from southern Fujian is known as Hokkien, Hokkienese, Fukien or Fookien in Southeast Asia, and is very much like Taiwanese. Many Southeast Asian ethnic Chinese also originated in the Chaoshan region of Guangdong province and speak Teochew, the variant of Southern Min from that region. Southern Min 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"). Southern Min speakers form the majority of Chinese in Singapore with the largest being Hoklos and the second largest being the Teochews. Finally, Southern Min is also being spoken in increasingly larger communities in the Chinatowns of New York City in the United States.


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 Xiamen is the principal city of southern Fujian, the Xiamen dialect is considered the most important, or even prestige dialect. The Xiamen dialect is a hybrid of the Quanzhou and Zhangzhou dialects. The Xiamen dialect (also known as the Amoy dialect) has played an influential role in history, especially in the relations of Western nations with China, and was one of the most frequently learned of all Chinese languages/dialects by Westerners during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century.

The variants of Southern Min spoken in Zhejiang province are most akin to that spoken in Quanzhou. 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 is quite important from a socio-political and cultural perspective, forming the second most important, if not the more influential pole of the language due to the popularity of Taiwanese Hokkien media. Those Southern Min variants that are collectively known as "Hokkien" in Southeast Asia also originate from these variants. The variants of Southern Min in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong province are collectively known as Teochew or Chaozhou. Teochew is of great importance in the Southeast Asian Chinese diaspora, particularly in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sumatra and West Kalimantan. The Philippines variant is mostly from the Quanzhou area as most of their forefathers are from the aforementioned area.

The Southern Min language variant spoken around Shanwei and Haifeng differs markedly from Teochew and may represent a later migration from Zhangzhou. Linguistically, it lies between Teochew and Amoy. In southwestern Fujian, the local variants in Longyan and Zhangping form a separate division of Min Nan on their own. Among ethnic Chinese inhabitants of Penang, Malaysia and Medan, Indonesia, a distinct form of Zhangzhou (Changchew) Hokkien has developed. In Penang, it is called Penang Hokkien while across the Malacca Strait in Medan, an almost identical variant is known as Medan Hokkien.

Cultural and political role

The Min Nan (or "Hokkien") language can trace its roots through the Tang Dynasty. 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, we find today still many Min Nan pronunciations of words shared by the Korean and Japanese language. For example, the Hokkien term for bridge (橋) is "kiô" (Korean 교, kyo), book (冊) is "chheh" (Korean 책, chaek), student is "ha̍k-sing" (學生) (Korean 학생, haksaeng), dangerous (危險) is "guî-hiám", "wiheom" (Korean 위험), and insurance (保險) is "pó-hiám" (Korean 보험, boheom).


The Southern Min language has one of the most diverse phonologies of Chinese variants, with more consonants than Mandarin or Cantonese. Vowels, on the other hand, are more or less similar to those of Mandarin. In general, Southern Min dialects have five to six tones, and tone sandhi is extensive. There are minor variations within Hokkien, but the Teochew system differs significantly.

Southern Min's nasal finals consist m and -ŋ, it previously had an n final in ancient times.[1]


Xiamen speech is a hybrid of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. Taiwanese is also a hybrid of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. Taiwanese in northern Taiwan tends to be based on Quanzhou speech, whereas the Taiwanese spoken in southern Taiwan tends to be based on Zhangzhou speech. There are minor variations in pronunciation and vocabulary between Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. The grammar is basically the same. Additionally, Taiwanese includes several dozen loanwords from Japanese. In contrast, Teochew speech is significantly different from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech in both pronunciation and vocabulary.

Vowel shifts

The following table provides words that illustrate some of the more commonly seen vowel shifts. Characters with same vowel are shown in parentheses.

English Chinese character Accent Pe̍h-ōe-jī IPA Teochew Peng'Im
two Quanzhou, Taipei li˧ nŏ, jĭ (nõ˧˥, zi˧˥)[2]
Xiamen, Zhangzhou, Tainan dzi˧
sick (生) Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taipei pīⁿ pĩ˧ pēⁿ (pẽ˩)
Zhangzhou, Tainan pēⁿ pẽ˧
egg (遠) Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taiwan nn̄g nŋ˧ nn̆g (nŋ˧˥)
Zhangzhou nūi nui˧
chopsticks (豬) Quanzhou tīr tɯ˧ tēu (tɤ˩)
Xiamen tu˧
Zhangzhou, Taiwan ti˧
shoes (街)
Quanzhou, Xiamen, Taipei ue˧˥ ôi (tɤ˩)
Zhangzhou, Tainan ê e˧˥
leather (未) Quanzhou phêr pʰə˨˩ phuê (pʰue˩)
Xiamen, Taipei phê pʰe˨˩
Zhangzhou, Tainan phôe pʰue˧
chicken (細) Quanzhou, Xiamen koe kue koi
Zhangzhou, Taiwan ke ke
fire (過) Quanzhou her hué
Xiamen he
Zhangzhou, Taiwan hoé hue
go (虛) Quanzhou Khir Kʰɯ
Xiamen, Taipei Khu Kʰu
Zhangzhou, Tainan Khi Kʰi

Mutual intelligibility

Spoken mutual intelligibility

Quanzhou speech, Xiamen (Amoy) speech, Zhangzhou speech and Taiwanese are mutually intelligible. Chaozhou (Teochew) speech and Amoy speech are 84.3% phonetically similar[3] and 33.8% lexically similar[unreliable source?] ,[4] whereas Mandarin and Amoy Min Nan are 62% phonetically similar[3] and 15.1% lexically similar.[4] In comparison, German and English are 60% lexically similar.[5] In other words, Chao-Shan, including Swatow (both of which are variants of Teochew), has very low intelligibility with Amoy,[6] and Amoy and Teochew are not mutually intelligible with Mandarin. However, many Amoy and Teochew speakers speak Mandarin as a second or third language.

Written mutual intelligibility

Southern Min dialects lack a standardized written language. Southern Min speakers are taught how to read Mandarin in school. As a result, there has not been an urgent need to develop a writing system. In recent years, an increasing number of Southern Min Language speakers have become interested in developing a standard writing system (either by using Chinese Characters, or using Romanized script).

See also

Related languages


  1. ^ [http://books.google.com/books?id=xz9sAAAAIAAJ&q=Southern+Min+had+evidence+from+these+documents+and+from+some+modern+dialects+for+a+three-way+distinction+in+the+nasal+endings52+in+proto-Southem+Min+although+most+modern+Southern+Min+dialects+possess+only+the&dq=Southern+Min+had+evidence+from+these+documents+and+from+some+modern+dialects+for+a+three-way+distinction+in+the+nasal+endings52+in+proto-Southem+Min+although+most+modern+Southern+Min+dialects+possess+only+the&hl=en&ei=S9ycTr3UD-b00gHHm_XECQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA 紀念李方桂先生百年冥誕論文集 "Yu yan ji yu yan xue" zhuan kan]. Zhong yang yan jiu yuan yu yan xue yan jiu suo,. 2005. p. 464. http://books.google.com/books?id=xz9sAAAAIAAJ&q=Southern+Min+had+evidence+from+these+documents+and+from+some+modern+dialects+for+a+three-way+distinction+in+the+nasal+endings52+in+proto-Southem+Min+although+most+modern+Southern+Min+dialects+possess+only+the&dq=Southern+Min+had+evidence+from+these+documents+and+from+some+modern+dialects+for+a+three-way+distinction+in+the+nasal+endings52+in+proto-Southem+Min+although+most+modern+Southern+Min+dialects+possess+only+the&hl=en&ei=S9ycTr3UD-b00gHHm_XECQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA. Retrieved 23 September 2011. "Southern Min had evidence from these documents and from some modern dialects for a three-way distinction in the nasal endings52 in proto-Southem Min although most modern Southern Min dialects possess only the -m and the -ŋ ending. It is therefore not difficult to prove that it was the *-n that was lost first." 
  2. ^ for Teochew Peng'Im on the word 'two', ri6 can also be written as dzi6.
  3. ^ a b [http://www.glossika.com/en/dict/research/mutint/phon/minnan.php glossika Southern Min Language phonetics]
  4. ^ a b [http://www.glossika.com/en/dict/research/mutint/lex/minnan.php glossika Southern Min Language ]
  5. ^ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=deu Ethnologue: German]
  6. ^ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=nan Ethnologue: Min Nan]

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.. http://sino-platonic.org/complete/spp025_taiwanese.html. 
  • "Southern Min Grammar" (3 articles), Part V, Sinitic Grammar, Hilary Chappell (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001. ISBN 0-19-829977-X.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Min-nan — Minnan (閩南語/闽南语 Bân lâm gú) Gesprochen in Volksrepublik China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesien, Singapur, Philippinen Sprecher 49 Millionen Linguistische Klassifikation …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Min-nan — Minnan Minnan yu 闽南语 Parlée en Chine, Taïwan Région sud du Fujian et une partie du Guangdong Nombre de locuteurs 49 000 000 Classement 21 Classification par famille …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Min Nan — Minnan Minnan yu 闽南语 Parlée en Chine, Taïwan Région sud du Fujian et une partie du Guangdong Nombre de locuteurs 49 000 000 Classement 21 Classification par famille …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Min nan — Minnan Minnan yu 闽南语 Parlée en Chine, Taïwan Région sud du Fujian et une partie du Guangdong Nombre de locuteurs 49 000 000 Classement 21 Classification par famille …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Min Nan — /mɪn ˈnæn/ (say min nan) noun any of various southern dialects of Min spoken in southern Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, southern Zhejiang and southern Jiangxi provinces. Compare Min. Also, Minnan. {Mandarin: southern Min} …   Australian English dictionary

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  • Min Nan Chinese — ISO 639 3 Code : nan ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living Macrolanguages : Identifier : (ISO 639 3) : zho Macrolanguages : Name : Chinese Individual languages : Identifier : (ISO 639 3) …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

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