Southern Min

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Southern Min
  • Hoklo-Taiwanese
  • 閩南語; 闽南语
  • Bàn-lâm-gú
Linguistic classification Sino-Tibetan
Early forms
ISO 639-3 nan
Linguasphere 79-AAA-j
Glottolog minn1241
Min dialect map.svg
  Southern Min in mainland China and Taiwan
Subgroups of Southern Min in mainland China and Taiwan
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 闽南语
Traditional Chinese 閩南語
Literal meaning"Language of Southern Min [Fujian]"
  1. ChaozhouShantou
  2. Min is believed to have split from Old Chinese, rather than Middle Chinese like other varieties of Chinese. [1] [2] [3]

Southern Min (simplified Chinese : 闽南语 ; traditional Chinese : 閩南語 ; pinyin :Mǐnnányǔ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī :Bân-lâm-gí/gú; lit.'Southern Min language'), Minnan ( Mandarin pronunciation: [mìn.nǎn] ) or Banlam (Min Nan Chinese pronunciation: [bàn.lǎm] ), is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Chinese languages that form a branch of Min Chinese spoken in Fujian (especially the Minnan region), most of Taiwan (many citizens are descendants of settlers from Fujian), Eastern Guangdong, Hainan, and Southern Zhejiang. [4] Southern Min dialects are also spoken by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora, most notably in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Southern Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Southern and Central Vietnam, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Minnan is the most widely-spoken branch of Min, with approximately 48 million speakers as of 2017–2018. [5]


The most widely spoken Southern Min language is Hokkien, which includes Taiwanese. Other varieties of Southern Min have significant differences from Hokkien, some having limited mutual intelligibility with it, others almost none. Teochew, Longyan, and Zhenan are said to have general mutual intelligibility with Hokkien, sharing similar phonology and vocabulary to a large extent. [6] On the other hand, variants such as Datian, Zhongshan, and Qiong-Lei have historical linguistic roots with Hokkien, but are significantly divergent from it in terms of phonology and vocabulary, and thus have almost no mutual intelligibility with Hokkien. Linguists tend to classify them as separate languages.

Geographic distribution

Mainland China

Southern Min dialects are spoken in Fujian, three southeastern counties of Zhejiang, the Zhoushan archipelago off Ningbo in Zhejiang and the Chaoshan (Teo-swa) region in Guangdong. The variant spoken in Leizhou, Guangdong as well as Hainan is Hainanese and is not mutually intelligible with mainstream Southern Min or Teochew.[ citation needed ] Hainanese is classified in some schemes as part of Southern Min and in other schemes as separate.[ example needed ][ citation needed ] Puxian Min was originally based on the Quanzhou dialect, but over time became heavily influenced by Eastern Min, eventually losing intelligibility with Southern Min.


The Southern Min dialects spoken in Taiwan, collectively known as Taiwanese, is a first language for most of the Hoklo people, the main ethnicity of Taiwan. The correspondence between language and ethnicity is not absolute, as some Hoklo have very limited proficiency in Southern Min while some non-Hoklo speak Southern Min fluently. [7]

Southeast Asia

There are many Southern Min speakers among overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. Many ethnic Chinese immigrants to the region were Hoklo from southern Fujian and brought the language to what is now present-day Malaysia and Singapore (formerly British Malaya, the Straits Settlements, and British Borneo), Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies), the Philippines (former Spanish East Indies and later, US Philippine Islands (P.I.)), Brunei (former part of British Borneo), Southern Thailand, Myanmar (British Burma), Cambodia (former French Cambodia of French Indochina), Southern Vietnam (former French Cochinchina of French Indochina) and Central Vietnam (former French Annam of French Indochina). In general, Southern Min from southern Fujian is known as Hokkien, Hokkienese, Fukien or Fookien in Southeast Asia and is mostly mutually intelligible with Hokkien spoken elsewhere. Many Southeast Asian ethnic Chinese also originated in the Chaoshan region of Guangdong and speak Teochew language, the variant of Southern Min from that region, particularly Thailand, Cambodia, Southern Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, etc. In the Philippines, Philippine Hokkien is reportedly the native or heritage language of up to 98.7% of the Chinese Filipino community in the Philippines, among whom it itself is known in Hokkien Chinese :咱人話 / 咱儂話; Pe̍h-ōe-jī :Lán-nâng-ōe / Lán-lâng-ōe / Nán-nâng-ōe; lit.'our people's language'.

Southern Min speakers form the majority of Chinese in Singapore, with Hokkien being the largest group and the second largest being Teochew. Despite the similarities, the two groups are rarely viewed together as "Southern Min".


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.

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 Teo-Swa or Chaoshan. Chaoshan Min 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 Southern Min on their own. Among ethnic Chinese inhabitants of Penang, Malaysia and Medan, Indonesia, a distinct form based on the Zhangzhou dialect has developed. In Penang, it is called Penang Hokkien while across the Malacca Strait in Medan, an almost identical variant[ citation needed ] is known as Medan Hokkien.


There are two or three divisions of Southern Min, depending on the criteria for Leizhou and Hainanese inclusion:

More recently, Kwok (2018: 157) [8] has proposed an alternative classification, with a divergent Northern branch that includes Quanzhou dialect but not Zhangzhou dialect, as shown below:


Hokkien is the most widely spoken form of Southern Min, including Amoy dialect and Taiwanese. Both of these developed as a combination of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. Varieties in South-East Asia include Singaporean Hokkien, Penang Hokkien, Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien, Medan Hokkien, and Philippine Hokkien.

Chaoshan (Teo-Swa)

Teo-Swa or Chaoshan speech (潮汕片) is a closely related variant of Southern Min that includes the Kekyeo dialect, Teochew and Swatow dialects, and some consider Haklau Min to also be part of. It has limited mutual intelligibility with Hokkien, though they share some cognates with each other. Chaoshan Min is significantly different from Hokkien in both pronunciation and vocabulary, and mutual intelligibility is difficult. [9]


Southern Min has one of the most diverse phonologies of Chinese varieties, 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 sixtones, and tone sandhi is extensive. There are minor variations within Hokkien, and the Teochew system differs somewhat more.

Southern Min's nasal finals consist of /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, and /~/.

Writing systems

Both Hokkien and Chaoshan (Teochew and Shantou dialects) have romanized writing systems and also respective Chinese characters. In mainland China, it is known as 閩南文 (Bân-lâm-bûn), while in Taiwan, it is known as 台文 (Tâi-bûn). The Han Chinese characters are known in mainland China and Taiwan as 漢字 (Hàn-jī / Hàn-lī). In Malaysia and Singapore, the Chinese characters are sometimes known as 唐儂字 / 唐人字 (Tn̂g-lâng-jī / Tn̂g-lâng-lī). In the Philippines, the Chinese characters are known as 咱儂字 / 咱人字 (Lán-nâng-dī) or 漢文字 (Hàm-bûn-dī).


The Min homeland of Fujian was opened to Han Chinese settlement by the defeat of the Minyue state by the armies of Emperor Wu of Han in 110 BC. [10] The area features rugged mountainous terrain, with short rivers that flow into the South China Sea. Most subsequent migration from north to south China passed through the valleys of the Xiang and Gan rivers to the west, so that Min varieties have experienced less northern influence than other southern groups. [11] As a result, whereas most varieties of Chinese can be treated as derived from Middle Chinese, the language described by rhyme dictionaries such as the Qieyun (601 AD), Min varieties contain traces of older distinctions. [12] Linguists estimate that the oldest layers of Min dialects diverged from the rest of Chinese around the time of the Han dynasty. [13] [14] However, significant waves of migration from the North China Plain occurred. [15] These include:

Jerry Norman identifies four main layers in the vocabulary of modern Min varieties:

  1. A non-Chinese substratum from the original languages of Minyue, which Norman and Mei Tsu-lin believe were Austroasiatic. [16] [17]
  2. The earliest Chinese layer, brought to Fujian by settlers from Zhejiang to the north during the Han dynasty. [18]
  3. A layer from the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, which is largely consistent with the phonology of the Qieyun dictionary. [19]
  4. A literary layer based on the koiné of Chang'an, the capital of the Tang dynasty. [20]

Comparisons with Sino-Xenic character pronunciations

Southern Min can trace its origins through the Tang dynasty, and it also has roots from earlier periods. Hokkien people call themselves "Tang people", (Tn̂g-lâng 唐人 / 唐儂 ) 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 Southern Min pronunciations of words shared by the Sino-xenic pronunciations of Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese languages.

EnglishHan charactersMandarin ChineseHokkien [21] TeochewCantoneseKoreanVietnameseJapanese
BookChhek/Chhehcêh4caak3Chaek ()SáchSaku/Satsu/Shaku
BridgeqiáoKiâu/Kiôgiê5/gio5kiu4Gyo ()KiềuKyō
Dangerous危險wēixiǎn/wéixiǎnGuî-hiámguîn5/nguín5 hiem2ngai4 him2Wiheom (위험)Nguy hiểmKiken
Embassy大使館DàshǐguǎnTāi-sài-koándai6 sái2 guêng2daai6 si3 gun2Daesagwan (대사관)Đại Sứ QuánTaishikan
Flagkî5kei4Gi ()Ki
Insurance保險BǎoxiǎnPó-hiámBó2-hiémbou2 him2Boheom (보험)Bảo hiểmHoken
News新聞XīnwénSin-bûnsing1 bhung6san1 man4Shinmun (신문)Tân vănShinbun
Student學生XuéshēngHa̍k-sengHak8 sêng1hok6 saang1Haksaeng (학생)Học sinhGakusei
University大學DàxuéTāi-ha̍k/Tōa-o̍hdai6 hag8/dua7 oh8daai6 hok6Daehak (대학)Đại họcDaigaku

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taiwanese Hokkien</span> Variety of Hokkien spoken in Taiwan

Taiwanese Hokkien, or simply Taiwanese, also known as Taiuanoe, Taigi, Taigu, Taiwanese Minnan, Hoklo and Holo, is a variety of the Hokkien language spoken natively by more than 70 percent of the population of Taiwan. It is spoken by a significant portion of those Taiwanese people who are descended from Hoklo immigrants of southern Fujian. It is one of the national languages of Taiwan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Min Chinese</span> Primary branch of Sinitic spoken in southern China and Taiwan

Min is a broad group of Sinitic languages with about 70 million native speakers. These languages are spoken in Fujian province as well as by the descendants of Min-speaking colonists on the Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan and by the assimilated natives of Chaoshan, parts of Zhongshan, three counties in southern Wenzhou, the Zhoushan archipelago, Taiwan and scattered in pockets or sporadically across Hong Kong, Macau, and several countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei. The name is derived from the Min River in Fujian, which is also the abbreviated name of Fujian Province. Min varieties are not mutually intelligible with one another nor with any other variety of Chinese.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Teochew Min</span> Southern Min language of China

Teochew or Chaozhou, also called Teo-Swa or Chaoshan Chinese: 潮汕話, Teochew: Dio5suan37, Mandarin: Cháoshàn huà) is a Southern Min language spoken by the Teochew people in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong and by their diaspora around the world. It is sometimes referred to as Chiuchow, its Cantonese rendering, due to English romanization by colonial officials and explorers. It is closely related to Hokkien, as it shares some cognates and phonology with Hokkien. The two are mutually unintelligible, but it is possible to understand some words.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Popiah</span> Chinese food often eaten at Ching Ming Festival

Popiah is a Fujianese/Teochew-style fresh spring roll filled with an assortment of fresh, dried, and cooked ingredients, eaten during the Qingming Festival and other celebratory occasions. The dish is made by the people and diaspora of Fujian province of China, neighbouring Chaoshan district, and by the Teochew and Hoklo diaspora in various regions throughout Southeast Asia and in Taiwan, The origin of popiah dates back to the 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chaoshan</span> Place in China

Chaoshan or Teoswa is a cultural-linguistic region in the east of Guangdong, China. It is the origin of the Min Nan Chaoshan dialect (潮汕话). The region, also known as Chiushan in Cantonese, consists of the cities Chaozhou, Jieyang and Shantou. It differs linguistically from the rest of Guangdong province, which was historically dominated by Yue speakers, Hakka, and Leizhou Min speakers. However, Mandarin has recently become the dominant language in the region. It is historically important as the ancestral homeland of many citizens of other countries of Chinese descent, including Viets, Thais, Cambodians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, and Indonesians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hoklo people</span> Han Chinese subgroup

The Hoklo people are a Han Chinese subgroup who speak Hokkien, a Southern Min language, or trace their ancestry to southeastern Fujian in China, and known by various related terms such as Banlam people, Minnan people, or more commonly in Southeast Asia as the Hokkien people. The Hokkien people are found in significant numbers in mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Myanmar, the United States, Hong Kong, and Macau. The Hokkien people have a distinct culture and architecture, including Hokkien shrines and temples with tilted sharp eaves, high and slanted top roofs, and finely detailed decorative inlays of wood and porcelain. The Hokkien language, which includes Taiwanese Hokkien, is the mainstream Southern Min, which is partially mutually intelligible to the Teochew language, Hainanese, Leizhou Min, and Haklau Min.

The Han Chinese people can be defined into subgroups based on linguistic, cultural, ethnic, genetic, and regional features. The terminology used in Mandarin to describe the groups is: "minxi", used in mainland China or "zuqun", used in Taiwan. No Han subgroup is recognized as one of People's Republic of China's 56 official ethnic groups, in Taiwan only three subgroups, Hoklo, Hakka and Waishengren are recognized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine Hokkien</span> Dialect of Hokkien spoken in the Philippines

Philippine Hokkien is a dialect of the Hokkien language of the Southern Min branch of the Sinitic family, primarily spoken vernacularly by Chinese Filipinos in the Philippines, where it serves as the local Chinese lingua franca, primarily spoken as an oral language, within the overseas Chinese community in the Philippines and acts as the heritage language of a majority of Chinese Filipinos. The use of Hokkien in the Philippines is influenced by Philippine Spanish, Filipino (Tagalog) and Philippine English. As a lingua franca of the overseas Chinese community in the Philippines, the minority of Cantonese-/Taishanese-descended Chinese Filipinos also uses Philippine Hokkien for business purposes due to its status as "the Chinoy business language" [sic].

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amoy dialect</span> Dialect of Hokkien spoken in the city of Xiamen

The Amoy dialect or Xiamen dialect, also known as Amoyese, Amoynese, Amoy Hokkien, Xiamenese or Xiamen Hokkien, is a dialect of Hokkien spoken in the city of Xiamen 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. It has historically come to be one of the more standardized varieties.

Singaporean Hokkien is a local variety of the Hokkien language spoken natively in Singapore. Within Chinese linguistic academic circles, this dialect is known as Singaporean Ban-lam Gu. It bears similarities with the Amoy spoken in Amoy, now better known as Xiamen, as well as Taiwanese Hokkien which is spoken in Taiwan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hokkien</span> Sinitic language spoken in East Asia

Hokkien is a variety of the Southern Min languages, native to and originating from the Minnan region, in the southeastern part of Fujian in southeastern mainland China. It is also referred to as Quanzhang, from the first characters of the urban centers of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou.

Min-speaking peoples are a major subgroup of ethnic Han Chinese people, speaking Min Chinese languages. They mainly live or trace roots from Fujian, Hainan, Southern Zhejiang and Guangdong province's Leizhou and Chaoshan regions. In the Chinese diaspora, they form the majority of people in Taiwan and the majority of Han Chinese in Southeast Asian countries, like Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. The first two countries have majority Teochew-speaking Chinese minorities, whereas the last four house Hokkien-speaking Chinese minorities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Longyan dialect</span> Dialect of Hokkien

The Longyan dialect, also known as Longyan Minnan or Liong11l11334, is a dialect of Hokkien spoken in the urban city area of Longyan in the province of Fujian, China while Hakka is spoken in rural villages of Longyan. The Longyan Min people had settled in the region from southern part of Fujian Province as early as the Tang dynasty period (618–907). Although Longyan Min has some Hakka influence to a limited extent by the peasant Hakka Chinese language due to close distance of rural village Hakka peasants of the region, Longyan Min is a close dialect of the Minnan language and has more number of tones than Hakka. The Longyan dialect has a high but limited intelligibility with Southern Min dialects such as Hokkien–Taiwanese. Today, Longyan Minnan is predominantly spoken in Longyan's urban district Xinluo District while Zhangzhou Minnan is spoken in Zhangping City excluding Chishui and Shuangyang towns where Longyan Minnan is spoken. Hakka on the other hand is spoken in the non-urban rest of the rural areas of Longyan prefecture: Changting County, Liancheng County, Shanghang County, Wuping County, and Yongding District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quanzhou dialects</span> Dialect of Southern Min spoken in Quanzhou, Fujian

The Quanzhou dialects, also rendered Chin-chew or Choanchew, are a collection of Hokkien dialects spoken in southern Fujian, in the area centered on the city of Quanzhou. Due to migration, various Quanzhou dialects are spoken outside of Quanzhou, notably in Taiwan and many Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zhangzhou dialects</span> Collection of Hokkien dialects

The Zhangzhou dialects, also rendered Changchew, Chiangchew or Changchow, are a collection of Hokkien dialects spoken in southern Fujian province, centered on the city of Zhangzhou. The Zhangzhou dialect proper is the source of some place names in English, including Amoy, and Quemoy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien</span> Dialect of Hokkien spoken in parts of Malaysia

Southern Malaysian Hokkien is a local variant of the Min Nan Chinese variety spoken in Central and Southern Peninsular Malaysia. Due to geographical proximity, it is heavily influenced by Singaporean Hokkien.

Hoklo Taiwanese or Holo people are a major ethnic group in Taiwan whose ancestry is wholly or partially Hoklo. Being Taiwanese of Han origin, their mother tongue is Taiwanese (Tâi-oân-ōe) (Tâi-gí), also known as Taiwanese Hokkien. Due to The Republic of China's national language policy, most are also fluent in Taiwanese Mandarin. Most descend from the Hoklo people of Quanzhou or Zhangzhou in Southern Fujian, China. The term, as commonly understood, signifies those whose ancestors immigrated to Taiwan before 1949. However, most Hoklo Taiwanese did not distance themselves from Taiwanese identity and prefer to call themselves Taiwanese only, since most of them didn't associate themselves with terms like Hokkien, Southern Min (Minnan) or Hoklo. Some Taiwanese optionally identified as Southern Min (Minnan) as well.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hokkien culture</span> Culture of China

Minnan culture or Hokkien/Hoklo culture, also considered as the Mainstream Southern Min Culture, refers to the culture of the Hoklo people, a group of Han Chinese people who have historically been the dominant demographic in the province of Fujian in Southern China, Taiwan, and certain overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Southern Thailand, Cambodia, Southern Vietnam, etc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hoklo Americans</span> Americans of Hoklo or Hokkien birth or descent

Hokkien, Hoklo (Holo), and Minnan people are found in the United States. The Hoklo people are a Han Chinese subgroup with ancestral roots in Southern Fujian and Eastern Guangdong, particularly around the modern prefecture-level cities of Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, Xiamen and Chaoshan area. They are also known by various endonyms, or other related terms such as Hoklo people (河洛儂), Banlam (Minnan) people, Hokkien people or Teochew people (潮州人;Tiê-tsiu-lâng). These people usually also have roots in the Hokkien diaspora in Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.


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Further reading