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Eastern Min

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Eastern Min
  • Min Dong (閩東語)
  • Foochowese (福州話)
RegionSoutheast China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, United States
Native speakers
11 million (2022)[1]
Early forms
Chinese characters and Foochow Romanized
Official status
Official language in
Matsu Islands, Taiwan[5][6]
Recognised minority
language in
statutory language for public transport in the Matsu Islands[7]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cdo
  Eastern Min

Eastern Min or Min Dong (traditional Chinese: 閩東語; simplified Chinese: 闽东语; pinyin: Mǐndōngyǔ, Foochow Romanized: Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄) is a branch of the Min group of the Chinese languages of China. The prestige form and most commonly cited representative form is the Fuzhou dialect, the speech of the capital of Fujian.[8]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Fujian and vicinity[edit]

Eastern Min varieties are mainly spoken in the eastern region of Fujian, in and near the cities of Fuzhou and Ningde. This includes the traditional Ten Counties of Fuzhou (Chinese: 福州十邑; pinyin: Fúzhōu Shí Yì; Foochow Romanized: Hók-ciŭ Sĕk Ék), a region that consists of present-day Pingnan, Gutian, Luoyuan, Minqing, Lianjiang, Changle, Minhou, Yongtai, Fuqing and Pingtan, as well as the urban area of Fuzhou proper.[9][10]

It is also widely encountered as the first language of the Matsu Islands controlled by Taiwan. Historically, the Eastern Min varieties in the Matsu Islands were seen as a part of the Lianjiang variety. The establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 separated the Matsu Islands from the rest of Fujian, and as communications were cut off between the ROC and the PRC, the specific identity of the Matsu Islands was established. Thus, the varieties of Eastern Min on the Matsu Islands became seen as the Matsu dialect.[11]

Additionally, the inhabitants of Taishun and Cangnan to the north of Fujian in Zhejiang also speak Eastern Min varieties.[12] To the south of Fujian, in Zhongshan County, Guangdong, varieties classified as Eastern Min are also spoken in the towns of Dachong, Shaxi and Nanlang.[13][14]

Eastern Min generally coexists with Standard Chinese, in all these areas. On the ROC, the Matsu dialect is officially recognized as a statutory language for transport announcements on the Matsu Islands.[15] In Fuzhou, there is radio available in the local dialect, and the Fuzhou Metro officially uses alongside Standard Mandarin and English in its announcements.[16]

United States[edit]

As the coastal area of Fujian has been the historical homeland of a large worldwide diaspora of overseas Chinese, varieties of Eastern Min can also be found across the world, especially in their respective Chinatowns. Cities with high concentrations of such immigrants include New York City,[17] especially Little Fuzhou, Manhattan, Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens.


Speakers of Eastern Min varieties are also found in various Chinatown communities in Europe, including London, Paris, and the city of Prato in Italy.[18] In the United Kingdom, a large proportion of the British Chinese community is made up of migrants coming from areas of Fujian that speak Eastern Min,[19][20][21] principally from rural parts of Fuqing and Changle.[22][23][24] In Spain, speakers of Eastern Min from Fuqing and Changle are also common, second to the more dominant Zhejiang community, who speak varieties of Southern Wu such as Wenzhounese.[25][26]

Japan and Malaysia[edit]

Chinese communities within Ikebukuro, Tokyo[27] as well as Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia have significant populations of Eastern Min speakers. Fuzhou communities can also be found in Sitiawan, Perak and Yong Peng, Johor in West Malaysia and in Rajang river towns of Sibu, Sarikei and Bintangor in East Malaysia.[citation needed]


Eastern Min is descended from Proto-Min, which split from the transition from Old Chinese into Middle Chinese during the Han dynasty.[28] It has been classified by Pan Maoding and Jerry Norman as belonging to the Coastal Min branch, and is thus closely related to Northern Min.[29][28]

Norman lists four distinctive features in the development of Eastern Min:[28]

  • The Proto-Min initial *dz- becomes s- in Eastern Min, as opposed to ts- as in Southern Min. For example, 'to sit' is pronounced sô̤i (IPA: /sɔy²⁴²/) in colloquial Fuzhou dialect, but tsō (IPA: /t͡so²²/) in the Amoy dialect and Taiwanese Hokkien.
  • Eastern Min varieties have an upper register tone for words which correspond to voiceless nasal initials in Proto-Min, e.g. 'younger sister' in Fuzhou is pronounced with an upper departing tone muói (IPA: /mui²¹³/) rather than a lower departing tone.
  • Some lexemes descend from Old Chinese which have been conserved in Eastern Min but replaced in other Min varieties. For example, instead of for 'dog'.
  • A lack of nasal vowels, in contrast to Southern Min.[28]


The branches of Eastern Min

Eastern Min is conventionally divided into three branches:[30]

  1. Houguan language group (侯官片), also called the Southern subgroup, including the Fuzhou language, Fuqing language, Changle dialect, Lianjiang dialect and the dialect of the Matsu Islands.
  2. Funing language group (福寧片), also called the Northern subgroup, including the Ningde language and the Fu'an language.
  3. Manjiang dialect (蠻講), spoken in parts of Taishun and Cangnan, Wenzhou, Zhejiang.

Besides these three branches, some dialect islands in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have been classified as Eastern Min.[31][14] Zhongshan Min is a group of Min varieties spoken in the Zhongshan county of Guangdong, divided into three branches: the Longdu dialect and Nanlang dialect belong to the Eastern Min group, while the Sanxiang dialect belongs to Southern Min.[13][14]


The Eastern Min group has a phonology that is particularly divergent from other varieties of Chinese. Aside from the Manjiang dialect, both Houguan and Funing groups are similar in the number of initials, with the Fu'an dialect having 17 initials, two more than the Fuzhou dialect, the additions being /w/ and /j/ or /ɰ/ as separate phonemes (the glottal stop is common to both but excluded from this count). The Manjiang dialect on the other hand has been influenced by the Wu dialects of Zhejiang, and hence has significantly more initials than the varieties of Fujian.

The finals vary significantly between varieties, with the extremes being represented by Manjiang dialects at a low of 39 separate finals, and the Ningde dialect representing the high at 69 finals.

Comparison of numbers of Eastern Min initials and finals
Types Houguan subgroup (侯官片) Funing subgroup (福寧片) Manjiang (蠻講)
City Fuzhou (福州) Fuqing (福清) Gutian (古田) Ningde (宁德) Fuding (福鼎) Fu'an (福安) Qianku, Cangnan, Zhejiang (蒼南錢庫)
Number of Initials 15 15 15 15 15 17 29
Number of Finals 46 42 51 69 41 56 39
Number of Tones 7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Eastern Min varieties generally have seven tones, by the traditional count (based on the four tones of Middle Chinese, including the entering tone as a separate entity). In the middle of the Qing dynasty, eight tones were attested, but the historical rising tones (上聲) re-merged.[32]

Comparison of tones across Eastern Min varieties
Level Rising
Departing Entering
Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light
˦ 44 ˥˧ 53 ˧˩ 31 ˨˩˧ 213 ˨˦˨ 242 ˨˧ 23 ˥ 5
˧˧˨ 332 ˨ 22 ˦˨ 42 ˨˩ 21 ˧˨˦ 324 ˨ 2 ˥ 5
˦ 44 ˩ 11 ˦˨ 42 ˧˥ 35 ˥˨ 52 ˦ 4 ˥ 5
˦˦˥ 445 ˨˩˨ 212 ˥ 55 ˥˧ 53 ˨ 22 ˥ 5 ˨˧ 23
Taishun, Zhejiang
˨˩˧ 213 ˧ 33 ˦˥˥ 455 ˥˧ 53 ˦˨ 42 ˥ 5 ˦˧ 43
Qianku, Cangnan, Zhejiang
˦ 44 ˨˩˦ 214 ˦˥ 45 ˦˩ 41 ˨˩ 21 ˥ 5 ˨˩ 21
Miaojiaqiao, Cangnan, Zhejiang
˧ 33 ˨˩˧ 213 ˦˥ 45 ˦˩ 41 ˩ 11 ˥ 5 ˩ 1

Sandhi phenomena[edit]

The Eastern Min varieties have a wide range of sandhi phenomena. As well as tone sandhi, common to many varieties of Chinese, there is also the assimilation of consonants[33] and vowel alternations (such as rime tensing).

Tone sandhi across Eastern Min varieties can be regressive (where the last syllable affects the pronunciation of those before), progressive (where earlier syllables affect the later ones) or mutual (where both or all syllables change). The rules are generally quite complicated.

Initial assimilation of consonants is usually progressive and may create new phonemes that are not phonemically contrastive in initial position but do contrast in medial position. For example, in the Fuzhou dialect, the /β/ phoneme can arise from /pʰ/ or /p/ in an intervocalic environment.[34][35]

Many varieties also exhibit regressive assimilation of consonants, such as in the way a final nasal consonant, usually given the citation value /ŋ/, assimilates to the place of articulation of the following consonant. For example, the negative adverb of the Fuzhou dialect, often written , is generally transcribed in Bàng-uâ-cê as n̂g /ŋ/, but it can also surface as /m/ before labial consonants and as /n/ before dental consonants. In this case, since both regressive and progressive assimilation processes occur, it can be described as mutual assimilation, resulting in one nasal consonant.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Min is believed to have split from Old Chinese, rather than Middle Chinese like other varieties of Chinese.[2][3][4]


  1. ^ Eastern Min at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Mei, Tsu-lin (1970), "Tones and prosody in Middle Chinese and the origin of the rising tone", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 30: 86–110, JSTOR 2718766
  3. ^ Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1984), Middle Chinese: A study in Historical Phonology, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, p. 3, ISBN 978-0-774-80192-8
  4. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2023-07-10). "Min". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. doi:10.5281/zenodo.7398962. Archived from the original on 2023-10-13. Retrieved 2023-10-13.
  5. ^ 本土語言納中小學必修 潘文忠:將按語發法實施 (in Chinese)
  6. ^ "國家語言發展法 第二條".
  7. ^ 大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法
  8. ^ Li Rulong (李如龙) (1994). 福州方言词典 (in Chinese) (Rev. 1st ed.). Fuzhou: Fujian People's Press. p. 1. ISBN 7211023546.
  9. ^ "关于福州十邑". Mindu Online (in Chinese). Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  10. ^ Sim, Michelle Jia En (2022). A sketch grammar of Singapore Fuzhou (Master's thesis). Singapore: Nanyang Technological University. doi:10.32657/10356/155961. S2CID 247931980.[better source needed]
  11. ^ Lin, Sheng-Chang (2021-09-13). "At the Edge of State Control: The Creation of the "Matsu Islands"". Taiwan Insight. University of Nottingham Taiwan Studies Programme. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  12. ^ Zheng, Wei (25 January 2015). 論前齶音聲母j-的唇齒化音變 (PDF). Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics (in Chinese). 8 (2): 195–213. doi:10.1163/2405478X-00802003. ISSN 2405-478X. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  13. ^ a b Bodman, Nicholas C. (1984). "The Namlong Dialect, a Northern Min Outlier in Zhongshan Xian and the Influence of Cantonese on its Lexicon and Phonology". Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies. 14 (1): 1–19.
  14. ^ a b c Bodman, Nicholas C. (1985). Acson, Veneeta; Leed, Richard L. (eds.). The Reflexes of Initial Nasals in Proto-Southern Min-Hingua. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications. Vol. 20. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 2–20. ISBN 978-0-8248-0992-8. JSTOR 20006706.
  15. ^ "大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法§6-全國法規資料庫". law.moj.gov.tw (in Chinese). 全國法規資料庫. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  16. ^ Zheng Jing (郑靓). "乡音报站"女神"郭铃:唱响福州地铁好声音 -东南网-福建官方新闻门户". Min Dong Wang. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  17. ^ Guest, Kenneth J. (2003). God in Chinatown: Religion and Survival in New York's Evolving Immigrant Community. New York University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0814731546.
  18. ^ Pieke, Frank. "Research Briefing 4: Transnational Communities" (PDF). Transnational Communities Programme, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oxford. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  19. ^ Wang, Danlu (31 March 2014). "Profession or passion?: Teaching Chinese in London Chinese complementary schools". London Review of Education. 12: 34–49. doi:10.18546/LRE.12.1.05. ISSN 1474-8460. S2CID 151552619.
  20. ^ Luo, Siyu; Gadd, David; Broad, Rose (May 2023). "The criminalisation and exploitation of irregular Chinese migrant workers in the United Kingdom". European Journal of Criminology. 20 (3): 1016–1036. doi:10.1177/14773708221132889. S2CID 255079151.
  21. ^ Pieke, Frank N. "Recent Trends in Chinese Migration to Europe: Fujianese Migration in Perspective" (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  22. ^ Luo, Siyu. "Statusless Chinese Migrant Workers in the UK: Irregular Migration and Labour Exploitation" (PDF). Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  23. ^ Wu, Yan; Wang, Xinyue. "Gendered Active Civic Participation: The Experience of Chinese Immigrants in Europe" (PDF). University of Oldenburg. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  24. ^ Lin, Sheng; Bax, Trent (December 2009). "Irregular Emigration from Fuzhou: A Rural Perspective". Asian and Pacific Migration Journal. 18 (4): 539–551. doi:10.1177/011719680901800405. S2CID 153457798. Retrieved 10 October 2023.
  25. ^ Liu, Ting (2022). "El traductor automático en los comercios chinos de Cataluña: una herramienta para eliminar la barrera lingüística" (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  26. ^ Ma, Jie. "From China to Spain Chinese Immigrants in Anthropological View" (PDF). Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  27. ^ Wong, Bernard P.; Chee-Beng, Tan, eds. (2013). Chinatowns around the world gilded ghetto, ethnopolis, and cultural diaspora. Brill. p. 251. ISBN 978-9004255906.
  28. ^ a b c d Norman, Jerry (1991). "The Mǐn Dialects in Historical Perspective". Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series (3): 323–358. ISSN 2409-2878. JSTOR 23827042.
  29. ^ Pan Maoding (潘茂鼎); Li Rulong (李如龍); Liang Yuzhang (梁玉璋); Zhang Shengyu (張盛裕); Chen Zhangtai (陳章太) (1963). 福建漢語方言分區略說. Zhongguo yuwen (6): 475–495.
  30. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese language(s): a look through the prism of the great dictionary of modern Chinese dialects. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. p. 71. ISBN 9783110219142.
  31. ^ Bodman, Nicholas C. (1984). "The Namlong Dialect, a Northern Min Outlier in Zhongshan Xian and the Influence of Cantonese on its Lexicon and Phonology". Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies. 14 (1): 1–19.
  32. ^ 李, 含茹. "苍南蛮话语音研究--《复旦大学》2009年硕士论文". CDMD.cnki.com.cn. Archived from the original on 2021-04-14. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  33. ^ Yuan, Bixia; Wang, Yizhi (2013). "On the Initial Assimilations of Eastern Min Dialects in Fujian Province--《Dialect》2013年01期". Dialect. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  34. ^ Yang, Ching-Yu Helen (2015). "A synchronic view of the consonant mutations in Fuzhou dialect" (PDF). University System of Taiwan Working Papers in Linguistics. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-06-08. Retrieved 2019-09-09.
  35. ^ a b Li, Zhuqing (2002). Fuzhou Phonology and Grammar. Springfield, VA: Dunwoody Press. ISBN 9781881265931.

Further reading[edit]