Meixian dialect

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Native to Southern China, Taiwan
Region Meixian
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog yuet1238[1]

Meixian dialect (Chinese: 梅縣話; Pha̍k-fa-sṳ: Mòi-yen-fa; IPA: mɔi jan fa), also known as Meizhou (梅州話), Moiyen, and Yue-Tai, is the prestige dialect of Hakka Chinese and the basis for the Hakka dialects in Taiwan. It is named after Mei County, Guangdong.



There are two series of stops and affricates in Hakka, both voiceless: tenuis /p t ts k/ and aspirated /pʰ tʰ tsʰ kʰ/.

Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/ ⟨m⟩ /n/ ⟨n⟩ [ɲ] ⟨ng(i)⟩ ~ /ŋ/ ⟨ng⟩*
Plosive tenuis /p/ ⟨b⟩ /t/ ⟨d⟩ /k/ ⟨g⟩ (ʔ)
aspirated /pʰ/ ⟨p⟩ /tʰ/ ⟨t⟩ /kʰ/ ⟨k⟩
Affricate tenuis /ts/ ⟨z⟩ ~ [tɕ] ⟨j(i)⟩*
aspirated /tsʰ/ ⟨c⟩ ~ [tɕʰ] ⟨q(i)⟩*
Fricative /f/ ⟨f⟩ /s/ ⟨s⟩ ~ [ɕ] ⟨x(i)⟩*   /h/ ⟨h⟩
Approximant /ʋ/ ⟨v⟩ /l/ ⟨l⟩ /j/ ⟨y⟩    

* When the initials /ts/ ⟨z⟩, /tsʰ/ ⟨c⟩, /s/ ⟨s⟩, and /ŋ/ ⟨ng⟩ are followed by a palatal medial /j/ ⟨i⟩, they become [tɕ] ⟨j⟩, [tɕʰ] ⟨q⟩, [ɕ] ⟨x⟩, and [ɲ] ⟨ng⟩, respectively.


Moiyen Hakka has six vowels, [i e a ə o u], that are romanised as i, ê, a, e, o and u,[clarification needed] respectively.

Moreover, Hakka finals exhibit the final consonants found in Middle Chinese, namely [m, n, ŋ, p, t, k] which are romanised as m, n, ng, b, d, and g respectively in the official Moiyen romanisation.

Finals of Meixian dialect[2]
nucleus medial coda
-∅ -i -u -m -n -p -t -k
-a- ∅- a ai au am an ap at ak
i- ia iai iau iam ian iaŋ iap iat iak
u- ua uai     uan uaŋ   uat uak
-e- ∅- e   eu em en   ep et  
i- ie       ien     iet  
u-         uen     uet  
-i- ∅- i   iu im in   ip it  
-o- ∅- o oi     on   ot ok
i- io       ion ioŋ     iok
u- uo       uon uoŋ     uok
-u- ∅- u ui     un   ut uk
i-   iui     iun iuŋ   iut iuk
-ə- ∅- ɹ̩     əm ən   əp ət  
Syllabics   ŋ̩


Moiyen has four tones, which are reduced to two in a checked syllable. The Middle Chinese fully voiced initial syllables became aspirated voiceless initial syllable in Hakka. Before that happened, the four Middle Chinese 'tones', ping, shang, qu, ru, underwent a voicing split in the case of ping and ru, giving the dialect six tones in traditional accounts.

Moiyen tones
Tone number Tone name Hanzi Tone letters number English
1 yin ping 陰平 ˦ 44 high
2 yang ping 陽平 ˩ 11 low
3 shang ˧˩ 31 low falling
4 qu ˥˧ 53 high falling
5 yin ru 陰入 ˩ʔ 1 low checked
6 yang ru 陽入 ˥ʔ 5 high checked

These so-called yin-yang tonal splittings developed mainly as a consequence of the type of initial a Chinese syllable had during the Middle Chinese stage in the development of Chinese, with voiceless initial syllables [p- t- k-] tending to become of the yin type, and the voiced initial syllables [b- d- ɡ-] developing into the yang type. In modern Moiyen Hakka however, part of the Yin Ping tone characters have sonorant initials [m n ŋ l] originally from the Middle Chinese Shang tone syllables and fully voiced Middle Chinese Qu tone characters, so the voiced/voiceless distinction should be taken only as a rule of thumb.

Hakka tone contours differs more as one moves away from Moiyen. For example, the Yin Ping contour is ˧ (33) in Changting (長汀) and ˨˦ (24) in Sixian (四縣), Taiwan.

Entering tone

Hakka preserves all of the entering tones of Middle Chinese and it is split into two registers. Meixian has the following:

  • 陰入 [ ˩ ] a low pitched checked tone
  • 陽入 [ ˥ ] a high pitched checked tone

Middle Chinese entering tone syllables ending in [k] whose vowel clusters have become front high vowels like [i] and [ɛ] shifts to syllables with [t] finals in modern Hakka[3] as seen in the following table.

Character Guangyun Fanqie Middle Chinese
Hakka Main meaning in English
之翼切 tɕĭək tsit˩ vocation, profession
林直切 lĭək lit˥ strength, power
乗力切 dʑʰĭək sit˥ eat, consume
所力切 ʃĭək sɛt˩ colour, hue
多則切 tək tɛt˩ virtue
苦得切 kʰək kʰɛt˩ carve, engrave, a moment
博墨切 pək pɛt˩ north
古或切 kuək kuɛt˩ country, state

Tone sandhi[edit]

For Moiyen Hakka, the yin ping and qu tone characters exhibit sandhi when the following character has a lower pitch. The pitch of the yin ping tone changes from ˦ (44) to ˧˥ (35) when sandhi occurs. Similarly, the qu tone changes from ˥˧ (53) to ˦ (55) under sandhi. These are shown in red in the following table.

Moiyen tone sandhi
+ ˦ Yin Ping + ˩ Yang Ping + ˧˩ Shang + ˥˧ Qu + ˩ʔ Yin Ru + ˥ʔ YangRu + Neutral
˦ Yin Ping + ˦.˦ ˧˥ ˧˥.˧˩ ˧˥.˥˧ ˧˥.˩ʔ ˦.˥ʔ ˧˥
˥˧ Qu + ˥˧.˦ ˥ ˥.˧˩ ˥.˥˧ ˥.˩ʔ ˥˧.˥ʔ ˥

The neutral tone occurs in some postfixes. It has a mid pitch.


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Yue-Tai". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Cheung, Yuk Man (2011). Vowels and tones in Mei Xian Hakka : an acoustic and perceptual study (Thesis). City University of Hong Kong. 
  3. ^
  4. ^