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Meixian dialect

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Native toGuangdong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia
Chinese characters
Language codes
ISO 639-3

The Meixian dialect (Chinese: 梅縣話; Pha̍k-fa-sṳ: Mòi-yan-fa; IPA: [moi˩ jan˥ fa˥˧]), also known as Moiyan dialect, as well as Meizhou dialect (梅州話), or Jiaying dialect and Sixian dialect (in Taiwan), is the prestige dialect of Hakka Chinese. It is named after Meixian District, Guangdong.





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

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

* When the initials /k/ ⟨g⟩, // ⟨k⟩, /h/ ⟨h⟩, and /ŋ/ ⟨ng⟩ are followed by a palatal medial /j/ ⟨i⟩, they become [c] ⟨g(i)⟩, [] ⟨k(i)⟩, [ç] ⟨h(i)⟩, and [ɲ] ⟨ng(i)⟩, respectively.[1]



Moiyan Hakka has seven vowels, /ɹ̩/, /i/, /e/, /a/, /ə/, /ɔ/ and /u/, that are romanised as ii, i, ê, a, e, o and u, respectively.

Out Front Central Back
Close /ɹ̩/ ⟨ii⟩ /i/ ⟨i⟩ /u/ ⟨u⟩
Mid // ⟨ê⟩ /ə/ (/ɘ/) ⟨e⟩ /ɔ/ ⟨o⟩
Open /a/ ⟨a⟩



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 Moiyan 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
j- ja jai jau jam jan jaŋ jap jat jak
w- wa wai     wan waŋ   wat wak
-e- ∅-   e̞u e̞m e̞n   e̞p e̞t  
j- je̞       je̞n     je̞t  
w-  we̞       we̞n     we̞t  
-i- ∅- i   iu im in   ip it  
-o- ∅- o oi     on   ot ok
j- jo  joi     jon joŋ     jok
w- wo       won woŋ     wok
-u- ∅- u ui     un   ut uk
j-   jui     jun juŋ   jut juk
-ə- ∅-       əm ən   əp ət  
Syllabics ɹ̩  n̩ ŋ̩



Moiyan Hakka has six tones. 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.

Moiyan tones
Tone number Tone name Hanzi Tone letters number English
1 yin ping 陰平 ˦ 44 high level
2 yang ping 陽平 ˩ 11 low level
3 shang ˧˩ 31 low falling
4 qu ˥˧ 53 high falling
5 yin ru 陰入 ˩ 2 low checked
6 yang ru 陽入 ˥ 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 Moiyan 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 [e] 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 set˩ colour, hue
多則切 tək tet˩ virtue
苦得切 kʰək kʰet˩ carve, engrave, a moment
博墨切 pək pet˩ north
古或切 kuək kuet˩ country, state

Tone sandhi


For Moiyan 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.

Internal variation


The Meixian dialect can be divided into four accents, which are:

Meicheng accent: Most of the townships in the central part of Meixian County (including present-day Meijiang District)

Songkou accent: Songkou, Longwen, Taoyao.

Meixi accent: Meixi.

Shejiang River accent: Shejiang River in the southwest of Meixian County.


  1. ^ Zee, Eric; Lee, Wai-sum (2008). "The Articulatory Characteristics of the Palatals, Palatalized Velars and Velars in Hakka Chinese" (PDF). In Sock, Rudolph; Fuchs, Susanne; Laprie, Yves (eds.). Proceedings of the 8th International Seminar on Speech Production (ISSP2008). INRIA. pp. 113–116. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-05.
  2. ^ Cheung, Yuk Man (2011). Vowels and Tones in Mei Xian Hakka: An Acoustic and Perceptual Study (PhD thesis). City University of Hong Kong.
  3. ^ Sung, Dylan W. H. (2000). "Chinese Numerals: A Comparison of Readings from China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam". dylansung.tripod.com. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  4. ^ "廣韻入聲卷第五". kanji-database.sourceforge.net. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.

Further reading