Southern Min

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Southern Min
Min Nan
閩南語 / 闽南语 Bân-lâm-gú
Koa-a books, Min Nan written in Chinese characters
Native to China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Japan 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 (2007)[1]
Datian (disputed)
Official status
Official language in
None (Legislative bills have been proposed for Taiwanese Hokkien to be one of the 'national languages' in Taiwan); one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in Taiwan [1]
Regulated by None (The Republic of China Ministry of Education and some NGOs are influential in Taiwan)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 nan
Glottolog minn1241[2]
Distribution of Southern Min.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Southern Min
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese 閩南語

Southern Min, 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"), is a branch of Min Chinese spoken in certain parts of China including southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, and southern Zhejiang, and in Taiwan. The Min Nan dialects are also spoken by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora.

In common parlance, Southern Min usually refers to Hokkien. Amoy and Taiwanese Hokkien are both combinations of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. The Southern Min dialect group also includes Teochew, though Teochew has limited mutual intelligibility with Hokkien. Southern Min is not mutually intelligible with Eastern Min, Cantonese, or Standard Chinese.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Southern Min dialects are spoken in the southern part of Fujian, three southeastern counties of Zhejiang, the Zhoushan archipelago off Ningbo in Zhejiang, and Chaoshan, Guangdong. The variant spoken in Leizhou, Guangdong as well as Hainan is Hainanese; it is not mutually intelligible with standard Minnan or Teochew. Hainanese 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 Taiwanese Hokkien, where it has the native name of Tâi-oân-oē or Hō-ló-oē. Southern Min is a first language for 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.

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 Burma, Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies) and present day Malaysia and Singapore (formerly British Malaya and the 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 Hokkien. Many Southeast Asian ethnic Chinese also originated in the Chaoshan region of Guangdong and speak Teochew dialect, the variant of Southern Min from that region. Philippine Hokkien is reportedly the native language of up to 98.5% of the Chinese Filipino community 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 group being Hoklos and the second largest Teochew people.


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 most 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 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.


There are three principal branches of Southern Min: Hokkien (a.k.a. Quanzhang 泉漳), Datian (大田) and Teochew a.k.a Chaoshan (潮汕)


Main article: Hokkien

Xiamen (Amoy) dialect is a blend of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou dialects. Taiwanese Hokkien is also a blend of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou dialect. Taiwanese in northern Taiwan tends to be based on Quanzhou dialect, whereas the Taiwanese spoken in southern Taiwan tends to be based on Zhangzhou dialect. There are minor variations in pronunciation and vocabulary between Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech. The grammar is basically the same. Additionally, extensive contact with the Japanese language has left a legacy of Japanese loanwords. In contrast, Teochew speech is significantly different from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech in both pronunciation and vocabulary.


Main article: Teochew dialect

Teochew, or Chao-Shan, includes Swatow dialect. It has very low intelligibility with Amoy dialect.[3] Many Amoy and Teochew speakers speak Mandarin as a second or third language.


Main article: Datian Min


Main articles: Hokkien dialect and Teochew dialect

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 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, n, ŋ, ~.

Writing systems[edit]

See also: Written Hokkien

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 speakers have become interested in developing a standard writing system (either by using Chinese Characters, or using Romanized script).[citation needed]

Cultural and political role[edit]

Min Nan (or Hokkien) 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, there are today still many Min Nan pronunciations of words shared by the Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese languages.

English Chinese characters Mandarin Chinese Taiwanese Hokkien[4] Korean Vietnamese Japanese
Book Chheh Chaek (책) Tập/Sách Saku/Satsu/Shaku
Bridge Qiáo Kiô Gyo (교) Cầu/Kiều Kyō
Dangerous 危險 Wēixiǎn Guî-hiám Wiheom (위험) Nguy hiểm Kiken
Embassy 大使館 Dàshǐguǎn Tāi-sài-koán Daesagwan (대사관) Đại Sứ Quán Taishikan
Flag Gi (기) Cờ/Kỳ Ki
Insurance 保險 Bǎoxiǎn Pó-hiám Boheom (보험) Bảo hiểm Hoken
News 新聞 Xīnwén Sin-bûn Shinmun (신문) Tân Văn Shinbun
Student 學生 Xuéshēng Ha̍k-seng Haksaeng (학생) Học sinh Gakusei
University 大學 Dàxué Tāi-ha̍k (Tōa-o̍h) Daehak (대학) Đại học Daigaku

See also[edit]

Related languages[edit]


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Min Nan Chinese". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Nan Southern Min at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  4. ^ Iûⁿ, Ún-giân. "Tâi-bûn/Hôa-bûn Sòaⁿ-téng Sû-tián" 台文/華文線頂辭典 [Taiwanese/Chinese Online Dictionary]. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]