Pī-néeng Hok-kiàn-uā (Tâi-lô)
Pī-né͘ng Hok-kiàn-ōa (Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī)
|Region||Penang, parts of Kedah, northern Perak (Kerian, Larut and Hulu Perak) and Perlis|
- Modified Tâi-lô
- Modified Pe̍h-ōe-jī (Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī)
- Ad hoc methods
- Hokkien Imji
Mixed script comprising the above methods
|Alternative Chinese name|
Penang Hokkien (Chinese: 庇能福建話; Tâi-lô: Pī-néeng Hok-kiàn-uā; Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī: Pī-né͘ng Hok-kiàn-ōa; IPA: /pi˨˩nɛŋ˦˥ hɔk̚˦kiɛn˥˧ua˨˩/) is a local variant of Hokkien spoken in Penang, Malaysia. It is spoken natively by 63.9% of Penang's Chinese community, and also by some Penangite Indians and Penangite Malays.
It was once the lingua franca among the majority Chinese population in Penang, Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak. However, since the 1980s, many younger speakers have shifted towards Malaysian Mandarin under the Speak Mandarin Campaign in Chinese-medium schools in Malaysia, even though Mandarin was not previously spoken in these regions. Mandarin has been adopted as the only language of instruction in Chinese schools and, from the 1980s to mid-2010s, these schools had rules to penalise students and teachers for using non-Mandarin varieties of Chinese.
Penang Hokkien is a subdialect of Zhangzhou (漳州; Tsiang-tsiu) Hokkien, with extensive use of Malay and English loanwords. Compared to dialects in Fujian (福建; Hok-kiàn) province, it most closely resembles the variety spoken in the district of Haicang (海滄; Hái-tshng) in Longhai (龍海; Liông-hái) county and in the districts of Jiaomei (角美; Kak-bí) and Xinglin (杏林; Hēng-lîm) in neighbouring Xiamen (廈門; Ēe-muî) prefecture. In Southeast Asia, similar dialects are spoken in the states bordering Penang (Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak), as well as in Medan and North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is markedly distinct from Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien, Singaporean Hokkien and Taiwanese Hokkien.
Penang Hokkien is largely a spoken language, however it can be written in Chinese characters (唐人字; Tn̂g-lâng-jī), or romanised in the Latin script (紅毛字; Âng-môo-jī). Penang Hokkien has a growing body of written, particularly romanised material, thanks largely in part to its increasing online presence on social media. Many topics focus on the language itself such as dictionaries and learning materials. This is linked to efforts to preserve, revitalise and promote the language as part of Penang's cultural heritage, due to increasing awareness of the loss of Penang Hokkien usage among younger generations in favour of Mandarin and English. The standard romanisation systems commonly used in these materials are based on Tâi-lô and Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī, with varying modifications to suit Penang Hokkien phonology.
The Hokkien Language Association of Penang (Persatuan Bahasa Hokkien Pulau Pinang; 庇能福建話協會) is one such organisation which promotes the language's usage and revitalisation. Through their Speak Hokkien Campaign they promote a Tâi-lô based system modified to suit the phonology of Penang Hokkien and its loanwords. This system is used throughout this article and its features are detailed below.
Most native-speakers are not aware of these standardised systems and resort to ad hoc methods of romanisation based on English, Malay and Pinyin spelling rules. These methods are in common use for many proper names and food items, e.g. Char Kway Teow (炒粿條; tshá-kúe-tiâu). These spellings are often inconsistent and highly variable with several alternate spellings being well established, e.g. Char Koay Teow. These methods, which are more intuitive to the average native-speaker, are the basis of non-standard romanisation systems used in some written material.
- Unlike other dialects of Hokkien, alveolar affricates and fricatives remain the same and do not undergo palatalisation to become alveolo-palatal before /i/, e.g. 時 [si] instead of [ɕi].
- Words that begin with a null initial, i.e. begin with a vowel without a preceding consonant may feature an initial glottal stop /ʔ/, this is not indicated in writing.
- The consonants ⟨w⟩ and ⟨y⟩ are only used in the spelling of loanwords. They may be analysed in terms of native Hokkien phonology as beginning with a null initial and may instead be spelled with ⟨u⟩ and ⟨i⟩ respectively, e.g. 我 wá/uá and 捎央 sa-yang/sa-iang.
- The consonants ⟨d⟩, ⟨f⟩, ⟨sh⟩ and ⟨r⟩ are only used in loanwords.
- In the Tâi-lô system for Penang Hokkien, nasal vowels are indicated using final ⟨-nn⟩, while Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī uses superscript ⟨◌ⁿ⟩. Vowel nasalisation occurs in words that have nasal initials (⟨m-⟩, ⟨n-⟩, ⟨ng-⟩), however, this is not explicitly indicated in writing with either ⟨-nn⟩ or ⟨◌ⁿ⟩, e.g. 卵 nūi (/nuĩ/) instead of nūinn/nūiⁿ.
For most speakers who are not familiar with Tâi-lô or Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī, nasalisation is commonly indicated by putting an ⟨n⟩ after the initial consonant of a word. This is commonly seen for the popular Penang delicacy Tau Sar Pneah (豆沙餅; tāu-sa-piánn). In other instances, nasalisation may not be indicated at all, such as in Popiah (薄餅; po̍h-piánn), or as in the common last name Ooi (黃; Uînn).
- The final ⟨ioo⟩ is only written in conjunction with words that have an initial ⟨n-⟩, e.g. 娘 niôo. In this instance it is pronounced /iɔ̃/ and is a variant of ⟨ionn⟩, with nasalisation instead indicated by the nasal initial.
- The rime ⟨ionn⟩ is a variant pronunciation of ⟨iaunn⟩. The two may be used interchangeably in Penang Hokkien, e.g. 張 tiaunn/tionn, 羊 iâunn/iônn.
- When ⟨ia⟩ is followed by final ⟨-n⟩ or ⟨-t⟩, it is pronounced [iɛ], with ⟨ian⟩ and ⟨iat⟩ being pronounced as [iɛn] and [iɛt̚] respectively.
In speech, these sounds are often reduced to [ɛn] and [ɛt̚], e.g. 免 mián/mén.
- The diphthong /ua/ may be spelled ⟨wa⟩ in loanwords, e.g. 我 wá/uá.
- The diphthong /ia/ may be spelled ⟨ya⟩ in loanwords, e.g. sa-yang/sa-iang 捎央.
- There are clear distinction between /e/ and /ɛ/ vowel in Penang Hokkien. For example, the term 家 (home) is pronounced as /kɛ/ (Tâi-lô: ⟨kee⟩, Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī: ⟨ke͘⟩), while 雞 (chicken) is pronounced as /ke/, which is transcribed as ⟨ke⟩ in both Tâi-lô and Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī. However, a lot of Penang Hokkien Tâi-lô or Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī users were prone to ignore the difference. Reasons being the absence of formal letter on /ɛ/ from the orthodox Pe̍h-ōe-jī which is based on Amoy accent, and there are lack of support from most mainstream POJ input methods for the letter ⟨e͘⟩. Despite the existence of formal notation of /ɛ/ in Tâi-lô as ⟨ee⟩, some Tâi-lô users were seems to neglect it too, possibly due to the influence from Taiwanese online resources which don't include letter /ee/ and not aware of it.
|er||[ə]||bēr-liân||Occurs in Quanzhou accented varieties of Hokkien such as those spoken in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.|
Used in Malay and English loanwords.
|Used in Cantonese loanwords, may be pronounced as ⟨i⟩.|
|Used in Cantonese loanwords.|
|An alternate pronunciation of ⟨ue⟩ due to Cantonese influence.|
Used in Cantonese loanwords, may be pronounced as ⟨ue⟩.
|Used in Malay, English, Cantonese and Teochew loanwords.|
Replaces ⟨ol⟩ in Malay loanwords, e.g. bo̍t-toi 瓿瓵 (botol), tsian-doi 煎蕊 (cendol).
Note: The change from final ⟨-l⟩ in Standard Malay to ⟨-i⟩ is a general feature of Penang Malay, the local variety from which Penang Hokkien borrows.
This phonological change can be seen in other loanwords from Penang Malay, e.g. sām-bai 參峇 (sambal).
|Used in Cantonese and Teochew loanwords.|
- * Used in loanwords, variants and onomatopoeia
In Penang Hokkien, the two Departing tones (3rd & 7th) are virtually identical, and may not be distinguished except in their sandhi forms. Most native speakers of Penang Hokkien are therefore only aware of four tones in unchecked syllables (high, low, rising, high falling), and two Entering tones (high and low) in checked syllables. In most systems of romanisation, this is accounted as seven tones altogether. The tones are:
|Upper/Dark (陰)||Lower/Light (陽)|
|a||[˦˦] (44)||[˨˩] (21)||5||陽平
|â||[˨˧] (23)||[˨˩] (21)|
|á||[˥˧] (53)||[˦˦] (44)||－|
|à||[˨˩] (21)||[˥˧] (53)||7||陽去
|ā||[˨˩] (21)||[˨˩] (21)|
|a◌||[ʔ˧] (3)||[ʔ˦] (4)||8||陽入
|a̍◌||[ʔ˦] (4)||[ʔ˧] (3)|
|Note||Entering tones (4 & 8) only occur in closed syllables where ◌ represents either -p, -t, -k, or -h.|
The names of the tones no longer bear any relation to the tone contours. The (upper) Rising (2nd) tone has two variants in Penang Hokkien, a high falling tone [˥˧] (53) and a high rising tone [˦˦˥] (445). The high falling tone [˥˧] (53) is more common among the older generations while in the younger generations there has been a shift towards the use of the high rising tone [˦˦˥] (445). When the 3rd tone is sandhied to the 2nd tone, the high falling variant [˥˧] (53) is used, however some speakers may sandhi the 3rd tone to the 1st tone [˦] (44). As in Amoy and Zhangzhou, there is no lower Rising (6th) tone.
Penang Hokkien, like other Hokkien dialects albeit less extensive, features tone sandhi (變調; piàn-tiāu), a process where the tone of a character changes if it is followed by another character as part of a multisyllabic compound. When a character is read in isolation as a monosyllabic word, or as the final character in a multisyllabic compound, it is pronounced with its "original tone" (本調; pún-tiāu). Within a multisyllabic compound, every character, except for the one in the final position undergoes tone sandhi. For example, the word 牛 gû in isolation is pronounced with an ascending tone, [˨˧] (23), but when it combines with a following syllable, as in 牛肉 gû-bah, it undergoes tone sandhi and is pronounced with a low tone, [˨˩] (21). Meanwhile 肉 bah in the final position is pronounced with its original tone [ʔ˧] (3). This process occurs regardless of the length of the compound, for example, in 牛肉粿條湯 gû-bah-kué-tiâu-thng, the first 4 characters are pronounced with their sandhied tone, while only the final character 湯 thng, is pronounced with its original tone.
In both Tâi-lô and Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī based romanisation systems, compounds are indicated with the use of hyphens linking the individual syllables. Single hyphens (-) are most often used and linked syllables undergo tone sandhi as described above. Double hyphens (--) are used in instances where the preceding syllable does not undergo tone sandhi. Tone marks always show the original tone, and do not change to indicate the sandhied tone in a compound.
The general tone sandhi rules for Penang Hokkien are as follows:
- 5th becomes 7th
- 7th becomes 3rd
- 3rd becomes 2nd (for some speakers becomes 1st)
- 2nd becomes 1st
- 1st becomes 7th
Checked syllables (-p, -t, -k, -h):
- 4th becomes 8th
- 8th becomes 4th
Although the two departing tones (3rd & 7th) are virtually identical in Penang Hokkien, in their sandhi forms they become [˥˧] (53) and [˨˩] (21) and are thus easily distinguishable.
Relationship between Hokkien and Mandarin tones
There is a reasonably reliable correspondence between Hokkien and Mandarin tones:
- Upper Level: Hokkien 1st tone = Mandarin 1st tone, e.g. 雞 ke/jī.
- Lower Level: Hokkien 5th tone = Mandarin 2nd tone, e.g. 龍 lêng/lóng.
- Rising: Hokkien 2nd tone = Mandarin 3rd tone, e.g. 馬 bée/mǎ.
- Departing: Hokkien 3rd/7th tones = Mandarin 4th tone, e.g. 兔 thòo/tù, 象 tshiōnn/xiàng.
Words with Entering tones all end with ⟨-p⟩, ⟨-t⟩, ⟨-k⟩ or ⟨-h⟩ (glottal stop). As Mandarin no longer has any Entering tones, there is no simple corresponding relationship for the Hokkien 4th and 8th tones, e.g. 國 kok/guó, but 發 huat/fā. The tone in Mandarin often depends on what the initial consonant of the syllable is (see the article on Entering tones for details).
Literary and colloquial pronunciations
Hokkien has not been taught in schools in Penang since the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911, when Mandarin was made the Chinese national language. As such, few if any people have received any formal instruction in Hokkien, and it is not used for literary purposes. However, as in other variants of Min Nan, most words have both literary and colloquial pronunciations. Literary variants are generally eschewed in favour of colloquial pronunciations, e.g. 大學 tuā-o̍h instead of tāi-ha̍k, though literary pronunciations still appear in limited circumstances, e.g.:
- in given names (but generally not surnames), e.g. 安 an rather than uann, 玉 gio̍k rather than ge̍k, 月 gua̍t rather than gue̍h, 明 bêng rather than mêe
- in a few surnames, e.g. 葉 ia̍p rather than hio̍h
- in other proper names, e.g. 龍山堂 Liông-san-tông rather than Lêng-suann-tn̂g
- in certain set phrases, e.g. 差不多 tsha-put-to rather than tshee-m̄-to, 見笑 kiàn-siàu rather than kìnn-tshiò
- in certain names of plants, herbs, and spices, e.g. 木瓜 bo̍k-kua rather than ba̍k-kua, 五香 ngóo-hiong rather than gōo-hiong
- in names of certain professions, eg. 學生 ha̍k-seng instead of o̍h-senn, 醫生 i-seng rather than i-senn, and 老君 ló-kun instead of lāu-kun. A notable exception is 先生 sin-senn
Unlike in China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, the literary pronunciations of numbers higher than two are not used when giving telephone numbers, etc.; e.g. 二五四 jī-gōo-sì instead of jī-ngóo-sù.
Differences from other varieties of Hokkien
Penang Hokkien has differences in pronunciation and vocabulary when compared to other varieties of Hokkien. Although Penang Hokkien has many similarities to Zhangzhou Hokkien from which it is derived, it also has its own unique differences.
- The use of Zhangzhou pronunciations such as 糜 muâi (Amoy: bê), 先生 sin-senn (Amoy: sian-sinn), etc.;
- The use of Zhangzhou expressions such as 調羹 thâu-kiong (Amoy: 湯匙 thng-sî);
- The adoption of pronunciations from Teochew: e.g. 我 wá/uá (Zhangzhou: guá), 糜 môi (Zhangzhou: muâi);
- The adoption of Amoy and Quanzhou pronunciations like 歹勢 pháinn-sè (Zhangzhou: bái/pháinn-sì), 百 pah (Zhangzhou: peeh), etc.
General pronunciation differences can be shown as below:
|Penang Hokkien||Amoy Hokkien||Zhangzhou Dialect||Example|
|8th tone [˦] (4)||8th tone [˦] (4)||8th tone [˩˨] (12)|
|-eng||-ing* (/iəŋ/)||-ing* (/iəŋ/)||生 seng|
|-ek||-ik* (/iək̚/)||-ik* (/iək̚/)||色 sek|
|-iaunn / -ionn||-iunn||-ionn||想 siāunn|
|-iong / -iang||-iong||-iang||相 siong|
Due to Penang's linguistic and ethnic diversity, Penang Hokkien is in close contact with many other languages and dialects which are drawn on heavily for loanwords. These include Malay, Teochew, Cantonese and English.
|Penang Hokkien||Malay||Other Hokkien||Definition||Note|
|new(ly), just now|
|market||see also: pá-sat (巴剎)|
|animal||禽獸 (khîm-siù) is also frequently used.|
|gēr-lí / gî-lí
|kan-nang-tsû / kan-lang-tsû
|kau-în / kau-îng
|as if; since when?|
|market||see also: bān-san (萬山)|
呠 / 僨
|soap||Other varieties of Hokkien including some Taiwanese varieties also use 雪文 (sá-bûn)|
|to love; what a pity|
|su-kā / su-kah
焦比 / 逐比
|tapi||但是 / 毋過
tān-sī / m̄-koh
|help||鬥相共 (tàu-sann-kāng) is also frequently used.|
There are also many Hokkien words which have been borrowed into Malay, sometimes with slightly different meanings, e.g.:
|upstairs||Originally means "attic" in Hokkien.|
|fish sauce||Originally means "sauce" in Hokkien.|
|to share||Originally means "company/firm/clan association" in Hokkien.|
|edible watermelon seeds|
|flat rice noodle|
|traditional Chinese doctor|
|Tionghua / Tionghoa||中華
|Chinese (of/relating to China)|
Other Chinese varieties
There are words in Penang Hokkien that originated from other varieties of Chinese spoken in and around Malaysia. e.g.:
|Penang Hokkien||Originated from||Definition||Note|
|Teochew||want||Other varieties of Hokkien use 欲 beh.|
|Teochew||I; me||Originally pronounced as guá in Hokkien, however Penang Hokkien has adopted the Teochew pronunciation.|
|Teochew||we; us||May be shortened to wang/uang (卬).|
Other varieties of Hokkien use 阮 gún/guán.
|Teochew||you guys||May be shortened to luang (戎).|
Other varieties of Hokkien use 恁 lín.
|Teochew||they; theirs||May be shortened to yang/iang (傇).|
Other varieties of Hokkien use 𪜶 (亻因) in.
|Teochew||nothing can be done|
|豬母酸 / 豬母霜
tu-bó-suinn / tu-bó-sng
|Teochew||octopus (particularly as food)||From local Teochew 豬母酸 tṳ-bó-sṳng.|
|Cantonese||bro; boss||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
kán-tsiong / kín-tsiong
|Cantonese||nervous||From the Cantonese pronunciation 緊張 gán jēung, or a compound of Hokkien 緊 (kín) + Cantonese 張 (jēung).|
The original Hokkien pronunciation would be kín-tiaunn/kín-tionn.
|Cantonese||makes no sense||From Cantonese 無厘頭 mòuh lèih tàuh.|
|Cantonese||chee cheong fun||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|Cantonese||wantan||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|Cantonese||easy; "a piece of cake"||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|Singaporean Hokkien||very||Originated from Teochew 死父 sí-pĕ and adopted from Singaporean Hokkien 死爸 sí-pē.|
|Singaporean Hokkien||oh my god; oh no|
Penang Hokkien has also borrowed some words from English, some of which may have been borrowed via Malay. Often, these words tend to be more technical and less well embedded than the Malay words, e.g. brake, park, pipe, pump, etc. However some are used in common everyday language, e.g.:
|Penang Hokkien||English||Other Hokkien||Note|
|Familiar term of address for one's own son.|
Also used generally to refer to someone else's son or younger male around one's son's age.
|Familiar term of address for one's own daughter.|
Also used generally to refer to someone else's daughter or younger female around one's daughter's age.
|Familiar term of address for a man around one's father's age.|
Also used generally to refer to any middle-aged or older man.
|Familiar term of address for a woman around one's mother's age.|
Also used generally to refer to any middle-aged or older woman.
|Derives from 'motor' in 'motorcycle'.|
Penang Hokkien also contains words which are thought to come from Thai, e.g.:
|Penang Hokkien||Definition||Other Hokkien||Note|
鈸 / 鏺
|1/10 of a unit of currency
i.e. 10 sen / cents
e.g. 50 sen 五鈸 gōo-pua̍t
|Etymology ultimately unknown but thought to come from Thai baht.|
In recent years, a number of movies that incorporate the use of Penang Hokkien have been filmed, as part of wider efforts to preserve the dialect's relevance. Among the more recent movies are The Journey, which became the highest-grossing Malaysian film in 2014, and You Mean the World to Me, the first movie to be filmed entirely in Penang Hokkien.
Another significant contribution to the entertainment landscape is the Penang Hokkien Podcast. Founded in 2005 by John Ong, a Penangite residing in Kansas City, US - this podcast stands as the pioneering platform dedicated entirely to Penang-style Hokkien. The podcast offers a fun and engaging show for Penangites and individuals who understand the language. With its inception predating the recent wave of Penang Hokkien-focused films, the podcast provides a unique space for lighthearted and casual conversations with no topic restrictions. Listeners can enjoy funny and relatable discussions reminiscent of sharing secrets and stories with close friends.
As an initiative in the realm of Penang Hokkien entertainment, the Penang Hokkien Podcast complements the efforts to preserve the language's relevance. It serves as an audio medium that celebrates the culture, and humour associated with Penang Hokkien, offering a valuable resource for those seeking an immersive experience.
- Hoklo people
- Hokkien culture
- Hokkien architecture
- Written Hokkien
- Hokkien media
- Taiwanese Hokkien
- Southern Malaysia Hokkien
- Singaporean Hokkien
- Medan Hokkien
- Lan-nang-oe (Philippine Hokkien)
- Place and street names of Penang
- Written Hokkien
- Speak Hokkien Campaign
- Penang Hokkien Podcast
- Min is believed to have split from Old Chinese, rather than Middle Chinese like other varieties of Chinese.
- The open-mid front unrounded vowel /ɛ/ is a feature of Zhangzhou Hokkien, from which Penang Hokkien is derived. Tâi-lô records this vowel as ⟨ee⟩. It is much less commonly written in Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī as it has merged with ⟨e⟩ in mainstream Taiwanese and Amoy Hokkien. However it may be written as a distinct vowel in Pe̍͘h-ōa-jī using ⟨ɛ⟩ or ⟨e͘ ⟩ (with a dot above right, by analogy with ⟨o͘ ⟩).
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- de Gijzel, Luc (2009). English-Penang Hokkien Pocket Dictionary. George Town, Penang: Areca Books. ISBN 978-983-44646-0-8.
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- de Gijzel, Luc (2009). English-Penang Hokkien Pocket Dictionary. George Town, Penang: Areca Books. ISBN 978-983-44646-0-8.