Amoy dialect

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Amoynese, Xiamenese
廈門話 Ē-mn̂g-ōe
Native toChina
Regionpart of Xiamen (Amoy) (Siming 思明 and Huli 湖里 districts), Haicang 海沧 and Longhai 龙海 districts to the west
Native speakers
2 million (2021)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguasphere79-AAA-je > 79-AAA-jeb
Hokkien Map.svg
Distribution of Hokkien dialects. Amoy dialect is in magenta.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

The Amoy dialect or Xiamen dialect (Chinese: 廈門話; pinyin: Xiàménhuà; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Ē-mn̂g-ōe), also known as Amoynese, Amoy Hokkien, Xiamenese or Xiamen Hokkien, is a dialect of Hokkien spoken in the city of Xiamen (historically known as "Amoy") and its surrounding metropolitan area, in the southern part of Fujian province. Currently, it is one of the most widely researched and studied varieties of Southern Min.[2] It has historically come to be one of the more standardized varieties.[3]

Amoynese and Taiwanese are both historically mixtures of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou dialects.[4] As such, they are very closely aligned phonologically. There are some differences between the two, especially lexical, as a result of physical separation and the differing histories of mainland China and Taiwan during the 20th century. Amoynese and Taiwanese are mutually intelligible. Intelligibility with other Hokkien, especially inland, is more difficult. By that standard, Amoynese and Taiwanese may be considered dialects of a single language. Ethnolinguistically, however, Amoynese is part of mainland Hokkien.[1]


In 1842, as a result of the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, Amoy was designated as a trading port in Fujian. Amoy and Kulangsu rapidly developed, which resulted in a large influx of people from neighboring areas such as Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. The mixture of these various accents formed the basis for the Amoy dialect.

Over the last several centuries, a large number of Southern Fujianese peoples from these same areas migrated to Taiwan during Dutch rule and Qing rule. "Amoy dialect" was considered the vernacular of Taiwan.[5] Eventually, the mixture of accents spoken in Taiwan became popularly known as Taiwanese during Imperial Japanese rule. As in American and British English, there are subtle lexical and phonological differences between modern Taiwanese and Amoy Hokkien; however, these differences do not generally pose any barriers to communication. Amoy dialect speakers also migrated to Southeast Asia, mainly in the Philippines (where it is known as Lán-nâng-ōe), Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Special characteristics[edit]

Spoken Amoy dialect preserves many of the sounds and words from Old Chinese. However, the vocabulary of Amoy was also influenced in its early stages by the Minyue languages spoken by the ancient Minyue peoples.[6] Spoken Amoy is known for its extensive use of nasalization.

Unlike Mandarin, Amoy dialect distinguishes between voiced and voiceless unaspirated initial consonants (Mandarin has no voicing of initial consonants). Unlike English, it differentiates between unaspirated and aspirated voiceless initial consonants (as Mandarin does too). In less technical terms, native Amoy speakers have little difficulty in hearing the difference between the following syllables:

  unaspirated aspirated
bilabial stop bo po pʰo
velar stop go ko kʰo
  voiced voiceless

However, these fully voiced consonants did not derive from the Early Middle Chinese voiced obstruents, but rather from fortition of nasal initials.[7]


A comparison between Amoy and other Southern Min languages can be found there.


Amoy is similar to other Southern Min variants in that it makes use of five tones, though only two in checked syllables. The tones are traditionally numbered from 1 through 8, with 4 and 8 being the checked tones, but those numbered 2 and 6 are identical in most regions.

Tone number Tone name Tone letter
1 Yin level ˥
2 Yin rising ˥˧
3 Yin falling ˨˩
4 Yin entering ˩ʔ
5 Yang level ˧˥
6=2 Yang rising ˥˧
7 Yang falling ˧
8 Yang entering ˥ʔ

Tone sandhi[edit]

Amoy has extremely extensive tone sandhi (tone-changing) rules: in an utterance, only the last syllable pronounced is not affected by the rules. What an 'utterance' is, in the context of this language, is an ongoing topic for linguistic research. For the purpose of this article, an utterance may be considered a word, a phrase, or a short sentence. The diagram illustrates the rules that govern the pronunciation of a tone on each of the syllables affected (that is, all but the last in an utterance):

Taiwanese Hokkien tones.svg

Literary and colloquial readings[edit]

Like other languages of Southern Min, Amoy has complex rules for literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters. For example, the character for big/great, , has a vernacular reading of tōa ([tua˧]), but a literary reading of tāi ([tai˧]). Because of the loose nature of the rules governing when to use a given pronunciation, a learner of Amoy must often simply memorize the appropriate reading for a word on a case by case basis. For single-syllable words, it is more common to use the vernacular pronunciation. This situation is comparable to the on and kun readings of the Japanese language.

The vernacular readings are generally thought to predate the literary readings, as is the case with the Min Chinese varieties;[8] the literary readings appear to have evolved from Middle Chinese.[9] The following chart illustrates some of the more commonly seen sound shifts:

Colloquial Literary Example
[p-], [pʰ-] [h-] pun hun divide
[ts-], [tsʰ-], [tɕ-], [tɕʰ-] [s-], [ɕ-] chiâⁿ sêng to become
[k-], [kʰ-] [tɕ-], [tɕʰ-] kí chí finger
[-ã], [-uã] [-an] khòaⁿ khàn to see
[-ʔ] [-t] chia̍h si̍t to eat
[-i] [-e] sì sè world
[-e] [-a] ke ka family
[-ia] [-i] kh khì to stand


For further information, read the article: Swadesh list

The Swadesh word list, developed by the linguist Morris Swadesh, is used as a tool to study the evolution of languages. It contains a set of basic words which can be found in every language.



Labial Alveolar Alveolo-
Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tɕʰ
voiced dz
Fricative s ɕ h
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant l
  • Word-initial alveolar consonants /ts, tsʰ, dz/ when occurring before /i/ are pronounced as alveo-palatal sounds [tɕ, tɕʰ, dʑ].
  • /l/ can fluctuate freely in initial position as either a flap or voiced stop [ɾ], [d].
  • [ʔ] can occur in both word initial and final position.
  • /m ŋ/ when occurring before /m̩ ŋ̍/ can be pronounced as voiceless sounds [m̥], [ŋ̊].


Rimes without codas
ɨ /ai/
/i/- /ia/
/u/- /ua/
Rimes with nasal codas
Checked rimes


  • Final consonants are pronounced as unreleased [p̚ t̚ k̚].
Nasalized rimes without codas


Amoy grammar shares a similar structure to other Chinese dialects, although it is slightly more complex than Mandarin. Moreover, equivalent Amoy and Mandarin particles are usually not cognates.

Complement constructions[edit]

Amoy complement constructions are roughly parallel to Mandarin ones, although there are variations in the choice of lexical term. The following are examples of constructions that Amoy employs.

In the case of adverbs:









伊 走 會 緊

i cháu ē kín

he runs obtains quick

He runs quickly.

Mandarin: tā pǎo de kuài (他跑得快)

In the case of the adverb "very":









伊 走 真 緊

i cháu chin kín

He runs obtains quick

He runs very quickly.

Mandarin: tā pǎo de hěn kuài (他跑得很快)









伊 走 㬟 緊

i cháu buē kín

He runs not quick

He does not run quickly.

Mandarin: tā pǎo kuài (他跑不快)








already achieved

伊 看 會 著

i khòaⁿ ē tio̍h

He see obtains {already achieved}

He can see.

Mandarin: tā kàn de dào (他看得到)

For the negative,








already achieved

伊 看 㬟 著

i khòaⁿ buē tio̍h

He sees not {already achieved}

He cannot see.

Mandarin: tā kàn dào (他看不到)

For the adverb "so," Amoy uses kah (甲) instead of Mandarin de (得):






to the point of











come out

伊 驚 甲 話 著 講 㬟 出來

i kiaⁿ kah ōe tio̍h kóng boē chhut-lâi

He startled {to the point of} words also say not {come out}

He was so startled, that he could not speak.

Mandarin: tā xià de huà dōu shuō bù chūlái (他嚇得話都說不出來)

Negative particles[edit]

Negative particle syntax is parallel to Mandarin about 70% of the time, although lexical terms used differ from those in Mandarin. For many lexical particles, there is no single standard Hanji character to represent these terms (e.g. m̄, a negative particle, can be variously represented by 毋, 呣, and 唔), but the most commonly used ones are presented below in examples. The following are commonly used negative particles:

  1. m̄ (毋,伓) - is not + noun (Mandarin 不, )
    i m̄-sī gún lāu-bú. (伊毋是阮老母) She is not my mother.
  2. m̄ - does not + verb/will not + verb (Mandarin 不, )
    i m̄ lâi. (伊毋來) He will not come.
  3. verb + buē (㬟) + particle - is not able to (Mandarin 不, )
    góa khòaⁿ-buē-tio̍h. (我看㬟著) I am not able to see it.
  4. bē (未) + helping verb - cannot (opposite of ē 會, is able to/Mandarin 不, )
    i buē-hiáu kóng Eng-gú. (伊㬟曉講英語) He can't speak English.
    • helping verbs that go with buē (㬟)
      buē-sái (㬟使) - is not permitted to (Mandarin 不可以 bù kěyǐ)
      buē-hiáu (㬟曉) - does not know how to (Mandarin 不会, búhuì)
      buē-tàng (㬟當) - not able to (Mandarin 不能, bùnéng)
  5. mài (莫,勿爱) - do not (imperative) (Mandarin 別, bié)
    mài kóng! (莫講) Don't speak!
  6. bô (無) - do not + helping verb (Mandarin 不, )
    i bô beh lâi. (伊無欲來) He is not going to come.
    • helping verbs that go with bô (無):
      beh (欲) - want to + verb; will + verb
      ài (愛) - must + verb
      èng-kai (應該) - should + verb
      kah-ì (合意) - like to + verb
  7. bô (無) - does not have (Mandarin 沒有, méiyǒu)
    i bô chîⁿ. (伊無錢) He does not have any money.
  8. bô - did not (Mandarin 沒有, méiyǒu)
    i bô lâi. (伊無來) He did not come.
  9. bô (無) - is not + adjective (Mandarin 不, )
    i bô súi. (伊無水 or 伊無媠) She is not beautiful.
    • Hó (好)(good) is an exception, as it can use both m̄ and bô.

Common particles[edit]

Commonly seen particles include:

  • 與 (hō·) - indicates passive voice (Mandarin 被, bèi)
    i hō· lâng phiàn khì (伊與人騙去) - They were cheated
  • 共 (kā) - identifies the object (Mandarin 把, )
    i kā chîⁿ kau hō· lí (伊共錢交與你) - He handed the money to you
  • 加 (ke) - "more"
    i ke chia̍h chi̍t óaⁿ (伊加食一碗) - He ate one more bowl
  • 共 (kā) - identifies the object
    góa kā lí kóng (我共你講) - I'm telling you
  • 濟 (choē) - "more"
    i ū khah choē ê pêng-iú (伊有較濟的朋友) - He has comparatively many friends


A number of Romanization schemes have been devised for Amoy. Pe̍h-ōe-jī is one of the oldest and best established. However, the Taiwanese Language Phonetic Alphabet has become the romanization of choice for many of the recent textbooks and dictionaries from Taiwan.

IPA a ap at ak ã ɔ ɔk ɔ̃ ə o e i iɛn iəŋ
Pe̍h-ōe-jī a ap at ak ah aⁿ ok oⁿ o o e eⁿ i ian eng
Revised TLPA a ap at ak ah aN oo ok ooN o o e eN i ian ing
TLPA a ap at ak ah ann oo ok oonn o o e enn i ian ing
BP a ap at ak ah na oo ok noo o o e ne i ian ing
MLT a ab/ap ad/at ag/ak aq/ah va o og/ok vo ø ø e ve i ien eng
DT a āp/ap āt/at āk/ak āh/ah ann/aⁿ o ok onn/oⁿ or or e enn/eⁿ i ian/en ing
Taiwanese kana アア アㇷ゚ アッ アㇰ アァ アア オオ オㇰ オオ オオ ヲヲ エエ エエ イイ イェヌ イェン
Extended bopomofo ㄚㆴ ㄚㆵ ㄚㆶ ㄚㆷ ㆦㆶ ㄧㄢ ㄧㄥ
Tâi-lô a ap at ak ah ann oo ok onn o o e enn i ian ing
Example (traditional Chinese)

Example (simplified Chinese)

IPA iək ĩ ai au am ɔm ɔŋ ŋ̍ u ua ue uai uan ɨ (i)ũ
Pe̍h-ōe-jī ek iⁿ ai aiⁿ au am om m ong ng u oa oe oai oan i (i)uⁿ
Revised TLPA ik iN ai aiN au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan ir (i)uN
TLPA ik inn ai ainn au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan ir (i)unn
BP ik ni ai nai au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan i n(i)u
MLT eg/ek vi ai vai au am om m ong ng u oa oe oai oan i v(i)u
DT ik inn/iⁿ ai ainn/aiⁿ au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan i (i)unn/uⁿ
Taiwanese kana イェㇰ イイ アイ アイ アウ アム オム オン ウウ ヲア ヲエ ヲァイ ヲァヌ ウウ ウウ
Extended bopomofo ㄧㆶ ㄨㄚ ㄨㆤ ㄨㄞ ㄨㄢ
Tâi-lô ik inn ai ainn au am om m ong ng u ua ue uai uan ir (i)unn
Example (traditional Chinese)

Example (simplified Chinese)

IPA p b m t n l k ɡ h tɕi ʑi tɕʰi ɕi ts dz tsʰ s
Pe̍h-ōe-jī p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h chi ji chhi si ch j chh s
Revised TLPA p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h zi ji ci si z j c s
TLPA p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h zi ji ci si z j c s
BP b bb p bb d t n lng l g gg k h zi li ci si z l c s
MLT p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h ci ji chi si z j zh s
DT b bh p m d t n nng l g gh k h zi r ci si z r c s
Taiwanese kana パア バア パ̣ア マア タア タ̣ア ナア ヌン ラア カア ガア カ̣ア ハア チイ ジイ チ̣イ シイ ザア サ̣ サア
Extended bopomofo ㄋㆭ
Tâi-lô p b ph m t th n nng l k g kh h tsi ji tshi si ts j tsh s
Example (traditional Chinese)

Example (simplified Chinese)

Tone name Yin level
Yin rising
Yin departing
Yin entering
Yang level
Yang rising
Yang departing
Yang entering
High rising
Neutral tone
IPA a˥˧ a˨˩ ap˩
a˧˥ ap˥
Pe̍h-ōe-jī a á à ap
â ā a̍p
a1 a2 a3 ap4
a5 a6 a7 ap8
a9 a0
BP ā ǎ à āp
á â áp
af ar ax ab
aa aar a ap
DT a à â āp
ǎ ā ap
á å
Taiwanese kana
(normal vowels)
アア アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 2.png アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 3.png アㇷ゚Taiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
アッTaiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
アㇰTaiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
アァTaiwanese kana normal tone 4.png
アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 5.png アアTaiwanese kana normal tone 7.png アㇷ゚Taiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
アッTaiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
アㇰTaiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
アァTaiwanese kana normal tone 8.png
Taiwanese kana
(nasal vowels)
アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 1.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 2.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 3.png アㇷ゚Taiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
アッTaiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
アㇰTaiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
アァTaiwanese kana nasal tone 4.png
アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 5.png アアTaiwanese kana nasal tone 7.png アㇷ゚Taiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
アッTaiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
アㇰTaiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
アァTaiwanese kana nasal tone 8.png
Extended bopomofo ㄚˋ ㄚ˪ ㄚㆴ
ㄚˊ ㄚ˫ ㄚㆴ˙
Tâi-lô a á à ah â ǎ ā a̍h --ah
(traditional Chinese)

(simplified Chinese)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Reclassifying ISO 639-3 [nan]: An Empirical Approach to Mutual Intelligibility and Ethnolinguistic Distinctions" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-09-19.
  2. ^ Lee, Alan (2005). Tone Patterns of Kelantan Hokkien and Related Issues in Southern Min Tonology (PhD thesis). University of Pennsylvania.
  3. ^ Heylen, Ann (2001). "Missionary Linguistics on Taiwan. Romanizing Taiwanese: Codification and Standardization of Dictionaries in Southern Min (1837–1923)". In Ku, Wei-ying; De Ridder, Koen (eds.). Authentic Chinese Christianity: Preludes to Its Development (Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries). Leuven: Leuven University Press. p. 151. ISBN 9789058671028.
  4. ^ Niu, Gengsen 牛耕叟 (2005-12-26). "Táiwān Héluòhuà fāzhǎn lìchéng" 台湾河洛话发展历程 [The Historical Development of Taiwanese Hoklo]. Zhōngguó Táiwān wǎng 中国台湾网 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2014-05-17.
  5. ^ Kirjassof, Alice Ballantine (March 1920). "Formosa the Beautiful". The National Geographic Magazine. Vol. 37, no. 3. p. 290 – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ "Gǔ Mǐnyuèzú yǔ Hànzú Mǐnnányǔ de yóulái" 古闽越族与汉族闽南语的由来 [The Ancient Minyue People and the Origins of the Min Nan Language]. Lónghú zhèn zhèngfǔ wǎng 龙湖镇政府网 (in Chinese). 2006-04-20. Archived from the original on 2009-05-17. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
  7. ^ Ratte, Alexander Takenobu (2011). Contact-Induced Phonological Change in Taiwanese (MA thesis). The Ohio State University.
  8. ^ Baxter, William Hubbard (1992). A handbook of old Chinese phonology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 47. ISBN 3-11-012324-X.
  9. ^ Sung, Margaret M. Y. (1973). "A Study of Literary and Colloquial Amoy Chinese". Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 1 (3): 414–436. ISSN 0091-3723. JSTOR 23752861. Retrieved 1 June 2022.


  • Huanan, Wang 王華南 (2007). Ài shuō Táiyǔ wǔqiān nián: Táiyǔ shēngyùn zhīměi 愛說台語五千年 : 台語聲韻之美 [To Understand the Beauty of Taiwanese] (in Chinese). Taibei Shi: Gao tan wenhua chuban. ISBN 978-986-7101-47-1.
  • Li, Shunliang 李順涼 (2004). Hong, Hongyuan 洪宏元 (ed.). Huá-Tái-Yīng cíhuì jùshì duìzhào jí / Chinese-Taiwanese-English Lexicon 華台英詞彙句式對照集 / Chinese-Taiwanese-English Lexicon (in Chinese and English). Taibei Shi: Wunan tushu chuban gufen youxian gongsi. ISBN 957-11-3822-3.
  • Tang, Tingchi 湯廷池 (1999). Mǐnnányǔ yǔfǎ yánjiū shìlùn 閩南語語法研究試論 [Papers on Southern Min Syntax] (in Chinese and English). Taibei Shi: Taiwan xuesheng shuju. ISBN 957-15-0948-5.
  • Sung, Margaret M. Y. (1973). "A Study of Literary and Colloquial Amoy Chinese". Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 1 (3): 414–436. JSTOR 2375286.
  • Maclay, Howard S. (1953). The Phonology of Amoy Chinese. University of New Mexico.
  • Douglas, Carstairs (1899) [1873]. Chinese-English Dictionary of theVernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy (2nd ed.). London: Presbyterian Church of England. OL 25126855M.
  • Barclay, Thomas (1923). Supplement to Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy. Shanghai: The Commercial Press. hdl:2027/mdp.39015051950106.
  • MacGowan, John (1898). A Manual of the Amoy Colloquial (PDF) (4th ed.). Amoy: Chui Keng Ton. hdl:2027/nyp.33433081879649.

External links[edit]