Saturday, October 4, 2008


Qiongwen or Hainanese is a branch of the Min Nan group of spoken in the southern island province of Hainan. "Hainanese" can sometimes mean the language of the Li people living in the southern coast of Hainan, but generally means the Qiongwen language of the Han Chinese in Hainan. It is mutually unintelligible with other Min Nan dialects, such as , , and Taiwanese.

Puxian Min

Puxian is a subcategory of Min Chinese.

It is spoken mostly in Fujian province, in Putian, parts of Fuzhou, and parts of Quanzhou. Puxian is a word conbine two place names of Putian City and Xianyou County . More than 2000 people in Shacheng, Fuding in northern Fujian also speak Puxian. Overseas populations of Puxian speakers exist in Malaysia and Singapore. Speakers of Puxian are also known as Henghua , Hinghua, or Xinghua.

Puxian have 15 consonants, including zero consonant, the same as most of other Min directs. Puxian have lateral fricative instead of in other Min dialects.

Puxian have 40 finals and 7 .


Proto-Mandarin is a term that can be used to designate any earlier form of the most widely-spoken dialect, known in as ; technically the "late Middle Chinese" of the Song Dynasty. "Early Mandarin" is the common name for the sound system described by the rhyme dictionary ''Zhōngyuán Yīnyùn'' of the later Yuan dynasty, used for rhyming of Zaju of that time.

Practical Chinese Reader

Practical Chinese Reader is a series of Chinese language teaching books developed to teach non-Chinese speakers to speak Chinese. The reader follows the antics of Palanka and Gubo through various stages. ''Practical Chinese Reader'' is administered by the Chinese Department of Culture and most students of in a classroom setting probably have contact with the book. The course consists of a Chinese reader, character workbook, and grammar workbook.

''New Practical Chinese Reader''

''New Practical Chinese Reader'' was released in 1981 by Beijing Language and Culture University Press, and the original ''Practical Chinese Reader'' was not reprinted. In the new version older words are removed but the sentence structure and grammar remains intact. There are currently six volumes. This book pays homage to the older edition by introducing a new character, Libo, who is the son of Gubo and Ding Yun.

English Version , German version, French Version, Russian version are available. Other language versions are to be published soon.

The characters

Gubo : Young male student, non-Chinese. The name's transliteration is uncertain but Cooper or Gilbert has been suggested.

Palanka : Young female student, non Chinese, Gubo's friend. Chosen as a Western sounding name. Her english name may possibly be Veronica.

Ding Yun : Young female student, Chinese, Palanka's friend.

Ding Libo : Son of Gubo and Ding Yun. Introduced in the ''NPCR''.

Page two of the ''NPCR'' reads:

A Canadian Student,
aged 21, male
Gubo is his father
Ding Yun is his mother.

In accordance with keeping the dialogue the same, the characters are given universal names in translations of the book across all languages.


Pínghuà , also Guangxi Nanning, is a subdivision of . It is spoken in parts of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and some in Hunan province. It is usually classified together with Cantonese.

Pinghua is a formerly unclassified dialect spoken by about 2 million people. When Chinese is grouped into 7 languages rather than 10, Pinghua is grouped together with Cantonese, and there is some debate about considering it a separate language. Many local people in Nanning consider there to be four "dialects" spoken in the area, namely Cantonese, Pinghua, and , which are not mutually intelligible. According to Wu Wei in 2001, "Pinghua is only a branch of Cantonese rather than an independent dialect group."

Like all other varieties of , there is plenty of dispute as to whether Pinghua is a language or a dialect. See Identification of the varieties of Chinese for the issues surrounding this dispute.

Penang Hokkien

Penang Hokkien is a local variant of spoken in Penang, Malaysia. It is the ''lingua franca'' in Penang as well as other northern states of Malaysia surrounding it, and is characterised by the pronunciation of words according to the Zhangzhou dialect, together with widespread use of and borrowed words. It is predominantly a spoken dialect: it is rarely written in , and there is no standard romanisation. This article uses the Missionary Romanisation or ''Pe?h-ōe-jī'' which is common in Taiwan.

Minnan is one of the sub-languages of the Chinese language and is mainly spoken in southern Fujian, Taiwan, Hainan and parts of Guangdong, with the main standard dialects being Hokkien, and . Within Hokkien, the Amoy dialect is the prestige dialect. It is also spoken by many overseas Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Penang Hokkien is based on the dialect of Hokkien spoken in the Zhangzhou prefecture of Fujian. It is said that it most closely resembles the dialect spoken in the district of Haicang in Longhai county and in the districts of Jiaomei and Xinglin in neighbouring Xiamen prefecture. In Southeast Asia, similar dialects are spoken in the states bordering Penang, and in . In contrast, in southern Malaysia and Singapore, most Hokkien speakers speak a dialect based on the Amoy standard.


In Penang Hokkien, there are in total seven . However, as some tones are nearly identical, most native speakers of Penang Hokkien are only aware of four or five tones. The seven tones are:

The names of the tones no longer bear any relation to the tone contours, e.g. the Rising tone actually falls. As in Amoy and Zhangzhou, the Rising tone is not distinguished into upper and lower, and there is thus no 6th tone. As in Zhangzhou, the two Departing tones are virtually identical, except in their sandhi forms.

Tone sandhi

Like in other Minnan dialects, the tone of a syllable in Penang Hokkien depends on where in a phrase or sentence the relevant syllable is placed. For example, the word 牛 gu5 in isolation is pronounced with an ascending tone, , but when it combines with a following syllable, as in 牛肉 gu5-bah4, it is pronounced with to a low level tone, .

The rules which apply when a syllable is placed in front of a connected syllable in standard Minnan, simply put, are as follows:

* 1st becomes 7th
* 7th becomes 3rd
* 3rd becomes 2nd
* 2nd becomes 1st
* 5th becomes 7th
Checked syllables:
* 4th becomes 8th
* 8th becomes 4th

Although the two departing tones are usually difficult to tell apart in Penang Hokkien, their tone contours being and , in their sandhi forms they become and and are thus easily distinguishable. For more detailed rules on the Hokkien tone sandhi, see Taiwanese.

Minnan 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 ke1 / jī.
* Lower Level: Hokkien 5th tone = Mandarin 2nd tone, e.g. 龍 leng5 / lóng.
* Rising: Hokkien 2nd tone = Mandarin 3rd tone, e.g. 馬 bε2 / mǎ.
* Departing: Hokkien 3rd/7th tones = Mandarin 4th tone, e.g. 兔 th?3 / tù, 象 chhi??7 / xiàng.

Words with Entering tones all end with -p, -t, -k or -h . As Mandarin no longer has any entering tones, there is no corresponding relationship for the Hokkien 4th and 8th tones, e.g. 國 kok4 / guó, but 發 hoat4 / fā.

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 the language, and it is not used for literary purposes. However, as in other variants of Minnan, most words have both literary and colloquial pronunciations, and the literary pronunciations still appear in limited circumstances, e.g.:

* in given names , e.g. 安 an1 rather than oa?1, 玉 giok8 rather than gek8
* in a few surnames, e.g. 葉 iap8 rather than hioh8
* in other proper names, e.g. 龍山堂 Liong5-san1-tong5 rather than Leng5-soa?1-tong5
* in certain set phrases, e.g. 差不多 chha1-put4-to1 rather than chhε1-m7-to1, 見笑 kien3-siau3 rather than ki?3-chhio3

Unlike in Taiwan and mainland China, the literary pronunciations of numbers higher than two are not used when giving telephone numbers, etc. Literary variants are generally eschewed in favour of colloquial pronunciations, e.g. 大學 toa7-oh8 instead of tai7-hak8.

Differences from standard Minnan

Most of the differences between Penang Hokkien and Amoy Hokkien exist also in Zhangzhou, e.g.:

* The use of -ui? where Amoy has -ng, e.g. 門 mui?5, 飯 pui?7, 酸 sui?1, etc.;
* The use of -ε and -ε? where Amoy has -e and -i?, e.g. 家 kε1, 蝦 hε5, 生 sε?1;
* The use of -oe where Amoy has -e and ''vice versa'', e.g. 火 hoe2, 未 boe7, 地 te7, 細 se3;
* The use of -oa where Amoy has -oe, e.g. 話 oa7, 花 hoa1, 瓜 koa1;
* The use of -i?? where Amoy has -iu?, e.g. 羊 i??5, 丈 ti??7, 想 si??7;
* The use of -iang where Amoy has -iong, e.g. 上 siang7, 香 hiang1;
* The use of j- in some words where Amoy has l-, e.g. 入 jip8, 熱 joah8, 日 jit8;
* The use of Zhangzhou pronunciations such as 糜 moai5 , 先生 sin1-sε?1 , etc.;
* The use of Zhangzhou expressions such as 挑羹 thau1-kiong1

Differences from the Zhangzhou dialect

Although Penang Hokkien is obviously based on the Zhangzhou dialect, there are some obvious differences, which in many cases result from the influence of other Minnan dialects, e.g.:

* The lower-entering tone in Penang, which is pronounced high as in Amoy and many other parts of Fujian, whereas in most Zhangzhou dialects it is low with a slight lilt ;
* The use of -u in some words such as 汝 lu2, 豬 tu1, 魚 hu5, etc., where Zhangzhou has li2, ti1 and hi5. This is a characteristic of dialects in other parts of Zhangzhou and Xiamen prefectures.
* The adoption of pronunciations from : e.g. 我 wa2 , 我人 uang21, 汝人 luang21, 伊人 iang1
* The adoption of Amoy and Quanzhou pronunciations like 否勢 phai?2-se3 , 百 pah8 , etc.
* The use of unique variants such as 甚物 ha?2-mih8 .

Borrowed words


Like other dialects in Malaysia and Singapore, Penang Hokkien borrows heavily from Malay, but sometimes to a greater extent, e.g.:

*''balai'': police station
*''balu '': new, just now
*''batu'': stone
*''berlian'': diamond
*''jamban'': toilet
*''jambu'': guava
*''kahwin'': marry
*''kisien '': pity
*''mana'': as if?, since when?
*''mata'': police
*''manik'': bead
*''loti '': bread
*''sabun'', soap
*''suka'', to like
*''tapi'', but
*''tuala'', towel
*''sampah'', garbage

There are also many Hokkien words which have been borrowed into Malay, often with slightly different meanings, e.g. 樓頂 ''loteng'' , 馬車 ''beca'' , 麵 mi , 米粉 ''bihun'' , 先生 ''sinseh'' , 茶 ''teh'' , 茶壺 ''teko'' , 粿 ''kuih'' , 豆腐 ''tauhu'' , 中華 ''Tionghua'' , 鮭汁 ''kicap'' , 瓜子 ''kuaci'' , 日本 ''Jepun'' , etc.


Penang Hokkien has also borrowed some words from English, some of which may have been borrowed via Malay, but these tend to be more technical and less well embedded than the Malay words, e.g. brake, park, pipe, pump, etc.

English words borrowed from Hokkien include 茶 tea and 鮭汁 ketchup.

Old Chinese

Old Chinese , or ''Archaic Chinese'' as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the spoken from the Shang Dynasty , well into the Former Han Dynasty . There are several distinct sub-periods within that long period of time. The term, in contrast to Middle Chinese and Modern Chinese, is usually used in historical Chinese phonology, which tries to reconstruct the way in which Old Chinese was pronounced.

Since Old Chinese was the language spoken by the Chinese when such as the ''Analects of Confucius'', the ''Mencius'', and the ''Tao Te Ching'' were written, and was the official language of the unified empire of the Qin Dynasty and long-lasting Han Dynasty, Old Chinese was preserved for the following two in the form of Classical Chinese, a style of written Chinese that emulates the grammar and vocabulary of Old Chinese as presented in those works. During that time, Classical Chinese was the usual language used for official purposes in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. However, there is great variation within Classical Chinese, based mainly on when something was written, and the Classical Chinese of more recent writers, as well as that found outside of China, would probably be difficult for someone from Confucius's era to understand.


:''For the pronunciation of Classical Chinese, see

Since Chinese is written with characters, not , it is not easy for the Chinese to notice that the . The story of the reconstruction of Old Chinese began with the recitation of ''Shijing'', the first and most revered collection of poetry in China. Generations of Chinese literati were baffled to find that many lines in ''Shijing'' didn't rhyme smoothly, being unaware that the sounds of the Chinese language had long changed. Scholars such as Zhu Xi suggested that the ancients had their own way of reciting poems: they would change the reading of a character temporarily to fit the rhyming scheme. Such a way of reciting or reading poetry is called ''xieyin'' .

Jiao Hong and Chen Di of the Ming Dynasty were the first persons to argue coherently that the lines in ''Shijing'' didn't rhyme just because the sounds had changed. The reconstruction of Old Chinese began when Gu Yanwu of the Qing Dynasty divided the sounds of Old Chinese into 10 groups . Other Qing scholars followed Gu's steps, refining the division. The Swedish sinologist, Bernhard Karlgren, was the first person to reconstruct Old Chinese with Latin alphabet .

The sounds of Old Chinese are difficult to reconstruct, because the way the Chinese writing system indicates pronunciation is much less clear than the way an alphabet does. Scholars who try to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese have to rely on indirect evidence. They heavily rely on those rhymed pre-Qin texts, chiefly ''Shijing'', and the fact that were homophones or near-homophones when the characters were first created.

There is much dispute over the phonology of Old Chinese. Today it is agreed that Old Chinese had consonant clusters such as ''*kl-'' and ''gl-'', which do not occur in any modern Chinese dialect. However, the following issues are still open to debate:
*that Old Chinese had consonants or other rare features.
*that Old Chinese was not monosyllabic.
*that Early Old Chinese was not a tonal language. The tones of Middle Chinese evolved from consonants in Old Chinese that had since changed or disappeared.


The traditional view is that Chinese is an without inflection. However, since Henri Maspero's pioneering work, there have been scholars seriously studying the of Old Chinese. Sagart provides a summary of these efforts, and a word-list based on his work is available at the Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database .


The grammar of Old Chinese is not identical to that of Classical Chinese. Many usages found in Classical Chinese are absent in Old Chinese. For example, the word 其 can be used as a third-person pronoun in Classical Chinese, but not in Old Chinese, where it serves as a third-person possessive adjective .

There is no in Old Chinese, the copula 是 in Middle and modern Chinese being a near demonstrative in Old Chinese.