Teochew (Chinese: 潮州話; pinyin: Cháozhōuhuà, Chinese: 潮汕話; pinyin: Cháoshànhuà, Chinese: 潮語; pinyin: Cháoyǔ, Chaozhou dialect: Diê⁵ziu¹ uê⁷, Shantou dialect: Dio⁵ziu¹ uê⁷) is a dialect of Chaoshan Min, a Southern Min language, that is spoken by the Teochew people in the Chaoshan region of eastern Guangdong and by their diaspora around the world. It is sometimes referred to as Chiuchow, its Cantonese rendering, due to the English romanisation by colonial officials and explorers. It is closely related to some dialects of Hokkien, as it shares some cognates and phonology with Hokkien, although the two are not largely mutually intelligible.
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|Native to||Chaozhou, Singapore, Malaysia|
|Region||Eastern Guangdong (Chaozhou), Southern Fujian (Zhao'an)|
Teochew preserves many Old Chinese pronunciations and vocabulary that have been lost in some of the other modern varieties of Chinese. As such, Teochew is described as one of the most conservative Chinese languages.
Languages in contact
This refers to Chaozhou, the variant of Southern Min (Min Nan) spoken in China.
Teochew children are introduced to Standard Chinese as early as in kindergarten; however, Teochew language remains the primary medium of instruction. In the early years of primary education, Mandarin becomes the sole language of instruction, but students typically continue to speak to one another in Teochew. Mandarin is widely understood, however minimally, by most younger Teochew speakers, but the elderly usually do not speak Mandarin since teaching used to be done in the local vernacular.
Chaozhou accent in Mandarin
This article possibly contains original research. (January 2009)
Native Teochew-speakers find the neutral tone in Mandarin the most difficult tone to master. Teochew has lost the alveolar nasal ending [-n] and so Teochew-speakers often replace it with the velar nasal [-ŋ] when they speak Mandarin. The southern Min dialects all have no front rounded vowel and so a typical Teochew accent supplants the unrounded counterpart [i] for [y]. Teochew, like its ancient ancestor, lacks labio-dentals and so its speakers use [h] or [hu] instead of [f] when they speak Mandarin. Teochew has no retroflex consonants in its northern dialects and so [ts], [tsʰ], [s], and [z] replace [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [ʂ] and [ʐ] in the Teochew accent in Mandarin.[original research?]
Since Chao'an, Raoping, and Jieyang border the Hakka-speaking region in the north, some people there speak Hakka but they can usually speak Teochew as well. Teochew people have historically had a great deal of contact with the Hakka people, but Hakka has had little, if any, influence on Teochew. Similarly, in Dabu and Fengshun, where the Teochew- and the Hakka-speaking regions meet, Teochew is also spoken, but Hakka remains the primary form of Chinese spoken there.
Because of the strong influence of Hong Kong soap operas, Guangdong provincial television programs and Cantonese pop songs, many young Chaoshan peoples can understand quite a lot of Cantonese even if they cannot speak it with much fluency.
In the mountainous area of Fenghuang (鳳凰山), the She language, an endangered Hmong–Mien language, is spoken by the She people, who are an officially recognised non-Han ethnic minority. They predominantly speak Hakka (Shehua) and Teochew; only about 1,000 She still speak their eponymous language.
Phonetics and phonology
Teochew, like other Southern Min varieties, is one of the few modern Sinitic languages which have voiced obstruents (stops, fricatives and affricates); however, unlike Wu and Xiang Chinese, the Teochew voiced stops and fricatives did not evolve from Middle Chinese voiced obstruents, but from nasals. The voiced stops [b] and [ɡ] and also [l] are voicelessly prenasalised [ᵐ̥b], [ᵑ̊ɡ], [ⁿ̥ɺ], respectively. They are in complementary distribution with the tenuis stops [p t k], occurring before nasal vowels and nasal codas, whereas the tenuis stops occur before oral vowels and stop codas. The voiced affricate dz, initial in such words as 字 (dzi˩), 二 (dzi˧˥), 然 (dziaŋ˥), 若 (dziak˦) loses its affricate property with some younger speakers abroad, and is relaxed to [z].
Southern Min dialects and varieties are typified by a lack of labiodentals, as illustrated below:
|plosive or lateral|
|Voiceless stops||aspirated||pʰ 皮||tʰ 台||kʰ 可|
|plain||p 比||t 都||k 歌||ʔ|
|Voiceless affricates||aspirated||tsʰ 菜/樹|
|(af)fricat(iv)e||s 士/速||h 海/系|
Syllables in Teochew contain an onset consonant, a medial glide, a nucleus, usually in the form of a vowel, but can also be occupied by a syllabic consonant like [ŋ], and a final consonant. All the elements of the syllable except for the nucleus are optional, which means a vowel or a syllabic consonant alone can stand as a fully-fledged syllable.
All the consonants except for the glottal stop ʔ shown in the consonants chart above can act as the onset of a syllable; however, the onset position is not obligatorily occupied.
Teochew finals consist maximally of a medial, nucleus and coda. The medial can be i or u, the nucleus can be a monophthong or diphthong, and the coda can be a nasal or a stop. A syllable must consist minimally of a vowel nucleus or syllabic nasal.
Teochew, like other Chinese varieties, is a tonal language. It has a set of eight distinct sounds, but only six of them are considered unique tones. This discrepancy occurs because two of the eight sounds are reduced to stopped syllables, despite already sharing the same pitch as the six main tones. Additionally, depending on the position of a word in a phrase, the tones can change and adopt extensive tone sandhi.
Teochew tones Tone
Tone name Pitch
Description Sandhi 1 yin level (陰平) ˧ (3) mid 1 2 yin rising (陰上) ˥˨ (52) falling 6 3 yin departing (陰去) ˨˩˧ (213) low rising 2 or 5 4 yin entering (陰入) ˨̚ (2) low checked 8 5 yang level (陽平) ˥ (5) high 7 6 yang rising (陽上) ˧˥ (35) high rising 7 7 yang departing (陽去) ˩ (1) low 7 8 yang entering (陽入) ˦̚ (4) high checked 4
As with sandhi in other Min Nan dialects, the checked tones interchange. The yang tones all become low. Sandhi is not accounted for in the description below.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012)
The grammar of Teochew is similar to other Min languages, as well as some southern varieties of Chinese, especially with Hakka, Yue and Wu. The sequence 'subject–verb–object' is typical, like Standard Mandarin, although the 'subject–object–verb' form is also possible using particles.
The personal pronouns in Teochew, like in other Chinese varieties, do not show case marking, therefore 我 [ua] means both I and me and 伊人 [iŋ] means they and them. The southern Min dialects, like some northern dialects, have a distinction between an inclusive and exclusive we, meaning that when the addressee is being included, the inclusive pronoun 俺 [naŋ] would be used, otherwise 阮 [ŋ]. No other southern Chinese variety has this distinction.
|1st person||我 ua˥˨||I / me||Inclusive||俺 naŋ˥˨||we / us|
|Exclusive||阮 uaŋ˥˨ (uŋ˥˨ / ŋ˥˨)||we / us|
|2nd person||汝 lɨ˥˨||you||恁 niŋ˥˨||you (plural)|
|3rd person||伊 i˧||he/she/it/him/her||伊人 iŋ˧ (i˧ naŋ˥)||they/them|
Teochew does not distinguish the possessive pronouns from the possessive adjectives. As a general rule, the possessive pronouns or adjectives are formed by adding the genitive or possessive marker 個 [kai5] to their respective personal pronouns, as summarised below:
|1st person||我個 ua˥˨ kai˥||my / mine||Inclusive||俺個 naŋ˥˨ kai˥||our / ours|
|Exclusive||阮個 uaŋ˥˨ (uŋ˥˨ / ŋ˥˨) kai˥||ours / ours|
|2nd person||汝個 lɨ˥˨ kai˥||your / yours||恁個 niŋ˥˨ kai˥||your / yours (plural)|
|3rd person||伊個 i˧ kai˥||his / his; her / hers; its / its||伊人個 iŋ˧ (i˧ naŋ˥) kai˥||their / theirs|
- [puŋ˥˨ tsɨ˧ si˧˥ ua˥˨ kai˥]
- The book is mine.
- [ua˥˨ tiou˥ kuŋ˥]
- my skirt
Teochew has the typical two-way distinction between the demonstratives, namely the proximals and the distals, as summarised in the following chart:
|General||Singular||之個 [tsi˥˨ kai˥]||this||許個 [hɨ˥˨ kai˥]||that|
|Plural||之撮 [tsi˥˨ tsʰoʔ˦]||these||許撮 [hɨ˥˨ tsʰoʔ˦]||those|
|Spatial||之塊 [tsi˥˨ ko˨˩˧]||here||許塊 [hɨ˥˨ ko˨˩˧]||there|
|之內 [tsi˥˨ lai˧˥]||inside||許內 [hɨ˥˨ lai˧˥]||inside|
|之口 [tsi˥˨ kʰau˩]||outside||許口 [hɨ˥˨ kʰau˩]||outside|
|Temporal||之陣 / 當 [tsi˥˨ tsuŋ˥ / təŋ˨˩˧]||now; recently||許陣 / 當 [hɨ˥˨ tsuŋ˥ / təŋ˨˩˧]||then|
|Adverbial||這生 [tse˥˨ sẽ˧]||like this||向生 [hia˥˨ sẽ˧]||like that|
|Degree||之樣 [tsĩõ˨˩˧]||this||向樣 [hĩõ˨˩˧]||that|
|Type||者個 [tsia˥˨ kai˥]||this kind||向個 [hia˥˨ kai˥]||that kind|
|who / whom||(底)珍 [ti tiaŋ]|
|底人 [ti naŋ]|
|what||乜個 [miʔ kai]|
|what (kind of) + noun||乜 + N [miʔ]|
|which||底 + NUM + CL + (N) [ti]|
|底個 [ti kai]|
|where||底塊 [ti ko]|
|when||珍時 [tiaŋ si]|
|how||manner||做呢 [tso ni]|
|state||在些(樣) [tsai sẽ ĩõ]|
|乜些樣 [miʔ sẽ ĩõ]|
|什乜樣 [si miʔ ĩõ]|
|how many||幾 + CL + N [kui]|
|若多 + (CL) + (N) [dzieʔ tsoi]|
|how much||若多 [dzieʔ tsoi]|
|why||做呢 [tso ni]|
|liŋ5||零||〇||0||〇 is an informal way to represent zero, but 零 is more commonly used, especially in schools. |
also 空 [kang3]
|tsek8||壹||一||1||also 蜀 [tsek8] (original character) |
also 弌 (obsolete)
also [ik4] as the last digit of a 2-or-more-digit number e.g. 二十一 [dzi6 tsap8 ik4]
or days of a month e.g. 一號 [ik4 ho7]
or as an ordinal number e.g. 第一 [tõĩ6 ik4]
also 么(T) or 幺(S) [iou1] when used in phone numbers etc.
|no6||兩(T)||二||2||also 弍 (obsolete) |
also [dzi6] as the last digit of a 2-or-more-digit number e.g. 三十二 [sã1 tsap8 dzi6]
or days of a month e.g. 二號 [dzi6 ho7]
or as an ordinal number e.g. 第二 [tõĩ6 dzi6].
|sã1||叄(T)||三||3||also 弎 (obsolete)|
also 參 [sã1].
|tsap8||拾||十||10||Although some people use 什, It is not acceptable because it can be written over into 伍.|
Note: (T): Traditional characters; (S): Simplified characters.
Ordinal numbers are formed by adding 第 [tõĩ˧˥] in front of a cardinal number.
In Teochew passive construction, the agent phrase by somebody always has to be present, and is introduced by either 乞 [kʰoiʔ˦] (some speakers use [kʰəʔ] or [kʰiəʔ] instead) or 分 [puŋ˧], even though it is in fact a zero or indefinite agent as in:
- [i˧ puŋ˧ naŋ˥ tʰai˥ tiou˩]
- S/he was killed (by someone).
While in Mandarin one can have the agent introducer 被; bèi or 給; gěi alone without the agent itself, it is not grammatical to say
- * 個杯分敲掉。
- [kai˥ pue˧ puŋ˧ kʰa˧ tiou˩]
- The cup was broken.
- cf. Mandarin 杯子給打破了; bēizi gěi dǎ pòle)
Instead, we have to say:
- [kai˥ pue˧ puŋ˧ naŋ˥ kʰa˧ tiou˩]
- The cup was broken.
Even though this 人 [naŋ˥] is unknown.
The agent phrase 分人 [puŋ˧ naŋ˥] always comes immediately after the subject, not at the end of the sentence or between the auxiliary and the past participle like in some European languages (e.g. German, Dutch)
Comparative construction with two or more nouns
- [i˧ ŋia˥˨ kue˨˩˧ lɨ˥˨]
- She is more beautiful than you.
Cantonese uses the same construction:
- Keoi5 leng3 gwo3 nei5.
- She is more beautiful than you.
However, due to modern influences from Mandarin, the Mandarin structure "X 比 Y ADJ" has also gained popularity over the years. Therefore, the same sentence can be re-structured and becomes:
- [i˩ pi˥˨ lɨ˥˨ ŋia˥˨]
- She is more beautiful than you.
- cf. Mandarin 她比你漂亮; tā bǐ nǐ piàoliang
Comparative construction with only one noun
The 過- or 比-construction must involve two or more nouns to be compared; an ill-formed sentence will be yielded when only one is being mentioned:
- * 伊雅過 (?)
Teochew is different from English, where the second noun being compared can be left out ("Tatyana is more beautiful (than Lisa)". In cases like this, the 夭-construction must be used instead:
- [i1 iou6 ŋia2]
- She is more beautiful.
The same holds true for Mandarin and Cantonese in that another structure needs to be used when only one of the nouns being compared is mentioned. Teochew and Mandarin both use a pre-modifier (before the adjective) while Cantonese uses a post-modifier (after the adjective).
- tā bǐjiào piàoliang
- keoi5 leng3 di1
There are two words which are intrinsically comparative in meaning, i.e. 贏 [ĩã5] "better" and 輸 [su1] "worse". They can be used alone or in conjunction with the 過-structure:
- [tsi2 nĩã2 kuŋ5 su1 kue3 hɨ2 nĩã2]
- This skirt is not as good as that one.
- [ua2 lai6 kai7 tiaŋ6 nau2 ĩã5 i1 kai7 hoʔ2 tsoi7]
- My computer (at home) is far better than his.
Note the use of the adverbial 好多 [hoʔ2 tsoi7] at the end of the sentence to express a higher degree.
In Teochew, the idea of equality is expressed with the word 平 [pẽ5] or 平樣 [pẽ5 ĩõ7]:
- [tsi2 puŋ2 tsɨ1 kaʔ4 hɨ2 puŋ2 pẽ5 taŋ6]
- This book is as heavy as that one.
- [i1 no6 naŋ5 pẽ5 pẽ5 ĩõ7]
- They are the same. (They look the same./They're as good as each other./They're as bad as each other.)
- Lit. The two people are the same same way.
To express the superlative, Teochew uses the adverb 上 [siaŋ5] or 上頂 [siaŋ5 teŋ2]. 上頂 is usually used with a complimentary connotation.
- [tsi2 kõĩ1 mueʔ8 siaŋ5 teŋ2 ho2 tsiaʔ8]
- This (restaurant) is (absolutely) the most delicious.
- [i1 naŋ5 tui3 ua2 siaŋ5 ho2]
- They treat me best.
- Lit. The people treat me very well.
The vocabulary of Teochew shares a lot of similarities with Cantonese because of their continuous contact with each other.[ambiguous] Like Cantonese, Teochew has a great deal of monosyllabic words. However, ever since the standardisation of Modern Standard Chinese, Teochew has absorbed a lot of Putonghua vocabulary, which is predominantly polysyllabic. Also, Teochew varieties in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have also borrowed extensively from Malay.
Teochew and other Southern Min varieties, such as Hokkien, preserve a good deal of Old Chinese vocabulary, such as 目 [mak] eye (Chinese: 眼睛; pinyin: yǎnjīng, Hokkien: 目 ba̍k), 灱 [ta] dry (Chinese: 乾; pinyin: gān, Hokkien: 焦 ta), and 囥 [kʰəŋ] hide (cf. Chinese: 藏; pinyin: cáng; Hokkien: 囥 khǹg).
Teochew was romanised by the Provincial Education Department of Guangdong in 1960 to aid linguistic studies and the publication of dictionaries, although Pe̍h-ōe-jī can also be used because Christian missionaries invented it for the transcription of varieties of Southern Min.
Initial consonants of Teochew, are represented in the Guangdong Romanization system as: B, BH, C, D, G, GH, H, K, L, M, N, NG, P, R, S, T, and Z.
- B [p] - bag (北 north)
- Bh [b]- bhê (馬 horse)
- C [tsʰ] - cên (青 green), cǔi (嘴 mouth), ciên (槍 gun)
- D [t] - diê (潮 tide)
- G [k] - giê (橋 bridge)
- GH [g] - gho (鵝 goose)
- H [h] - hung (雲 cloud)
- K [kʰ] - ke (去 to go)
- L [l] - lag (六 six)
- M [m] - mêng (明 bright)
- N [n] - nang (人 person)
- NG [ŋ] - ngou (五 five)
- P [pʰ] - peng (平 peace)
- R [(d)z] - riêg/ruah (熱 hot)
- S [s] - sên (生 to be born)
- T [tʰ] - tin (天 sky)
- Z [ts] - ziu (州 region/state)
Vowels and vowel combinations in the Teochew dialect include: A, E, Ê, I, O, U, AI, AO, IA, IAO, IO, IU, OI, OU, UA, UAI, UE, and UI.
- A - ma (媽 mother)
- E - de (箸 chopsticks)
- Ê - sên (生 to be born)
- I - bhi (味 smell/taste)
- O - to (桃 peach)
- U - ghu (牛 cow)
Many words in Teochew are nasalized. This is represented by the letter "n" in the Guangdong Pengim system.
- suan (山 mountain)
- cên (青 green)
- M - iam (鹽 salt)
- NG - bhuang (萬 ten thousand)
- B - zab (十 ten)
- G - hog (福 happiness)
- H - tih (鐵 iron)
- Southern Min
- Languages of China
- List of Chinese dialects
- Thai Chinese
- Chinese in Singapore
- Malaysian Chinese
- Indonesian Chinese
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