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Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia

Languages of China & Inner Asia at SOAS: Hokkien (Minnanhua / Ban5-lam5-oe7; Taiwanese)

Hokkien is a group of dialects of Minnanhua / Ban5-lam5-oe7, “the speech south of the Min river”, the most widely distributed and arguably most influential of the Chinese Min languages. Minnanhua is spoken by slightly over 46 million in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines. Although its grammar is similar to Mandarin, Hokkien vocabulary and pronunciations sometimes differ substantially from Mandarin; Hokkien has seven/eight basic tones with complex tone sandhi rules. Since the mountainous terrain of Fujian has kept them in relative isolation from most other Chinese languages, Min languages and Minnanhua in particular have preserved some features of Middle Chinese (and possibly Old Chinese) that are not evident in the majority of other Chinese languages. Min languages thus offer interesting glimpses into the field of Chinese historical linguistics.

If you would like to learn Hokkien, contact Professor Bernhard Fuehrer (bf3@soas.ac.uk) Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia.

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