Eastern Min

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Eastern Min
Min Dong (閩東語)
Foochowese (福州話)
"Bàng-uâ" in different dialects
[paŋ˨˩ŋuɑ˨˦˨] (Fuzhou)
[paŋ˥ŋuɑ˦˨] (Fuqing)
[paŋ˥˦˦ŋua˧˨˦] (Gutian)
[paŋ˧˩ŋuɑ˩˧˩] (Matsu)
[paŋ˨ɰo˧˧˨] (Ningde)
[paŋ˨ɰo˨˧] (Fu'an)
[paŋ˨ŋua˨˩˨] (Xiapu)
[paŋ˨˩ŋua˨˩˧] (Zherong)
Native toSoutheast China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, United States (chiefly New York City)
RegionEastern Fujian (Fuzhou and Ningde), Matsu; parts of Taishun and Cangnan, Wenzhou, Zhejiang
Native speakers
9.5 million (2007)[1]
Chinese characters and Foochow Romanized
Official status
Official language in
Matsu Islands, Taiwan (as local language[2])[3]
Recognised minority
language in
one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the Matsu Islands, Taiwan[4]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cdo
  Eastern Min

Eastern Min or Min Dong (traditional Chinese: 閩東語; simplified Chinese: 闽东语; pinyin: Mǐndōngyǔ, Foochow Romanized: Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄) is a branch of the Min group of the Sinitic languages of China. The prestige form and most commonly cited representative form is the Fuzhou dialect, the speech of the capital of Fujian.[5]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Fujian and vicinity[edit]

Eastern Min varieties are mainly spoken in the eastern part of Fujian Province (闽东) of the People's Republic of China, in and near the cities of Fuzhou and Ningde. They are also widely encountered as the mother tongue on the Matsu Islands controlled by the Republic of China. Additionally, the inhabitants of Taishun and Cangnan to the north of Fujian in Zhejiang also speak Eastern Min varieties. Eastern Min generally coexists with the official language, Standard Chinese, in all these areas.

Previously the Eastern Min varieties in the Matsu Islands were seen as a part of general Fujian varieties. The establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 severed the Matsu Islands from the rest of Fujian province, and as communications were cut off between the Republic of China (now including Taiwan and without Mainland China) and the PRC, the identity of the Matsu Islands specifically became established. Additionally, the varieties of Eastern Min on the Matsu Islands became seen as a Matsu language [zh] (馬祖話).[6]

United States[edit]

As the coastal area of Fujian has been the historical homeland of a large worldwide diaspora of overseas Chinese, varieties of Eastern Min can also be found across the world, especially in their respective Chinatowns. Cities with high concentrations of such immigrants include New York City,[7] especially Little Fuzhou, Manhattan, Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens.


They are also found in various Chinatown communities in Europe, including London, Paris and Prato in Italy.[8]

Japan and Malaysia[edit]

Chinese communities within Ikebukuro, Tokyo[9] as well as Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia have significant populations of Eastern Min speakers. Fuzhou communities can also be found in Sitiawan, Perak and Yong Peng, Johor in West Malaysia.[citation needed]


Eastern Min is descended from Proto-Min, which split from the transition from Old Chinese into Middle Chinese during the Han Dynasty.[10] It has been classified by Pan Maoding and Jerry Norman as belonging to the Coastal Min branch, and is thus closely related to Northern Min.[11][10]

Norman lists four distinctive features in the development of Eastern Min:[10]

  • Eastern Min varieties have an upper register tone for words which correspond to voiceless nasal initials in Proto-Min, e.g. "younger sister" in Fuzhou is pronounced with an upper departing tone muói (IPA: /mui²¹³/) rather than a lower departing tone.
  • There are some lexemes that descend from Old Chinese which have been conserved in Eastern Min but replaced in other Min varieties. For example, instead of for "dog".


The branches of Eastern Min

Eastern Min is conventionally divided into three branches:[12]

  1. Houguan dialect group (侯官片), also called the Southern subgroup, including the Fuzhou dialect, Fuqing dialect, Changle dialect, Lianjiang dialect and the dialect of the Matsu Islands.
  2. Funing dialect group (福寧片), also called the Northern subgroup, including the Ningde dialect and the Fu'an dialect.
  3. Manjiang dialect (蠻講), spoken in parts of Taishun and Cangnan, Wenzhou, Zhejiang.

Besides these three branches, some dialect islands in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have been classified as Eastern Min.[13][14] Zhongshan Min is a group of Min varieties spoken in the Zhongshan county of Guangdong, divided into three branches: the Longdu dialect and Nanlang dialect belong to the Eastern Min group, while the Sanxiang dialect belongs to Southern Min.[15][16]


The Eastern Min group has a phonology which is particularly divergent from other varieties of Chinese. Aside from the Manjiang dialect, both Houguan and Funing groups are similar in the number of initials, with the Fu'an dialect having 17 initials, two more than the Fuzhou dialect, the additions being /w/ and /j/ or /ɰ/ as separate phonemes (the glottal stop is common to both but excluded from this count). The Manjiang dialect on the other hand has been influenced by the Wu dialects of Zhejiang, and hence has significantly more initials than the varieties of Fujian.

The finals vary significantly between varieties, with the extremes being represented by Manjiang dialects at a low of 39 separate finals, and the Ningde dialect representing the high at 69 finals.

Comparison of numbers of Eastern Min initials and finals
Types Houguan subgroup (侯官片) Funing subgroup (福寧片) Manjiang (蠻講)
City Fuzhou (福州) Fuqing (福清) Gutian (古田) Ningde (宁德) Fuding (福鼎) Fu'an (福安) Qianku, Cangnan, Zhejiang (蒼南錢庫)
Number of Initials 15 15 15 15 15 17 29
Number of Finals 46 42 51 69 41 56 39
Number of Tones 7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Eastern Min varieties generally have seven tones, by the traditional count (based on the four tones of Middle Chinese, including the entering tone as a separate entity). In the middle of the Qing dynasty, eight tones were attested, but the historical rising tones (上聲) re-merged.[17]

Comparison of tones across Eastern Min varieties
Dark level 陰平 Light level 陽平 Rising 上聲 Dark departing 陰去 Light departing 陽去 Dark entering 陰入 Light entering 陽入
˦ 44 ˥˧ 53 ˧˩ 31 ˨˩˧ 213 ˨˦˨ 242 ˨˧ 23 ˥ 5
˧˧˨ 332 ˨ 22 ˦˨ 42 ˨˩ 21 ˧˨˦ 324 ˨ 2 ˥ 5
˦ 44 ˩ 11 ˦˨ 42 ˧˥ 35 ˥˨ 52 ˦ 4 ˥ 5
˦˦˥ 445 ˨˩˨ 212 ˥ 55 ˥˧ 53 ˨ 22 ˥ 5 ˨˧ 23
Taishun, Zhejiang
˨˩˧ 213 ˧ 33 ˦˥˥ 455 ˥˧ 53 ˦˨ 42 ˥ 5 ˦˧ 43
Qianku, Cangnan, Zhejiang
˦ 44 ˨˩˦ 214 ˦˥ 45 ˦˩ 41 ˨˩ 21 ˥ 5 ˨˩ 21
Miaojiaqiao, Cangnan, Zhejiang
˧ 33 ˨˩˧ 213 ˦˥ 45 ˦˩ 41 ˩ 11 ˥ 5 ˩ 1

Sandhi phenomena[edit]

The Eastern Min varieties have a wide of range of sandhi phenomena. As well as tone sandhi, common to many varieties of Chinese, there is also the assimilation of consonants[18] and vowel alternations (such as rime tensing).

Tone sandhi across Eastern Min varieties can be regressive (where the last syllable affects the pronunciation of those before), progressive (where earlier syllables affect the later ones) or mutual (where both or all syllables change). The rules are generally quite complicated.

Initial assimilation of consonants is usually progressive, and may create new phonemes that are not phonemically contrastive in initial position but do contrast in medial position.[19] A few varieties exhibit regressive assimilation too.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ 本土語言納中小學必修 潘文忠:將按語發法實施 (in Chinese)
  3. ^ "國家語言發展法 第二條".
  4. ^ 大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法
  5. ^ 李如龙 Li Rulong (1994). 福州方言词典 (Rev. 1st ed.). Fuzhou: Fujian People's Press (福建人民出版社). p. 1. ISBN 7211023546.
  6. ^ Lin, Sheng-Chang (2021-09-13). "At the Edge of State Control: The Creation of the "Matsu Islands"". Taiwan Insight. University of Nottingham Taiwan Studies Programme. Retrieved 2023-05-21.
  7. ^ Guest, Kenneth J. (2003). God in Chinatown: Religion and Survival in New York's Evolving Immigrant Community ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New York: New York University Press. p. 48. ISBN 0814731546.
  8. ^ Pieke, Frank. "Research Briefing 4: Transnational Communities" (PDF). Transnational Communities Programme, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oxford. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  9. ^ Wong, Bernard P.; Chee-Beng, Tan, eds. (2013). Chinatowns around the world gilded ghetto, ethnopolis, and cultural diaspora. Leiden [etc.]: Brill. p. 251. ISBN 978-9004255906.
  10. ^ a b c d Norman, Jerry (1991). "The Mǐn Dialects in Historical Perspective". Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series (3): 323–358. ISSN 2409-2878. JSTOR 23827042.
  11. ^ Pan 潘, Maoding 茂鼎; 李, 如龍; 梁, 玉璋; 張, 盛裕; 陳, 章太 (1963). "福建漢語方言分區略說". 中國語文 (6): 475–495.
  12. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese language(s) : a look through the prism of the great dictionary of modern Chinese dialects ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. p. 71. ISBN 9783110219142.
  13. ^ Bodman, Nicholas C. (1984). "The Namlong Dialect, a Northern Min Outlier in Zhongshan Xian and the Influence of Cantonese on its Lexicon and Phonology". Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies. 14 (1): 1–19.
  14. ^ Bodman, Nicholas C. (1985). "The Reflexes of Initial Nasals in Proto-Southern Min-Hingua". In Acson, Veneeta; Leed, Richard L. (eds.). For Gordon H. Fairbanks. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications. Vol. 20. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 2–20. ISBN 978-0-8248-0992-8. JSTOR 20006706.
  15. ^ Bodman, Nicholas C. (1984). "The Namlong Dialect, a Northern Min Outlier in Zhongshan Xian and the Influence of Cantonese on its Lexicon and Phonology". Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies. 14 (1): 1–19.
  16. ^ Bodman, Nicholas C. (1985). "The Reflexes of Initial Nasals in Proto-Southern Min-Hingua". In Acson, Veneeta; Leed, Richard L. (eds.). For Gordon H. Fairbanks. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications. Vol. 20. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 2–20. ISBN 978-0-8248-0992-8. JSTOR 20006706.
  17. ^ 李, 含茹. "苍南蛮话语音研究--《复旦大学》2009年硕士论文". CDMD.cnki.com.cn.
  18. ^ Yuan, Bixia; Wang, Yizhi (2013). "On the Initial Assimilations of Eastern Min Dialects in Fujian Province--《Dialect》2013年01期". Dialect. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  19. ^ Yang, Ching-Yu Helen (2015). "A synchronic view of the consonant mutations in Fuzhou dialect" (PDF). University System of Taiwan Working Papers in Linguistics. 8.

Further reading[edit]