Matsu dialect
馬祖話 / Mā-cū-huâ
平話 / Bàng-huâ
Pronunciation[mɑ˧˩ tsu˥ uɑ˩˧˩] / [paŋ˧˩ ŋuɑ˩˧˩]
Native toTaiwan
RegionMatsu Islands
Early forms
Chinese characters, Foochow Romanized and Matsu Fuchounese Bopomofo [zh]
Official status
Official language in
Matsu Islands, Taiwan (as local language[4])[5]
Recognised minority
language in
One of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the Matsu Islands, Taiwan[6]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Location of Matsu Islands
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 Matsu dialect (Eastern Min: Mā-cū-uâ / 馬祖話) is the local dialect of Matsu Islands, Taiwan. Native speakers also call it Bàng-huâ (平話), meaning the language spoken in everyday life. It is recognised as one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in Lienchiang County, Taiwan.[6]

The dialect is a sub[clarify]dialect of the Fuzhou dialect of Eastern Min. The Matsu dialect is quite similar to the Changle dialect, another subdialect of the Fuzhou dialect.


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 dialect.[7]


This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Matsu dialect" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (November 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The Matsu dialect has 17 initials, 46 rimes and 7 tones.


Bilabial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal /m/ () /n/ () /ŋ/ ()
Plosive aspiration // () // () // ()
plain /p/ () /t/ () /k/ () /ʔ/ ()
Fricative /s/ () /h/ ()
Affricate aspiration /tsʰ/ ()
plain /ts/ ()
Lateral /l/ ()

/β/ and /ʒ/ exist only in connected speech.


There are 46 rimes in the Matsu dialect.

monophthong compound vowel nasal coda /-ŋ/ checked coda /-ʔ/
[a/ɑ] (蝦/罷) [ia/iɑ](寫/夜) [aŋ/ɑŋ](三/汗) [aʔ/ɑʔ](盒/鴨)
[ɛ/a] (街/細) [ie/iɛ](雞/毅) [iŋ/ɛiŋ](人/任) [øʔ/œʔ](扔/嗝)
[œ/ɔ] (驢/告) [iu/ieu](秋/笑) [uŋ/ouŋ](春/鳳) [/ɛʔ](漬/咩)
[o/ɔ] (哥/抱) [ua/uɑ](花/話) [yŋ/øyŋ](銀/頌) [oʔ/ɔʔ](樂/閣)
[i/ɛi] (喜/氣) [uo/uɔ](科/課) [iaŋ/iɑŋ](驚/命) [iʔ/ɛiʔ](力/乙)
[u/ou] (苦/怒) [yo/yɔ](橋/銳) [ieŋ/iɛŋ](天/見) [uʔ/ouʔ](勿/福)
[y/øy] (豬/箸) [ai/ɑi](紙/再) [uaŋ/uɑŋ](歡/換) [yʔ/øyʔ](肉/竹)
[au/ɑu](郊/校) [uoŋ/uɔŋ](王/象) [iaʔ/iɑʔ](擲/察)
[ɛu/ɑu](溝/構) [yoŋ/yɔŋ](鄉/樣) [ieʔ/iɛʔ](熱/鐵)
[øy/ɔy](催/罪) [ɛiŋ/aiŋ](恒/硬) [uaʔ/uɑʔ](活/法)
[uai/uɑi](我/怪) [ouŋ/ɔuŋ](湯/寸) [uoʔ/uɔʔ](月/郭)
[ui/uoi](杯/歲) [øyŋ/ɔyŋ](桶/洞) [yoʔ/yɔʔ](藥/弱)

Many rimes come in pairs: in the table above, the one to the left represents a close rime (緊韻), while the second represents an open rime (鬆韻). The close/open rimes are closely related with the tones (see below).


No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Tone name dark level
light level
dark departing
light departing
dark entering
light entering
rime type close rime close rime close rime open rime open rime open rime close rime
Tone contour 55 ˥ 51 ˥˩ 33 ˧ 312 ˧˩˨ 131 ˩˧˩ 13 ˩˧ 5 ˥
Example Hanzi







The relationship between tone and rime

In the Matsu dialect, level tone (平聲), rising tone (上聲) and light entering (陽入) should be read in close rimes (緊韻); departing tone and dark entering should be read in open rimes (鬆韻).

For example, "" have two pronunciations, /ɛ/ in close rime and /a/ in open rime; "a̤h" have two pronunciations, // in close rime and /ɛʔ/ in open rime. This is summarized in the table:

Tone name dark level light level rising dark departing light departing dark entering light entering
Tone contour 55 ˥ 51 ˥˩ 33 ˧ 312 ˧˩˨ 131 ˩˧˩ 13 ˩˧ 5 ˥
Rime type close rime close rime close rime open rime open rime open rime close rime
Foochow Romanized ă̤ à̤ ā̤ á̤ â̤ á̤h ă̤h
Pronunciation ɛ˥ ɛ˥˩ ɛ˧ a˧˩˨ a˩˧˩ ɛʔ˩˧ eʔ˥

Close rime tone "ă̤" should be pronounced as /ɛ˥/ instead of /a˥/; and open rime tone "â̤" should be pronounced as /a˩˧˩/ instead of /ɛ˩˧˩/.

Sandhi and assimilation

Tone sandhi

The Matsu dialect has extremely extensive tone sandhi rules: in an utterance, only the last syllable pronounced is not affected by the rules. The two-syllable tonal sandhi rules are shown in the table below (the rows give the first syllable's original citation tone, while the columns give the citation tone of the second syllable):

dark level
light level
light entering
dark departing
light departing
dark entering
dark level
rising (33) light level (51)
dark departing
rising (33) light level (51)
light departing
rising (33) light level (51)
dark entering B
rising (33) light level (51)
half dark departing (31) 13
(dark entering lost its entering coda)
dark level (55)
dark entering A
31 + /-ʔ/
(half dark departing added a entering coda "/-ʔ/")
dark entering (13) light entering (5)
light level
rising (33) half dark departing (31) rising (33) half dark departing (31)
light entering
rising (33)
or rising + /-ʔ/
light level (51),
or light entering (5)

In the table above, "dark entering A" means dark entering coda ended with /-k̚/, "dark entering B" means ended with /-ʔ/. In mordern spoken language, it's hard to distinguish with each other in individual syllable, but we can find their differences in tone sandhi.

Like the Fuzhou dialect, the tonal sandhi rules of more than two syllables display further complexities.

Initial assimilation

The two-syllable initial assimilation rules are shown in the table below:

Coda of the Former Syllable Initial Assimilation of the Latter Syllable
Null coda
  • /p/ and /pʰ/ change to /β/;
  • /t/, /tʰ/ and /s/, /l/ and /n/ change to /l/;
  • /ts/ and /tsʰ/ change to /ʒ/;
  • /k/, /kʰ/ and /h/ change to null initial;
  • /m/ and /ŋ/ remain unchanged.
Nasal coda /-ŋ/
  • /p/ and /pʰ/ change to /m/;
  • /t/, /tʰ/, /s/, /l/ and /n/ change to /n/;
  • /ts/ and /tsʰ/ change to /ʒ/;
  • /k/, /kʰ/, /h/ and null initial change to /ŋ/;
  • /m/ and /ŋ/ remain unchanged.
entering coda (/-ʔ/, /-k̚/) remain unchanged.

Rime tensing

In the Matsu dialect, if the rime type of the former syllable is changed while tone sandhi occurred, the rime of the former syllable should be changed to adapt the rule of close/open rimes.

For example, "" /kɛi˧˩˨/ is a syllable which has dark departing tone, it's an open rime; "" /sy˥/ has a dark level tone. When combined as the phrase "技師" (technician), "" changes its tonal value to rising tone. Rising tone is a close rime tone, therefore the pronunciation as a whole is /ki˧ ly˥/.


  1. ^ Min is believed to have split from Old Chinese, rather than Middle Chinese like other varieties of Chinese.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Mei, Tsu-lin (1970), "Tones and prosody in Middle Chinese and the origin of the rising tone", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 30: 86–110, doi:10.2307/2718766, JSTOR 2718766
  2. ^ Pulleyblank, Edwin G. (1984), Middle Chinese: A study in Historical Phonology, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, p. 3, ISBN 978-0-7748-0192-8
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (2023-07-10). "Glottolog 4.8 - Min". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. doi:10.5281/zenodo.7398962. Archived from the original on 2023-10-13. Retrieved 2023-10-13.
  4. ^ 本土語言納中小學必修 潘文忠:將按語發法實施 (in Chinese)
  5. ^ "國家語言發展法 第二條".
  6. ^ a b 大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法
  7. ^ "At the Edge of State Control: The Creation of the "Matsu Islands"". Taiwan Insight. University of Nottingham Taiwan Studies Programme. 2021-09-13. Retrieved 2023-05-21.

Further reading