Pin-siânn/Pī-néeng Hok-kiàn-uā (Tâi-lô)
Pin-siâⁿ/Pī-nɛ́ng Hok-kiàn-ōa (POJ)
|Region||Penang, parts of Kedah, Perak and Perlis|
|Latin (Modified Tâi-lô & Pe̍h-ōe-jī, ad hoc methods)|
Chinese Characters (Simplified)
Chinese characters and Hangeul mixed script
Penang Hokkien (traditional Chinese: 檳城福建話; simplified Chinese: 槟城福建话; Tâi-lô: Pin-siânn Hok-kiàn-uā; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Pin-siâⁿ Hok-kiàn-ōa, [pin˦ɕã˨˦ hoʔ˦kiɛn˧˩ua˧]) is a local variant of Hokkien spoken in Penang, Malaysia. It is spoken as a mother tongue by 63.9% of Penang's Chinese community, and also by some Penangite Indians and Penangite Malays.
It was once the lingua franca among the majority Chinese population in Penang, Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak. However, since the 1980s, many young speakers have shifted towards Malaysian Mandarin, under the Speak Mandarin Campaign in Chinese-medium schools in Malaysia, even though Mandarin was not previously spoken in these regions. Mandarin has been adopted as the only language of instruction in Chinese schools and, from the 1980s to mid-2010s, the schools had rules to penalize students and teachers for using non-Mandarin varieties of Chinese.
Penang Hokkien is a subdialect of Zhangzhou (漳州; Hokkien: Tsiang-tsiu) Chinese, with widespread use of Malay and English loanwords. Compared to dialects in Fujian province, it most closely resembles the variety spoken in the district of Haicang (海滄) in Longhai (龍海; Hokkien: Liông-hái) county and in the districts of Jiaomei (角美) and Xinglin (杏林) in neighbouring Xiamen prefecture. In Southeast Asia, similar dialects are spoken in the states bordering Penang (Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak), as well as in Medan and North Sumatra, Indonesia. It is markedly distinct from Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien and Taiwanese Hokkien.
Penang Hokkien is largely a spoken language: it is rarely written in Chinese characters, and there is no official standard romanisation. In recent years, there has been a growing body of romanised Penang Hokkien material; however, topics are mostly limited to the language itself such as dictionaries and learning materials. This is linked to efforts to preserve, revitalise and promote the language as part of Penang's cultural heritage, due to increasing awareness of the loss of Penang Hokkien usage among younger generations in favour of Mandarin and English. The standard romanisation systems commonly used in these materials are based on Tâi-lô and Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ), with varying modifications to suit Penang Hokkien phonology.
The Hokkien Language Association of Penang (Persatuan Bahasa Hokkien Pulau Pinang; 庇能福建話協會) is one such organisation which promotes the language's usage and revitalisation. Through their Speak Hokkien Campaign they promote a Tâi-lô based system modified to suit the phonology of Penang Hokkien and its loanwords. This system is used throughout this article and its features are detailed below.
The Speak Hokkien Campaign also promotes the use of traditional Chinese characters derived from recommended character lists for written Hokkien published by Taiwan's Ministry of Education.
Most native-speakers are not aware of these standardised systems and resort to ad hoc methods of romanisation based on English, Malay and Pinyin spelling rules. These methods are in common use for many proper names and food items, e.g. Char Kway Teow (炒粿條 Tshá-kúe-tiâu). These spellings are often inconsistent and highly variable with several alternate spellings being well established, e.g. Char Koay Teow. These methods, which are more intuitive to the average native-speaker, are the basis of non-standard romanisation systems used in some written material.
|er||[ə]||ber-lian||Occurs in Quanzhou accented varieties of Hokkien such as those spoken in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.|
Used in Malay and English loanwords.
|Used in Cantonese loanwords, may be pronounced as ⟨i⟩.|
|Used in Cantonese loanwords.|
|An alternate pronunciation of ⟨ue⟩ due to Cantonese influence.|
Used in Cantonese loanwords, may be pronounced as ⟨ue⟩.
|Used in Malay, Cantonese and Teochew loanwords.|
Replaces ⟨ol⟩ in Malay loanwords, e.g. botol (瓿瓵 bo̍t-toi), cendol (煎蕊 tsian-doi).
|Used in Cantonese and Teochew loanwords.|
In Penang Hokkien, the two Departing tones (3rd & 7th) are virtually identical, and may not be distinguished except in their sandhi forms. Most native speakers of Penang Hokkien are therefore only aware of four tones in unchecked syllables (high, low, rising, high falling), and two Entering tones (high and low) in checked syllables. In most systems of romanisation, this is accounted as seven tones altogether. The tones are:
|Upper (陰)||Lower (陽)|
|a||[˦˦] (44)||[˨˩] (21)||5||下平
|â||[˨˧] (23)||[˨˩] (21)|
|á||[˥˧] (53)||[˦˦] (44)||－|
|à||[˨˩] (21)||[˥˧] (53)||7||下去
|ā||[˨˩] (21)||[˨˩] (21)|
|a◌||[˧ʔ] (3)||[˦ʔ] (4)||8||下入
|a̍◌||[˦ʔ] (4)||[˧ʔ] (3)|
The names of the tones no longer bear any relation to the tone contours. The (upper) Rising (2nd) tone has two variants in Penang Hokkien, a high falling tone [˥˧] (53) and a high rising tone [˦˦˥] (445). The high falling tone [˥˧] (53) is more common among the older generations while in the younger generations there has been a shift towards the use of the high rising tone [˦˦˥] (445). When the 3rd tone is sandhied to the 2nd tone, the high falling variant [˥˧] (53) is used, however some speakers may sandhi the 3rd tone to the 1st tone [˦] (44). As in Amoy and Zhangzhou, there is no lower Rising (6th) tone.
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 gû in isolation is pronounced with an ascending tone, [˨˧] (23), but when it combines with a following syllable, as in 牛肉 gû-bah, it is pronounced with a low tone, [˨˩] (21).
|↑ (if -h)||↑ (if -h)|
|4th||↔ (if -p,-t,-k)||8th|
The rules which apply when a syllable is placed in front of a connected syllable in standard Minnan, simply put, are as follows:
Checked syllables (-h):
Checked syllables (-p,-t,-k):
Although the two departing tones (3rd & 7th) are virtually identical in Penang Hokkien, in their sandhi forms they become [˥˧] (53) and [˨˩] (21) and are thus easily distinguishable.
The "tone wheel" concept does not work perfectly for all speakers of Penang Hokkien.
There is a reasonably reliable correspondence between Hokkien and Mandarin tones:
Words with Entering tones all end with ⟨-p⟩, ⟨-t⟩, ⟨-k⟩ or ⟨-h⟩ (glottal stop). As Mandarin no longer has any Entering tones, there is no simple corresponding relationship for the Hokkien 4th and 8th tones, e.g. 國 kok/guó, but 發 huat/fā. The tone in Mandarin often depends on what the initial consonant of the syllable is (see the article on Entering tones for details).
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 Hokkien, and it is not used for literary purposes. However, as in other variants of Min Nan, most words have both literary and colloquial pronunciations. Literary variants are generally eschewed in favour of colloquial pronunciations, e.g. 大學 tuā-o̍h instead of tāi-ha̍k, though literary pronunciations still appear in limited circumstances, e.g.:
Unlike in China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, the literary pronunciations of numbers higher than two are not used when giving telephone numbers, etc.; e.g. 二五四 jī-gōo-sì instead of jī-ngóo-sù.
Although Penang Hokkien is based on the Zhangzhou dialect, which in many cases result from the influence of other Minnan dialects.
General pronunciation differences can be shown as below:
|Penang Hokkien||Amoy Hokkien||Zhangzhou Dialect||Example|
|8th tone [˦] (4)||8th tone [˦] (4)||8th tone [˩˨] (12)|
|-iaunn / -ionn||-iunn||-ionn||想 siāunn|
|-iong / -iang||-iong||-iang||相 siong|
Due to Penang's linguistic and ethnic diversity, Penang Hokkien is in close contact with many other languages and dialects which are drawn on heavily for loanwords. These include Malay, Teochew, Cantonese and English.
Like other dialects in Malaysia and Singapore, Penang Hokkien borrows heavily from Malay, but sometimes to a greater extent than other Hokkien dialects, e.g.:
|Penang Hokkien||Chinese characters||Malay||Taiwanese Hokkien||Definition||Note|
|bā-lái||balai polis||警察局 (kíng-tshat-kio̍k)||police station|
|bā-lu||峇魯||baru||拄才 (tú-tsiah)||new(ly), just now|
|bān-san||萬山||bangsal||菜市仔 (tshài-tshī-á)||market||see also: pá-sat|
|bī-nā-tang||binatang||動物 (tōng-bu̍t)||animal||禽獸 (khîm-siù) is also frequently used.|
|gēr-lí/gî-lí||疑理||geli||噁 (ònn)||creepy; hair-raising|
|má-ná||嘛哪||mana||啥物時陣 (siánn-mih-sî-tsūn)||as if; since when?|
|pá-sat||巴剎||pasar||菜市仔 (tshài-tshī-á)||market||see also: bān-san|
|lā-sa||rasa||感覺 (kám-kak)||to feel|
|sa-iang||捎央||sayang||愛 (ài)||to love; what a pity|
|su-kā/su-kah||私合||suka||愛 (ài)||to like|
|to-lóng||多琅||tolong||鬥相共 (tàu-sann-kāng)||help||鬥相共 (tàu-sann-kāng) is also frequently used.|
|tong-kat||杖楬||tongkat||枴仔 (kuái-á)||walking stick|
|tsi-lā-kā||celaka||該死 (kai-sí)||damn it|
|tsiám-pó||campur||摻 (tsham)||to mix|
There are also many Hokkien words which have been borrowed into Malay, sometimes with slightly different meanings, e.g.:
|bihun||米粉 (bí-hún)||rice vermicelli|
|loteng||樓頂 (lâu-téng)||upstairs||Originally means attic in Hokkien.|
|kicap||鮭汁 (kê-tsiap)||fish sauce||Originally means sauce in Hokkien.|
|kongsi||公司 (kong-si)||to share||Originally means company/firm/clan association in Hokkien.|
|kuaci||瓜子 (kua-tsí)||edible watermelon seeds|
|kuetiau||粿條 (kué-tiâu)||flat rice noodle|
|kuih||粿 (kué)||rice-flour cake|
|sinseh||先生 (sin-senn)||traditional Chinese doctor|
There are words in Penang Hokkien that originated from other varieties of Chinese spoken in and around Malaysia. e.g.:
|Penang Hokkien||Originated from||Definition||Note|
|我 (uá)||Teochew||I; me||Originally pronounce as guá in Hokkien but Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Teochew.|
|我儂 (uá-lâng / uang)||Teochew||we; us|
|汝儂 (lú-lâng / luang)||Teochew||you guys|
|伊儂 (i-lâng / iang)||Teochew||they; theirs|
|無便 (bô-piàn)||Teochew||nothing can be done|
|啱 (ngam)||Cantonese||fit; suitable|
|大佬 (tāi-lôu)||Cantonese||bro; boss||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|緊張 (kín-tsiong)||Cantonese||nervous||Compound word Hokkien 緊 (kín) + Cantonese 張(zoeng1).|
|無釐頭 (môu-lêi-thāu)||Cantonese||makes no sense||From Cantonese 無厘頭 (mou4 lei4 tau4).|
|豬腸粉 (tsý-tshiông-fân)||Cantonese||chee cheong fun||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|濕濕碎 (sa̋p-sa̋p-sêoi)||Cantonese||piece of cake||Penang Hokkien uses pronunciation from Cantonese.|
|死爸 (sí-pēe)||Singaporean Hokkien||very||Originated from Teochew 死父 (si2-bê6) and adopted from Singaporean Hokkien 死爸 (sí-pē).|
|我老的 (uá-lāu-ê)||Singaporean Hokkien||oh my god; oh no|
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.
Penang Hokkien also contains words which are thought to come from Thai.
|Penang Hokkien||Definition||Other Hokkien||Note|
|鏺/鈸 pua̍t||1/10 of a unit of currency
i.e. 10 sen/cents
e.g. 50 sen 五鏺/鈸 gōo-pua̍t
|角 kak||Etymology ultimately unknown but thought to come from Thai baht.|
In recent years, a number of movies that incorporate the use of Penang Hokkien have been filmed, as part of wider efforts to preserve the dialect's relevance. Among the more recent movies are The Journey, which became the highest-grossing Malaysian film in 2014, and You Mean the World to Me, the first movie to be filmed entirely in Penang Hokkien.