Singaporean Hokkien
新加坡福建話
Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-uē (Tâi-lô)
Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-ōe (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Native toSingapore
Native speakers
1.2 million (2017)[1]
Early forms
Chinese characters (Traditional or Simplified)
Latin for romanisation (Tâi-lô & Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Official status
Official language in
None, lingua franca of the Chinese community in Singapore before the 1980s.
Regulated byNone
Language codes
ISO 639-3nan for Southern Min / Min Nan (hbl for Hokkien Bân-lâm is proposed[5]) which encompasses a variety of Hokkien dialects including "Singaporean Hokkien".[6]
GlottologNone
Linguasphere79-AAA-jek
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.
Singaporean Hokkien
Traditional Chinese新加坡福建話
Simplified Chinese新加坡福建话
Tâi-lôSin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-uē
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese新加坡閩南語
Simplified Chinese新加坡闽南语
Tâi-lôSin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-gu /
Sin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-gí
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese新加坡閩南話
Simplified Chinese新加坡闽南话
Tâi-lôSin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-uē

Singaporean Hokkien[b] is a local variety of the Hokkien language spoken natively in Singapore. Within Chinese linguistic academic circles, this dialect is known as Singaporean Ban-lam Gu.[c] It bears similarities with the Amoy[d] spoken in Amoy, now better known as Xiamen, as well as Taiwanese Hokkien which is spoken in Taiwan.[7]

Hokkien is the Min Nan pronunciation for the province of Fujian, and is generally the term used by the Chinese in Southeast Asia to refer to the 'Banlam' dialect.[e] Singaporean Hokkien generally views Amoy as its prestige dialect, and its accent is predominantly based on a mixture of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou speech, with a greater inclination towards the former.

Like many spoken languages in Singapore, Singaporean Hokkien is influenced by other languages or dialects spoken in Singapore. For instance, Singaporean Hokkien is influenced to a certain degree by Teochew, and is sometimes regarded as a combined Hokkien–Teochew speech.[f] In addition, it has many loanwords from Singapore's four official languages of English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

Nevertheless, the grammar and tones of Singaporean Hokkien are still largely based on Banlam. When compared to the Taiwanese accent[g] spoken in Tainan and Kaohsiung, the accent and pronunciation of Singaporean Hokkien inclines toward the Quanzhou accent, which is also close to the pronunciation of Taipei and Xiamen, and is less close to that of Tainan, which has a greater inclination towards the Zhangzhou accent.[h]

History

From the 19th until the early half of the 20th century, there was a large influx of Chinese migrants from southern China into Singapore. This led to Chinese constituting almost 75% of Singapore's population. Of these Chinese, many originated from the regions of Amoy/Xiamen, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou in Fujian province. They brought Min Nan to Singapore, which was then propagated throughout the Malayan region. As there was no formal Chinese name for Min Nan in the early 20th century, these migrants began to use their place of origin as the name of their speech, and thus called the dialect "Hokkien", referring to Fujian province.

During the 19th century, many traditional private Chinese schools in Singapore (referred to as 私塾仔; su-sio̍k-á) generally used Hokkien to teach Chinese classics and Classical Chinese. However, by the early 20th century, Mandarin began to replace Hokkien as the medium of instructions in Chinese schools after the founding of many Mandarin-medium schools.

During the 1950s and 1960s, many political speeches in Singapore were in Hokkien, in order to reach out to the Chinese community in Singapore. There was also a thriving Hokkien cultural scene that included Hokkien story-telling, opera, and media in Singapore.

After 1979, the Singapore government began to push for the use of Mandarin in Singapore, spearheaded by the Speak Mandarin Campaign. Following this, the Singapore government also began to employ a more stringent censorship, or ban, of Hokkien media in the Singaporean Chinese media. Consequently, all Hokkien-language media in Singapore had to be dubbed in Mandarin before being allowed to stream on national TV.

In addition, the 1980s saw Chinese-medium education replaced by that in English, causing English to emerge as the most widely used language in Singapore. The emergence of the English language, coupled with heavy promotion of Mandarin, generally led Hokkien to decline in Singapore after 1979.

Current status

Today, the lingua franca of the Chinese community in Singapore is Mandarin. Although Hokkien is still widely spoken in Singapore today, it is not as widespread as before and is mostly restricted to the older generations. The most common places to hear Hokkien spoken in Singapore are at the country's hawker centres or kopi tiams.

Speaking ability varies amongst the different age groups of the Hokkien Singaporeans. The elderly are generally able to communicate effectively in Hokkien. On the other hand, the middle and younger generations, while generally proficient, have generally lost the ability to communicate as fluently. However, when it comes to using profanities, majority of the younger generation, even among non-Chinese Singaporeans, listed Hokkien as the first out of all languages and dialects. With the Speak Mandarin Campaign from the government, the Hokkien speaking population has been on a gradual decline.

Revival in the 2010s

There is, however, groups of Hokkien Singaporeans working to help preserve, spread and revive the use of Singaporean Hokkien in the country.[8]

The ease of access to online Hokkien entertainment media and pop music from the internet has helped to connect to the language and culture. Many Singaporeans are increasingly using online and social media platforms to learn, discuss, meet, and interact with each other in Hokkien.[8]

Some of the groups include:

Phonology

Consonants

Initials
Bilabial Alveolar Alveolo-
palatal
Velar Glottal
plain sibilant
Nasal m [m]
名 (miâ)
n [n]
耐 (nāi)
ng [ŋ]
硬 (ngē)
Plosive plain p [p]
邊 (pian)
t [t]
地 (tē)
ts [ts]
曾 (tsan)
tsi []
祝 (tsiok)
k [k]
求 (kiû)
[ʔ]
音 (im)
aspirated ph []
波 (pho)
th []
他 (thann)
tsh [tsʰ]
出 (tshut)
tshi [tɕʰ]
手 (tshiú)
kh []
去 (khì)
voiced b [b][i]
文 (bûn)
d [d][ii]
日 (di̍t)
j [dz]*
熱 (jua̍h)
ji []*
入 (ji̍p)
g [g][i]
牛 (gû)
Fricative s [s]
衫 (sann)
si [ɕ]
心 (sim)
h [h]
喜 (hí)
Approximant l [l]
柳 (liú)
w [w]
我 (wá)
  1. ^ a b The voiced plosives /b, ɡ/ are fricatized to [β] and [ɣ] respectively in certain phonetic contexts such as during fast speech.
  2. ^ Pronounced in some regional variations of Hokkien spoken in Singapore.[9]
Finals
Bilabial Alveolar Velar Glottal
Nasal consonant -m [m]
心 (sim)
-n [n]
今 (kin)
-ng [ŋ]
興 (heng)
Stop consonant -p []
急 (kip)
-t []
越 (ua̍t)
-k []
速 (sok)
-h [ʔ]
物 (mih)
Syllabic consonant
Bilabial Velar
Nasal m []
毋 ()
ng [ŋ̍]
酸 (sng)

Vowels

Monophthongs
Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal
Close i [i]
伊 (i)
inn [ĩ]
圓 (înn)
ir [ɨ]
豬 (tir)
u [u]
有 (ū)
unn [ũ]
羊 (iûnn)
Close-Mid e [e]
會(ē)
enn []
嬰 (enn)
o [o]
蠔 (ô)
Mid er [ə]
鍋 (er)
Open-Mid oo [ɔ]
烏 (oo)
onn [ɔ̃]
嗚 (onn)
Open a [a]
亞 (a)
ann [ã]
餡 (ānn)
Diphthongs & Triphthongs
Diphthong Triphthong
ai [ai]
愛 (ài)
ia [ia]
椰 ()
io [io]
腰 (io)
ua [ua]
娃 (ua)
ui [ui]
為 ()
iau [iau]
枵 (iau)
au [au]
後 (āu)
ia [iɛ]
燕 (n)[i]
iu [iu]
油 ()
ue [ue]
話 ()
uai [uai]
歪 (uai)
  1. ^ When ⟨ia⟩ is followed by final ⟨-n⟩ or ⟨-t⟩, it is pronounced [iɛ], with ⟨ian⟩ and ⟨iat⟩ being pronounced as [iɛn] and [iɛt̚] respectively.

Tones

Singaporean Hokkien tones
Tones Upper/Dark (陰) Lower/Light (陽)
No. Name TL e.g. Pitch Contour No. Name TL e.g. Pitch Contour
Original Sandhied Original Sandhied
Level (平) 1 陰平
im-piânn
a
si
[˦˦] (44) [˨˨] (22) 5 陽平
iông-piânn
â
[˨˦] (24) [˨˩] (21)
Rising (上) 2 上聲
sióng-siann
á
[˦˨] (42) [˨˦] (24)
Departing (去) 3 陰去
im-khì
à
[˨˩] (21) [˦˨] (42) 7 陽去
iông-khì
ā
[˨˨] (22) [˨˩] (21)
Entering (入) 4 陰入
im-ji̍p
a◌
sih
[ʔ˧˨] (32) [ʔ˦˨] (42) 8 陽入
iông-ji̍p
a̍◌
si̍h
[ʔ˦˧] (43) [ʔ˨˩] (21)
[ʔ˦] (4) [ʔ˦] (4)
Note Entering tones (4 & 8) only occur in closed syllables where ◌ represents either -p, -t, -k, or -h.

Variation

Regional accents and tones

When Singaporeans speak Hokkien, they do so with various accents and tones largely from Tong'an, Anxi, Nan'an, Kinmen as well as Yongchun, Jinjiang, Longhai City and Southern Zhangzhou accents. In practice, it is common for Singaporeans to mix English conjunctions such as "and" into a Hokkien sentence. Some would include honn (乎) (an exclamatory remark in Jinjiang / Nan'an), in addition to the widely used Hokkien exclamatory particles la () or loo ().

No distinction between literary and vernacular readings

In saying years or numbers, Singaporean Hokkien normally does not differentiate between literary (文讀音) or vernacular (白讀音) readings of Chinese characters. In Taiwan or Amoy, a distinction is usually made. For instance, the year 1980 would be said with a literary pronunciation (一九八空年; it kiú pat khòng nî); but in Singapore, no differentiation is made and is pronounced as otherwise vernacular it káu pueh khòng nî.

As another instance, Taiwanese would speak telephone numbers using literary readings, whereas Singaporeans would use vernacular ones instead. For example, the telephone number 98444678 will be pronounced in Taiwan as kiú pat sù sù sù lio̍k tshit pat, where in Singaporean Hokkien it would be pronounced as káu pueh sì-sì sì la̍k tshit pueh.

Influence from Southern Zhangzhou and Teochew Phonology

Vowel shift from ing to eng

In Singaporean Hokkien, as compared to Quanzhou (whose accent Hokkien usually inclines toward), Zhangzhou, Amoy or Taiwanese, which pronounce the vowel ing—there is a vowel change from ing (/iŋ/ or /iəŋ/) to eng (/eŋ/ or /ɛŋ/). This change is similar to pronunciation in regions south of Zhangzhou—Dongshan, Yunxiao, Zhangpu, Pinghe, Zhao'an counties (southern Zhangzhou accent)—and in Teochew and Cantonese.

Below is a table illustrating the difference:

Hanzi Singaporean Hokkien Amoy Hokkien English
seng sing to live
tseng tshing clear
bêng bîng bright
léng líng cold
eng ing brave
tsèng tsìng political

Pronunciation of 'I'

In Amoy/Taiwanese Hokkien pronunciation, (lit. 'I/me') is pronounced as /ɡua˥˨/; but in Singapore, it is pronounced as /wa˥˨/, which is alleged by some to have been influenced by the Teochew pronunciation /ua˥˨/ although other dialects like Putianese and some regional Hokkien dialects also pronounce it as /ua˥˨/.

Grammar

There are some differences between the sentence structure used by Singaporean Hokkien and by Amoy/Taiwanese Hokkien.

For instance, when asking a question "do you want to...?", Singaporean Hokkien typically uses the sentence structure 愛……莫? (ai…mài?), whereas Taiwan uses 欲……無? (beh…bô?). The word (ai) is commonly used in Singaporean Hokkien to mean "want to", but in Amoy Hokkien and Taiwan Hokkien, the word 欲/卜 (beh) (which means "want" in Hokkien) is used instead. (ai) in Amoy and Taiwanese Hokkien it typically means "love to" or "need to".

Also, unlike Taiwanese Hokkien—which typically uses the word (kám) (meaning "whether or not") when asking a question, which is more formal or polite—Singaporean Hokkien does not use the word (kám). Instead, it simply adds the word () at the end of the sentence to indicate that it is a question (similar to Mandarin's (ma) or adds a Cantonese intonation (me1) at the end. Adding the word () at the end of a sentence is also used in Taiwanese Hokkien, when one is asking a question in an informal way.

Differences in sentence structure
Singaporean Hokkien Amoy English
愛食飯莫?
ai tsia̍h-pn̄g mài?
欲食飯無?
beh tsia̍h-pn̄g bô?
Do you want to eat?
汝有睏飽無?
lír ū khùn-pá bô?
汝敢有睏飽?
lí kám ū khùn-pá?
Did you have enough sleep?

Numerals

See also: Literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters

The following list shows the colloquial readings of the numerals used to count objects.

Hanzi Tâi-lô Value Notes
, lêng 0 is an informal way to represent zero
also (khòng)
tsi̍t 1 also pronounced it
also (io) when used in phone numbers etc.
nn̄g 2 also (lī/jī)
sann 3
4
5
la̍k 6
tshit 7
pueh 8
káu 9
tsa̍p 10

Most ordinal numbers are formed by adding () in front of a cardinal number. In some cases, the literary reading of the number must then be used. For example, 第一 = tē-it, 第二 = tē-jī.

Differences from other Hokkien varieties

There are minor differences between Singaporean Hokkien and Amoy or Taiwanese in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. Amoy and Taiwanese bear close resemblance, and are usually considered the prestige dialect of Hokkien, differing only in terms of vocabulary.

Unique vocabulary

Although Singaporean Hokkien is similar to Amoy or Taiwanese, there exist certain unique Singaporean Hokkien words, which are different from those two aforementioned dialects.

Singaporean Hokkien Amoy Hokkien Definition
死景
sí-kéng
博物館
phok-bu̍t-kuán
museum
活景
ua̍h-kéng
動物園
tōng-bu̍t-hn̂g
zoo
掠無球
lia̍h-bô-kiû
毋捌
m̄-bat
completely not understand (lit. catch no balls)
假強
kê-khiàng
假𠢕
ké-gâu
act smart (overdo it; Singapore especially for women)
俏母
tshiò-bú
媠查某
súi tsa-bóo
pretty lady
督公
tok-kong

tsàn
superb (originated from Na Tuk Kong)

Same meaning, different words

Singaporean Hokkien Definition Amoy/Taiwanese Hokkien Notes

ài
Want
beh
ài in Amoy means "love" or "must". 欲 in Singaporean Hokkien can be classified as an auxiliary verb denoting volition of the following verb.

beh is sometimes written alternatively as beh.


lí / lír / lú
You
(used in Quanzhou/Amoy/Taiwanese) is also used in Singaporean Hokkien, originating from Quanzhou/Amoy speech. The pronunciation of lír 汝 originated from the Tâng-uann accent (同安音), or could be traced to Teochew, while 汝 came from the Zhangzhou variant of Hokkien which is predominant in Penang, Malaysia as well as Medan and most parts of Indonesia.
恁儂 / 恁人
lín lâng
You-all
lín
The use of 儂/人 lâng in Singaporean Hokkien pronoun (I, you, we) originated from Teochew grammar.
我儂 / 我人
guá lâng
We /
gún / lán
阮儂 gún lâng, lán and 咱儂 lán lâng are also used in Singaporean Hokkien. Quanzhou and Zhangzhou uses gún, whereas Amoy uses gún/guán in a manner similar to Taiwanese.
伊儂 / 伊人
i-lâng
They 𪜶 (亻因)
in
The addition of 儂 lâng originates from Teochew, and is also commonly used in Shanghainese.

tshò
Wrong 毋著
m̄-tio̍h
The Malay word salah is actually more commonly used to mean 'wrong' in Singaporean Hokkien. 毋著 m̀-tio̍h is also used in Singaporean Hokkien.
舊早
kū-tsá
In the past 頂擺 / 以前
téng-mái / í-tsêng
All variants are used in Amoy/Taiwanese.
鬥跤手
tàu-kha-tshiú
Help 鬥相共
tàu-sann-kāng
All variants are used in Amoy / Taiwanese.
卽兜
tsit-tâu
This place 這爿 /
tsit-pêng / tsiâ
這爿 tsit-pêng is also commonly used in Singapore, tsiâ less so.

tsit is sometimes written alternatively as or .

按呢款
án-ne-khuán
In this way, so 按呢
án-ne/án-ni
khuán is not generally appended in Amoy / Taiwanese
幾鐳 / 幾箍
kui-lui / kui khoo
How much? 偌濟錢
juā-tsuē tsînn
All variants are used in Amoy. Both 鐳 lui and 錢 tsînn are used in Minnan region today to mean "money". In Singapore however, 鐳 lui is more commonly used to mean "money".
The word 鐳 lui was previously thought to have originated from Malay. However, research indicated that the word 鐳 lui is in fact a unique Hokkien word, originating from the unit of currency known as 銅鐳 tâng-lui during the early Chinese Republican period. It actually means "bronze money". 銅鐳 tâng-lui was commonly used in Minnan region and Chaoshan region during that time, and the term spread to Singapore then and remains in common use until today.
lui used to be used in Taiwan, but due to Japanese colonial rule fell out of use. It was replaced by tsînn which is the normal term for "money" in Taiwan today.
轉厝
tńg-tshū
Go home 倒去
to-khì
轉去 to-khì is used in Singapore as well, but with a more general meaning of "going back", not specifically home.
今仔日
kiann-ji̍t
Today 今仔日
kin-á-ji̍t
Singapore '今仔'日 kiann-ji̍t is a contraction of Amoy 今仔日 kin-á-ji̍t. 今日 kin-ji̍t is also heard in Singapore.
當今
tong-kim
Nowadays 現此時
hián-tsú-sî
Both Singapore and Amoy/Taiwanese commonly use 這陣 tsit-tsūn to encompass the meaning of "nowadays". 現此時 hián-tshú-sî is commonly used in Taiwanese.
即陣
tsit-tsūn
Now 這馬 / 這站
tsit-má / tsit-tsām
這陣 tsit-tsūn is also used in Amoy / Taiwanese
四散
sì-suānn
anyhow/casual/random 烏白
oo-pe̍h
E.g. 伊四散講 i sì-suānn kóng - He speaks casually (or nonsense). 四散 sì-suānn is sometimes also used in Amoy, and regularly used in Teochew.
定著
tiānn-tio̍h
surely 一定 / 絕對
it-tīng / tsua̍t-tùi
定著 tiānn-tio̍h is sometimes also used in Taiwan. 一定 it-tīng is a loan from Mandarin.
驚輸
kiann-su
Fear of losing out/failure - kiasu 驚失敗
kiann sit-pāi
公私
kong-si
Share / 公家
pun / kong-ke

tsiā
Very
tsin

siong
Very tough or difficult 艱難 / 困難
kan-lân / khùn-lân
siong literally means "injurious", but has become slang in Singapore for "tough" or "difficult"

heng
Luckily, fortunately 好佳哉
hó-ka-tsài
食風
tsia̍h-hong
To go on holiday, or more generally to live in luxury 𨑨迌
tshit-thô
In Amoy / Taiwanese, 食風 tsia̍h-hong is also used but means "facing the wind". In Singapore, 𨑨迌 tshit-thô means simply "to play" (as in children playing).

Same word, different pronunciation

There are some words used in Singaporean Hokkien that are the same in Taiwanese Hokkien, but are pronounced differently.

Hokkien Words Definition Singaporean Hokkien Taiwanese Hokkien Notes
咖啡 Coffee ko-pi ka-pi "ko-pi" is a loan word from the Malay word "kopi" which in turn is taken from the English word "coffee" The Mandarin word "kāfēi" and the Taiwanese Hokkien word "ka-pi" are derived from the French word "café". As Hokkien does not have an f-sound, this turned into a p-sound. Philippine Hokkien pronounces the word for "coffee" as "ka-pé" which is also a loan word from the Filipino/Tagalog word "kape", which is also derived from the Spanish word "café".
按怎 How án-tsuánn án-nuá "án-tsuánn" is also commonly used in Taiwan. The pronunciation of "án-nuá" originates from Zhangzhou.
啥物/甚物 What si-mih/sim-mih siánn-mi̍h "si-mih/sim-mih" is based on the word 甚物 (used in Amoy/Zhangzhou), whereas "siánn-mi̍h" is based on the word 啥物 (used in Quanzhou). Taiwan typically uses "啥物 siánn-mi̍h" more often, although "甚物 sim-mih" is also used. Singapore also uses "啥物 siánn-mi̍h", though less often.

Influences from other languages

Because Singapore is a multilingual country, Singaporean Hokkien has been influenced by many other languages spoken in Singapore. As a result, there are many non-Hokkien words that have been imported into Singaporean Hokkien, such as those from Malay, Teochew, Cantonese, and English.

Loanwords from other Chinese varieties

There are words in Singaporean Hokkien that originated from other Chinese variants spoken in Singapore.

Singaporean Hokkien Definition Amoy Hokkien Notes

phinn
Cheap
sio̍k
phinn originates from Teochew. sio̍k also used in Amoy/Quanzhou/Zhangzhou
死爸
sí-pē
Very /
tsin / tsiok
Originated from Teochew word 死爸 sí-pĕ. Interchangeably used in Singaporean Hokkien, which can coincide with the Hokkien pronunciation of 死爸 sí-pē. The word 死爸 sí-pē in original Hokkien is a vulgar word that means "to the extent that your/my father dies".
山龜
suānn-ku
Country-bumpkin 土包仔
thóo-pau-á
Originated from Teochew, lit. "mountain tortoise"
無便
bô-piàn
There is no way (nothing can be done) 無法度
bô-huat-tō
Originated from Teochew
做儛
tsò-bú
together 做伙 / 做陣 / 鬭陣
tsuè-he / tsuè-tīn / tàu-tīn
Originated from Teochew
緊張
kán-tsiong
Nervous 緊張
kín-tiunn
Originated from Cantonese

Malay loanwords

The following are the common Malay loanwords used in Singaporean Hokkien. Most of them are also used in Amoy.

Singaporean Hokkien Hanzi Definition Amoy Hokkien Notes
Su-ka (suka) 舒合 (su-kah) Like 佮意 (kah-ì)
Sabun 雪文 (sap-bûn) Soap 茶箍 (tê-khoo) 雪文 (sap-bûn) is also used in Taiwan. Amoy, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou also uses 雪文 (sap-bûn). Originates from old Portuguese "sabon" (modern Portuguese uses "sabão") which also gave Malay its word for soap. 茶箍/茶枯 (tê-khoo) is also used in Amoy/Quanzhou/Zhangzhou.
Kah-win (kahwin) 交寅 (kau-ín) Marry 結婚 (kiat-hun) 交寅 (kau-ín) is also used in Amoy. Originates from Malay.
Ka-cau Disturb 攪擾 (kiáu-liáu)
Ba-Lu (baru) Recently 最近 (tsuè-kīn)
Pa-sak (pasar) 巴刹 (pa-sat) Market 市場 (tshī-tiûnn) or 菜市 (tshài-tshī)
Ma-ta (mata-mata) Police 警察 (kéng-tshat) Mata literally means "eye" and is used as a colloquial term for the police. 'mata-mata' may also be used to mean 'spy'.
Ga-duh Quarrel 冤家 (uan-ke)
Si-nang (senang) Easy 簡單 (kán-tan)
To-long Help 拜託 (pài-thok),幫忙 (pang-bâng) or 鬥相共 (tàu-sann-kāng)
Sa-lah Offence, Wrong 犯法 (huān-huat)
Ta-pi (tetapi) But 但是 (tān-sī), 毋過 (m̄-koh/m-ku) or 猶毋過(iáu m̄-koh) 毋過 is also used in Amoy/Quanzhou/Zhangzhou. Quanzhou typically pronounces 毋過 as "m̄-ku", whereas Zhangzhou pronounces 毋過 as "m̄-koh".
Roti Bread 麵包 (mī-pau) or (pháng) (Japanese loanwords)
Pun (pun) Also 嘛是 (mā sī) or 也是 (iā-sī) E.g. 伊本是眞帥 (i pun-sī tsin suí) - She is also very pretty
Saman summons (fine) 罰款 (hua̍t-khuán)
Agak Agak Guess/Estimate (ioh)
Kentang Potato 馬鈴薯 (má-lêng-tsû)
Guli Marble 大理石 (tāi-lí-tsio̍h)
Botak Bald/Baldy 光頭 (kng-thâu) or 禿頭 (thut-thâu) 
Pakat 巴結 (pá-kat) Conspire 串通 (tshuàn-thong)
Buaya 磨仔 (buá à) Crocodile 鱷魚 (kho̍k-hî)
Beh Ta-han 袂扙捍 Cannot tolerate 擋袂牢 (tòng bē tiâu) Formed by Hokkien word "beh 袂" and Malay word "tahan"
Mana Eh Sai Mana 會使 How can this be? 敢會使 (kam ē-sái) Formed by Malay word "mana" and Hokkien word "e-sai 會使"
Lokun 老君 Doctor 醫生 (i-seng) From Malay word "Dukun", which means shaman or medicine man. Alternatively, 老君 lo-kun is related to Taoist's deity Daode Tianzun, which is commonly known as Taishang Laojun (太上老君) "The Grand Supreme Elderly Lord". Many Chinese in Singapore practiced Taoism and visited Taoist temples to prescribe medicine to cure their disease. Naturally, the deity became like a doctor. Lokun 老君 can also mean a wise man.

English loanwords

There are also many English loanwords used in Singaporean Hokkien. They are usually used when the speaker does not know the Hokkien equivalent. Some of these English terms are related to working and living in Singapore

English loanwords in Singaporean Hokkien Compare Taiwanese Hokkien
Shopping 踅街 (se̍h-kue)
MRT 地鐵 (tē-thih) or 捷運 (tsia̍t-ūn)
But 但是 (tān-sī) or 毋過 (m̄-koh)
Toilet 便所 (piān-sóo)

Vocabulary from Old Chinese

Main articles: Old Chinese and Literary and colloquial readings of Chinese characters

Certain colloquial pronunciations of Singaporean Hokkien words are directly inherited from the consonant system of Old Chinese. Hokkien did not experience a great phonological change throughout the transition period from Old Chinese to Middle Chinese.

Min dialects, including Hokkien, preserved a unique feature of Old Chinese: it does not have labiodental consonants. For instance, the word "" is pronounced as fen in Mandarin, but as pun in Hokkien. This marks a major difference between Old Chinese and Middle Chinese.[10]

Old Chinese words whose usage is preserved in Singaporean Hokkien
Hokkien
Vocabulary
Mandarin
Equivalent
English Notes

/ lír /

you

i
他/她/它
he/she

/ tīr
筷子
kuàizi
chopsticks
物件
mi̍h-kiānn
東西
dōngxi
things
按呢
án-ni / án-ne
這麼
zhème
like this
按怎
àn-tsuánn
怎麼
zěnme
how?

tshù
房子
fángzi
house

suāinn
芒果
mángguǒ
mango

iau

è
hungry e.g. 我個腹肚眞枵。 (I'm very hungry.)
尻川
kha-tshng
屁股
pìgǔ
buttock

kha

jiǎo
leg
塗跤
thôo-kha
地板
dìbǎn
floor

tiánn

guō
wok
肉脞
bah-tshò
碎肉
suìròu
minced meat

tuà

zhù
to live/reside e.g. 汝蹛底落? (Where do you live?)

khiā

zhù
to live/reside e.g. 我徛佇牛車水。 (I live in Chinatown.)

/ tīr

zài
to be located in/at e.g. 汝佇底落? (Where are you?)
暗暝
àm-mî / àm-mê
晚上
wǎnshang
night

uànn

wǎn
night
門跤口
mn̂g-kha-kháu
門口
ménkǒu
entrance
外口
guā-kháu
外面
wàimiàn
outside
泅水
siû-tsuí
游泳
yóuyǒng
swim
卽陣
tsit-tsūn
現在
xiànzài
now
卽久
tsit-kú
現在
xiànzài
now
卽馬
tsit-má
現在
xiànzài
now
現此時
hiān-tsú-sî
現在
xiànzài
now
當今
tong-kim
現在
xiànzài
nowadays
眠床
bîn-tshn̂g

chuáng
bed

kàu

dào
get to/reach e.g. 我遘厝了。 (I've reached home.)

tńg
回去
huíqù
go back e.g. 我轉去學堂提物件。 (I came back to get my things.)
倒轉
tò-tńg
回去
huíqù
go back

tsia̍h

chī
eat
猶未
iá-buē
還沒
háiméi
not yet e.g. 我猶未食飯。 (I've not yet eaten.)
趁錢
thàn-tsînn
賺錢
zhuànqián
earn money

Cultural use

See also: Written Hokkien

In religion

Hokkien Sutra
Extract from a Buddhist repentance sutra 「大悲懺法儀規」 (with Singapore-style Hokkien romanization) taken from a Buddhist temple in Singapore
Hokkien Sutra
A display outside Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church showing Hokkien Sunday Services (on the right side)

Hokklo Taoist priests are the largest group among Taoist clergy community in Singapore, they had always conduct their religious services in Hokkien and still continue to do so. Most Tangki or Chinese mediums from Hokkien temples also communicate in Hokkien during spiritual consultation. Some of the Chinese Buddhist temples in Singapore continue to recite the Buddhist scriptures in Hokkien during their daily worship services. The scriptures contain Singapore-style Hokkien romanization are available to assist during the scriptural recitation. There are also Hokkien Buddhist sermons CDs made available and distribute among Hokkien communities in Singapore and overseas. Some of the Chinese Christian churches in Singapore also have services conducted in Singaporean Hokkien.

Music

There exist Singaporean Hokkien writings, folk adages, and ballads written by early Chinese immigrants to Singapore.

Amongst the folk ballads, a few outstanding writings tell of the history and hardship of early Chinese immigrants to Singapore.

There are 18 sections in the poetry ballad "行船歌" (Hâng-tsûn-kua) ("Songs of traveling on a boat"), which talks about how early immigrants migrated to Singapore.

There is another ballad called "砰嘭水中流" (Pin-pong-tsúi-tiong-lâu) ("Flow in the midst of water"):

kih

kok

bo̍k

ūi

舟,

tsiu

乞 涸 木 爲 舟,

kih kok bo̍k ūi tsiu

pin

pong

tsúi

tiong

流,

lâu

砰 嘭 水 中 流,

pin pong tsúi tiong lâu

門雙

mn̂g-siang

劃槳,

u̍ih-hiúnn

門雙 劃槳,

mn̂g-siang u̍ih-hiúnn

si

suit

kàu

泉州。

tsuân-tsiu

噝 刷 到 泉州。

si suit kàu tsuân-tsiu

An example of a folk love ballad is "雪梅思君" (Suat-m̂-su-kun) ("Snow and plum thinking of a gentlemen"), on the loyalty and chastity of love.[11]

An example of love poetry is "針線情" (tsiam-suànn-tsiânn) ("The emotions of needle and thread"):

針,

tsiam,

guá

線,

suànn,

針線

tsiam-suànn

永遠

éng-uán

liâm

siòng

倚。

你 是 針, 我 是 線, 針線 永遠 黏 相 倚。

lí sī tsiam, guá sī suànn, tsiam-suànn éng-uán liâm siòng uá

lâng

kóng

tsiam

póo

tsiam

hiam

tio̍h

線,

suànn,

爲何

ūi-hô

pàng

gún

leh

孤單。

koo-tuann

人 講 針 補 針 也 著 線, 爲何 放 阮 咧 孤單。

lâng kóng tsiam póo tsiam hiam tio̍h suànn, ūi-hô pàng gún leh koo-tuann

啊!

Ah,

guá

pún

tâng

被單,

phuē-tuann,

怎樣

tsuánn-iūnn

lâi

拆散?

thiah-suànn

啊! 你 我 本 是 同 被單, 怎樣 來 拆散?

Ah, lí guá pún sī tâng phuē-tuann, tsuánn-iūnn lâi thiah-suànn

ū

tsiam

suànn

kiò

gún

ài

按怎,

an-tsuánn,

思念

su-liām

心情

sim-tsiânn

無帶

bô-tè

看。

khuànn

有 針 無 爲 叫 阮 要 按怎, 思念 心情 無帶 看。

ū tsiam bô suànn kiò gún ài an-tsuánn, su-liām sim-tsiânn bô-tè khuànn

Getai

Main article: Getai

Singapore also held Getai during traditional Chinese festivals, for instance the Zhong Yuan Festival. During the Getai event, it is common to speak a number of Chinese dialects, including Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese. During the 1960s, Hokkien song was particularly popular. The Singapore Hokkien star Chen Jin Lang (陳金浪) was once the compere and main singer during the Hungry Ghost Festival. His famous song "10 levels of Hades" ("十殿閻君") was especially popular.

In opera

See also: Hokkien opera

Early Singaporean Hokkien opera had its origins in Gaojia opera, which was brought from Quanzhou to Singapore during the late 19th century. In 1927, the Taiwanese Gezai opera spread to Singapore. Because its lyrics and singing style were easier to understand, it made a great impact on Singapore. Consequently, by the mid 20th century, it had replaced Gaojia opera to become the mainstream Hokkien opera in Singapore.

Currently, Singapore Hokkien opera is performed by two older troupes—Sin Sai Hong Hokkien Opera Troupe (新賽風閩劇團) and Xiao Kee Lin Hokkien Opera Troupe (筱麒麟閩劇團)—and three newer troupes—Sio Gek Leng Hokkien Opera Troupe (筱玉隆閩劇團), Ai Xin Hokkien Opera Troupe (愛心歌仔戲團), and Do Opera [Hokkien] (延戲[福建歌仔戲]), which is the newest.

A Singapore Chinese opera school nurtures talents in opera, including Hokkien opera.

In movies

Singapore Hokkien movies began to appear in the late 1990s, notably by dubbing in Hokkien mainstream Chinese movies made in Singapore. Amongst these, movies directed by Jack Neo, such as I Not Stupid and Money No Enough were popular. They reflected the social environment of local Singaporeans.

In radio

Although Singapore radios started to ban Hokkien in the 1980s, Rediffusion Singapore continued to broadcast in Hokkien and greatly contributed to the culture of Singapore. For instance, the Hokkien story-telling program Amoy folks story (廈語民間故事), by Koh Sock May (許淑梅), was very popular.

Nanyin

Main article: Nanguan music

Nanyin (Southern Music) first spread to Singapore in 1901.[12] Many immigrants from Quanzhou began to establish various Nanyin organizations.

Those which survive include the Siong Leng Musical Association, which was established in 1941. It was responsible for promoting Nanyin, as well as Liyuan opera. In 1977, the then chairman of the association, Ting Ma Cheng (丁馬成), advocated for the ASEAN Nanyin Performance (亞細安南樂大會奏), which helped to revive Nanyin. In addition, in order to educate young people about this performance art, he also published two books on Nanyin and Liyuan opera.[13]

Currently, the Siong Leng Musical Association is led by Ding Honghai (丁宏海), and it continues to promote Nanyin in Singapore.

Footprints of Pe̍h-ōe-jī

Main article: Pe̍h-ōe-jī

Provided by descendant of Tan Boon Hak, 陳文學, a cousin of Tan Kah Kee, who donated it to the Brownies for the exhibition

There are some letters written in Pe̍h-ōe-jī from early Hokkien migrants in Singapore.

An example was provided by the descendant of Tan Book Hak, a cousin of Tan Kah Kee.[14]

POJ Letter (in romanized Hokkien) Hàn-jī transcription
12 ge̍h 26 ji̍t

Ha̍k-ḿ siu

Tī bô phah-sǹg ê tiong-kan chih-tio̍h lâi phoe chit hong, lāi-bīn só kóng long chai siông-sè, lūn lín Hiân-chek ê sin-khu, kūn lāi ū khah ióng, lín bián khoà-lū, lūn jī á nā-sī khah kín tò-lâi pó khah hó. Nā tò-lâi chia, ū sî iā thang hō͘ in hiân-chek khah I kàu-hùn, bián-lē. sǹg hiân-sî nî-hè iáu chió, bē bián tit-siū ín-iń, ng-bāng nî-hè kàu gia̍h i chiū ē bat siūⁿ . lí m̄-thang khoà-lū. lūn chhin-chiâⁿ goá ta̍k lé-pài lo̍h khì Ē-Mn̄g thām thiā, long boē hó-sè. Tā-chiah chia bān-bān koh chhōe, goá iā chin tì-ì . lūn su-chē hiân-chai bô tī the, iā thang chai ié ī-sū. Lái heⁿ lun̄ mā ái kóng hó, chiaⁿ-ge̍h chiah beh tò-lâi. Lūn chō sō ê seng-khu ū ióng-ióng á-bô. Chin siàu-liân ǹg-bāng mê-nî ē long tò-lâi, koh $100.00 kho ě sū. Su á-bô ti-teh thēng hāu-lâi,góa chiah mn̄g I ê siông-sè, chit ê kì-hō,lí chai āu-pái m̄-thang kià kòe lâi sàng góa, ū chōe chōe êhùi khì. Chhéng an put it.

Ông pheh lîm

12月26日

學姆 收

佇無拍算的中間,接著來批一封,內面所講攏知詳細。論恁賢叔的身軀,近來有較勇,恁免掛慮。論兒仔若是較緊倒来保較好,若倒來遮,有時也通予(亻因) 賢叔共伊教訓、勉勵。算現時年歲猶少,袂免得受引誘,向望年歲夠額 伊就會捌想,汝毋通掛慮。論親情,我逐禮拜落去廈門探聽,攏袂好勢,踮遮則慢慢閣揣,我也真致意。論師姐現在無佇咧,也無通知伊的意思,來衡論嘛愛講好,正月才欲倒來。論做嫂用身軀有勇勇抑無?真少年,向望明年會攏倒來,閣$100.00箍的事。師也無佇咧,聽後來,我才問伊的詳細,這個記號,汝知後擺汝毋通寄過來送我,有濟濟的費氣。請安不一。

王帕林

Places in Singapore

Singapore's Chinese name "新加坡" (sin-ka-pho) originated from Hokkien's transliteration of "Singapore". In addition, there are many other place names in Singapore that originated from Hokkien: Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh, for instance.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Min is believed to have split from Old Chinese, rather than Middle Chinese like other varieties of Chinese.[2][3][4]
  2. ^ Chinese: 新加坡福建話; Tâi-lô: Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-uē; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-ōe
  3. ^ Chinese: 新加坡閩南語 Tâi-lô: Sin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-gu
  4. ^ 厦門話
  5. ^ 閩南語
  6. ^ 福潮話
  7. ^ 臺語優勢腔
  8. ^ 漳州腔

References

  1. ^ Ethnologue. "Languages of Singapore - Ethnologue 2017". Retrieved 2017-07-14.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Change Request Documentation: 2021-045". 31 August 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  6. ^ "Reclassifying ISO 639-3 [nan]" (PDF). GitHub. 31 August 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Podcast Transcript | Hokkien: How Do You Say "How Are You?"". Learn Dialect Singapore. 11 August 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  8. ^ a b Johnson, Ian (26 August 2017). "In Singapore, Chinese Dialects Revive After Decades of Restrictions". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  9. ^ Douglas, Carstairs (1899). Chinese-English dictionary of the vernacular or spoken language of Amoy (in English and Amoy Hokkien). London: Presbyterian Church of England. p. 99.((cite book)): CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  10. ^ Baxter, William H. (1992), A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, p. 47, doi:10.1515/9783110857085, ISBN 978-3-11-012324-1
  11. ^ "閩江茶座——周長楫敎授談閩南話在新加坡" (in Chinese). 國際在線.
  12. ^ "Siong Leng Musical Association". Lukechua.
  13. ^ "新加坡湘靈音樂社訪臺文化藝術交流音樂會" (in Chinese). rimhncfta.
  14. ^ Bukit Brown: Our Roots, Our Heritage

Academic sources