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Southern Hokkien: An Introduction: What We Did and Why We Did What We Did

Pages 425 - 441


Southern Hokkien (Minnanhua, Taiwanese), one of the southern Chinese regional languages, is rarely taught in Chinese programmes at European or American universities. This paper
sheds light on the design and pedagogical aims of a new comprehensive introduction to Southern Hokkien, and deals with aspects of Southern Hokkien that are found beneficial for an
efficient acquisition of this language outside its natural linguistic environment.


1 See Bernhard Fuehrer and Yang Hsiu-fang, with Wen Zhihao and Cheng Mei-chuan: Southern Hokkien: An Introduction. 3 vols. Taipei: National Taiwan University Press 2014. This textbook comes with three CDs of audio material. Please note that, as a general introduction to our teaching material, this paper freely borrows and paraphrases from our textbook.

2 See Taiwanese. 2 vols. Taichung: Maryknoll Language Service Centre 1984. This is part of a textbook series which consists of two volumes and a supplementary newspaper reader for the more advanced learner. It dates back to the 1960s and comes with extensive audio material (on cassettes).

3 This textbook caters for the language acquisition needs of missionaries and thus introduces a good deal of vocabulary that our students found of little relevance for their language learning.

4 See the introduction to the Maryknoll fathers' Taiwanese, vol. 1. Throughout the years the student cohort of the Southern Hokkien course at SOAS was highly diverse including typical students of Chinese departments in Western universities, i. e. native speakers of various European languages with a certain degree of proficiency in Mandarin and classical or literary Chinese, native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese and other Chinese regional languages, as well as native speakers of a variety of other Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, or Thai.

5 See Zheng Liangwei 鄭良偉/ Fang Nanqiang 方南強/Zhao Shunwen 趙順文: Shenghuo Taiyu/Seng1-oah8 Tai5-gi2 生活台語. Taipei: Zili wanbao 1980. This textbook also comes with audio material (4 cassettes) and takes the dialect variant of the Tainan area as its standard classroom language.

6 Where graphic representations of Southern Hokkien words in Chinese characters are unknown (or disputed), Seng1-oah8 Tai5-gi2 often uses Romanized transcription.

7 Over the course of the textbook project these notes changed beyond recognition and soon became obsolete. However, many of these notes were inspired by the excellent linguistic analysis of Southern Hokkien in Nicholas Cleaveland Bodman: Spoken Amoy Hokkien (2 vols. Kuala Lumpur 1955–1958), an excellent primer produced by the Government Officers' Language School in Kuala Lumpur for the teaching of the Amoy dialect to officers of the Malayan Civil Services and Police in the early 1950s. Bodman's material contains a wealth of explanatory material that is both scholarly and practical. As some aspects of the language described in this teaching material are now out of fashion and some do not appear to be attested in Taiwanese Southern Hokkien, Bodman's Spoken Amoy Hokkien was subsequently adapted and supplemented by Wu Su-chu in her Spoken Taiwanese (New York 1983). None of this material deals with writing Southern Hokkien in Chinese script. Other than the parts that have become outdated, Bodman's Spoken Amoy Hokkien still remains a fine analysis of the language.

8 At SOAS, Southern Hokkien is offered as a language acquisition course that may be taken by undergraduates, MA students and PhD candidates.

9 This first project was initially set up by Bernhard Fuehrer and Fang Meili 方美麗 under the “Languages of the Wider World” (LWW) scheme of the “SOAS and University College London Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning” (CETL) in 2006. It was executed by Fang Meili who put together a small textbook (with audio material) for Southern Hokkien based on the dialect variant associated with the Tainan area. Fang Meili: Spoken Hokkien: A Textbook and CD for Basic Hokkien (London 2010) exhibits some interesting pedagogical features as well as substantial linguistic shortcomings, and was never used in the teaching of Southern Hokkien in the China and Inner Asia Department at SOAS.

10 Project leaders: Bernhard Fuehrer 傅熊 (SOAS) and Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳 (NTU). Collaborators: Wen Zhihao 溫志豪 (former part-time teaching fellow at SOAS) and Cheng Mei-chuan 鄭美娟 (SOAS). Professor Yeh Kuo-liang 葉國良, the then Dean of the School of Liberal Arts (文學院) at NTU, had a crucial input in setting up this project. Professor Mei Chia-ling 梅家玲, director of the GITL (2008–2011) and head supervisor for the International Collaboration Program for Courses on Southern Hokkien, and her team provided the logistics for the production of a series of draft versions. Professor Ko Ching-ming 柯慶明, former director of the GITL (2005–2008), supported our project from beginning to end and facilitated the production of the audio material as well as the publication of this textbook.

11 The first volume (282 pages) contains lessons one to six; lessons seven to twelve are in the second volume (346 pages). In the third volume (142 pages) we provide additional material including transcripts of the dialogue sessions and song lyrics, and an index to our vocabulary explanations. The transcripts of dialogues and lyrics in mixed script are for reference purposes only but may be found useful by native speaker teachers. The audio material was recorded by Lim Ka-i 林佳怡, Lim Kim-siann 林金城, Lim Siok-ki 林淑期, Ong Siu-iong 王秀容, Ko Tong-Shan 柯棟山 and Koo Ka-iong 許嘉勇. Lim Ka-i also coordinated the production of the audio material.

12 The first two lessons focus on introductory material including guidance on sound structure and pronunciation, Romanization systems, phonology (tones and tone change, tone sandhi rules, colloquial vs. literary, multiple pronunciations), names and surnames, place names and so forth. In the last lesson dialogues are substituted by song lyrics.

13 For self-introductions of our personae dramatis see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 18–20. Fred Lee's introduction runs like this: I studied Chinese at my university back home and came to Taiwan to improve my Mandarin but later decided to also learn Southern Hokkien. To meet my living expenses I took on a few private language students. My Taiwanese friends call me A1-Tek4 阿德.

14 Based on a set of persons and scenes developed by Bernhard Fuehrer, Wen Zhihao drafted first versions of these dialogues. Over the years and with a number of adjustments to the internal structure (lexicon and grammar progression, dialect variant preference and allocation to individual personae etc.) these early drafts went through significant revisions and amendments.

15 Given that dynamic equivalents rarely cover the entire semantic range of the original, the discussion of these proverbs and set phrases in class is essential. In class the teacher is encouraged to set situations in which the Southern Hokkien proverbs can be applied. Some guidance on this can be found in A. F. Chang: Collection of Equivalent Proverbs in Five Languages. Lanham 2012.

16 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 229 (05.37).

17 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 61 (07.52).

18 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 222 (10.58).

19 Note that in our textbook ZZ refers to the Taiwanese derivative of the dialect associated with Zhangzhou rather than the dialect associated with Zhangzhou on the mainland. And QZ refers to the Taiwanese derivative of the dialect associated with Quanzhou rather than the Quanzhou dialect as encountered on the mainland.

20 Lines in the dialogue sections spoken by these two speakers lean towards pronunciations of the Taiwanese derivative of the Quanzhou dialect, but they do not strictly adhere to the phonetic system of this dialect variant. And given that one speaker represents the Amoy dialect, her lines in the dialogue sections include a limited number of examples that reflect the lexical preferences of contemporary speakers from Amoy. For details see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 17.

21 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 16.

22 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 16.

23 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 16.

24 Our course caters also for heritage learners and students who take this language option as preparation for fieldwork in Southern Hokkien speaking areas on the mainland or in South East Asia.

25 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 116 (03.14).

26 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 151 (04.08).

27 For some discussion of lexical changes of Taiwanese Southern Hokkien published in English see Li Chin-An (Li Khin Hoan) 李勤岸: Taiwanese Lexical Change and Variation (Tainan: Kailang zazhi shiye youxian gongsi [2003] 2005), a computer-assisted corpus analysis that also provides interesting pointers regarding the linguistic development of Taiwanese Southern Hokkien in its historical and social context. See also Jean DeBernardi: “Linguistic Nationalism: The Case of Southern Min.” In: Sino-Platonic Papers 25 (1991) and Deborah Beaser: “The Outlook of Taiwanese Language Preservation.” In: Sino-Platonic Papers 172 (2006) as well as the bibliographies in these two articles.

28 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 113 (03.10).

29 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 26.

30 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 91 (02.91).

31 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 153 (04.12).

32 See for example the notes in Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 134 (09.14).

33 See the note in Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 119 (03.17).

34 For a comprehensive study and summary of these discussions see Henning Klöter: Written Taiwanese. Wiesbaden 2005.

35 Mandarin is transcribed in Hanyu Pinyin with the conventional exceptions; the revised Hepburn system is used for Japanese; Cantonese is transcribed according to the Yale system. To ensure compatibility and to enable the learner to switch between Romanization systems as required by other reference material, comparative transcription tables (including IPA) are provided in the “Introduction”; see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 28–32.

36 We do not provide mixed script versions of the exercise sections, i. e. the “Sentence Patterns”, “Listening/Comprehension” and “Cloze Practice”, which are only transcribed in Romanization.

37 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 3, pp. 5–17. Although we include these mixed script versions, the learner is advised to focus on the Romanized version of dialogues in which clear indication regarding the application of tone sandhi rules is provided so as to ensure correct pronunciation and realization of tones.

38 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 22f. and passim.

39 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 133 (03.35).

40 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 42 (07.36).

41 For methodological considerations regarding the identification of so-called “original characters” (běnzì) in the transcription of Southern Hokkien in Chinese script see Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳: “Fangyan benzi yanjiu de tanyifa” 方言本字研究的探義法. In: Alain Peyraube/Chaofen Sun (eds.): In honour of Mei Tsu-Lin: Studies on Chinese Historical Syntax and Morphology. Paris 1999, pp. 299–326; Yang Hsiu-fang: “Fangyan benzi yanjiu de guannian yu fangfa” 方言本字研究的觀念與方法. In: Hanxue yanjiu/Chinese Studies 漢學研究 18 (2000), pp. 111–146; Yang Hsiu-fang: “Cizu yanjiu zai fangyan benzi kaoqiu shang de yunyong” 詞族研究在方言本字考求上的運用. In: Yuyanxue luncong 語言學論叢 40 (2009), pp. 194–212.

42 References to the current standard for written Taiwanese as set by the Ministry of Education in Taipei are marked as CTS (Current Taiwan Standard), especially where we deviate from the written forms suggested by the standardisation committee in their online dictionary Taiwan Minnanyu changyongci cidian 臺灣閩南語常用詞辭典.

43 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 197 (05.07).

44 For this summary and the quote see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 145 (09.32).

45 Where no meaningful loan graph is available, we opt for Romanization of words or syllables.

46 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 121f. (03.20).

47 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 89 (02.87).

48 Needless to say that where the language learning process includes Chinese script, the lack of a widely accepted standard for transcribing Southern Hokkien in Chinese script creates considerable difficulties for learners. Southern Hokkien: An Introduction is based on the view that attention to historical Chinese linguistics is not only beneficial for the learning of the language but also creates an intellectual environment in which historical developments can inform discussions of current language practices, and in which the academic discussion of relevant issues is encouraged. For some of the aspects applicable to consideration of Southern Hokkien within a wider historical framework see David Prager Branner: Problems in Comparative Dialectology. The Classification of Hakka and Miin. Berlin 2000, esp. pp. 147–174.

49 Other such cases in our lexical explorations include tacit references to publications such as Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳: “Cong fangyan bijiao lun Wu Min tongyuanci ‘Zhi’” 從 方言比較論吳閩同源詞「摭」: In: Yuyan ji yuyanxue 語言暨語言學 4.1 (2003), pp. 167–196 or Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳: “Lun Minnanyu ‘ruo’ de yongfa jiqi laiyuan” 論閩南語「若」 的用法及其來源. In: Hanxue yanjiu/Chinese Studies 漢學研究 23.2 (2005), pp. 355–388 and so forth.

50 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 146f. (04.04). On the graph 解 as adequate graphic representation of the word e7/oe7 in Chinese script see Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳: “Cong Hanyushi guandian kan ‘jie’ de yinyi he yufa xingzhi” 從漢語史觀點看「解」的音 義和語法性質. In: Yuyan ji yuyanxue 語言暨語言學 2.2 (2001), pp. 261–297.

51 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 148 (04.04).

52 On pat8/piat8 別 see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 246 [06.13].

53 On this question see Mei Tsu-lin 梅祖麟: “Neibu nigou Hanyu san li” 內部擬 構漢語三例. In: Mei Zulin yuyanxue lunwenji 梅祖麟語言學論文集. Beijing: Shangwu yinshuguan 2000, pp. 352–376 (rpt. from Zhongguo yuwen 中國語文 1988.3); cf. also Gong Hwang-cherng 龔煌城: “Shanggu Hanyu yu yuanshi HanZangyu dai r yu l fushengmu de gouni” 上古漢語與原始漢藏語帶r與l複聲母的構擬. In: Gong Huangcheng HanZangyu bijiao yanjiu lunwenji 龔煌城漢藏語比較研究論文集. Taipei: Zhongyang yanjiuyan 2011, pp. 187–216 (rpt. from Taida Wenshizhe xuebao 臺大文史哲學報 54 [2001], pp. 1–36).

54 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 66 (08.01) and Yang Hsiu-fang 楊秀芳: “Lun ‘bie’ de xingtai bianhua ji yufahua” 論「別」的形態變化及語法化. In: Qinghua Zhongwen xuebao 清華中文學報 11 (2014), pp. 5–55.

55 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 202 (05.14).

56 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 67–70.

57 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 63–66.

58 For summaries see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 34 and p. 51 (on tone sandhi). For extensive and in part contrastive tone sandhi exercises see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 72–76.

59 Throughout the textbook learners are expected to apply tone sandhi rules in the exercise sections (Sentence Patterns, Listening/Reading Comprehension and Cloze Practice) where we reduce the indication of sandhi tones to a minimum.

60 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 144.

61 See Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 2, p. 8.

62 For details see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 34–38.

63 The following extracts are taken from Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 34f. (01.05, 01.06).

64 For details see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, pp. 52–55 (isolated words) and pp. 55–62 (connected speech).

65 For the following extract see Fuehrer/Yang 2014, vol. 1, p. 61 (02.26).

66 One of the few notable exceptions in this respect is Zhou Changji 周長楫 and Kang Qiming 康啟明: Taiwan Minnanhua jiaocheng 台灣閩南話教程 (2 vols. Pindong: Anke chubanshe 1999) which includes extensive elaborations on a wide variety of topics relevant for a better understanding of the specifics of Taiwanese Southern Hokkien.


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