This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (October 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|1.2 million (2017)|
Han characters (traditional or simplified)
Official language in
|None, Lingua franca of the Chinese community in Singapore before 1979.|
|Hokkien POJ||Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-ōe|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Hokkien POJ||Sin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-gu/Sin-ka-pho bân-lâm-gí|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
|Hokkien POJ||Sin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-ōe|
Life in Singapore
Singaporean Hokkien (Chinese: 新加坡福建话; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-ōe; Tâi-lô: Sin-ka-pho Hok-kiàn-uē) is a local variant of the Hokkien language spoken in Singapore. In Chinese academic circles, this dialect is known as Singaporean Ban-lam Gu (Chinese: 新加坡閩南語; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Sin-ka-pho Bân-lâm-gu). It is closely related to the Southern Malaysian Hokkien (南馬福建話) spoken in Southern Malaysia, as well as to Riau Hokkien (廖內福建話) spoken in the Indonesian province of Riau. It also closely resembles Amoy (廈門話) spoken in Amoy, China, and Taiwanese Hokkien (臺灣閩南語/臺語/臺灣話) which is spoken in Taiwan.
Hokkien is the Min Nan pronunciation for the province of Fujian, and is generally the term used by the Chinese in South-East Asia to refer to the 'Banlam' dialect (閩南語). Singaporean Hokkien generally uses Amoy as its standard, and its accent is predominantly based on a mixture of Quanzhou (泉州話) and Zhangzhou (漳州話) 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 (福潮話). In addition, it has many loanwords from Malay and English.
Nevertheless, the grammar and tones of Singaporean Hokkien are still largely based on Banlam. When compared to Taiwanese's prestige accent (臺語優勢腔) spoken in Tainan (臺南) and Kaohsiung (高雄), the pronunciation of Singaporean Hokkien inclines toward the Quanzhou accent (泉州腔), which is also close to the pronunciation of Taipei and Amoy, and is less close to that of Tainan, which has a greater inclination towards the Zhangzhou accent (漳州腔).
A Singaporean would likely not have trouble conversing with Taiwanese speakers in Singaporean Hokkien, with the exception of some Japanese loanwords. Similarly, Singaporean Hokkien is understood by Taiwanese speakers, with the exception of some Malay and English loanwords.
- 1 History
- 2 Current status
- 3 Phonology
- 4 Grammar
- 5 Numerals
- 6 Differences from Standard Hokkien
- 7 Influences from other local languages
- 8 Vocabulary from Old Chinese
- 9 Cultural use
- 10 Footprints of Pe̍h-ōe-jī
- 11 Places in Singapore
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
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 Quanzhou and Zhangzhou in Fujian province. They brought Min Nan to Singapore, which was then propagated throughout Singapore and Malaysia. 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.
This section does not cite any sources. (March 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Today, the lingua franca of the Chinese Community in Singapore is Mandarin. Although Hokkien is still spoken in Singapore today, particularly by the elderly Chinese population, it is not as widespread as before. The most common places to hear Hokkien spoken in Singapore are in hawker centers 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 have generally lost the ability to communicate as fluently. With the Speak Mandarin Campaign from the government, the Hokkien speaking population has declined greatly.
There is, however, a minority group of Hokkien Singaporeans and Taiwanese living in Singapore working to help preserve, spread and revive the use of Hokkien Chinese in Singapore.
The ease of access to online Hokkien entertainment media and pop music from Taiwan helps to connect to the language and culture. Many Singaporeans are increasingly using online and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Meetup groups, to learn, discuss, meet, and interact with each other in Hokkien.
Some of the groups include:
- Facebook Singapore Hokkien Language and Culture Society: Discussion forum on all aspects of Hokkien Chinese, with a primary focus on the Singaporean Hokkien dialect and its variations from other forms of Hokkien.
- Facebook Singapore Hokkien Meetup: Group that organizes regular meetups for language practice. It also organizes free language courses and sharing sessions for those who are interested.
- Singapore Hokkien Language Meetup Group: Same as the Facebook group, but organized over Meetup.
|Nasal||m [m] |
|n [n] |
|ng [ŋ] |
|Plosive||Unaspirated||p [p] |
|b [b][a] |
|t [t] |
|d [d][b] |
|k [k] |
|g [g][a] |
|Aspirated||ph [pʰ] |
|th [tʰ] |
|kh [kʰ] |
|Affricate||Unaspirated||ch [ts] |
|j [dz]* |
|chi [tɕ] |
|ji [dʑ]* |
|Aspirated||chh [tsʰ] |
|chhi [tɕʰ] |
|Fricative||s [s] |
|si [ɕ] |
|Lateral||l [l] |
|Labialized||w [w] |
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (March 2019)
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 hngo2 (an exclamatory remark in Jin'jiang /Nan'an), in addition to the widely used Hokkien exclamatory particles lah (啦) or lor (囉).
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 poeh 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 chhit pat, where in Singaporean Hokkien it would be pronounced as káu poeh sì-sì sì la̍k chhit 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 (all being standard Hokkien), 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||Standard Hokkien (Amoy/Taiwanese)||Singaporean Hokkien||English|
|生||sing||seng (Teochew)||'to live'|
|明||bîng||bêng (Southern Zhangzhou) / mêng (Teochew)||'bright'|
|冷||líng||léng (Southern Zhangzhou/Teochew)||'cold'|
|英||ing||eng (Southern Zhangzhou/Teochew)||'brave'|
Pronunciation of 'I'
In standard Hokkien pronunciation, 我 (lit. 'I/me') is pronounced as /ɡʊa˥˨/; but in Singapore, it is pronounced as /wa˥˨/, which is alleged by some to have been influenced by the Teochew pronunciation /ʊa˥˨/ although other dialects like Putianese and some regional Hokkien dialects also pronounce it as /ʊa˥˨/.
There are some differences between the sentence structure used by Singaporean Hokkien and by Standard Hokkien (Amoy/Taiwanese).
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 愛 (ai) is commonly used in Singaporean Hokkien to mean "want to", but in standard Hokkien and Taiwan Hokkien, the word 欲/卜 (beh) (which means "want" in Hokkien) is used instead. 愛 (ai) in standard and Taiwanese Hokkien it typically means "love to" or "need to".
Also, unlike Taiwanese Hokkien—which typically uses the word 敢 (kám) (meaning "whether or not") when asking a question, which is more formal or polite—Singaporean Hokkien does not use the word 敢 (kám). Instead, it simply adds the word 無 (bô) at the end of the sentence to indicate that it is a question (similar to Mandarin's 嗎 (ma) or adds a Cantonese intonation 咩 (me1) at the end. Adding the word 無 (bô) at the end of a sentence is also used in Taiwanese Hokkien, when one is asking a question in an informal way.
|愛食飯莫？ (ai chia̍h-pn̄g mài?)||欲食飯無？ (beh chia̍h-pn̄g bô?)||Do you want to eat?|
|汝有睏飽無？ (lé ū khùn-pá bô?)||汝敢有睏飽？ (lí kám ū khùn-pá?)||Did you have enough sleep?|
The following list shows the colloquial readings of the numerals used to count objects.
|零, 〇||lêng||0||〇 is an informal way to represent zero|
also 空 (khòng)
|一||chi̍t||1||also pronounced it|
also 么 (trad)/幺 (simp) (io) when used in phone numbers etc.
|兩||nn̄g||2||also 二 (lī/jī)|
Most ordinal numbers are formed by adding 第 (tē) 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 Standard Hokkien
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 standard in Hokkien, differing only in terms of vocabulary.
|Singaporean Hokkien (Hanji)||POJ||Standard||Definition|
|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||chhiò bú||水查某 (súi cha-bó͘)||'pretty'|
|督公||tok-kong||贊 (chàn)||'superb' (originated from Na Tuk Kong)|
Same meaning, different words
|Singaporean Hokkien||Definition||Compare Amoy/Taiwanese||Notes|
|欲 (ai)||Want||欲 (beh)||愛(ài) in Amoy means "love" or "must". "欲" in Singaporean Hokkien can be classified as an auxiliary verb denoting volition of the following verb. |
欲 (beh) is sometimes written alternatively as 卜 (beh) or 要 (beh)
|汝 (lí/lɯ2/lér/lú)||You||汝 (lí)||"你 (lí)" (used in Amoy/Taiwanese) is also used in Singaporean Hokkien, originating from Amoy speech. The pronunciation of lɯ2 汝 originated from Tâng-oann accent 同安音, while lú 汝 came from Ho-san accent (suburbs in Amoy Island) 禾山腔(廈門島郊區腔). As for "lér 汝", it came from Teochew pronunciation.|
|恁儂 or 恁人 (lín lâng)||You-all||恁 (lín)||The use of "儂/人 lâng" in Singaporean Hokkien pronoun (I, you, we) originated from Teochew grammar.|
|我儂 or 我人 (góa lâng)||We||阮 (gún/guán) or 咱 (lán)||"阮儂 or 阮人 gún lâng" and "咱/咱儂 lán/lán lâng" are also used in Singaporean Hokkien. Quanzhou and Zhangzhou uses 阮 (gún), whereas Amoy uses 阮 (gún/guán) in a manner similar to Taiwanese.|
|伊儂 (i lâng)||They||(亻因 /怹) (in)||The addition of 儂 lâng originates from Teochew, and is also commonly used in Shanghainese.|
|錯 chhò||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-chá||In the past||頂擺 (téng-mái) or 以前 í-chêng||All variants are used in Amoy/Taiwanese|
|鬭跤手 tàu-kha-chhiú||Help||鬭相共 tàu-saⁿ-kāng||All variants are used in Amoy / Taiwanese|
|卽兜 chit-tâu||This place||卽爿 chit-pêng or 遮 chiâ||卽爿 chit-pêng is also commonly used in Singapore, 遮 chiâ less so. |
卽chit is sometimes written alternatively as 这 or 今
|按呢款 án-ne-khóan||In this way, so||按呢 án-ne/án-ni||款 khóan is not generally appended in Amoy / Taiwanese|
|幾鐳 (kui-lui) or 幾箍 kui khoo||How much?||偌濟錢 jōa-chōe chîⁿ||All variants are used in Amoy. Both "lui 鐳" and "chîⁿ 錢" are used in Minnan region today to mean "money". In Singapore however, "lui 鐳" is more commonly used to mean "money". |
The word "lui 鐳" was previously thought to have originated from Malay. However, research indicated that the word "lui 鐳" 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 鐳" used to be used in Taiwan, but due to Japanese colonial rule, "lui 鐳" fell out of use. It was replaced by "钱 chîⁿ" which is the normal term for "money" in Taiwan today.
|轉厝 tńg-chhū (pron. tn̂g-chhū)||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 kiaⁿ-ji̍t||Today||今仔日 kin-á-ji̍t||Singapore ‘今仔’日 kiaⁿ-ji̍t is a concatenation 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-chú-sî (pron. hiān-chū-sî)||Both Singapore and Amoy /Taiwanese commonly use 這陣 chit-chūn to encompass the meaning of "nowadays". 現此時 hián-chú-sî is commonly used in Taiwanese.|
|即陣 chit-chūn||Now||卽擺 chit-mái or 卽暫 chit-chām||卽陣 chit-chūn is also used in Amoy / Taiwanese|
|四散 sì-sōaⁿ (pron. sí-sóaⁿ)||anyhow/casual/random||烏白 (o͘-pe̍h)||E.g. 伊四散講 i sì-sōaⁿ kóng - He speaks casually (or nonsense). 四散 (sì-sōaⁿ) is sometimes also used in Amoy.|
|定著 tiāⁿ-tio̍h||surely||一定 it-tīng or 絕對 cho̍at-tùi (pron. chòat-tùi)||定著 tiāⁿ-tio̍h is sometimes also used in Taiwan. 一定 it-tīng is a loan from Mandarin.|
|驚輸 kiaⁿ-su||Fear of losing out/failure - kiasu||驚失敗 (kiaⁿ sit-pāi)|
|公私 kong-si||Share||分 pun or 公家 kong-ke|
|正 chiā||Very||真 chin|
|傷 siong||Very tough or difficult||艱難/困難 kan-lân/khùn-lân||"傷 siong" literally means "injurious", but has become slang in Singapore for "tough" or "difficult"|
|幸 heng||Luckily, fortunately||好佳在 hó-kai-chài|
|食風 chia̍h-hong||To go on holiday, or more generally to live in luxury||𨑨迌 tshit-thô||In Amoy / Taiwanese, "食風 (chia̍h-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 Malay word "kopi" which in turn is taken from the English word "coffee." The Mandarin word "Ka-fei" and the Taiwanese Hokkien "Ka-pi" are derived from the European continental version "Café" (French / Spanish / Portuguese) or "Kaffee" (German). As Hokkien does not have an f-sound, this turned into a p-sound. Filipino-Chinese Hokkien which is very close to the Taiwanese variety pronounces the word for "coffee" as "ka-peh" which derives from the Filipino pronunciation of the Spanish word "café" which is "kape."|
|按怎||How||án-chóaⁿ||án-nuá||"án-chóaⁿ" is also commonly used in Taiwan. The pronunciation of "án-nuá" originates from Zhangzhou.|
|啥物/甚物||What||si-mih/sim-mih||siáⁿ-mi̍h||"si-mih/sim-mih" is based on the word 甚物 (used in Amoy/Zhangzhou), whereas "siáⁿ-mi̍h" is based on the word 啥物 (used in Quanzhou). Taiwan typically uses "啥物 siáⁿ-mi̍h" more often, although "甚物 sim-mih" is also used. Singapore also uses "啥物 siáⁿ-mi̍h", though less often.|
Influences from other local 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.
|偏 (phiⁿ)||Cheap||俗 (sio̍k)||偏 (phiⁿ) originates from Teochew. 俗 (sio̍k) also used in Amoy/Quanzhou/Zhangzhou|
|死父(sî-bēh)||Very||眞 (chin) or 足 (chiok)||Originated from Teochew word 死父 (si2-bê6). Interchangeably used in Singaporean Hokkien, which can coincide with the Hokkien pronunciation of 死爸(sí-pēh). The word 死爸(sí-pēh) in original Hokkien is a vulgar word that means "to the extent that your/my father dies".|
|山龜 (soāⁿ-ku)||Country-bumpkin||土包仔 (thó͘-pau-á)||Originated from Teochew, lit. "mountain tortoise"|
|無便 (bô-piàn)||There is no way (nothing can be done)||無法度 (bô-hoat-tō)||Originated from Teochew|
|做儛 (chò-bú),||together||做伙 (chòe-he), 做陣(chòe-tīn) or 鬭陣 (tàu-tīn)||Originated from Teochew|
|緊張 (gan tʂiong)||Nervous||緊張 (kín-tiuⁿ)||Originated from Cantonese|
The following are the common Malay loanwords used in Singaporean Hokkien. Most of them are also used in Amoy.
|Malay loanwords in Singaporean Hokkien||Hanzi||Definition||Compare Original Amoy||Notes|
|Su-ka (soeka)||舒合 (su-kah)||Like||合意 (kah-ì)|
|Sabun||雪文 (sap-bûn)||Soap||茶箍 (tê-kho͘)||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-kho͘) is also used in Amoy/Quanzhou/Zhangzhou.|
|Kah-win (kawin)||交寅 (kau-ín)||Marry||結婚 (kiat-hun)||交寅 (kau-ín) is also used in Amoy. Originates from Malay.|
|Ba-Lu (Baru)||Recently||最近 (chòe-kīn)|
|Pa-sak (Pasar)||巴刹 (pa-sat)||Market||市場 (chhī-tiûⁿ) or 菜市 (chhài-chhī)|
|Ma-ta (Mata Mata)||Police||警察 (kéng-chhat)||Mata literally means "eye" and is also used in Malaysia as a colloquial term for the police.|
|Si-nang (Senang)||Easy||簡單 (kán-tan)|
|To-long||Help||拜托 (pài-thok)，幫忙 (pang-bâng) or 鬭相共 (tàu-saⁿ-kāng)|
|Sa-lah||Offence, Wrong||犯法 (hōan-hoat)|
|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||麪包 (mī-pau) or 'phang' (Japanese loanwords)|
|Pun||本(pun)||Also||嘛是 (mā sī) or 也是 (iā-sī)||E.g. 伊本是眞帥 (i pun-sī chin suí) - She is also very pretty|
|Saman||summons (fine)||罰款 (ho̍at-khóan)|
|Agak Agak||Guess/Estimate||臆 (ioh)|
|Botak||Bald||光頭 (kng-thâu) or 禿頭 (thut-thâu)|
|Pakat||巴結 (pá-kat)||Conspire||串通 (chhòan-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.|
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|
Vocabulary from Old Chinese
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.
Singaporean Hokkien preserved a unique feature of Old Chinese: it does not have the consonant "f". For instance, the word "分" is not pronounced as fen, but rather as pun. This marks a major difference between Old Chinese and Middle Chinese. Singaporean Hokkien also preserved the nasal vowel and the sai vowel of Old Chinese.
|Old Chinese Words/Hokkien pronunciation (IPA)||Meaning in Mandarin||English||Notes|
|汝/li/ or /lɯ/||你||You|
|枵/iao/||肚子餓||Hungry||Eg.我個腹肚眞枵。(My stomach is very hungry)|
|蹛/tua/||在/居住||Live||E.g.：汝蹛底落？ (Where do you live?)|
|佇/ti/||在||at||E.g.：汝佇底落？(Where are you at?)|
|徛/khia/||居住/站||live||E.g.：我徛佇牛車水。(I live in Chinatown)|
|遘/kao/||到||get to||e.g：我遘厝了(I've reached home.)|
|转/təng/||回去||go back||E.g.：我轉去學堂提物件。(I came back to get my things)|
|還未/ia-bue/||還沒||not yet||E.g.：我還未食飯。(I've not yet eaten.)|
Some of the Buddhist temples in Singapore continue to have Buddhist sutras being recited in Hokkien. The sutra contain Singapore-style Hokkien romanization to help in the recitation. Some of the Chinese Christian churches in Singapore also have services conducted in Singaporean Hokkien. Many of the Taoist services continue to be in Hokkien.
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-chûn-koa) ("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-chúi-tiong-lâu) ("Flow in the midst of water"):
kih kok bo̍k ūi tsiu
pin pong chúi tiong lâu
si suit kàu chôan-chiu
An example of a folk love ballad is "雪梅思君" (Soat-m̂-su-kun) ("Snow and plum thinking of a gentlemen"), on the loyalty and chastity of love.
An example of love poetry is "針線情" (Chiam-sòaⁿ-chiâⁿ） ("The emotions of needle and thread"):
lí sī chiam ， góa sī sòaⁿ ，chiam-sòaⁿ éng-óan liâm siòng óa
lâng kóng chiam pó͘ chiam hiam tio̍h sòaⁿ， ūi-hô pàng gún leh ko͘-toaⁿ
Ah, lí góa pún sī tâng phōe-toaⁿ, chóaⁿ-iūⁿ lâi thiah-sòaⁿ
ū chiam bô sòaⁿ kiò gún ài an-chóaⁿ， su-liām sim-chiâⁿ bô-tè khòaⁿ
Singapore also held Getai during traditional Chinese festivals, for instance the Hungry Ghost 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.
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.
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.
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 Xu Shumei (許淑梅), was very popular.
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.
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
There are some letters written in Pe̍h-ōe-jī from early Hokkien migrants in Singapore.
|POJ Letter (in romanized Hokkien)||Hàn-jī transcription|
12 ge̍h 26 ji̍t
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. Suá 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
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。
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.
- Taiwanese Hokkien
- Speak Hokkien Campaign
- Languages of Singapore
- Singaporean Mandarin
- Chinese in Singapore
- Chua, B. H. (2000). Taiwan's present/Singapore's past mediated by Hokkien language. Singapore: Dept. of Sociology, National University of Singapore. ISBN 981-3033-43-6.
- The Rev. Carstairs Douglas (1899). Chinese-English Dictionary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Amoy, with the Principal Variations of the Chang-chew and Chin-chew Dialects. London: Publishing Office of the Presbyterian Church of England. ISBN 1-86210-068-3.
- 周長揖、周淸海（著） (2002). 新加坡閩南話詞典 [Singaporean Hokkien Dictionary] (in Chinese). 中國社會科學出版社. ISBN 7-5004-3530-4.
- 周長揖、周淸海（著） (2000). 新加坡閩南話概說 [Summary of Singaporean Hokkien] (in Chinese). 廈門: 廈門大學出版社. ISBN 7-5615-1692-4.
- 周長揖、周淸海（著） (2003). 新加坡閩南話俗語歌謠選 [Hokkien Folks Songs of Singapore] (in Chinese). 廈門: 廈門大學出版社. ISBN 7-5615-2158-8.