Matsu dialect

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Matsu dialect
馬祖話 / Mā-cū-huâ
平話 / Bàng-huâ
Pronunciation [mɑ˧˩ tsu˥˥ uɑ˩˧˩] / [paŋ˧˩ ŋuɑ˩˧˩]
Native to Republic of China
Region Matsu Islands
Ethnicity Fuzhounese
Chinese characters and Foochow Romanized
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in the Matsu Islands, Republic of China[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
Taiwan ROC political division map Lienchiang County.svg
Location of Matsu Islands
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Matsu dialect (Eastern Min: Mā-cū-huâ / 馬祖話) is the local dialect of Matsu Islands, Republic of China. Native speakers also call it Bàng-huâ (平話), meaning the language spoken in everyday life. It is recognised one of the statutory languages for public transport announcements in Lienchiang County, ROC.[1]

It is a subdialect[clarification needed] of Fuzhou dialect, Eastern Min. Matsu dialect is quite similar to Changle dialect, another subdialect of Fuzhou dialect.


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 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 other 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 Matsu dialect, level tone (平聲), rising tone (上聲) and light entering (陽入) should read in close rimes (緊韻); departing tone and dark entering should 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. so we get 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

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

Perseverative assimilation

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

The Coda of the Former Syllable The 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.

Anticipatory assimilation

In Matsu dialect, if 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 together 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. ^ a b 大眾運輸工具播音語言平等保障法

Further reading

  • Liu, Chia-kuo; Li, Shih-te; Lin, Chin-yen; Chiu, Hsin-fu; Liu, Hung-wen; Chen, Kao-chih; Ho, Kuang-i; Yang, Ping-hsun; Chen, Pao-ming; Chen, Chih-hsu; Yang, Ya-hsin, eds. (2014). 連江縣志 [Chronicle of Lienchiang County]. Lienchiang (Matsu): Government of Lienchiang County. ISBN 9789860435450. 

External links

  • (in traditional Chinese) Fuzhou Dialect Textbook: Elementary school textbook in Matsu.
  • (in traditional Chinese)Fast learning
  • (in simplified Chinese)The difference of common vocabulary between Matsu dialect and Fuzhou dialect
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