Fuqing dialect

Fuqing dialect
Native to People's Republic of China
Region Fuqing, Pingtan, some parts of Changle, Yongtai, and Fuzhou city proper
Native speakers
At least 1 million (date missing)
Chinese characters and Foochow Romanized
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Fuqing dialect (福清話, BUC: Hók-chiăng-uâ, IPA:[huʔ˥ tsʰiaŋ˥ ŋuɑ˦˨]), or Hokchia, is a Eastern Min dialect. It is spoken in the county-level city of Fuqing, situated within the prefecture-level city of Fuzhou. It is not completely mutually intelligible with Fuzhou dialect.


The Fuqing dialect has fifteen initials, forty-six rimes, and seven tones.


Including null initials, the Fuqing dialect has fifteen initials, excluding the phonemes [β] and [ʒ], which are used in spoken speech as mutations.

Chart of Fuqing dialect initials
  Bilabial Alveolar Dental Velar Glottal
Plosive Voiceless unaspirated [p]
邊 (b)
低 (d)
求 (g)
Voiceless aspirated [pʰ]
波 (p)
他 (t)
氣 (k)
Nasal [m]
蒙 (m)
日 (n)
語 (ng)
Fricative Voiceless [θ]
時 (s)
非/喜 (h)
Voiced [β] [ʒ]
Affricate Voiceless unaspirated [ts]
曾 (c)
Voiceless aspirated [tsʰ]
出 (ch)
Lateral Approximant [l]
柳 (l)

(The Chinese characters represent the sample characters taken from the Qī Lín Bāyīn (《戚林八音》, Foochow Romanized: Chék Lìng Báik-ĭng), while the Latin letters are from the orthography Foochow Romanized).

[θ] is a voiceless dental fricative, which some pronounce as [s].[1]

[ts], [tsʰ] and [s] palatalize to [tɕ], [tɕʰ], [ɕ] before finals that begin with /y/, the close front rounded vowel ([y], [yo/yɔ], [yoŋ/yɔŋ], [yoʔ/yɔʔ]).[1]


Including the syllabic nasal consonant [ŋ], the Fuqing dialect has forty-six rimes in total. Apart from [ŋ] and [iau], all rimes have a close/open distinction.

Chart of Fuqing dialect rimes
Yin rimes Yang Rimes Ru Rimes
Simple vowels Compound vowels Nasal coda /-ŋ/ Glottal coda /-ʔ/
Null medial [a/ɑ]
嘉 (a, ah[2])
郊 (au)
山 (ang)
山 (ak)
開 (ai)
歌 (o̤, o̤h)
催 (oi/o̤i)
釭 (ong/aung)
釭 (ok/auk)
西 (a̤)
溝 (eu)
燈 (eng/aing)
燈 (ek/aik)
初 (e̤/ae̤)
東 (e̤ng/ae̤ng)
東 (e̤k/ae̤k)
伓 (ng)
Medial /i/ [ia/iɑ]
奇 (ia, iah)
-- (--) 
聲 (iang)
聲 (iak)
之 (i/e, ih/eh)
秋 (iu/eu)
賓 (ing/eng)
賓 (ik/ek)
雞 (i.e.)
燒 (ieu)
天 (ieng)
天 (iek)
Medial /u/ [u/o]
孤 (u/o)
輝 (ui/oi)
春 (ung/ong)
春 (uk/ok)
花 (ua, uah)
歡 (uang)
歡 (uak)
過 (uo, uoh)
杯 (uoi)
光 (uong)
光 (uok)
Medial /y/ [y/ø]
須 (ṳ/e̤ṳ)
銀 (ṳng/e̤ṳng)

銀 (ṳk/e̤ṳk)

橋 (io, ioh)
香 (iong)
香 (iok)

The rime before the slash is the close or tense rime (緊韻、窄韻), while after the slash is the open or lax rime (鬆韻、寬韻). The Chinese characters represent the sample characters taken from the Qī Lín Bāyīn (《戚林八音》, Foochow Romanized: Chék Lìng Báik-ĭng. Within the Qī Lín Bāyīn, the ru rimes are assigned under the corresponding yang rimes; hence, the sample characters for yang and ru rimes are the same. The Latin letters are from the orthography Foochow Romanized).

The rime [iau] only has one syllable [ŋiau] , and is not found in the Qī Lín Bāyīn; furthermore, Foochow Romanized does not have a way to represent this syllable.

In the modern Rongcheng dialect, the rime [iu/ieu] has now merged into [ieu/iɐu] and is no longer distinguished. Also in the new Rongcheng dialect, the rime [ui/uoi] has merged into [uoi/uɐi]. The syllabic nasal [ŋ] in the modern Rongcheng dialect is read as [iŋ]; some sources have not yet listed this final in their charts.[3]


The Fuqing dialect has seven tones, with the Middle Chinese four tone categories of level/even (平), departing (去) and entering (入) all divided into dark (陰) and light (陽) categories. The names and the sequence of the seven tones are outlined below, as listed in the traditional rime dictionary Qī Lín Bāyīn:

Traditional nomenclature Upper level 上平 Rising tone 上聲 Upper departing 上去 Upper entering 上入 Lower level 下平 Lower departing 下去 Lower entering 下入
Standard nomenclature[4] Dark level
Rising tone
Dark departing
Dark entering
Light level
Light departing
Light entering
IPA pitches ˥˧ (53) ˧˨ (32) ˨˩ (21) ʔ˩˨ (ʔ12) ˥˥ (55) ˦˨ (42) ʔ˥ (ʔ5)
Foochow Romanized

(with a as example)

ă ā á ák à â ăk

The dark level (陰平 Ĭng-bìng) tone falls the most sharply; although the light departing (陽去 Iòng-ké̤ṳ) tone is also a high falling tone, its fall in pitch is not as dramatic.

Additionally, the Fuqing dialect contains the neutral tone in colloquial speech, which in tone sandhi produces a new tone contour, one that rises ([˧˥ (35)]).[3][5]

Close-open rimes

The phenomenon of close and open rime alternation (also known as tense and lax rimes; in Chinese "寬窄韻現象", "鬆、緊韻現象" or "本韻、變韻現象")[6] is one found throughout the dialects of cities and villages in the traditional Fuzhou area (the ten towns of Fuzhou, 福州十邑). But it is not found in, for example, the dialects of Gutian (古田) and Luoyuan (羅源). The dialect of Fuqing, along with that of the urban area of Fuzhou, exhibits this phenomenon.

According to the original listing of the rimes in the Qī Lín Bāyīn, the medial vowel did not change with the tones. But in the Fuqing dialect, when the rime is in either one of the departing tones or in the dark entering tone, the medial vowel changes to another, the rime being called the open rime. When in either of the two level tones, in the rising tone, or in the light entering tone, the rime this time does not change; this rime is called the close rime. In the Fuqing dialect, with the exception of [ŋ] and [iau], all rimes exhibit this close-open alternation.

As an example, the rime from "春" in the Qī Lín Bāyīn, lists the two rimes: [uŋ] and [uk]. In the Gutian dialect, the same vowel is preserved in the rime [u], regardless of tone. But in the Fuqing dialect, the rime [uŋ] in the dark departing (陰去) and light departing (陽去) tones changes to [oŋ], where the vowel in the final [u] has become [o]. Similarly, [uʔ] in the upper departing (上入) tone becomes the open rime [oʔ], where the vowel has again changed.

Tone name Dark level
Rising tone
Dark departing
Dark entering
Light level
Light departing
Light entering
Chinese character
Fuqing dialect [tuŋ] [tuŋ] [toŋ] [toʔ] [tuŋ] [toŋ] [tuʔ]
Gutian dialect [tuŋ] [tuŋ] [tuŋ] [tuk] [tuŋ] [tuŋ] [tuk]

Within the Fuqing dialect, the open rime's vowel is always more open (alias 'lower') by a degree than the close rime. For example, 知 is read [ti] as a close rime, with the close vowel [i]. Listed as the same rime but in a different tone (i.e. light departing 陽去) is 地, which is instead read as [te], an open rime with the half-close vowel [e]. This is more open than [i] by one degree. All close rimes becomes their corresponding open rimes according to this rule.

Illustration of the phonetics of the close-open alternation
Close rime Open rime
師 [θy] 士 [θø]
低 [te] 遞 [tɛ]
東 [tøŋ] 動 [tœŋ]
庚 [kɛŋ] 縣 [kæŋ]
夫 [hu] 婦 [ho]
多 [to] 道 [tɔ]
巴 [pa] 罷 [pɑ]

Sound changes

The Fuqing dialect has a particularly rich set of phonetic changes. The pronunciation of a particular Chinese character under certain circumstances can undergo changes in its initial, its rime, and its tone. For example, the word 兄弟哥 (brother, Standard Mandarin: 兄弟):

兄 hiaŋ˥˧
弟 tiɛ˦˨
哥 ko˥˧
兄弟哥 hiaŋ˥˥ nie˥˥ o˥˧

Within the word 兄弟哥, the first syllable 兄 has undergone tone sandhi and has changed tone; the last syllable 哥 has lost its initial consonant; and the rime of the middle syllable 弟 has changed in both vowel and tone. Within lexical or semantic items, the three features of initial, rime and tone are subject to sandhi phenomena. In colloquial Fuqing speech, this type of change is very frequently encountered, but is rare in Chinese as a whole.

Initial assimilation

In colloquial Fuqing speech, the initial consonants of Chinese characters or syllables are subject to change under specific circumstances within lexical items. The first work to examine the phonology of the Fuzhou dialect in recent times, the Mǐnyīn Yánjiū (閩音研究) used the term "initial assimilation" when introducing this phenomenon; it has come to be the preferred term up to present.[7][8] The Fuqing dialect contains two voiced initial consonants that only appear through initial assimilation.

The phenomenon of initial assimilation in the Fuqing dialect occurs in polysyllabic lexemes (i.e. lexical items or words of two or more syllables or Chinese characters) and semantic groups. Usually, within the lexico-semantic groups, all syllables apart from the first undergo initial assimilation. But if the initial of the following syllable is a nasal or [l] , then no initial assimilation occurs.

The syllable that undergoes initial assimilation is the "latter character"; that which precedes it is the "former character". Initial assimilation in the Fuqing dialect consists of three types: voicing, nasalisation/nasal assimilation and suppression. The rime of the former character determines the assimilation of the latter character's initial.

Former character's rime type Latter character's initial type Example
"Checked rime" / Rime ending in a glottal stop No change hoʔ tsʰiaŋ > huʔ tsʰiaŋ (福清, Fuqing)
Yang rime / Rime ending in a nasal Nasalisation / Nasal assimilation hiaŋ tiɛ > hiaŋ niɛ (兄弟, brother)
Yin rime / Rime ending in a vowel Voicing or suppression θɛ pœʔ > θɛ βœʔ (西北, northwest)

ŋo kæŋ > ŋu æŋ (五縣, five counties)

Which voiced consonant or nasal consonant or whether the consonant is suppressed depends on the place of articulation of the latter syllable's initial.

Initial's place of articulation Initial Example character Nasalisation / Nasal assimilation Voicing Suppression
Labial p, pʰ 臂 [piɛ] kieŋ m


tsʰiu β


Velar k, kʰ, h, ʔ 學 [hoʔ] θoŋ ŋ


-- θu oʔ


Dental (Type A) t, tʰ, θ 頭 [tʰau] tsieŋ nau


ŋia lau


Dental (Type B) ts, tsʰ 蔗 [tsiɑ] kaŋ n


huʔ tsiu ʒ



Type A dentals after voicing assimilation do not become the standard [l] , but are slightly flapped [9]

Tone sandhi

As with the majority of southern varieties of Chinese, the Fuqing dialect exhibits tone sandhi. The phenomenon of tone sandhi in the Fuqing dialect contains a whole set of rules to be followed, but it is still rather complex: one tone can undergo different changes depending on what tone follows it. For example, the light entering (陽入) tone in front of the dark departing (陰去) tone becomes ˩˩ (11), but in front of a rising tone (上聲) it becomes ˥˥ (55); and in front of the dark entering (陰入) tone it becomes ˨˩ (21).

Chart of tone sandhi with 實, a syllable in the light entering tone (陽入調)
Original syllable (IPA) Tone of the following syllable Tone value after sandhi Example word
/θiʔ˥/ Dark departing 陰去 ˩˩ (11) [θiʔ˩˩ tsiɛ˨˩] (實際)
/θiʔ˥/ Rising tone 上聲 ˥˥ (55) [θiʔ˥˥ tsieŋ˧˨] (實踐)
/θiʔ˥/ Dark entering 陰入 ˨˩ (21) [θiʔ˨˩ tseʔ˩˨] (實質)

In many local dialects of the Fuzhou area (within the Eastern Min family), the last syllable of a word does not undergo tone sandhi. However, in the Fuqing dialect, the last syllable's tone does change under certain circumstances.

First Character and Pronunciation Last Character and Pronunciation Pronunciation in Sandhi
小 /θieu˧˨/ 禮 /lɛ˧˨/ 小禮 /θieu˨ lɛ˥/
綠 /luo˥˧/ 色 /θæʔ˩˨/ 綠色 /luo˨˩ θæʔ˨/

Aside from words composed of two syllables (or binomes), those composed of three syllables also undergo tone sandhi.

First Character Second Character Third Character Pronunciation in Sandhi
福 /hoʔ˩˨/清 /tsʰiaŋ˥˧/話 /uɑ˦˨/福清話 /huʔ˥ tsʰiaŋ˥˥ ŋuɑ˦˨/

Rime changes

Within polysyllabic words (of two or more syllables) or characters within one sense unit, if in the departing tone (both light departing and dark departing) or in the dark entering tone, and if it is not the last character in the unit, the rime undergoes a transformation. This rime change is related to the open/close rime phenomenon: as these three tones only have open rimes, when the character changes tone through tone sandhi, the open rimes will become the corresponding close rimes.

First character Middle character Final character Group pronunciation
Fuqing dialect /h/ (福) /tsʰiaŋ/ (清) /kæŋ/ (縣) /h tsʰiaŋ ŋæŋ/ (福清縣)
Gutian dialect /huk/ (福) /tsʰiaŋ/ (清) /keiŋ/ (縣) /huk tsʰiaŋ ŋeiŋ/ (福清縣)

Hence /tsʰiaŋ˥˧/「清」being light level tone has a close rime, so although it is in a non-final position within the group, its rime does not change. On the other hand, /hoʔ˩˨/「福」 is light entering tone, while /keiŋ˦˨/「縣」 is dark departing tone; both characters hence have open rimes. As 「福」 is in a non-final position in its group, its rime changes;「縣」 is the last character and so resists the change.

Historical Evolution

The Fuqing dialect has lost the voiced obstruents from Middle Chinese, has merged the final nasal consonants into one phoneme and similarly for the entering tone final stop consonant. But it has also preserved many readings from Middle Chinese: its pattern of entering tone readings greatly matches that of Middle Chinese, apart from the colloquial layer of character readings which has lost them.


Old and Middle Chinese had a large array of voiced consonants, which are preserved in the Wu group of Chinese varieties, e.g. in the Suzhou dialect. But the Fuqing dialect has devoiced the obstruents, turning them into voiceless consonants.

Comparison of Voiced Initials [10]
Suzhou dialect [bã] [dɤ] [dʑin] [ziəʔ] [ɦoŋ] [ɡɑ]
Fuqing dialect [pɛŋ] [tɑu] [køŋ] [tsuoʔ] [huŋ] [kɛ]

The Fuqing dialect does have two voiced obstruent phonemes, but these appear in connected speech, and are not part of the initials in the phonological system.

The 疑 initial of Middle Chinese has not been preserved by many modern varieties of Chinese. In standard Mandarin, the initial [ŋ] has been completely lost, with some having merged into the initial [n] (e.g. 牛、虐、擬 etc.). In Wu, Yue and Hakka, the [ŋ] initial with front vowels /i/ and /y/ will either be lost (hence merging into the 影 initial) or become another initial. But in the Fuqing dialect, the 疑 initial is preserved as [ŋ] in front of front and back vowels alike, with a few exceptions having merged into / m/. In some Mandarin varieties as well as Yue, a [ŋ] sound is added to the beginning of back vowels of the null initial class 影 (e.g. pronouncing 安 as [ŋan]), but in the Fuqing dialect the 影 initial always remains null.

Comparison of Historical 疑 Initials [11]
Fuqing dialect ŋa ŋɑi ŋɔ ŋoʔ ŋua ŋuɔ ŋi ŋiʔ ŋy ŋyoʔ ŋyŋ muɑ
Cantonese ŋa ŋɔi ŋɔ ŋɔk ŋɔ ŋ̍ ji jik jy jœk ŋɐn ŋa

The Middle Chinese 非 group is pronounced in the Fuqing dialect not with [f] but with [p], [pʰ] or [h]. For example,「發」 read as [puɔʔ], 「蜂」 read as [pʰuŋ], 「非 read as [hi]。

A group in Middle Chinese corresponding to 知 is pronounced with alveolar consonants [t] or [tʰ], and not with retroflex affricates, for example,「知」 as [ti],「竹」 as [tøʔ],「重」 as [tʰyŋ].

The three nasal endings of Middle Chinese have become one velar nasal [ŋ] in the Fuqing dialect. The three departing tone voiceless stop endings also all became one velar stop [k], which was weakened to the glottal stop [ʔ].[12]

Comparison of Final Consonants[13][14]
Final consonant
Zhouning dialect [nan] [tin] [kiɛŋ] [tʰɛk] [θut] [pok]
Ningde dialect [nam] [tiŋ] [kiaŋ] [tʰɛp] [suk] [pok]
Fuqing dialect [naŋ] [tiɛŋ] [kiaŋ] [tʰæʔ] [θuɔʔ] [poʔ]

The Fuqing dialect possesses just one tone derived from the historical rising tone (上聲) of Middle Chinese, the dark rising tone. The light rising tone merged with the light departing tone, with a split in those that started rising tone characters with voiced sonorants: in literary readings they grouped with light rising tone, whereas in colloquial readings these adopted the pattern of dark rising and became dark departing.[15] For example, 如「老 [lo32 / lɑu42] 」,「雨 [y32 / huɔ42]」, 「有 [iu32 / ou42]」 etc.

Where in the rime book Qī Lín Bāyīn《戚林八音》 an entering tone character begins with an unvoiced consonant (e.g. the initials 花、嘉、歌、之、過、橋、奇), these lose their stop consonant ending in colloquial reading and thus merge with either light departing or dark level tones. In the Fuzhou dialect these preserve their identity as entering tone. Nevertheless, in literary reading these entering tone characters retain their identity as entering tone, despite it being lost in colloquial readings.

Fuqing dialect (colloquial reading) ua˥˧ kɑ˨˩ θɔ˨˩ ti˥˧ kʰuɔ˨˩ θyo˥˧ tia˥˧
Fuzhou dialect (colloquial reading) uaʔ˥ kɑʔ˨˦ sɔʔ˨˦ tiʔ˥ kʰuɔʔ˨˦ suoʔ˥ tieʔ˥

Literary and colloquial readings

The Fuqing dialect has a rich source of variation in its split between literary and colloquial readings, with initials, rimes and tones being affected. They can be divided into seven types:

Difference in initials:富([po˨˩] / [ho˨˩])
Difference in rimes:清([tsʰiaŋ˥˧] / [tsʰiŋ˥˧])
Difference in tones:利([le˨˩] / [le˦˨])
Difference in initial and rime: 聲母和韻母異讀:夫([puo˥˧] / [hu˥˧])
Difference in initial and tone: 遠([huɔŋ˦˨] / [uoŋ˧˨])
Difference in rime and tone:兩([lɑŋ˦˨] / [lyoŋ˧˨])
Difference in initial, rime and tone:網([mœŋ˦˨] / [uoŋ˧˨])

Usually when there is a difference between literary and colloquial readings, the literary reading is used in reading whilst the colloquial one is used in vernacular speech, common surnames and local place names. For example, the common verb「聽」listen has the colloquial reading [tʰiaŋ˥˧], the surname「劉」is pronounced [lau˦˦], and the place-name component 「清」 in the names of Minqing 「閩清」and Fuqing 「福清」are pronounced [tsʰiaŋ˥˧], though Qingliu County 「清流縣」, being outside the Fuzhou area, uses the literary pronunciation. Literary pronunciations are also used in poetry, with some readings specifically used only in this context; additionally, neologisms generally use literary pronunciation.


  1. 1 2 馮愛珍:《福清方言研究》 Fuqing Fangyan Yanjiu, 1993, 社會科學文獻出版社, p.28. Because [θ] is a distinctive feature of the Fuqing dialect, and is the mainstream pronunciation, [s] is not listed on the chart.
  2. 平話字韻尾拼為「h」的入聲字在福清話中已脫落韻尾,混入陰聲韻。
  3. 1 2 福清市志編纂委員會:《福清市志》, 1994, 廈門大學出版社 (Xiamen University Press), 《卷三十.方言》 (Vol. 30: Topolects).
  4. Standard nomenclature refers to names of the tones as used in modern Chinese academia, which is also used by Standard Mandarin. This article follows this convention.
  5. 馮愛珍:《福清方言研究》, 1993, 社會科學文獻出版社, p.35
  6. 王建華 etc.:連江縣國民小學鄉土語言教材-福州語 第一冊(教師手冊),連江縣政府,民國九十年:p.8. This article uses the terminology from this textbook.
  7. 陳澤平:閩語新探索, Shanghai, Far East Publishing House, 2003: p.25.
  8. 陶燠民:閩音研究, Beijing, Scientific Publishing House, 1956, p.15:「二字連語,而有文法上密切之關係,則發生類化現象,其變則隨上字韻母之陰陽,下字聲母之組別而異……。」
  9. 袁家驊:漢語方言概要, Beijing, Language and Literature Publishing House, 2003: p.289.
  10. Suzhou fang yan ci dian 蘇州方言詞典 (1st ed.). Nanjing: Jiangsu jiao yu chu ban she 江蘇教育出版社. 1993. ISBN 9787534319969. |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  11. Cantonese Readings from Chinese Character Database: With Word-formations Phonologically Disambiguated According to the Cantonese Dialect
  12. 李如龍、王昇魁:戚林八音校注,福州,福建人民出版社,2001. Preface, page 12.
  13. 周寧縣地方志編委會,周寧縣志,北京,中國科技出版社,1993年:第三十四篇.方言。漢字周寧音取自該卷同音字表。
  14. 沙平. 福建省寧德方言同音字彙. 方言. April 1999:282-295.
  15. 馮愛珍:《福清方言研究》,1993年,社會科學文獻出版社。124頁
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