Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Basic Course: Lesson 9 Vocabulary

Tell us what you’re up to—or at least this lesson will give you the chance to do so in Toishan (Taishanese). Here’s the lesson nine vocabulary.

  1. 俾 · bī (bēi) (ī) · to give, indirect object agent
  2. 送 · lhung · to present to
  3. 寄 · gi · to send (mail)
  4. 打電話 · ā ìng-wà* · to make a telephone call
  5. 打電報 · ā ìng-bo · to send a telegram
  6. 錢(銀)· tïng* (ngän*) · money
  7. 信 · lhin* · letter
  8. 寫信 · lhē lhin* · to write a letter
  9. 野(田野)· yẹ* (hïng-nẹ*) (ye) · thing, object, affair
  10. 乃 (乃處) · nại* (nại-chụi) · where
  11. 陸軍 · lùk-gun* · army
  12. 語言 · ngụi-ngün · language
  13. 學校 · hòk-hàu · school
  14. 得閒 · ak-hän · to have leisure time
  15. 返 · fan · to return
  16. 屋企 · ūk-kī · home
  17. 返屋企 · fan ūk-kī · to return

Several of these words have different pronunciations given in the Kaiping dictionary. Some of the accent correspondences were discussed previously, but there’s a new one here: 言 is pronounced as ngün in the Basic Course, but as ngïn in the Kaiping dictionary. I’ve included the list of differences below.

  • 俾 · bēi (ēi) · to give
  • 寄 · gei · to send (mail)
  • 打電話 · ā ìn-wà* · to make a telephone call
  • 打電話 · ā ìn-vo · to send a telegram
  • 錢 · tïn* · money
  • 信 · lhen* · letter
  • 語言 · ngụi-ngïn · language
  • 屋企 · ūk-kēi · home

Beyond pronunciation, some of these words have interesting stories to tell. (But I’ll keep it short.)

In the Kaiping dictionary, Deng Jun prefers to separate the two pronunciations and ī as 俾 and 畀, respectively. As I understand, these two characters are commonly considered variants of each other in Cantonese. I virtually only say 畀 ī. For the course notes, I plan to use the same terms the author uses.

Also note that the Basic Course uses the term 野 for “thing,” while the character 嘢 is more commonly used in Cantonese.

It’s important to note some “old fashioned” Toishanisms here. The term 錢 tïn means “money,” but so does the term 銀 ngän. Literally, 銀 means “silver,” the metal once used for currency. Most people these days use 錢 to refer to money. Even so, you should keep your eye out for 銀 in terms like 銀行 ngän-höng “bank.”

Lastly, the term 電話 ìng-wà for “phone” also has another term that was frequently used in Chinese America. The term 喊綫 (or 探綫), pronounced ham-lhin* was particularly popular among overseas Chinese. But if you try using this term in Taishan, odds are only a handful of much older people will understand you.

As always, please feel free to post any questions, observations or suggestions in the comments section.


  1. The i <-> ei variation is also common in Taishan.

    Since Taishanese is a colloquial language, assimilation occurs quite often. Assimilation rarely takes place in Mandarin, I think that is because Mandarin is standardized and its pronunciation is rigorously enforced by the school teachers thus any assimilation would be considered 'error' and subsequently 'corrected.' In this lesson, the word 得閒 is sometimes assimilated to ak-kän (as compared with ak-hän). I've heard it both ways.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Stephen—and especially for pointing out the typo (re: 寄)!