Regional Variations in Taiwanese

Spoken Taiwanese differs from county to county and city to city. These regional differences derive from a number of causes, but perhaps the most commonly cited is the home town of the migrants who brought the language to Taiwan. For speakers of Southern Min dialects, the two primary places of origin are Chiang-chiu (漳州; Zhāngzhōu) and Chôan-chiu (泉州; Quánzhōu), both in Hok-kiàn (福建; Fujian) Province, China.

These areas can account for some differences between the dialects, but there are other factors which serve to differentiate Taiwanese from different regions besides the Chiang-chiu or Chôan-chiu origin of migrants fifteen or twenty generations ago. The inter-mixing of communities and the greater social and geographical mobility of the last twenty years have decidely muddied the waters of a simple classification of Taiwanese dialects.

For example, studies show that the distinction between the fourth and eighth tone is, in many instances, disappearing (with tone eight merging in to tone four) and even that many younger speakers of Taiwanese cannot pronounce either tone 'correctly'. This trend is especially noticeable in northern Taiwan, where there is more linguistic interference from Mandarin. There are also differing vowels in different areas and a phenomenon peculiar to Gî-lân whereby the '-ng' ending in morphemes such as 'nn̄g' (egg) and 'pn̄g' (cooked rice) becomes '-uiⁿ'; i.e. 'nūiⁿ' and 'pūiⁿ'.

As will be apparent from this brief introduction, the issue of regional variations is a complex one. However, the differences are very seldom a bar to communication between speakers from different parts of Taiwan.