The Chinese Language Spoken at Fuh Chau

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THE CHINESE LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT FUH CHAU  (1856) 
by Moses Clark White
The Chinese Language Spoken at Fuh Chau was written by the American Methodist missionary M. C. White, and was first published in The Methodist Review in July, 1856. As the first-ever linguistic study of Fuzhou dialect, this treatise gives us a rough idea of what this language was like back in the middle of the 19th century.

SOUNDS[edit]

The Chinese language is, in theory, a language of monosyllables; but, owing to the paucity of distinct syllables, two monosyllable words having, in the language of books, the same signification, are often joined together in the spoken language to represent a single idea. Other varieties of compound words are used to express ideas which, in other languages, are represented by a simple word. Some words which are generally regarded as monosyllables, contain two or more vowel sounds, which are pronounced so distinct and separate as to constitute real dissyllables, as kiang, hiong, sieu, which are pronounced ki-ang, hi-ong, si-eu.

There are in the Fuh Chau dialect but ten vowel sounds, and they are generally reckoned as only nine, and the elementary consonant sounds are only ten, hence the number of syllables must also be small. Many combinations of consonants found in other languages are unknown to the Chinese, and the structure of their language is unfavourable to the formation of many polysyllabic words. To compensate for these restrictions upon the formation of words, they have adopted the use of a variety of tones to distinguish ideas expressed by what we should call the same word.

The tones used in different dialects vary both in their number and intonation.

In the court dialect, spoken at the Capital, and by public officers in all parts of the empire, there are five tones. In the Tiechu dialect there are said to be nine tones. In the several dialects spoken at Canton, Amoy, and Fuh Chau, there are reckoned eight tones; but in the Fuh Chau dialect there are really but seven tones, for the second and sixth are identical, and in their books, the words referred to these two tones are all arranged under the second.

In the Fuh Chau dialect there is a native work, called the Book of Eight Tones, and Thirty-six Mother Characters. In this book all the characters in common use are systematically arranged, according to their sounds. Three of the mother characters are mere duplicates, and are not used in the body of the work. All the syllabic sounds of this dialect are, therefore, arranged in thirty-three genera, under mother characters, having the same final sound as the characters arranged under them. Each genus (containing the same final sound) is again divided into fifteen classes, in reference to the initial sounds with which they are severally connected.

The Chinese have not carried their analysis of vocal sounds to the nice elementary distinctions recognized in Western languages; but each simple word is divided by their analysis into two parts: a final part, or “mother sound,” which gives body to the word, and a “leading part,” or initial sound.

The initial sound consists of a single consonant, or of two consonants combined, but no vowel over acts as the “leading part,” or initial.[1]

The final part, or “mother sound,” consists, essentially, of a vowel or vowels, followed, in some words, by a single consonant, but never by two consonants. Ng, which is found at the end of many Chinese words, represents, as in English, but a single elementary consonant sound, unlike either n or g when used alone, and not compounded of the sounds of n and g combined. This is a distinct elementary sound, and is used both at the beginning and end of Chinese words. This consonant sound, which we represent by ng, is one of the initials, and in some cases it is used alone, without the addition of a final, but only as a prefix to other words, giving them a negative signification; as, hò2, good; ng7-hò2, bad; k’ò3, to depart; ng7-k’ò3, will not depart.

Each class of syllables is again sub-divided, according to the distinctions introduced by the tones.

The thirty-three final sounds, multiplied by the fifteen initial sounds, give four hundred and ninety-five primary syllables. These again, multiplied by the seven tones in actual use, give three thousand four hundred and sixty-five different monosyllable words, which may be distinguished by the ear; to which may be added the semi-vocal initial, ng, used in a single tone without a final, as mentioned above.

Though there are in theory this number of simple words, many of them are distinguished from others by very slight shades of differences, and there are (so far as known to the writer) only sixteen hundred and forty-four in actual use.

To supply the defect which this paucity of words occasions in the spoken language, two or more words are frequently combined into one, to express a single idea. This practice is so common, that the dialect of Fuh Chau has become, to a great extent, a language of polysyllables.

The statement sometimes put forth, that there are hundreds of characters expressing different ideas, which are all pronounced exactly alike, refers only to the written language as read; and even in the language as read the number of set phrases and the peculiar collocation of words give a good degree of definiteness to the language. There is but little more difficulty in understanding the idea intended, than we experience when we hear an English book read, in which occur such words as right, rite, write, and wright, or cleave, to split, and cleave, to adhere. It is true, however, that such equivocal words are more numerous in Chinese than in English.

In the different provinces, and in different districts of the same province, the reading sounds of the characters differ in the same manner as the Arabic figures are differently pronounced by the various nations of Europe. The spoken dialects also differ widely from the reading dialects of the same localities.

In general, the spoken dialects are more diffuse than the written language, which is common to all parts of the empire. This results, in the main, from the frequent necessity of using two words of similar meaning, or, more properly, a dissyllable, to express an idea definitely, when a single written character or word is all that is required.

The spoken languages being more diffuse, and differing in style from the written language, they have adopted, in several dialects, a system of writing the spoken dialects, by borrowing from the general written language a few common characters, which they use chiefly as phonetics, to represent the sounds of the spoken language. These characters are thus used without reference to their signification in the classical writings which have been handed down from the remote ages of antiquity.

This is the common system of mercantile and epistolary writing adopted by persons of limited education, and can only be understood by persons speaking the same dialect, while the style of writing in use among professed literary men, is understood alike by the literati of all parts of the empire.

The system of initials and finals used in the “Book of Eight Tones,” referred to above, would, if used for that purpose, form (in connection with the tonal marks) a complete alphabet for the Fuh Chau dialect. They have been so used by missionaries for writing colloquial phrases, in their private study of the language. Three of the gospels have been written out in this manner by Chinese teachers in the employment of missionaries.

Books written in this style can be read with the same facility as alphabetic writing of other languages, and are a great aid in learning the colloquial, though no books have been printed in this style, and the initials and finals have never been used in this manner in native books.

To foreigners learning the Fuh Chau dialect, a thorough knowledge of this system of initials and finals, and the eight tones, is of great importance.

The student should constantly refer the pronunciation of every word to its place in this system, till he can analyze each spoken word, giving its proper initial and final, and point out its proper tone as readily as he can spell any word in his mother tongue.

Slight variations in the pronunciation of Chinese words are noticed among different Chinese teachers. When, therefore, Chinese words are represented by the letters of the English alphabet, (which are written more readily than the Chinese initials and finals,) the student refers at once to the sounds of the corresponding initials and finals, as he has learned them from his teacher.

The letters of the English alphabet, when used in the following pages to represent Chinese sounds, are to be pronounced as follows:

I. – CONSONANT SOUNDS.
1. Ch, having the same sound as in church.
2. Ch’, ch with the same sound as above, followed by an additional h, which is represented, in such cases, by the Greek spiritus asper, (’.)
3. H, having its own proper sound, as in hand, at the beginning of words, while at the end of words (where it occurs only in the fourth and eighth tones) it denotes simply an abrupt closing of the vocal organs, without the formation of any distinct sound. When the sound of h follows ch, p, or t, it is, for convenience, represented by the spiritus asper, (’.)
4. K has its own proper sound, as in king.
5. K’, k followed by a distinct sound of h.
6. L, as in English words.
7. M, as in English words.
8. N, as in English words.
9. Ng, as in sing, both at the beginning and end of words. It often requires great care to enunciate this sound correctly at the beginning of words.
10. P, as in park, parade.
11. P’, p followed by the distinct sound of h.
12. S, as in same.
13. T, as in tame, till.
14. T’, t followed by h, each letter retaining its own proper sound.

The preceding are the consonant sounds found in the Fuh Chau initials, but it will be seen that there are, in reality, only ten elementary consonants, viz.: Ch, H, K, L, M, N, Ng, P, S, T.

The spiritus asper, (’,) which is equivalent to h, being used to avoid confounding ph with the sound of f, and th with th in thin or then, and to show that it is never silent in any combination.

II. – VOWELS. There are nine distinct vowel sounds, viz.:
1. a, as in far, father.
2. e, as in they, prey, but when followed by ng its sound is nearly as short as in met.
3. è, like the flat sound in there, or like a in care.
4. ë, pronounced nearly like e in her, or i in bird, but more open, and spoken deeper in the throat.
5. i, as in machine, but frequently like i in pin, if the word ends with a consonant.
6. o, as in note, report.
7. ò, like o in for, cord, lord.
8. u, like oo in school; but if the word ends with h or ng, the sound is like that of u in bull. The distinction, if any, between the sound of u in these two forms of Chinese words is unimportant in practice, and too slight to be noted by any diacritical marks. At the beginning of words, when followed by another vowel, it has the force of w in English words.
9. ü has the French sound of ü, as in Püne. This is a sound between those of e and oo. When two vowels come together in the same word, each vowel retains its own sound. There are no silent letters employed in this system.

NOTE – This system of orthography is substantially that known as the system of Sir William Jones, used for Romanizing the language of India, the Pacific Islands, and the languages of the North American Indians. Some have desired to embrace the sounds, used in all the dialects of China, in one system, distinguishing them by separate letters, or by diacritical marks, so that each letter shall have a uniform sound in every dialect for which it is used. Such strict uniformity would require the use of several diacritical marks so letters where they are not needed, when, as in the plan here adopted, slight modifications are allowed in each dialect. The sounds of the letters, as here given, is nearly identical with the system used in writing the languages spoken at the Sandwich Islands.

III. – TONES. Figures raised above the line, at the end of words, are used to distinguish the tones.

TABLE OF FINALS AND INITIALS, WITH THEIR NAMES AND THEIR ALPHABETIC VALUE IN ROMAN LETTERS.
THIRTY-THREE FINALS FIFTEEN INITIALS
1 Ch’ung 春 ung 18 Ngüng5 銀 üng 1 Liu2 柳 L
2*[2] Hua 花 ua 19 Kong 釭 ong 2* Pieng 邊 P
3* Hiong 香 iong 20 Chi 之 i 3 Kiu5 求 K
4 Ch’iu 秋 iu 21 Tëng 東 ëng 4 K’e3 氣 K’
5 Sang 山 ang 22 Kau 郊 au 5 Tè 低 T
6 K’ai 開 ai 23* Kuò3 過 uò 6 P’ò 波 P’
7 Ka 嘉 a 24 Sè 西 è 7 T’a 他 T’
8 Ping 賓 ing 25┼ Küò5 橋 üò 8 Cheng5 曾 Ch
9* Huang 歡 uang 26┼ Kie 雞 ie 9 Nih8
10 Kò 歌 ò 27* Siang 聲 iang 10 Si5 時 S
11↕[3] Sü 須 ü 28 Ch’oi 催 oi 11 Eng 鶯 ’
12* Pue 杯 ue 29 Ch’ë 初 ë 12 Mung5 蒙 M
13 Ku 孤 u 30* Tieng 天 ieng 13 Ngü2 語 Ng
14 Teng 燈 eng 31* Kia 奇 ia 14 Ch’oh4 出 Ch’
15* Kuong 光 uong 32 Uai 歪 uai 15 Hi 非 H
16* Hui 輝 ui 33┼ Keu 溝 eu
17┼[4] Sieu 燒 ieu

NOTE – The twelfth and sixteenth finals are regarded by some teachers as having the same alphabetic sound, (the initial consonant, of course, is excepted,) but most persons observe the distinction given in the table. The characters arranged under the twenty-fifth final are pronounced by many persons residing within the walls of Fuh Chau, like those under the twenty-third. The vowel of the eighth final is pronounced by some teachers like the sound of i in machine, while others give it the sound of i as in pin. The vowel of the fourteenth final is pronounced by some like e in met, and by others like e in they. The thirty-third final has a peculiarly clear and ringing sound, and at once reminds a person of the croak of a frog.
The thirteenth initial sound is, in one instance, used alone without any final or vowel sound following it. It is used only in the seventh tone, and merely as a negative prefix to other words.
The primary syllables formed by joining each initial with all the finals, will be seen in the following table.

Liu2 Pieng Kiu5 K’e3 Cheng5 Nih8 Si5 Eng Mung5 Ngü2 Ch’oh4 Hi
Ch’ung lung pung kung k’ung tung chung nung sung ung mung ngung ch’ung hung
Hua lua pua kua k’ua tua chua nua sua ua mua ngua ch’ua hua
Hiong liong piong kiong k’iong tiong chiong niong siong iong miong ngiong ch’iong hiong
Ch’iu liu piu kiu k’iu tiu chiu niu siu iu miu ngiu ch’iu hiu
Sang lang pang kang k’ang tang chang nang sang ang mang ngang ch’ang hang
K’ai lai pai kai k’ai tai chai nai sai ai mai ngai ch’ai hai
Ka la pa ka k’a ta cha na sa a ma nga ch’a ha
Ping ling ping king k’ing ting ching ning sing ing ming nging ch’ing hing
Huang luang puang kuang k’uang tuang chuang nuang suang uang muang nguang ch’uang huang
k’ò chò ò ngò ch’ò
k’ü chü ü ngü ch’ü
Pue lue pue kue k’ue tue chue nue sue ue mue ngue ch’ue hue
Ku lu pu ku k’u tu chu nu su u mu ngu ch’u hu
Teng leng peng keng k’eng teng cheng neng seng eng meng ngeng ch’eng heng
Kuong luong puong kuong k’uong tuong chuong nuong suong uong muong nguong ch’uong huong
Hui lui pui kui k’ui tui chui nui sui ui mui ngui ch’ui hui
Sieu lieu pieu kieu k’ieu tieu chieu nieu sieu ieu mieu ngieu ch’ieu hieu
Ngüng5 lüng püng küng k’üng tüng chüng nüng süng üng müng ngüng ch’üng hüng
Kong long pong kong k’ong tong chong nong song ong mong ngong ch’ong hong
Chi li pi ki k’i ti chi ni si i mi ngi ch’i hi
Tëng lëng pëng këng k’ëng tëng chëng nëng sëng ëng mëng ngëng ch’ëng hëng
Kau lau pau kau k’au tau chau nau sau au mau ngau ch’au hau
Kuò3 luò può kuò k’uò tuò chuò nuò suò muò nguò ch’uò huò
西 k’è chè è ngè ch’è
Küò5 lüò püò küò k’üò tüò chüò nüò süò üò müò ngüò ch’üò hüò
Kie lie pie kie k’ie tie chie nie sie ie mie ngie ch’ie hie
Siang liang piang kiang k’iang tiang chiang niang siang iang miang ngiang ch’iang hiang
Ch’oi loi poi koi k’oi toi choi noi soi oi moi ngoi ch’oi hoi
Ch’ë k’ë chë ë ngë ch’ë
Tieng lieng pieng kieng k’ieng tieng chieng nieng sieng ieng mieng ngieng ch’ieng hieng
Kia lia pia kia k’ia tia chia nia sia ia mia ngia ch’ia hia
Uai luai puai kuai k’uai tuai chuai nuai suai uai muai nguai ch’uai huai
Keu leu peu keu k’eu teu cheu neu seu eu meu ngeu ch’eu heu

Each of the syllables in the preceding tables is susceptible of seven variations of the tone in which it is enunciated. Some of the tones affect the orthography, while others do not. Under each word thus formed may be arranged several characters having independent significations; and thus it happens that a single word in the spoken language is made the symbol to express a number of ideas essentially different from each other.

CHINESE TONES[edit]

The greatest obstacle to the acquisition of the spoken dialects or languages of China, is peculiar application of the tones, which distinguish words having otherwise the same orthography. It is believed that the tones are not in themselves very difficult, but as they are absolutely essential to the spoken language, and require constant attention to nice distinctions, which are never noticed in other languages, they demand all the attention the student can bestow, to remember always the proper tone of each word, and to enunciate it correctly in speaking.

In English, various tones or inflections of the voice are used to give force and animation to language; but in Chinese, the tone is an essential part of the word in all circumstances; while rhetorical effect is given to discourse by accentuation, rapidity or slowness of utterance, and peculiarities of manner, as well as varieties of pitch of the voice, and gesticulation.

Much has been written in regard to the tones, and some discrepance will be found in the statements of different writers, caused, principally, by the differences in tones of the same name in the several dialects with which the different writers were acquainted.

It is generally believed that the system of tones was invented to compensate for the paucity of syllables, or single words, in the spoken languages, or dialects, of the numerous kingdoms of Eastern Asia, which have long since been consolidated into the one vast empire of China.

What was the condition of the spoken languages of China previous to the adoption of the present system of writing, we have no means of learning, except from the structure of their written language, and their ancient poetry.

The general rules of poetry, derived from the Confucian classics, have been fixed and unchanging for more than twenty centuries.

In poetical composition the words are arranged in reference to their tones, of which, for poetical purposes, there are reckoned but two classes or distinctions.

The poetical division of tones is into 平聲 ping5 siang, smooth tone or tones; and 仄聲 cha4 siang, oblique or harsh tone or tones; (for these terms may be taken either as singular or plural.) These being the only distinctions, in regard to tone, which it is necessary to observe in poetical composition, it is not improbable that there were only two tones in use when the ancient classics were written, or at least in the early ages, when the poetic standards were fixed.

The universal study of the ancient classics, and the observance of the ancient standards of poetical composition, secure a pretty general uniformity in the division of the characters into ping5, or smooth toned, and cha4, or harsh toned characters, though the subordinate divisions in these two classes of tones are by no means uniform in the different dialects.

The Nanking, or court dialect, has five tones, viz.: tow ping5, or smooth tones, and three cha4, or harsh tones; though it is stated that there was originally but one smooth, or even tone.

The names which now distinguish the ping5 tones, viz.: 上平聲 siong7 ping5 siang, primary smooth tone; and 下平聲 ha7 ping5 siang, secondary smooth tone, are thought, by Chinese writers, to have arisen from having the characters arranged under the ping5 tone, placed in two volumes; the first volume (as is customary with any work) marked 上 siong7, or first, and the latter volume marked 下 ha7, or last. Theses distinctions, which originally related to the volumes of the book, having been afterward referred to a distinction of two ping5 tones. This view is still further supported by the fact that, while characters referred to the smooth tones in the court dialect, are also referred to what are called smooth tones in the several local dialects, yet many characters referred to what is called a primary smooth tone in one dialect, are placed in the secondary smooth tone in another dialect, and vice versa.

The cha4 tones, of which there are three in the court dialect, called 上聲 siong2 siang, high tone; 去聲 k’ëü3 siang, diminishing tone; and 入聲 ih8 siang, entering, or abrupt tone, as they are now found in the dictionaries of the general language, or court dialect, are each again sub-divided, in many of the local dialects, (as the even tone has been in all dialects,) into primary high, diminishing, and abrupt, and secondary high, diminishing, and abrupt tones.

When all the tones now enumerated are arranged together, the 上聲 siong7 siang, primary tones, are always arranged before the 下聲 ha7 siang, or secondary tones, as follows, viz.:

1. 上平聲 siong7 ping5 siang; primary smooth tone.
2. 上上聲 siong7 siong2 siang; primary high tone.
3. 上去聲 siong7 k’ëü3 siang; primary diminishing tone.
4. 上入聲 siong7 ih8 siang; primary abrupt tone.
5. 下平聲 ha7 ping5 siang; secondary smooth tone.
6. 下上聲 ha7 siong2 siang; secondary high tone.
7. 下去聲 ha7 k’ëü3 siang; secondary diminishing tone.
8. 下入聲 ha7 ih8 siang; secondary abrupt tone.

This translation of the Chinese names of the tones, though not the one usually given, is admitted by the original, and gives a better idea of their nature than a more literal translation. The names of the tones, as given above, are common to various dialects, but they do not represent the same qualities of voice, or sound, in the different dialects; that is, tones bearing the same names are often essentially different in different dialects.

The number of tones in actual use, varies also in different districts. In several dialects, there are reckoned eight tones, as given above, while in the Fuh Chau dialect, only seven are in actual use, and in the Tiechu dialect there are said to be nine tones. In the spoken language of Canton there are ten tones, but in reading, only eight. The names applied to the tones give but an imperfect idea of their nature, and in general, it would be as well to designate them as first, second, &c., tones, as to employ the names they bear in Chinese books.

Description of Tones in the Fuh Chau Dialect. – The first, or primary smooth tone, called siong7 ping5, is a uniform even sound, enunciated a little above the ordinary speaking key, but neither elevated nor depressed, from the commencement to the close of the word. It is, in this respect, like the enunciation of a note in music; it may, therefore, be called the singing tone, or the musical monotone.

The second, or primary high tone, called siong7 siong2, is enunciated in the ordinary speaking key, and the voice usually falls a note at the close, as at the end of a sentence in unimpassioned discourse. In connected discourse, however, the second tone is sustained, and turns upward, like the vanishing stress of unaccented words in common conversation. In attempting to pronounce the letters a-e, we notice that e is pronounce either a note higher, or lower, than a. So, also, if we take the pains to listen attentively when a alone is pronounced, we shall notice that it has its ending, or vanishing movement, turned upward one note; or, if spoken like the close of a sentence, where the voice falls in the usual way, we shall perceive that the vanishing movement of a turns downward one note. This is exactly the variety of enunciation, distinguished by the second, or siong7 siong2 tone in this dialect.

The third, or primary diminishing tone, called siong7 k’ëü3, is what elocutionists call the rising third, and is heard in English on the emphatic word in a direct question, as, “Does it rain?” where the voice turns upward, through the interval of two notes of the octave.

The fourth, or primary abrupt tone, called siong7 ih8, turns the voice upward through the same interval as the third tone; but it terminates abruptly, as though the voice was suddenly interrupted in an effort to pronounce a final h. In words which, in other tones, end in ng, the abrupt close of the fourth tone sounds somewhat like a suppressed, or half-uttered k, but the clicking sound of the k is not heard. If a person should attempt to ask the question, “Can you open the lock?” and he suddenly stopped before enunciating the final clicking sound of the k, he would give to the last word the primary abrupt tone.

The fifth, or secondary smooth tone, called ha7 ping5, is a quick, forcible enunciation, commencing about two notes above the ordinary key, and suddenly dropping down, at the close, to the key note. It is what is called by elocutionists the falling third, and, when emphatic, the falling fifth. It is sometimes called the scolding tone. It is heard in a petulant enunciation of the emphatic words in the sentence, “No! I’ll do no such thing.”

The sixth tone is identical with the second, and no words are arranged under it; that is, no secondary high, or rising tone, has yet been invented in this dialect.

The seventh, or secondary diminishing tone, called ha7 k’ëü3, is a guttural downward circumflex. It is, in English, expressive of peculiar emphasis, frequently indicating rebuke, scorn, or contempt, as,

Whence, and what art thou, execrable shape?

Back to thy punishment,

False fugitive.

“You wrong me every way; you wrong me, Brutus.”

The words very many, if spoken with forcible emphasis, would also exhibit the tone under consideration.

This is probably the most difficult tone in the language to enunciate correctly, under all circumstances.

The eighth, or secondary abrupt tone, called ha7 ih8, closes abruptly, like the fourth tone, but differs from it by being enunciated on a uniform pitch, a little above the ordinary key. The eighth tone is an abrupt termination of the first tone, in the same manner as the fourth tone is an abrupt termination of the third.

The tone affect only that part of the word known as the final, while the initial remains unaffected by the tone.

In the table above, the finals are given with the modifications produced by the tones. If each initial consonant is successively prefixed to all the forms in the table, there will be obtained all the separate words, or distinct syllables, found in the language. We have placed at the head of the table, the initial eng, which denotes merely the absence of any initial consonant, as this gives the simplest form of all the finals through each tone. The student will see, from the TABLE OF FINALS AND INITIALS, how each initial is successively united with all the finals, and in the TABLE OF FINALS MODIFIED BY THE TONES, how each final, whether joined to an initial or otherwise, is modified by the tones. In the table, the vowels printed in italics are accented; in all other cases the first vowels is uniform, and should be thoroughly learned from the table. The accented vowels are not marked in other parts of this article. Besides the final syllables in the table, the semi-vocal ng is used in the seventh tone, without a vowel or any other addition. With this addition there are sixty-one independent final syllables, which may be arranged in alphabetical order, as follows:

a, aë, aëh, aëng, ah, ai, aih, aing, aiu, ang, au, auh, aung, e, è, ë, eh, ëh, eng, ëng, eu, ëü, ëüh, ëüng, i, ia, iah, iang, ie, ieh, ieng, ieu, ih, ing, ieh, iong, iu, ng, o, ò, oe, oh, oi, òi, ong, u, ü, ua, uah, uai, uang, ue, uh, üh, ui, ung, üng, uò, üò, uoh, uong.

If we add the forms produced by the prefixing the initial consonants, we shall obtain nine hundred and one syllables, or simple words, capable of being distinguished by the mode of spelling them with Roman letters. Some of these forms, it will be noticed, are produced by changes in orthography, required by the tones. The entire number of forms obtained by all the changes produced by the tones, is three thousand four hundred and sixty-six words, which can be distinguished by the ear. Some of these are distinguished with difficulty, and (as nearly as is known) only one thousand six hundred and forty-four of these monosyllabic words are in actual use in the spoken language; while in the Tonic Dictionary, or Paih Ing, only one thousand six hundred and twenty of these sounds have characters arranged under them.

To compensate for this paucity of monosyllables, two or more are often united together, forming real polysyllables, to express single ideas. By this means the number of words is increased to several thousands, and as regards its richness and variety of expression, this dialect is but little inferior to many alphabetic languages.

It will be seen in the table, that the orthography of some words is changed, as they are declined through the different tones. In rapid speaking, words in the third and seventh tones are but slightly distinguishable from the first tone; and in such cases the orthography reverts toward the form of the corresponding word in the first tone. Yet when spoken deliberately, the tones are readily distinguished, and the orthography varies with the tones, as shown in the table.

NOUNS[edit]

Nouns, like other Chinese words, are incapable of inflexion. Gender, number, number, person, and case, are determined either by the addition of other words, or by the position a word occupies in the sentence.

Case. – The subject nominative precedes, and the predicate nominative follows the verb, as in English. The accusative case is places after transitive verbs and prepositions, and is only distinguished by its position in a sentence. But in many instances, the accusative precedes the verb in the imperative mood, as chü pong3 chü-ka3, book place book-case; that is, place the book in the bookcase. This construction is very common, though not always adopted.

The dative and ablative cases are often used without any distinguishing mark, though they are sometimes preceded by a preposition. The genitive case of nouns is formed by adding ki5, his, hers, its, or theirs, after the noun, as sung5 ki5 nëng5, ship’s men; that is, sailors, or boatmen; Tüng kuoh4 ki5 nëng5, Central kingdom’s men; that is, Chinamen. The genitive is often followed by the name of the thing possessed, without any intervening word, as sung5 nëng5, boatmen, sailors; Tüng kuoh4 nëng5, men of China; Kuoh47, nation’s title, or national title. But in such cases, the noun in the genitive may generally be regarded as an adjective, qualifying the following noun.

Gender. – The gender of nouns is indicated by words denoting male and female, either directly or indirectly, as nang5, male; and nü2, for female. These are general terms, applicable to any living beings, and are placed before the nouns which they qualify. These terms are but seldom used in speaking; they belong more properly to the written language.

In common conversation, mò2, signifying mother, and këüh4, to denote the male, are employed after nouns, to distinguish the gender of all the lower animals, including birds and insects; as iong52, the female goat; iong5 këüh 4, the male goat. For human beings, nü2 ing5 is used for woman, in the most genteel society; but the common terms for man and woman are derived from a singular circumstance in the history of the ancient kingdom of U5-chü, of which Fuh Chau was the capital.

The kingdom of U5-chü was subjugated by the Tong5dynasty, and tradition says, that all the men were destroyed, and that the women were compelled to become the wives of their captors, (called Tong5 men,) who immediately occupied the kingdom of U5-chü, which, thereafter, became a part of the great Chinese empire. In memory of this circumstance, to the present day, the women of Fuh Chau are usually called Chü niong5, or Chü niong5 nëng5; that is, Chü ladies, retaining a part of their ancient name. Girls are called Chü nie-kiang2; that is, Chü children. On the other hand, the men are called Tong5 può kiang2; that is, Tong5 children. The shorter tem, Tong5 può, is often used to signify husband. A teacher, or any literary man, is called sieng sang, while a literary lady is called sieng sang niong5. There are also other terms descriptive of the various human relations, some of which are essentially masculine, and others essentially feminine; as,

Huang kiang2, foreigner. Huang pò5, foreign lady.
Ho7, father. Mu2, mother.
Nong5 pa7, papa. Nong52, mamma.
Tong5 può kiang2, son. Chü nie-kiang2, daughter.
Hiang tie7, brother. Chia2 moe3, sister.
Neng52, nurse.
Hiang, elder brother. Chia2, elder sister.
Tie7, younger brother. Moe3, younger sister.

Number. – In the Chinese language, bother written and spoken, there is often much vagueness in regard to the number of nouns.

The singular can only be indicated definitely by being preceded or followed by the numeral for one. The plural is denoted by the connexion of words in the sentence, or by the addition of teng2, denoting a class, or collection of individuals. Sometimes the plural is formed by repeating the noun, as nëng5 nëng5, man by man, or men generally.

CLASSIFYING NOUNS[edit]

These are analogous to what are called, in English, collective nouns; as flock, drove, herd, pair. These and many others of the same character are found among the Chinese classifying nouns. But the greatest part of the Chinese classifiers (as these nouns are commonly called) related to individual things, and become plural only, when preceded by a numeral greater than one; as, a piece of wood; a fibre of silk; a blade of grass; a stalk of grain; a kernel of corn; a grain of sand; a head of cabbage; a sprig of mint; a loaf of bread; a block of marble, &c. While in English comparatively few nouns have classifiers of this kind used with them, both in the singular and plural numbers, in the Fuh Chau Chinese every noun has its appropriate classifier attached to it, in almost every case where it is preceded by a numeral.

Generally several nouns have the same classifier, but when the same vocal sound is used as the names of different objects, the different classifiers that are used clearly distinguish them.

In the written language the numeral can frequently be joined to the noun without the classifier, but this usage is seldom or never admissible in the spoken language.

If we say in English two piece men, as the Chinese do when speaking English in the Chinese idiom, it sounds no more uncouth to us than lang7 nëng5 (literally two men) does to the Chinese, who say lang7 ka2 nëng5, for two men, using the clasiifier ka2 between the adjective lang7, two, and the noun nëng5, men. The combinations, a flock of tongs, a drove of wights, a kernel of twine, a prig of land, wound sound no more uncouth in English, than corresponding errors in the use of Chinese classifiers; and as very few Chinese nouns can be used without their classifiers, early attention to the proper use of this class of words is of great importance. Këng, a day’s work, is used without a classifier, and perhaps some others. The round numbers for twenty, thirty, forty, &c., one hundred, two hundred, on thousand, one myriad, &c., can be used before many nouns without classifiers; but these are rare exceptions to the rule, that Every noun must be accompanied by its appropriate classifier, when taking a numeral adjective before it.

The classifiers are called uah8 che7, living words; because they give life and precision to discourse. Two nouns, differing greatly in signification, though pronounced exactly alike, may be readily distinguished by the different classifiers with which they joined in discourse; as, süò8 kuò3 ua7, a phrase of speech; and süò8 hoh4 ua7, a scroll of painting; the word ua7, meaning discourse in one case, and painting in the other, being rendered perfectly definite by the classifying nouns with which it is joined in the two cases. Tiu5, plain silk cloth, and tiu5, a wardrobe, or cupboard, are distinguished in a similar manner, for we say, süò8 ka3 tiu5, one frame wardrobe; but süò8 peh4 tiu5, one web of silk; or, süò8 tòi7 tiu5, a small piece of silk goods. It is thus that these living words give clearness and precision to discourse.[5]

COMPOUND NOUNS[edit]

Two or more words are often united to describe an object which has no simple name. They form regular compound nouns, and are of frequent occurrence. Kiang2, a child, or a small specimen of nay object named, is often affixed to nouns to form compounds; as nëng5 kiang2, a human child; ngu5 kiang2, a calf; huang kiang2, a foreign child, or a foreigner; chieng5 kiang2, a small coin; ie2 kiang2, a small chair, or a tool; sung5 kiang2, a boatman. Kiang2 may be joined to any noun in the same manner as a diminutive suffix. Sa ho7 signifies a leader, and is a term often applied to priests; but when preceded by the term for such substances as wood, earth, stone, silver, it signifies a worker in those substances; as ngüng5 sa ho7, a silversmith; t’u5 sa ho7, s mason; süò8 sa ho7, a stone-cutter; muh8 sa ho7, a worker in wood, a carpenter. Some other trades are designated in the same manner.

Chò3, to make or do; or p’a4, to beat out, or to fashion, prefixed to the name of a thing, or material of which it is made, designates the maker of those goods, or the worker in that material; as chò3 i siong5, maker of clothing, or a tailor; p’a4 t’ieh5, iron worker, that is, a blacksmith; p’a4 tëng5, a coppersmith, or a brass-worker; p’a4 ngüng5, a silversmith. Sa ho7, affixed to the above compounds, will give the additional idea of a master workman at any of those trades. We have chò327, to work at buying and selling, or chò3 seng li2, or chò3 seng e3, to be a trader, or a merchant; chò3 ch’eng5, to work at fields; that is, to be a farmer; chò3 cheng3 këü3, to bear testimony, to be a witness; chò3 këng ngie7, to be a mechanic of any kind; chò3 maëng3 would signify a maker of nets, but as the very same expression signifies also to dream, they usually say p’a4 maëng3, for making nets. All the above terms formed with chò3, to make, or p’a4, to fashion, often take after them the phrase ki5 nëng5, its man; that is, the man of whom these actions are predicated, and the entire expression is used as a noun, for merchant, trader, &c.

ADJECTIVES[edit]

Adjectives commonly precede the nouns which they qualify; as keng5 sang, a high hill; uong5 ngu5, a yellow ox; ngai5 nëng5, bad men. The adjective may also be placed after the noun, the substantive verb being understood, in which case the adjective becomes a predicate. Such forms are more common than in English, as the substantive verb is more readily understood, and needs not to be so frequently expressed; as, nëng5 ngai5, the man is bad; nò4 2, the thing is good; tüò7 huong7, the road is long. In some such cases it is scarcely admissible to supply the substantive verb in speaking, though it must be supplied to give a correct translation in English. An adjective reduplicated becomes intensive; as hò22, very good; keng5 keng5, very high; ming5 ming5, very plain, clear, or evident; kuong kuong, very smooth, or very luminous. Different qualities are expressed by ordinals; as, Tè7 eh42, number one good, or first quality; Tè7 ne72, number two good, or second quality. The Chinese are extravagant in the use of adjectives, using superlatives where intensives only are strictly admissible. Siong7, upper, or superior, and ting2, ridge, or summit, are often thus used.

The following examples will show the method of comparing adjectives: ia2 keng5, rather high; keng5, high; keng5 keng5, very high; ko3 keng5, higher; kah4 keng5, too high; ting2 keng5, highest; ia22, rather good; hò2, good; hò22, very good; ko32, better; kah42, too good, or remarkably good; ting22, best; siong72, first rate, best quality; ia2 pa8, rather white, pretty white; sometimes it means very white.

Nia3 nòi3, a little, or somewhat, affixed to an adjective, indicates a slight shade of the quality; but this form is more commonly used in comparing two objects, and indicates that the object to which the adjective thus modified is applied, surpasses by a little the one with which it is compared. When two things are compared, they are generally connected by the conjunction kaëng7, and the quality expressed by the comparing adjective belongs to the thing first mentioned, though it is placed after both nouns; thus, li2, kaëng7 li5, ko32, plums than pears [are] better; the same idea may be expressed without the conjunction; as, li2 ko32 li5, plums [are] better [than] pears; though placed between the nouns, it still qualifies the former noun.

“The position of an adjective determines its comparison.” When two things are compared, 長一尺 tong5 süò8 ch’üò4, signifies, longer by a foot; but when one thing only is spoken of, the same expression means, length one foot; so also 一尺長 süò8 ch’üò4 tong5, means, (when one thing only is referred to,) one foot long; but if two objects are mentioned, the same expression signifies one foot longer, and the greater length is understood of the thing first mentioned. 子女 chü22, signifies sons and daughters; while 女子 nü2 chü2, signifies a female child; and in the written language, when these two are combined into one character, thus, 好 it is read hò2, and signifies good, beautiful. 平正 pang5 chiang3, literally level and perpendicular, signifies in common conversation, bad, of inferior quality.

Numeral adjectives are best understood in connexion with the written characters. Both the common and the business forms are given in the following table.

PRONOUNS[edit]

The words used to perform the office of pronouns, in Chinese, are varied to suit the comparative rank of the speaker and hearer.

When a person speaks to an equal, or when a man of rank speaks to an inferior, the proper personal pronoun Nguai2 is used, but this is inadmissible in addressing a superior. Nëng5-ka, I or we, is commonly used when speaking to equals; it is, however, a circumlocution, but is in common use for the first person. Nu5, [literally, a servant,] your servant, or I your servant, is used by persons addressing their superiors, and generally by persons desiring to honour those whom they address. Puong2-sing, this body, equivalent to myself, is used to denote the speaker; it has no plural. There are various other circumlocutions, used as polite forms of indicating the speaker. Nü2, thou, or you, is the common form of the pronoun in the second person. I [pronounced as in machine] is used for he, she, it, they, or them. Pronouns, like other words in the Chinese language, may be either singular or plural, as best suits the connexion. Nëng5, man, is often appended to pronouns, as the sign of the plural; as Nguai2-nëng5, or, Nu5-nëng5, we, or us; Nü2-nëng5, you; I-nëng5, they.

Ki5, the sign of the genitive case, may be placed after any of the pronouns, in the same manner that it is used after nouns. For the possessive case of pronouns, other forms are often used; thus, leng7 chong, your father; leng7 tong5, your mother; leng7 hing, your elder brother; leng7 tie7, your younger brother; leng7 chiang, your wife; leng7 ch’ing, your relations; leng7 long5, your son; leng7 ch’ieng king, your daughter. Leng7, in all these examples, signifies good, or excellent, and is used for your as a very respectful and dignified address. The words for father, mother, &c., with which it is joined, are also titles of respect and honour, and not literal translations of our terms; yet one who fails to use them will often appear uneducated.

In the same manner they say, ka ho7, my father; ka mu2, my mother; ka hing, my elder brother. Ka, in these expressions, signifies one’s own family, or, perhaps, the family. When other relations are spoken of, another term is used; as, chieng7 nòi7, my wife; (literally, the unpretending, secluded one.) This accords with the Chinese custom of speaking humble terms of one’s self, or what is one’s own, and of praising that belonging to another.

Sia37, my younger brother; sia3 ch’ing, my relations; pe3 iu2, my friend; pe3 ngieh8 sü, my teacher; pe3 muong5 tu5, my pupils; pe3 huò2, my agent; pe3 siong7, my master; sieu2 i5, my boy; sieu22, sieu2 k’ai3, my slave. Sieu2 means, literally, the little, or inferior one. Koi3, signifying honourable, is used for your, on the ground that what is said to be honourable, is of course understood to belong to the person addressed, rather than to the speaker. Koi3 k’ai3, your slave; koi3 siong7, your master, or superior; koi3 huò2, your agent; koi3 tung, your employer; koi3 ka, your noble family; koi3 iu2, your noble friend; koi3 kuoh4, your honourable country; koi3 seng3, your surname. In all these examples honour is conferred upon the person addressed by applying an honourable epithet to what belongs to him.

When speaking of brutes or inanimate objects, the simple possessive pronouns are generally used.

The Interrogatives are, sie34, what? Which? sie34 nëng5, what man? Who? tie72 nëng5, who? or, man from what place? tie7 süò8 chia4, which one? This expression is varied by using, instead of the last word chia4, the classifier which corresponds with the particular thing in reference to which the inquiry is made.

The Demonstratives are, chi2, or chia2, this; hi2, or hia2, that. Chia2 is also often used as nearly equivalent to that. Chui5, or in full, chia2 kuai3, this place, is often used adjectively for this. Hui5, or hia2 kuai3, is also used for the demonstrative that.

Who, which, and what, when used as relative pronouns, have no proper equivalent in this dialect of the Chinese language. Their place is supplied by demonstratives, followed by the nouns themselves.

VERBS[edit]

The variations of the verb are not as numerous, or as precise in their meaning, as in most other languages. The various forms of p’a4, to strike, will illustrate to peculiarities of the Chinese verb in the Fuh Chau dialect.

I. – Indicative Mood. 1. General tense. Nguai2 p’a4, I strike. This form may denote either past, present, or future time, which may be determined, with more or less certainty, by the connexion in which it is used.
2. Present tense, definite; as Nguai22 p’a4, I am striking.
3. Perfect tense. This tense denotes that an action or event is already completed. With transitive verbs, in this tense, the accusative follows the principal verb, and lau2, finished, follows the accusative, to denote the completion of the action; as, Nguai2 p’a4 i lau2, I have struck him.
In case of intransitive verbs, k’ò3, departed, or li5, to come, is often inserted between the principal verb and the auxiliary lau2, which denotes the completion of the action; as, Muong5 khui k’ò3 lau2, the door is opened already; Muong5 kuong li5 lau2, the door is shut to.
4. Future indefinite. Nguai2 chiong p’a4, I shall strike.
5. Future definite. Nguai2 cheu7 può4 p’a4, I at once will strike.
The following form is nearly intermediate between the two preceding, namely, Nguai2 chiong può4 p’a4, I am about to strike.
II. – Subjunctive Mood. The subjunctive mood is formed from the indicative, by placing ioh8-sü2, ka2-sü2, or kò2-pe3, signifying if, or supposing that, before the nominative to the verb; as ioh8-sü2 nguai2 p’a4, if I strike, &c.
III. – Potential Mood. Nguai2 è7 p’a4, I may, or can strike. Nguai2 tüò8 p’a4, I must strike; Nguai2 kai-tong p’a4, I ought to strike; Nguai2 òi3 p’a4, I wish to strke.
IV. – Imperative Mood. Nü2 p’a4, strike thou; Nü2 k’ò3 p’a4, proceed thou to strke; Nü2 tüò8 p’a4, do you strike at once.
V. – Infinitive Mood. P’a4, to strike; Ing kai p’a4, it is proper to strike; Lè2 p’a4, to be striking; P’a8 lau2, to have struck; Chiong può4 p’a4, about to strike.
VI. – Participles. Lè2 p’a4, striking; P’a4 lau2, struck, or, having struck.

PASSIVE VOICE[edit]

In the spoken language of Fuh Chau there is no proper passive form of verbs. Kieng3, to see, or experience, placed before the verb, and after the auxiliary, if there is one, is sometimes used to form the passive voice, but is seldom heard in conversation, and more properly belongs to the written language. It is even doubtful whether this form is understood by any except the educated, who have learned it in books. Seu7, to receive, or suffer, is more frequently used before the verb to denote action endured by the noun which proceeds the verb. Both these forms may be used without naming the person or thing by which the action is performed. When either of these words is used before an active verb to give it a passive signification, it becomes the principle verb, and the words denoting the action or suffering received or endured, become verbal nouns in the accusative case.

There is another form sometimes used, namely, Nguai2 k’ëüh4 I p’a4, I permitted him to strike; that is, I was struck by him. In some few cases this form has acquired by usage, something like a passive signification; as, Nguai2 k’ëüh42-tia p’a4, I suffered the officer to strike; that is, I have been beaten by the officer. In this form it is always necessary to mention the person or thing by which the action has been performed. This form is to be carefully distinguished from another which closely resembles it, but has a very different signification; as, Nguai2 käeng72-tia p’a4, I with the officers fought, or, I struck the officers.

By these and other circumlocutions, the ideas of the passive voice can be tolerably well expressed, but they often appear very harsh. The awkwardness of these expressions is most apparent when it is desirable to give an exact colloquial translation, rather than a paraphrase, of portions of Scripture.

LIST OF VERBS[edit]

ADVERBS[edit]

Adverbs are compared in the same manner as adjectives. They are in the same manner rendered intensive by reduplication; as, k’è3 k’è3, very quick; maing7 maing7, very slowly. This latter expression often means hereafter, or wait a little. Ng7 is a negative prefix, which may be joined either to adjectives or adverbs.

The following are adverbs in common use, namely:

Hieng7 chai7, now. 2, well.
Moe7, not yet. Chiang3 se7, truly, yes.
Po7, again. Ng7 se7, not so.
K’i2 seng, formerly. Chiong uang7, thus.
Cha2, early. Chia2 iong7, after this fashion.
Chia2 si5 haiu7, at this time. Ch’a poh4 tò, about so, or, not much different.
Hia2 si5 haiu7, at that time.
Na7, only, simply. Chia4 chia4, just now (past.)
5 tang tong, impossible. Cha2 k’i2, in the morning.
Këüng7, near. 5 ta2 king2, no matter.
Huong7, distant. Tang, now, to-day.

ADVERBIAL PHRASES[edit]

CONNECTIVES[edit]

CONJUNCTIONS[edit]

PREPOSITIONS[edit]

INTERJECTIONS[edit]

VERSIFICATION[edit]

FOOTNOTES[edit]

  1. One of the (so-called) initials has merely the force of the Greek spiritus lenis, and denotes the absence of any initial consonant, in which case the word begins with the vowel of the final or “mother sound.”
  2. * Accented on the second vowel.
  3. ↕ The eleventh initial denotes merely the absence of initial sound.
  4. ┼ Accented on the vowel before the last.
  5. In the use of nouns preceded by their classifiers, a numeral adjective must always precede the classifier. The numeral süò8, one, is, in such circumstances, commonly equivalent to a or an. There is no proper article in the Chinese language; its place is in part supplied by numeral and demonstrative adjectives.
    Weights and measures, as classifiers, are used before nouns in the same manner as in English. In the Chinese money weights in common use as Fuh Chau,
    10 Lie equal one Hung = 5.755 grains, Troy.
    10 Hung equal one Chieng = 57.55 grains, Troy.
    10 Chieng equal one Liong, or ounce = 575.5 grains, Troy.
    16 Liong equal one Küng, or pound = 9208 grains, Troy.
    100 Küng equal one Tang, or load = 131½ Pounds, Avoirdupois.
    Six or eight other weights are in use at Fuh Chau, varying in value from 8/11 to 14/11 of the Küng , or pound, given above.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.