Taiji Romanisation is a system for writing Hokkien, particularly Penang Hokkien. It was created to provide Hokkien-speaking people a means to communicate in writing in the language using a system that can be easily written. Taiji Romanisation uses tone numbers in place of diacritic marks, so it can be used on any communication device without needing a download or plug in. The number of tone classes is also reduced from seven (in traditional romanisation of Hokkien) down to just four, to correspond to local knowledge of the four tones of Mandarin. Among the Hokkien speaking, the reducing in tone classes has been employed effectively without any loss of meaning.
Taiji Romanisation was created in Penang for the use with Penang Hokkien. Therefore the rule of tone and tone changes (or tone sandhi) is specific to Penang Hokkien. Nevertheless, for transcribing sentences, you can use it for other dialects of Hokkien.
The Tone System of Taiji Romanisation
There are four classes of tones in Taiji. Every syllable is numbered 1, 2, 3/33 and 4. These four tones correspond to the four tones in Mandarin, as understood by local (Penang) Mandarin speakers. Tone 3 and 33 are regarded as the same tone, but exhibit different behaviours.
ma1 , ma2 , ma3 , ma4
pa1 , pa2 , pa3 , pa4
kau1 , kau2 , kau3 , kau4
kong1 , kong2 , kong3 , kong4
1) A syllable that has a meaning is called a morpheme. A morpheme can be a word on its own, for example jip1 (to go in), chut3 (to go out). Syllables with different tone numbers are different morphemes with different meanings, for example, kau1 (to hang), kau2 (monkey), kau3 (enough) and kau4 (nine).
2) There is a small number of some heterographs (words that are spelled differently, but pronounced the same way, i.e. "way" and "weigh") to help bring out the written meaning more clearly, for example, kau4 (nine) and kao4 (dog).
3) Words of tone 3 and tone 33 are pronounced the same way, but often mean different things, for example, lau3 (to leak) and lau33 (old). The reason there are two types of tone 3 words (3 and 33) is due to how the morpheme behaves (to be explained soon).
4) Words can also be formed by putting morphemes together, for example, lau3juak1 (fun), pan3gee2 (cheap), etc.
5) When two morphemes are side by side, the one in front usually changes its tone.
Example 1: ang2 (red) and sna1 (shirt) becomes ang3 sna1 (red shirt).
Example 2: wah4 (I), boek3 (want), khee3 (to go), co3 (to do) and kang1 (work).
Strung together, those words form the sentence: Wah1 boek1 khee1 co1 kang1 (I want to go to work). As you see, all the words change tones except the last one.
6) The rule for changing tones is as follows:
Words ending in tone 1 or tone 2 change their tone to 3 when placed in front of another word.
9) Note that lau3 (to leak) and lau33 (old) sound almost the same (in fact, I regard them as the same), but due to the way one changes tones while the other doesn't, we can tell which is which when we see them in writing.
10) The Penang Hokkien Dictionary lists over 5,000 words in use. The dictionary has audio to help you hear how each word is pronounced. All the entries include definition in English and Malay, with a large number also showing example sentences, the Chinese characters, and the same word in Taiwanese Hokkien and Amoy Hokkien. You can reference it for free from anywhere in the world. To learn more of Penang Hokkien, go to Penang Hokkien Made Easy or try the free online course, Penang Hokkien on Memrise.
I wish you all the best in getting to know Taiji Romanisation!
Thank you for visiting my website, Penang Travel Tips. Since starting it in 2003, it has become my own online encyclopedia. My name is Timothy Tye, you can call me Tim. I am a full-time website author writing only my own website, to describe things and places I am curious about. To know more about me, go to www.timothytye.com I have been living at home writing my websites full time since 2007. I describe my alternative lifestyle in my Happy Jobless Guy website.
As a Christian, I hope that through this website, I am able to deliver God's Good News to people all over the world.