Min is another name for Fujian, a large province in southeastern China. The Min River is an important geographical and historical feature of the area. The main language of the Fujian Province is also called Min. People from Fujian who have migrated to Guangdong, Hainan, Zhejiang, Taiwan and a few islands east of Ningbo are also classified as speakers of a Min dialect.
"Min" is written in Mandarin as follows: 閩 方 言 (min fangyÃ¡n).
The several Min dialects are not all mutually intelligible. One group, known as Eastern Min ("Min Dong") is concentrated near Fuzhou City, the capital of Fujian, and is often called "Fuzhou Dialect." Southern Min ("Min Nan") is concentrated to the south of there, in a broad area, including those who have traveled as far as Taiwan and Guangdong (Canton). Hainan Min is called Qiong Wen, and is often considered a separate dialect altogether from Min Nan. Min Bei ("Northern Min"), Min Zhong ("Central Min"), and Pu-Xian are also dialects formally recognized by the PRC government.
Xiamen is a city on the southern coast of Fujian, from which migrations took place in the 17th century to Taiwan. The dialect of Xiamen is a form of Min Nan called "Amoy," and is considered the prestige dialect of Min Nan on the mainland. In Guangdong and on Taiwan, Amoy Min Nan is called "Hoklo" or "Holo." It is often called simply "Taiwanese" in the Republic of China. The Chinese minority in the Philippines speaks mainly Min Nan, known by the name of Lan-nang. Many Ã©migrÃ©s from Fukian in prior generations went to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, where they are known as "Hokkien."
As of 1983, about 25 million people spoke Min Nan on Mainland China, and about 15 million on Taiwan. Another 4 million or so speakers are in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. About 9 million people speak Min Dong world wide, most of them in northeastern Fujian Province. Min Bei claims about 10 million speakers, mainly in 7 counties in northern Fujian near Jian'ou, and to a minor degree in Singapore. Adding the other Min dialects brings Ethnologue's estimated worldwide total for the whole language up to nearly 70 million people.
Min is mainly a spoken language. However, when it is written, standard Chinese characters are employed, with only a few special ones not found in Standard Mandarin. Many words in spoken Min may not have a standard character to represent them, particularly words borrowed from foreign tongues (like Japanese or English) or from local aboriginal speech (as in the case of Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines). Thus, many local conventions may be used in the choice of characters to represent these words, mainly by sound loan and approximation, so that written Min will vary considerably from one part of its broad language territory to another.
As part of its work in Taiwan and China at the end of the nineteenth century and thereafter, the Presbyterian Church missionaries devised a system of Romanization called peh-ōe-jī (POJ) for Min Nan and bÃ ng-uÃ¢-cÃª (BUC) for Min Dong. At different times publications have been made in POJ or BUC, intermixed with Chinese characters, hoping to represent more faithfully the pronunciation of Min vocabulary. Recently ethnologists have shown a renewed interest, especially in Taiwan, in devising an improved Romanization system for the local Min dialect, combining POJ with elements of later efforts, to help preserve Hokkien culture and better represent in writing how the language is spoken.