Medan Hokkien is the product of varieties of Hokkien mixed with other Chinese regional languages, such as Teochew, Hakka, and Cantonese. Therefore, several words with the same meaning exist in day-to-day conversation. Which one to use depends on the speakers' linguistic background. 

Hokkien and other Han Chinese sub-ethnic groups are categorized into one single entity called "Chinese Indonesian", making the differences among these sub-ethnic groups nearly invisible. I am a product of three Han Chinese sub-ethnics: Hokkien (Southern Min), Cantonese, and Henghua. These sub-ethnic groups in China have their own distinct languages.

Most overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia are Hokkien (Southern Min) speakers. No wonder Hokkien (Southern Min) has become a lingua franca and even a native language for people of other sub-ethnic groups. This diversity is why the Medan Hokkien language has evolved to be distinguishable from its Hokkien counterparts from other countries.

Here are some examples of interchangeable words having the same meaning:

1. Preposition: at/ in/ on = ti [ti4]/ uan [uan1]

He is at school = i uan okteng [i1 uan1 ork3teng2]
Where are you? = lu4 ti4 tolok? [lu4 ti4 tor1lork1]

2. -ui vs -eng

rice = pui [puui3]/ peng [peng3]
egg = nui [nui3]/ neng [neng3]
door = mui [mui2]/ meng [meng2]
to ask = mui [mui3]/ meng [meng3]

3. Because = uiliau [ui3liau4]/ inwui [in3wui3]

I don't want to go because it rains = wa boai khi uiliau lok-ho [wa4 bo3ai4 khi3 ui3liau4 lork3-hor3]
His mom scolded him because he didn't listen = i e mak me i inwui i bo thiawa [i1 ay1 mak3 mae3 i1 in3wui3 i1 bo3 thiia3wa3]

4. When = tisi [ti3si2]/ tiangsi [tiang3si2]/ kuisi [kui4si2]

When shall we go out? = walang tisi chutmui? [wa4lang2 ti3si2 chut4mui2]
When was it sent? = tiangsi kialai e? [tiang3si2 kia3lai2 ay1]
When did they go abroad? = ilang kuisi chutkok? [i1lang2 kui4si2 chut4kork3]

5. Present continuous tense: Verb + ing = ti [ti4] + Verb/ Verb + kin [kin4]

The baby is sleeping = bebi kia ti khun [bay1bi1 kiia4 ti4 khun3]
What are you staring at me? = lu comik khua kin wa? [lu4 cor1mik1 khuua3 kin4 wa4]

Photo by Stella Tzertzeveli on Unsplash


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