A Brief Introduction to the Teochew Dialect
Teochew is a member of the Southern Min group in Sino-Tibetan family. It is a dialect spoken in the Chaoshan area, in southeastern Guangdong. The Chaoshan area includes a total of 9 counties whose Teochew dialects are slightly different from each other. There are about 10 million speakers in Chaoshan and about 2-5 million overseas.
Modern Teochew evolved from the more archaic Min-Nan. Between the 9th and the 15th century, a group of Min people migrated south from Fujian to the coastal region of eastern Guangdong known as Chaoshan. This migration was most likely due in part to over-population in Fujian. Geographical isolation from Fujian and influences from Cantonese and the later Hakka, Teochew evolved into a separate language.
Chaoshan was one of the major sources of Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia during the 18th-20th century forming one of the larger dialect groups among the Overseas Chinese. As a result, Teochew is now spoken in many regions outside of Chaoshan.
In particular, the Teochew people settled in significant numbers in Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore where they form the largest Chinese dialect group. They constitute a significant minority in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Teochew speakers also live in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Europe; a result of both direct emigration from Chaoshan to these nations and secondary emigration from Southeast Asia.
Teochew is mutually intelligible with the other Min-nan languages, notably Xiamen dialect or Taiwanese. There are also variations in vocabulary and phonology between the Teochew dialects spoken in different counties or overseas, but this normally does not create difficulties in communication.