Fuzhounese is a variety of Min Dong (Eastern Min), a branch of Min Chinese spoken in eastern parts of Fujian Province in China, and also in Singapore and Malaysia, by about 10 million people. In Fujian the language is known as Bàng-uâ (平話), or "ordinary speech". In Singapore and Malaysia it is known as Hokchiu (福州), which is how Fuzhou is pronounced in Fuzhounese. It is also known as Fuzhou dialect, Foochow, Hoochew, Fuzhounese or Fuzhouhua (福州話).
Fuzhounese is spoken particularly in Fuzhou City (福州市), Pingnan (屏南), Gutian (古田), Luoyuan (羅源), Minqing (閩清), Lianjiang (連江, Matsu included), Minhou (閩侯), Changle (長樂), Yongtai (永泰), Fuqing (福清) and Pingtan (平潭), and is the second local language in other parts of northern and central Fujian.
The first book contain information about the pronunciation of Chinese characters in Fuzhounese was 戚林八音 (Qī Lín Bāyīn / Chék Lìng Báik-ǐng), which was published in the 17th century and provided a standard for the language which is still used by researchers looking at Min Chinese phonology.
During the 19th and early 20th century Western missionaries studied Fuzhounese and produced dictionaries, guides to the language, translation of the Bible. Japanese scholars produced a number of books on the language during the 1940s. The missionaries developed ways of writing Fuzhounese using the Latin alphabet, which were standardised in the 1890s and became known as Foochow Romanized. This system was used mainly in churches and mission schools.
Fuzhounese is spoken by about 50% of young people in Fujian, who until recently were encouraged to abandon it in favour of Mandarin. Such policies have been reversed, however, and Fuzhounese is now officially listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage and efforts are being made to preserve it and encourage its use. On the island of Matsu, which is controlled by the authorities in Taiwan, Fuzhounese is taught in primary schools.
There is a complex system of tone changes (Sandhi), and many letters are pronounced differently depending on which other letters they appear next to.
Ô sǒ̤h huòi, Báe̤k-hǔng gâe̤ng Nǐk-tàu duǒh hī dó̤i cǎng, káng diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi. Cǎng lì cǎng kó̤ mò̤ suǒ iàng. Ciā sèng-hâiu, duô lā̤ ô sǒ̤h ciéh nè̤ng giàng lā̤, sǐng lā̤ sê̤ṳng duǒh sǒ̤h iông gâu-gâu gì duâi-ǐ. Ǐ lâng ciéh gōng hō̤, diê-nè̤ng ô buōng-sê̤ṳ sěng gáe̤ cī ciéh nè̤ng gâe̤ng duâi-ǐ táung lâi gó̤, cêu sáung diê-nè̤ng buōng-sê̤ṳ duâi.
Once upon a time, the North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was stronger. They disputed on and on without reaching a conclusion. Just at that moment, there was a man walking along the road, wearing a very heavy coat. The two agreed that who first succeeded in making this man take his coat off should be considered stronger.