Second Edition of de Gijzel - a review

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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Second Edition of de Gijzel - a review

Postby Ah-bin » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:09 am

Having just got to have a look at Luc de Gijzel's new dictionary, I can say there are marked improvements. I found the old edition useful, but was always wary about picking words from it, as I knew there were some problems with definition and vocabulary choice.

The first great improvement is the tone marks.

Then there are about 100 pages of extra words, and more words to each page.

The vocabulary is also now much closer to what Penangites actually use, with words like jam-mân (jamban) for "toilet" where the first edition had piàn-só•, which I have only heard in Taiwan. There is also an amazing amount of culturally specific vocabulary, some of which is arranged in categories at the end of the dictionary.

The POJ is still a slightly modified version that might make it difficult for people who are starting to move to an even higher level of Hokkien and want to refer to Douglas or Campbell for pointers to the Chinese characters, but it;s rally just a case of the -oa and-oe diphthongs in POJ being written as -ua and -ue, and is nothing major. de Gijzel also makes sure that the Chiang-chiu vowel [ɛ] is clearly distinguished with a dot (e•) and that nasalised vowels are carefully indicated with an ⁿ so that there is no guessing about whether they need to be pronounced or not. Another nice feature is the careful distinction between a final -k and a final -h (glottal stop).

The only thing I feel has problems is the explanations of tone sandhi, as de Gijzel still sticks to the traditional descriptions of tone changes. For example I am sure the 陰去 tone becomes 陰平 in Penang now, and the 陰入 tones with -h are basically the same as those with -t -p-and -k for most speakers now in most words, but de Gijzel's guide to tones still describes the changes as the 陰去 and 陰去 with glottal stop (-h) sandhiing to 上. Sometimes I feel it would be good to indicate where sandhi occurs with a hyphen, but this is not always done, so there is room for ambiguity.

Some of his definitions are a bit odd too, i feel. I just saw khàm mûi defined as "shut the door" and kuaiⁿ mûi as "close the door". The shutting and closing a door are identical for me, and I don't know why they are defined with two different words, the second of which I have never heard out of the mouth of a Penangite).

Overall though, I feel this is an unsurpassed reference guide for learning Penang-style Hokkien. If you use it to cross reference other materials you can pick up a good pronunciation of each word from this dictionary, despite the author's own pronunciation not being that great (at least that was the case four years ago). POJ may be counter-intuitive for some Malaysians, but at least it is a one-stop-shop. Once you have learnt the rules of the system, you will be able to know the exact pronunciation of any word from its spelling. Now all we need is a version with characters and parts of speech!

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Re: Second Edition of de Gijzel - a review

Postby AndrewAndrew » Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:00 am

Great review - where is the book being sold?

Posts: 174
Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:26 am

Re: Second Edition of de Gijzel - a review

Postby AndrewAndrew » Sat Mar 22, 2014 11:22 am

This new edition of the Penang Hokkien dictionary is the most thorough reference guide to a unique form of Hokkien widely spoken in and around Penang today. Hokkien is a fairly old language, introduced more than two centuries ago by settlers from Southern China’s Fujian province. In an atmosphere of melding languages and cross-pollination of cultures however, Penang Hokkien assumed a unique character incorporating a mélange of colorful local words and expressions. This gives Penang Hokkien its distinct character, often charmingly described as 'rojak Hokkien' – rojak being the name of a popular local fruit salad !

The Penang Hokkien Dictionary features over 7,500 vocabulary entries divided neatly by common words, themes (numbers, money, the Chinese zodiac etc), special occasions (weddings, funerals), short phrases and expressions and grammar. All Hokkien words are written with a tone mark and spelled using the established missionary Romanisation (POJ). The handy pocket-sized Penang Hokkien dictionary will prove to be both an enlightening and educational read, and an invaluable guide to locals and newcomers alike.

Winter Solstice tang-cheh
Amorous man gò-peh sì
Don't fool around! mài siáu-siáu!
To be clumsy ah-kha, ah-chhíu (duck feet, duck hands)
cobweb ti-tu-si
Veteran lāu-chiáu (old bird)

Penang Hokkien Dictionary (English-Hokkien) is on sale at Areca Books for RM25. Click here ( for more information, or to purchase.

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