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First Lessons in the Tie-chiw Dialect
















The following pages are taken from scraps which were written out as an exercise in studying Chinese. With the hope of aiding others in acquiring the language, and assisting Chinese youth in the study of English, they have been revised for publication. Several important helps to the study of Chinese have recently appeared, but as it is not known that any thing has been done especially to aid the student of the Tie-chiw dialect, it is thought that something of this kind may be acceptable.

Tie-chiw is one of the ten counties constituting the province of Canton, and borders on the Hok-këèn province on the east, and the China sea on the south. It is intersected by the meridian of Pekin and the parallels of 23 & 24 deg. N. Lat. The dialect spoken by the inhabitants of this county is unintelligible in the western portions of their own province, but is understood to some extent in the neighboring towns of Hok-këèn, though the distinctions between the Tie-chiw and Hok-këèn dialects are marked and many.

The Chinese population of Bankok has been variously estimated at from two hundred and fifty to four hundred thousand. Probably two thirds of this number speak the Tie-chiw dialect, and from the circumstance that they annually receive considerable accession from their native district, it is supposed, while they may use some forms of expression peculiar to this place, that they speak the language with a good degree of purity. They may have borrowed some expressions from the Siamese, and others have grown out of their new relations; but in turn they have transferred a greater number of words from their own to the Siamese language. Among these are the numerals, the names of various articles of furniture, the names of a variety of vegetables, with several verbs and particles of the language, which appear to have been derived from the Chinese and are used with little or no alteration.

In endeavoring to express the sounds of this dialect with Roman characters, no effort has been made to mark the tones, or to express the nicer distinctions of sound which can better, and perhaps only, be learned from the native teacher. It is not however to be inferred from this that little importance is attached to a correct intonation, but simply that we confess ourselves incompetent to afford any assistance on this point by means of diacritical marks. There has been an effort to render the orthography as simple as the case would admit, and it is hoped that in most cases it may lead to an intelligible pronunciation of the language.

The order of arrangement, is first the English word or phrase, next the Chinese character, and last the colloquial expression. It will be seen, that after a few words and phrases alphabetically arranged, there follows a list of words with short phrases on the opposite page, showing the location of such words in a sentence.

This little work, as its title indicates, aims at nothing more than a few simple lessons for beginners. If in this way it may contribute its mite towards facilitating the acquisition of the Chinese language, and thus promote the welfare of those who speak it as their native tongue, one object of its publication will be attained.

W. D.

Bankok. Dec. 1841.


a as in far, father, balm, calm.
ă as in quota, America, (pronounced abruptly.)
ai as in aisle; or ie in tie, lie.
aw as in law, saw, claw.
aou as ou in plough, our, sour.
e as in they, or a in say, play.
ĕ as in let, peck, beck, (abrupt.)
i as in police, machine, magazine.
ĭ as in pit, quick, tick, (abrupt.)
o as in cone, alone, bemoan.
ŏ as in lock, stock, (abrupt.)
ou as o in no, so, (prolonged & terminating in the sound of oo half suppressed.)
u as in rule; or oo in school, boon, loom.
ŭ as in urn, turn, burn.
u followed by r pronounced like ŭ, with the r half suppressed.
u followed by ng pronounced like ŭ.
gn at the beginning of a syllable much as ng at the end.
an incomplete sound formed by closing the lips and uttering it through the nose.