These terms have also been anglicized with the suffix -ese: Taishanese, Toishanese, and Toisanese. Of the previous three terms, Taishanese is most commonly used in academic literature, to about the same extent as the term Taishan dialect. The term Hoisanese is not used in print literature, although it appears on the internet.
Another term used is Siyi (also Seiyap, Szeyap or Szeyup, 四邑), which refers to a previous administrative division comprised of the four counties of Taishan, Kaiping, Enping and Xinhui. In 1983, a fifth county (Heshan) was added to the Jiangmen prefecture, and so the term Siyi, which literally means "four counties", has become an anachronism.
Taishanese is one of the major languages of the Chinese diaspora. The Taishan region was a major source of Chinese immigrants in the Americas in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 1.3 million people are estimated to have origins in Taishan. Prior to the signing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which allowed new waves of Chinese immigrants, Taishanese was the dominant dialect spoken in Chinatowns across North America. It is also spoken in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City Cholon neighborhood.
Taishanese is still spoken in many Chinatowns, including those of Oakland and San Francisco, by older generations of Chinese immigrants and their children, but is today being supplanted by Cantonese and increasingly by Mandarin in newer Chinese communities across the country.
In Guangdong, Cantonese functions as a lingua franca, and speakers of other languages/dialects (such as Chaozhou Minnan, Hakka, Taishanese) more often than not also speak Cantonese. Today, since Mandarin Putonghua is the standardized language taught in schools throughout the People's Republic of China, residents of Taishan speak Mandarin as well. As a result, in this region, Taishanese-speakers often freely code-switch in conversation, among Taishanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
|Tone||Tone contour||Example||Changed tone||Chao Number||Example|
|high||˥ (55)||hau˥ 口 (mouth)||(none)||-||-|
|mid||˧ (33)||hau˧ 偷 (to steal)||mid rising||˧˥ (35)|
|low||˨ or ˩ (22 or 11)||hau˨ 頭 (head)||low rising||˨˥ (25)|
|mid falling||˧˩ (31)||hau˧˩ 皓 (bright)||mid dipping||˧˨˥ (325)|
|low falling||˨˩ (21)||hau˨˩ 厚 (thick)||low dipping||˨˩˥ (215)|
Taishanese has four changed tones: mid rising, low rising, mid dipping and low dipping. These tones are called changed tones because they are based on four of the lexical tones. These tones have been analyzed as the addition of a high floating tone to the end of the mid, low, mid falling and low falling tones. The high endpoint of the changed tone often reaches an even higher pitch than the level high tone; this fact has led to the proposal of an expanded number of pitch levels for Taishanese tones. The changed tone can change the meaning of a word, and this distinguishes the changed tones from tone sandhi, which does not change a word's meaning. An example of a changed tone contrast is /tʃat˨˩/ (to brush) and /tʃat˨˩˥/ (a brush).
The sound represented by the IPA symbol <ɬ> is particularly challenging, as it has no standard romanization. The digraph "lh" used above to represent this sound is used in Totonac, Chickasaw and Choctaw, which are among several written representations in the handful of languages that include the sound. The alternative "hl" is used in Xhosa and Zulu, while "ll" is used in Welsh.
The following chart compares the plural pronouns among Taishanese, mainstream Cantonese, and Mandarin.
|we/us||ngoi||[ŋɔɪ]||ngo5 dei6 (我哋)||wǒmen (我們)|
|you (plural)||neik||[neɪk]||nei5 dei6 (你哋)||nǐmen (你們)|
|they/them||keik||[keɪk]||keoi5 dei6 (佢哋)||tāmen (他們)|