Why do Teochew numbers 1-10 sound similar to Cantonese, Japanese and even Thai?

Have you ever noticed that our Teochew numbers 1 to 10 sound different, but yet somewhat similar, to the numbers in Cantonese? 

Let's hear them:



Of course, Teochew and Cantonese are Chinese languages. But what about Teochew numbers and Japanese ones?


And Thai?


Let's see again from this comparison table below:

 Number Teochew Cantonese Japanese Thai
1 一 zêg8 (ig4) yat1 ichi หนึ่ง nueng
2 二  no6 (ji6) yi6 ni สอง sawng
3 三 san1  saam1 san สาม saam
4 四 si3  sei3 shi (yon) สี่ see
5 五 ngou6 ng5 go ห้า hah
6 六 lag8  luk6 roku หก hoke
7 七 cig4 cat1 shichi (nana) เจ็ด jed
8 八 boih4 baat3 hachi แปด ppaed
9 九 gao2 gau2 kyuu เก้า gaao
10 十 zab8 sap6 juu สิบ sip


    It is almost certain that the numbers in these four languages evolved from a common source.  But what was this? The answer lies within this video:

    Middle Chinese (中古漢語) was the standard literary Chinese that appeared in Northern China in the 4th century CE. It flourished during the Sui and Tang dynasties (c.581 to 907) and began to spread together with Tang's political influence and Buddhism to the peripheries of imperial China and areas beyond its borders, such as Japan. 

    The similarities of the sounds of Teochew numbers with those of Middle Chinese, Cantonese and Japanese affirm revelations about the establishment of Chinese literary culture in the Teochew region between the late Tang and the Song dynasty (960–1279). Finally, the conquest of Song China by the Mongols in the 13th century saw the flight of many Chinese officials to Thailand, bringing with them the influence of Middle Chinese.   

    Meanwhile, the occupation of various parts of northern China by the Khitans, the Jurchens and finally the Mongols after the 10th century brought the evolution of a new branch of Chinese. This became modern Mandarin, which displays the influence of Middle Chinese but is at the same time distinct. 

    This incredible video below shows the discernible north-south divide of how the numbers 1-10 are counted in 100 Chinese languages/dialects in China, as well as Teochew's (from 15:59) proximity with its sister Min (闽) languages spoken in Fujian.


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    Comment on this post (1 comment)

    • Huang huiming says...

      The languages are related since the ancient time. From a shared ancestral root since Yue kingdom, long before the people in the area were absorbed into Chinese “Han” main group from Tang dynasty’s expansion into the area.

      Yue’s language was the root of Kra-dai group of languages which was the ancient root of the modern Thai language (as well as the Zhuang in Guangsi province in China).

      There are more stories of the Yue’s Boat Song and Goujian’s inscriptions which now are considered the evidence of the language used in that ancient time.

      May 27, 2024

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