Distribution and resurgence of the Hakka language

Hakka Dialects

There are five main dialects of Hakka Chinese. The Sixian (Hakka: Siyen) dialect originating from Jiaying, Guangdong, has six tones and is the most widely-spoken dialect. The Hailu (Hakka: Hoiliuk) dialect, the second most prevalent dialect, originated from Haifeng and Lufeng, Guangdong, and has seven tones. There are also the Daipu (Hakka: Tai Pu) dialect from Chaozhou, Guangdong, the Raoping dialect from Raoping, Guangdong, and the Zhoan dialect from Zhangzhou, Fujian, which preserves the most ancient sounds and meanings of classical Chinese. The various accents are widely spread throughout Taiwan. In addition to the five main dialects, there are the northern Xihai dialect and the patchily-distributed Yongding, Fengshun, Wuping, Wuhua, and Jiexi dialects.



Map of Accent DistributionMap of Hakka Accent Distribution

  • The Sixian dialect Taoyuan County: Zhongli, Longtan, Pingzhen, Yangmei. Hsinchu County: Guanxi (partial distribution). Miaoli County: Miaoli City, Gongguan, Toufen, Dahu, Tongluo, Sanyi, Xihu, Nanzhuang, Touwu, Zhuolan (large distribution). Taitung County: Chishang, Guanshan, Luye, Chenggong, Taima, Peinan. Pingtung County: Zhutian, Wanluan, Neibu, Changzhi, Linluo, Xinpi, Jiadong, Gaoshu. Kaohsiung County: Meinong, Shanlin, Liugui.
  • The Hailu dialect Taoyuan County: Guanyin, Xinwu, Yangmei. Hsinchu County: Xinfeng, Xinbu, Hukou, Qionglin, Hengshan, Guanxi (partial distribution), Beibu, Baoshan, Emei, Zhudong. Hualien County: Jian, Shoufeng, Guangfu, Yuli, Ruisui, Fenglin.
  • The Dabu dialect Miaoli County: Zhuolan (Zhongjie, Neiwan, Shuiwei). Taichung County: Dongshi, Shigang, Xinshe, Heping.
  • The Raoping dialect Taoyuan County: Zhongli (Zhiba Village, Xingnan Village, Sanzuo wu, Guoling Village), Pingzhen (Nanshi Village), Xinwu (Litouzhou), Guanyin (Xinpo Village); Bade (Xiaoli). Hsinchu County: Zhubei (Liujia), Qionglin (Shangshan). Miaoli County: Zhuolan (Laozhuang).
  • The Zhao-an dialect Yunlin County: Lunbei, Erlun, Xiluo.

The Hakka Language

According to academic studies carried out in 1994, the number of true Hakka speakers in Taiwan was decreasing at a rate of 5% per year. According to a survey conducted by the Hakka Affairs Council, only 11.6% of Taiwanese Hakka under the age of thirteen can fluently speak some dialect of Hakka. In 2003, only 43.6% of Hakka are able to speak or understand Hakka. The results of these studies led to the language recovery program, which focuses on four areas: the promotion of Hakka Language Schools, coordination with the Ministry of Education to strengthen the teaching of native languages such as Hakka, promotion of the Hakka language in the public environment, and strengthening the promotion of the Hakka language. The creation of Hakka-speaking campus environments in Hakka language schools are multiplying annually; the implementation of Hakka language classes and number of participants are also increasing. The Hakka Accessibility Project, the promotion of Hakka language in the arena of public transportation, and the broadcasting and growth of Hakka TV, along with a variety of radio, internet, and publications have all helped to bring Hakka language back into real life usage.

The People and the Land -  Distribution of the Hakka and the cultural landscape

The main pockets of the Hakka population in northern Taiwan are in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli counties; in the south, Kaohsiung County and the Liudui areas in the Pingtung County; in central Taiwan, Taichung, Nantou, Changhua and Yunlin counties; and in eastern Taiwan, there are Hakka settlements in villages and towns in Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties. According to the 2004 Taiwanese Hakka population survey, 2.859 million people self-identified as Hakka; those who find themselves capable of accepting two or more identities, 4.412 million; and 6.084 million identify themselves as Hakka or are descendants of Taiwanese Hakka. In Taiwan, there is one Hakka for every 3.7 individuals. From Baisha Bay to Jialeshui, from the Yilan Plains to the Huadong Valley, there are traces of the Hakka everywhere. Although the Hakka population is a minority, they have left their mark on Taiwan culture in a number of ways, from festivals, construction methods, specialty foods and crafts, and hospitality.