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POJ was initially not well supported by word-processing applications due to the special diacritics needed to write it. Support has now improved and there are now sufficient resources to both enter and display POJ correctly. Several input methods exist to enter Unicode-compliant POJ including OpenVanilla (macOS and Microsoft Windows) the cross-platform Tai-lo Input Method released by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education and the Firefox add-on Transliterator which allows in-browser POJ input. When POJ was first used in word-processing applications it was not fully supported by the Unicode standard thus necessitating work-arounds. One employed was encoding the necessary characters in the "Private Use" section of Unicode but this required both the writer and the reader to have the correct custom font installed. Another solution was to replace troublesome characters with near equivalents for example substituting ⟨ä⟩ for ⟨ā⟩ or using a standard ⟨o⟩ followed by an interpunct to represent ⟨o͘⟩. With the introduction into Unicode 4.1.0 of the combining character U+0358 ◌͘ COMBINING DOT ABOVE RIGHT in 2004 all the necessary characters were present to write regular POJ without the need for workarounds. However even after the addition of these characters there are still relatively few fonts which are able to properly render the script including the combining characters. Some of those which can are Charis SIL DejaVu Doulos SIL Linux Libertine Taigi Unicode and Source Sans Pro.

Adaptations for other Chinese varieties

POJ has been adapted for several other varieties of Chinese with varying degrees of success. For Hakka missionaries and others have produced a Bible translation hymn book textbooks and dictionaries. Materials produced in the orthography called Pha̍k-fa-sṳ include:

Hak-ngi Sṳn-kin Sin-yuk lau Sṳ-phien: Hien-thoi Thoi-van Hak-ngi Yit-pun (Hakka Bible New Testament and Psalms: Today's Taiwan Hakka Version). Bible Society. 1993.
Phang Tet-siu (1994). Thai-ka Loi Hok Hak-fa (Everybody Learn Hakka). Taipei: Southern Materials Center. ISBN 957-638-017-0.
Phang Tet-siu (1996). Hak-ka-fa Fat-yim Sṳ-tien (Hakka Pronunciation Dictionary). Taipei: Southern Materials Center. ISBN 957-638-359-5.
Hak-ka Sṳn-sṳ (Hakka Hymns). Tainan: PCT Press. 1999. ISBN 957-8349-75-0.
A modified version of POJ has also been created for Teochew.

Current system

The current system of pe̍h-ōe-jī has been stable since the 1930s with a few minor exceptions (detailed below). There is a fair degree of similarity with the Vietnamese alphabet including the ⟨b/p/ph⟩ distinction and the use of ⟨ơ⟩ in Vietnamese compared with ⟨o͘⟩ in POJ. POJ uses the following letters and combinations:

Capital letters
Lowercase letters
a b ch chh e g h i j k kh l m n ng o p ph s t th u
Letter names
a be che chhe e ge ha i ji̍t ka kha é-luh é-muh é-nuh iⁿ ng o pe phe e-suh te the u

Chinese phonology traditionally divides syllables in Chinese into three parts; firstly the initial a consonant or consonant blend which appears at the beginning of the syllable secondly the final consisting of a medial vowel (optional) a nucleus vowel and an optional ending; and finally the tone which is applied to the whole syllable. In terms of the non-tonal (i.e. phonemic) features the nucleus vowel is the only required part of a licit syllable in Chinese varieties. Unlike Mandarin but like other southern varieties of Chinese Taiwanese has final stop consonants with no audible release a feature that has been preserved from Middle Chinese. There is some debate as to whether these stops are a tonal feature or a phonemic one with some authorities distinguishing between ⟨-h⟩ as a tonal feature and ⟨-p⟩ ⟨-t⟩ and ⟨-k⟩ as phonemic features. Southern Min dialects also have an optional nasal property which is written with a superscript ⟨ⁿ⟩ and usually identified as being part of the vowel. Vowel nasalisation also occurs in words that have nasal initials (⟨m-⟩ ⟨n-⟩ ⟨ng-⟩) however in this case superscript ⟨ⁿ⟩ is not written e.g. 卵 nūi (/nuĩ/).

A legitimate syllable in Hokkien takes the form (initial) + (medial vowel) + nucleus + (stop) + tone where items in parentheses indicate optional components.

The initials are:


Front Central Back
Simple Nasal Simple Simple Nasal
i [i]
ㄧ 衣 (i)
iⁿ [ĩ]
ㆪ 圓 (îⁿ)

u [u]
ㄨ 污 (u)
uⁿ [ũ]
ㆫ 張 (tiuⁿ)
e [e]
ㆤ 禮 (lé)
eⁿ [ẽ]
ㆥ 生 (seⁿ)
o [ə]
ㄜ 高 (ko)
ㆦ 烏 (o͘ )
oⁿ [ɔ̃]
ㆧ 翁 (oⁿ)
a [a]
ㄚ 查 (cha)
aⁿ [ã]
ㆩ 衫 (saⁿ)

Diphthongs & Triphthongs
ai [aɪ]
au [aʊ]

ia [ɪa]
io [ɪo]
iu [iu]
oa [ua]
oe [ue]
ui [ui]
iau [ɪaʊ]
oai [uai]

Coda endings:

Bilabial Alveolar
Velar Glottal
Nasal consonant
-m [m]
-n [n]

-ng [ŋ]

Stop consonant
-p [p̚]
-t [t̚]
-k [k̚]
-h [ʔ]

Syllabic consonant
Bilabial Velar
m [m̩]
ㆬ 姆 (ḿ)
ng [ŋ̍]
ㆭ 酸 (sng)

POJ has a limited amount of legitimate syllables although sources disagree on some particular instances of these syllables. The following table contains all the licit spellings of POJ syllables based on a number of sources:

Tone markings

Chinese tone name
About this soundlisten 
陰平 (yinping)
dark level
foot; leg
上聲 (sióng-siaⁿ)
陰去 (yinqu)
dark departing
陰入 (yinru)
dark entering
陽平 (yangping)
light level
陽去 (yangqu)
light departing
vertical line above
陽入 (yangru)
light entering

In standard Amoy or Taiwanese Hokkien there are seven distinct tones which by convention are numbered 1–8 with number 6 omitted (tone 6 used to be a distinct tone but has long since merged with tone 2). Tones 1 and 4 are both represented without a diacritic and can be distinguished from each other by the syllable ending which is a vowel ⟨-n⟩ ⟨-m⟩ or ⟨-ng⟩ for tone 1 and ⟨-h⟩ ⟨-k⟩ ⟨-p⟩ and ⟨-t⟩ for tone 4.

Southern Min dialects undergo considerable tone sandhi i.e. changes to the tone depending on the position of the syllable in any given sentence or utterance. However like pinyin for Mandarin Chinese POJ always marks the citation tone (i.e. the original pre-sandhi tone) rather than the tone which is actually spoken. This means that when reading aloud the reader must adjust the tone markings on the page to account for sandhi. Some textbooks for learners of Southern Min mark both the citation tone and the sandhi tone to assist the learner.

There is some debate as to the correct placement of tone marks in the case of diphthongs and triphthongs particularly those which include ⟨oa⟩ and ⟨oe⟩. Most modern writers follow six rules:

If the syllable has one vowel that vowel should be tone-marked; viz. ⟨tī⟩ ⟨láng⟩ ⟨chhu̍t⟩
If a diphthong contains ⟨i⟩ or ⟨u⟩ the tone mark goes above the other vowel; viz. ⟨ia̍h⟩ ⟨kiò⟩ ⟨táu⟩
If a diphthong includes both ⟨i⟩ and ⟨u⟩ mark the ⟨u⟩; viz. ⟨iû⟩ ⟨ùi⟩
If the final is made up of three or more letters mark the second vowel (except when rules 2 and 3 apply); viz. ⟨goán⟩ ⟨oāi⟩ ⟨khiáu⟩
If ⟨o⟩ occurs with ⟨a⟩ or ⟨e⟩ mark the ⟨o⟩ (except when rule 4 applies); viz. ⟨òa⟩ ⟨thóe⟩
If the syllable has no vowel mark the nasal consonant; viz. ⟨m̄⟩ ⟨ǹg⟩ ⟨mn̂g⟩


A single hyphen is used to indicate a compound. What constitutes a compound is controversial with some authors equating it to a "word" in English and others not willing to limit it to the English concept of a word. Examples from POJ include ⟨sì-cha̍p⟩ "forty" ⟨bé-hì-thôan⟩ "circus" and ⟨hôe-ho̍k⟩ "recover (from illness)". The rule-based sandhi behaviour of tones in compounds has not yet been clearly defined by linguists. A double hyphen ⟨--⟩ is used when POJ is deployed as an orthography (rather than as a transcription system) to indicate that the following syllable should be pronounced in the neutral tone. It also marks to the reader that the preceding syllable does not undergo tone sandhi as it would were the following syllable non-neutral. Morphemes following a double hyphen are often (but not always) grammatical function words.

Audio examples

Audio File
Sian-siⁿ kóng ha̍k-seng tiām-tiām thiaⁿ. A teacher/master speaks students quietly listen. About this soundlisten 
Kin-á-jit hit-ê cha-bó͘ gín-á lâi góan tau khòaⁿ góa. Today that girl came to my house to see me. About this soundlisten 
Thài-khong pêng-iú lín-hó. Lín chia̍h-pá--bē? Ū-êng to̍h lâi gún chia chē--ô͘! Space friends how are you? Have you eaten yet? When you have the time come on over to eat. Listen (from NASA Voyager Golden Record)

Regional differences

In addition to the standard syllables detailed above there are several regional variations of Hokkien which can be represented with non-standard or semi-standard spellings. In the Zhangzhou dialect spoken in Zhangzhou parts of Taiwan (particularly the northeastern coast around Yilan City) and parts of Malaysia (particularly in Penang) there is a final ⟨-uiⁿ⟩ for example in "egg" ⟨nūi⟩ and "cooked rice" ⟨pūiⁿ⟩ which has merged with ⟨-ng⟩ in mainstream Taiwanese. The Zhangzhou dialect also has the vowel /ɛ/ written as ⟨ɛ⟩ or ⟨e͘⟩ (with a dot above right by analogy with ⟨o͘⟩) which has merged with ⟨e⟩ in mainstream Taiwanese.


Traditional Chinese白話字
Simplified Chinese白话字
Hokkien POJPe̍h-ōe-jī

Literal meaningVernacular writing

The name pe̍h-ōe-jī (Chinese: 白話字; pinyin: Báihuà zì) means "vernacular writing" written characters representing everyday spoken language. The name vernacular writing could be applied to many kinds of writing romanized and character-based but the term pe̍h-ōe-jī is commonly restricted to the Southern Min romanization system developed by Presbyterian missionaries in the 19th century.

The missionaries who invented and refined the system used instead of the name pe̍h-ōe-jī various other terms such as "Romanized Amoy Vernacular" and "Romanized Amoy Colloquial." The origins of the system and its extensive use in the Christian community have led to it being known by some modern writers as "Church Romanization" (教會羅馬字; Jiàohuì Luōmǎzì; Kàu-hōe Lô-má-jī) and is often abbreviated in POJ itself to Kàu-lô. (教羅; Jiàoluō) There is some debate on whether "pe̍h-ōe-jī" or "Church Romanization" is the more appropriate name.

Objections to "pe̍h-ōe-jī" are that it can refer to more than one system and that both literary and colloquial register Southern Min appear in the system and so describing it as "vernacular" writing might be inaccurate. Objections to "Church Romanization" are that some non-Christians and some secular writing use it. POJ today is largely disassociated from its former religious purpose. The term "romanization" is also disliked by some who see it as belittling the status of pe̍h-ōe-jī by identifying it as a supplementary phonetic system instead of a stand-alone orthography.


Due to POJ's origins in the church much of the material in the script is religious in nature including several Bible translations books of hymns and guides to morality. The Tainan Church Press established in 1884 has been printing POJ materials ever since with periods of quiet when POJ was suppressed in the early 1940s and from around 1955 to 1987. In the period to 1955 over 2.3 million volumes of POJ books were printed and one study in 2002 catalogued 840 different POJ texts in existence. Besides a Southern Min version of Wikipedia in the orthography there are teaching materials religious texts and books about linguistics medicine and geography.

Lán ê Kiù-chú Iâ-so͘ Ki-tok ê Sin-iok (1873 translation of the New Testament)
Lāi-goā-kho Khàn-hō͘-ha̍k by George Gushue-Taylor 1917
Chinese–English dictionary of the vernacular or spoken language of Amoy by Carstairs Douglas 1873
Lear Ông translation of King Lear by Tē Hūi-hun

Han-Romanization mixed script

One of the most popular modern ways of writing Taiwanese is by using a mixed orthography called Hàn-lô (simplified Chinese: 汉罗; traditional Chinese: 漢羅; pinyin: Hàn-Luó; literally Chinese-Roman) and sometimes Han-Romanization mixed script a style not unlike written Japanese or (historically) Korean. In fact the term Hàn-lô does not describe one specific system but covers any kind of writing in Southern Min which features both Chinese characters and romanization. That romanization is usually POJ although recently some texts have begun appearing with Taiwanese Romanization System (Tâi-lô) spellings too. The problem with using only Chinese characters to write Southern Min is that there are many morphemes (estimated to be around 15 percent of running text) which are not definitively associated with a particular character. Various strategies have been developed to deal with the issue including creating new characters allocating Chinese characters used in written Mandarin with similar meanings (but dissimilar etymology) to represent the missing characters or using romanization for the "missing 15%". There are two rationales for using mixed orthography writing with two different aims. The first is to allow native speakers (almost all of whom can already write Chinese characters) to make use of their knowledge of characters while replacing the missing 15% with romanization. The second is to wean character literates off using them gradually to be replaced eventually by fully romanized text.
Examples of modern texts in Hàn-lô include religious pedagogical scholarly and literary works such as:

Chang Yu-hong. Principles of POJ.
Babuja A. Sidaia. A-Chhûn.

Current status

Most native Southern Min speakers in Taiwan are unfamiliar with POJ or any other writing system commonly asserting that "Taiwanese has no writing" or if they are made aware of POJ considering romanization as the "low" form of writing in contrast with the "high" form (Chinese characters). For those who are introduced to POJ alongside Han-lo and completely Chinese character-based systems a clear preference has been shown for all-character systems with all-romanization systems at the bottom of the preference list likely because of the preexisting familiarity of readers with Chinese characters.

POJ remains the Taiwanese orthography "with the richest inventory of written work including dictionaries textbooks literature [...] and other publications in many areas". A 1999 estimate put the number of literate POJ users at around 100 000 and secular organizations have been formed to promote the use of romanization among Taiwanese speakers.

Outside Taiwan POJ is rarely used. For example in Fujian Xiamen University uses a romanization known as Bbánlám pìngyīm based on Pinyin. In other areas where Hokkien is spoken such as Singapore the Speak Mandarin Campaign is underway to actively discourage people from speaking Hokkien or other non-Mandarin varieties in favour of switching to Mandarin instead.

In 2006 Taiwan's Ministry of Education chose an official romanization for use in teaching Southern Min in the state school system. POJ was one of the candidate systems along with Daighi tongiong pingim but a compromise system the Taiwanese Romanization System or Tâi-Lô was chosen in the end. Tâi-Lô retains most of the orthographic standards of POJ including the tone marks while changing the troublesome ⟨o͘⟩ character for ⟨oo⟩ swapping ⟨ts⟩ for ⟨ch⟩ and replacing ⟨o⟩ in diphthongs wi
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