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I have been listening to the song many times now, particularly this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_dcoBSYnCc

The last word of 酒干倘卖无 should be spoken with a "W" initial but what I can hear the singer speak is an M initial. I wonder if it's just me that hears that.

Or is the change in initial sound to "M" instead of "W" due to some other reason?

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  • 1
    it’s in 臺語, not mandarin 🙀 Feb 26 at 0:30
  • Oh, and is that the reason for the different initial sound?
    – user55570
    Feb 26 at 0:38
  • 賣is mispronounced in the video.
    – joehua
    Feb 26 at 18:26

2 Answers 2

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According to baijiahao.baidu.com, “酒干倘卖无” is not Mandarin Chinese, but Southern Min, a Sinitic language spoken in southern Fujian and surrounding areas. The pronunciation (and usage) of the character 无 (and not it alone) is understandably the one of Southern Min language.

In Mandarin Chinese “酒干倘卖无” would be “有空酒瓶卖吗?”, that is "Do you have empty wine bottles for sale?"

Southern Min: 酒干倘卖无
Mandarin Chinese: 有空酒瓶卖吗?
English: Do you have empty wine bottles for sale?

About Southern Min language (short off-topic)

In the areas around Quanzhou I love to tell girls, in perfect Italian, "Ti amo" 🥰 and see that they understand me (well, not exactly ☺, they think I'm saying, in Southern Min, 它没, that is "I don't understand").

BTW, I love the song, thank you for posting.

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  • Yes, one of my favorite Karaoke songs. It tests your proper pronunciation of Mandarin and Minnan or Hokkien in one song. Cantonese speakers typically have a hard time ") Feb 27 at 3:43
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If we trace back to late Middle Chinese, 無's onset is 微 (w), while 沒's onset is 明 (m). If we go a little bit further back to early Middle Chinese, we only have the onset 明. In other words, the early Middle Chinese onset 明 (m)has split into two onsets 明(m)and 微(w)in late Middle Chinese. This happened between Tang and Song Dynasties.

However, not all dialects of Chinese have gone through this phonetic transformation. For example, 無 is pronounced as mou4 in 粵方言廣府片 (Guangfu Subdialect of Cantonese), vu2 as literary pronunciation and m2 in oral pronunciation in 吳方言蘇州話 (Suzhou subdialect of Wu).

In Southern Min, most characters with early MC onset 明 have gone through denasalisation to [b] or [mb], but characters with nasalized rhymes and another small amount maintained [m]. Specifically for 無, in Quanzhou Subdialect, the onset is [mb], with a weak leading nasal sound m. In the original version of the song, it sounds like something between [mo] and [bo] to non-native ears. I consulted Taiwan's Southern Min Dictionary, it's pronounced as [bo], as it is case in the very beginning of the speech in in this video from Taiwan. It could be a matter of notation, or a genuine complete denasalisation. I can’t tell.

In your linked video the onset of 無 is pronounced as a clear nasal [m]. But the singer, if not mistaken, is from Northeastern China. She is unlikely able to speak Southern Min.

All that being said, the phonology of Southern Min dialects are very diverse from within. I don't know enough about it to tell if it's indeed a variant of Southen Min or a non-native speaker mimicking the sound.

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  • The phrase 酒干倘卖无 was indeed pronounced in Taiwanese. I guess the singer 孫露 was a mainlander, who pronounced "无" correctly but made mistake on " 卖". Here is the song by the original singer 蘇芮, youtube.com/watch?v=XJfFYbZn_P8
    – r13
    Feb 27 at 21:00

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