Southwestern Mandarin

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Southwestern Mandarin
Upper Yangtze Mandarin
Region Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hong Kong, others
Native speakers
260 million (2012) [1]
Official status
Official language in
Flag of Myanmar.svg  Myanmar (Wa State, Kokang Self-Administered Zone)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
ISO 639-6 xghu
Glottolog xina1239 [2]
Linguasphere 79-AAA-bh
Mandarin del Suroeste.png
Two Southwest Mandarin speakers, recorded in Canada.

Southwestern Mandarin (simplified Chinese :西南官话; traditional Chinese :西南官話; pinyin :Xīnán Guānhuà), also known as Upper Yangtze Mandarin (simplified Chinese :上江官话; traditional Chinese :上江官話; pinyin :Shàngjiāng Guānhuà), is a Mandarin Chinese language spoken in much of Central and Southwestern China, including in Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Guizhou, most parts of Hubei, the northwestern part of Hunan, the northern part of Guangxi and some southern parts of Shaanxi and Gansu. Southwest Mandarin is about 50% mutually intelligible with Standard Chinese. [3]


Southwestern Mandarin is spoken by roughly 260 million people. [1] If considered a language distinct from central Mandarin, it would have the eighth-most native speakers in the world, behind Mandarin itself, Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Arabic and Bengali.


Two speakers of the Guiyang variant of Southwestern Mandarin speak in the dialect

Modern Southwestern Mandarin was formed by the waves of immigrants brought to the regions during the Ming [4] [5] and Qing Dynasties. [6] Because of the comparatively recent move, such dialects show more similarity to modern Standard Mandarin than to other varieties of Chinese like Cantonese or Hokkien. For example, like most Southern Chinese dialects, Southwestern Mandarin does not possess the retroflex consonants (zh, ch, sh, r) of Standard Mandarin, but most varieties of it also fail to retain the checked tone that all southern dialects have. The Chengdu-Chongqing and Hubei dialects are believed to reflect aspects of the Mandarin lingua franca that was spoken during the Ming. [7] However, some scholars believe its origins may be more similar to Lower Yangtze Mandarin. [8] Though part of the Mandarin group, Southwestern Mandarin has many striking and pronounced differences with Standard Mandarin such that until 1955, it was generally categorized alongside Cantonese and Wu Chinese as a branch of Chinese varieties. [9]

Southwestern Mandarin is commonly spoken in Kokang district in Northern Myanmar, where the population is largely Kokang. Southwestern Mandarin is also one of two official languages of the Wa State, an unrecognized autonomous state within Myanmar, alongside the Wa language. Because Wa has no written form, Chinese is the official working language of the Wa State government. [10] [11] Some of its speakers, known as the Chin Haw, live in Thailand. [12] It is also spoken in parts of Northern Vietnam. [13] Ethnic minorities in Vietnam's Lào Cai Province used to speak Southwestern Mandarin to each other when their languages were not mutually intelligible. [14] Southwestern Mandarin is also used between different ethnic minorities in Yunnan, [15] [16] Guizhou [5] :31 and Guangxi. [5] [17] [18]



Most Southwestern Mandarin dialects have, like Standard Mandarin, retained only four of the eight tones of Late Middle Chinese. However, the entering tone has completely merged with the light-level tone in most Southwestern dialects, but in Standard Mandarin, it is seemingly randomly dispersed among the remaining tones.

Tones of Southwestern Mandarin Dialects [19]
NameDark-LevelLight-LevelRising toneDark-
Entering toneGeographic Distribution
Sichuan (Chengdu dialect)˥ (55)˨˩ (21)˦˨ (42)˨˩˧ (213)light-level mergeMain Sichuan Basin, parts of Guizhou
Luzhou dialect˥ (55)˨˩ (21)˦˨ (42)˩˧ (13)˧ (33)Southwest Sichuan Basin
Luding County dialect˥ (55)˨˩ (21)˥˧ (53)˨˦ (24)dark-level merge Ya'an vicinity
Neijiang dialect˥ (55)˨˩ (21)˦˨ (42)˨˩˧ (213)departing mergeLower Tuo River area
Hanzhong dialect˥ (55)˨˩ (21)˨˦ (24)˨˩˨ (212)level tone mergeSouthern Shaanxi
Kunming dialect ˦ (44)˧˩ (31)˥˧ (53)˨˩˨ (212)light-level mergeCentral Yunnan
Gejiu dialect˥ (55)˦˨ (42)˧ (33)˩˨ (12)light-level mergeSouthern Yunnan
Baoshan dialect˧˨ (32)˦ (44)˥˧ (53)˨˥ (25)light-level mergeWestern Yunnan
Huguang (Wuhan dialect)˥ (55)˨˩˧ (213)˦˨ (42)˧˥ (35)light-level mergeCentral Hubei
Shishou dialect˦˥ (45)˩˧ (13)˦˩ (41)˧ (33)˨˩˦ (214)˨˥ (25)Southern Hubei (Jingzhou)
Hanshou dialect˥ (55)˨˩˧ (213)˦˨ (42)˧ (33)˧˥ (35)˥ (55)Northwestern Hunan (Changde)
Li County dialect˥ (55)˩˧ (13)˨˩ (21)˧ (33)˨˩˧ (213)(light) ˧˥ (35)Northwestern Hunan (Changde)
Xiangfan dialect˧˦ (34)˥˨ (52)˥ (55)˨˩˨ (212)light-levelNorthern Hubei
Guilin dialect˧ (33)˨˩ (21)˥ (55)˧˥ (35)light-levelNorthern Guangxi, Southern Guizhou, parts of Southern Hunan
New Xiang (Changsha dialect)˧ (33)˩˧ (13)˦˩ (41)˦˥ (45) ~ ˥ (55)˨˩ (21) ~ ˩ (11)˨˦ (24)Northeastern Hunan


Southwestern Mandarin dialects do not possess the retroflex consonants of Standard Mandarin but share most other Mandarin phonological features. Most dialects have lost the distinction between the nasal consonant /n/ and the lateral consonant /l/ and the nasal finals /-n/ and /-ŋ/. For example, the sounds "la" and "na" are generally indistinguishable, and the same is true for the sounds "fen" and "feng". Some varieties also lack a distinction between the labiodental /f/ and the glottal /h/.


Chengyu and Guanchi subgroups in Sichuan and Chongqing Sichuanese-en.png
Chengyu and Guanchi subgroups in Sichuan and Chongqing

Southwestern Mandarin was classified into twelve dialect groups in the Language Atlas of China : [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Mandarin Chinese Major branch of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China

Mandarin is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin originated in North China and most Mandarin languages and dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as Northern Chinese. Many varieties of Mandarin, such as those of the Southwest and the Lower Yangtze, are not mutually intelligible or are only partially intelligible with the standard language. Nevertheless, Mandarin is often placed first in lists of languages by number of native speakers.

Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese. Standard Mandarin is designated as one of the major languages in the United Nations, mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan.

Jin Chinese Branch of Chinese spoken in parts of northern China

Jin is a group of Chinese dialects or languages spoken by roughly 63 million people in northern China. Its geographical distribution covers most of Shanxi province except for the lower Fen River valley, much of central Inner Mongolia and adjoining areas in Hebei, Henan, and Shaanxi provinces. The status of Jin is disputed among linguists; some prefer to classify it as a dialect of Mandarin, but others set it apart as a closely related, but separate sister-language to Mandarin.

The Hmu language, also known as Qiandong Miao, Central Miao, East Hmongic, or Black Miao, is a dialect cluster of Hmongic languages of China. The best studied dialect is that of Yǎnghāo (养蒿) village, Taijiang County, Guizhou Province, China.

Xiang Chinese primary branch of Chinese spoken in southern China

Xiang or Hsiang, also known as Hunanese, is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages, spoken mainly in Hunan province but also in northern Guangxi and parts of neighboring Guizhou and Hubei provinces. Scholars divided Xiang into five subgroups, Chang-Yi, Lou-Shao, Hengzhou, Chen-Xu and Yong-Quan. Among those, Lou-shao, also known as Old Xiang, still exhibits the three-way distinction of Middle Chinese obstruents, preserving the voiced stops, fricatives, and affricates. Xiang has also been heavily influenced by Mandarin, which adjoins three of the four sides of the Xiang speaking territory, and Gan in Jiangxi Province, from where a large population immigrated to Hunan during the Ming Dynasty.

Pinghua Two varieties of Chinese spoken mostly by the Zhuang people of southern China

Pinghua is a pair of Sinitic languages spoken mainly in parts of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, with some speakers in Hunan province. Pinghua is a trade language in some areas of Guangxi, where it is spoken as a second language by speakers of Zhuang languages. Some speakers of Pinghua are officially classified as Zhuang, and many are genetically distinct from most other Han Chinese. The northern subgroup of Pinghua is centered on Guilin and the southern subgroup around Nanning. Southern Pinghua has several notable features such as having four distinct checked tones, and using various loanwords from the Zhuang languages, such as the final particle wei for imperative sentences.

Gelao is a dialect cluster of Kra languages in the Kra–Dai language family. It is spoken by the Gelao people in southern China and northern Vietnam. Despite an ethnic population of 580,000, only a few thousand still speak Gelao. Estimates run from 3,000 in China by Li in 1999, of which 500 are monolinguals, to 7,900 by Edmondson in 2008. Edmondson (2002) estimates that the three Gelao varieties of Vietnam have only about 350 speakers altogether.

Sichuanese dialects Branch of the Mandarin Chinese language family

Sichuanese or Szechwanese (simplified Chinese: 四川话; traditional Chinese: 四川話; Sichuanese Pinyin: Si4cuan1hua4; pinyin: Sìchuānhuà; Wade–Giles: Szŭ4-ch'uan1-hua4), also called Sichuanese/Szechwanese Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 四川官话; traditional Chinese: 四川官話; pinyin: Sìchuān Guānhuà) is a branch of Southwestern Mandarin spoken mainly in Sichuan and Chongqing, which was part of Sichuan Province until 1997, and the adjacent regions of their neighboring provinces, such as Hubei, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Shaanxi. Although "Sichuanese" is often synonymous with the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect, there is still a great amount of diversity among the Sichuanese dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible with each other. In addition, because Sichuanese is the lingua franca in Sichuan, Chongqing and part of Tibet, it is also used by many Tibetan, Yi, Qiang and other ethnic minority groups as a second language.

Northeastern Mandarin

Northeastern Mandarin is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula. The classification of Northeastern Mandarin as a separate dialect group from Beijing Mandarin was first proposed by Li Rong, author of the Language Atlas of China, in 1989. However, many researchers do not accept the distinction.

Jilu Mandarin

Jilu or Ji–Lu Mandarin, formerly known as Beifang Mandarin "Northern Mandarin", is a dialect of Mandarin Chinese spoken in the Chinese provinces of Hebei (Jì) and the western part of Shandong (Lǔ). Its name is a combination of the abbreviated names of the two provinces, which derive from ancient local provinces. The names are combined as Ji–Lu Mandarin.

Minjiang dialect Dialect of Sichuanese Chinese

Minjiang dialect, is a branch of Sichuanese, spoken mainly in the Min River (Mínjiāng) valley or along the Yangtze in the southern and western parts of the Sichuan Basin. There is also a language island of Minjiang dialect located in the center of the Sichuan Basin covering several counties, including all of Xichong, Yanting, and Shehong Counties, and part of Jiange, Cangxi, Nanbu, Langzhong and Bazhong.

Lower Yangtze Mandarin Dialect of Mandarin

Lower Yangtze Mandarin is one of the most divergent and least mutually-intelligible of the Mandarin languages, as it neighbours the Wu, Hui, and Gan groups of Sinitic languages. It is also known as Jiang–Huai Mandarin, named after the Yangtze (Jiang) and Huai Rivers. Lower Yangtze is distinguished from most other Mandarin varieties by the retention of a final glottal stop in words that ended in a stop consonant in Middle Chinese.

Nanjing dialect, also known as Nankinese, or Nanjing Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Nanjing, China. It is part of the Jianghuai group of Chinese varieties.

Chengdu-Chongqing dialect Variety of Mandarin Chinese

Chengdu-Chongqing dialect or Cheng–Yu is the most widely used branch of Southwestern Mandarin, with about 90 million speakers. It is named after Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan, and Chongqing, which was split from Sichuan in 1997. It is spoken mainly in northern and eastern Sichuan, the northeastern part of the Chengdu Plain, several cities or counties in southwestern Sichuan, southern Shaanxi and western Hubei.

Longjia is a Sino-Tibetan language of Guizhou, China related to Caijia and Luren. Longjia may already be extinct.

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Shehua is an unclassified Sinitic language spoken by the She people of Southeastern China. It is also called Shanha, 山哈 (San-hak) or Shanhahua, 山哈话. Shehua speakers are located mainly in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of Southeastern China, with smaller numbers of speakers in a few locations of Jiangxi, Guangdong and Anhui provinces.

In Chinese dialectology, Beijing Mandarin refers to a major branch of Mandarin Chinese recognized by the Language Atlas of China, encompassing a number of dialects spoken in areas of Beijing, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Tianjin, the most important of which is the Beijing dialect, which provides the phonological basis for Standard Chinese.

Wuming Mandarin or Wuming Guanhua, known locally as Wuminghua, is a dialect of Southwestern Mandarin spoken in urban Wuming District, specifically in the towns of Chengxiang and Fucheng. It is a variety that has been influenced substantially by Zhuang, which is the majority language of the district.

The Nanping dialect, or Nanping Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Yanping District, in Nanping, Fujian. Locally, it is known as Tuguanhua. It is one of three Mandarin dialect islands in Fujian.


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