Southwestern Mandarin
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Southwestern Mandarin
Southwestern Mandarin
Upper Yangtze Mandarin
RegionSichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hong Kong, others
Native speakers
260 million (2012)[1]
Official status
Official language in
 Myanmar (Wa State, Kokang Self-Administered Zone)
Language codes
None (mis)
Mandarín del Suroeste.png
Two Southwest Mandarin speakers, recorded in Canada.

Southwestern Mandarin (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?; pinyin: X?nán Gu?nhuà), also known as Upper Yangtze Mandarin (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?; pinyin: Shàngji?ng Gu?nhuà), is a Mandarin Chinese language spoken in much of Southwest 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.[2]

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[3][4] and Qing Dynasties.[5] 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.[6] However, some scholars believe its origins may be more similar to Lower Yangtze Mandarin.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9][10] Some of its speakers, known as the Chin Haw, live in Thailand.[11] It is also spoken in parts of Northern Vietnam.[12] Ethnic minorities in Vietnam's Lào Cai Province used to speak Southwestern Mandarin to each other when their languages were not mutually intelligible.[13] Southwestern Mandarin is also used between different ethnic minorities in Yunnan,[14][15] Guizhou[4]:31 and Guangxi.[4][16][17]



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[18]
Name Dark-Level Light-Level Rising tone Dark-
Entering tone Geographic Distribution
Sichuan (Chengdu dialect) ? (55) (21) (42) (213) light-level merge Main 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 merge Lower Tuo River area
Hanzhong dialect ? (55) (21) (24) (212) level tone merge Southern Shaanxi
Kunming dialect ? (44) (31) (53) (212) light-level merge Central Yunnan
Gejiu dialect ? (55) (42) ? (33) (12) light-level merge Southern Yunnan
Baoshan dialect (32) ? (44) (53) (25) light-level merge Western Yunnan
Huguang (Wuhan dialect) ? (55) (213) (42) (35) light-level merge Central 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-level Northern Hubei
Guilin dialect ? (33) (21) ? (55) (35) light-level Northern 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 /-?/. 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

Southwestern Mandarin was classified into twelve dialect groups in the Language Atlas of China:[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012). Zh?ngguó y?yán dìtú jí (dì 2 b?n): Hàny? f?ngyán ju?n ?(?2?): [Language Atlas of China (2nd edition): Chinese dialect volume]. Beijing: The Commercial Press. p. 3.
  2. ^ Cheng, Chin-Chuan. "Extra-Linguistic Data for Understanding Dialect Mutual Intelligibility".
  3. ^ Holm, David (2013). Mapping the Old Zhuang Character Script: A Vernacular Writing System from Southern China. BRILL. p. 42. ISBN 978-90-04-24216-6.
  4. ^ a b c Tsung, Linda (2014). Language Power and Hierarchy: Multilingual Education in China. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 239. ISBN 978-1-4411-5574-0.
  5. ^ Chew, Phyllis Ghim-Lian (2013). Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders: The Politics and Place of English as a World Language. Routledge. p. 162. ISBN 978-1-135-23557-4.
  6. ^ Zhou and Xu , 2005. "The pronunciation and historical evolution of ''-class characters in Ba-Shu dialects" "", Zhonghua Wenhua Luntan .
  7. ^ Wang Qing , 2007. "Consonants in Ming Dynasty Repopulation Area Dialects and Southern Mandarin" , Chongqing Normal University Journal .
  8. ^ Liu Xiaomei and Li Rulong , 2003. "Special Vocabulary Research in Mandarin Dialects" , Yuwen Yanjiu ?.
  9. ^ Interactive Myanmar Map, The Stimson Center
  10. ^ Wa, Infomekong
  11. ^ Clyne, Michael G. (1992). Pluricentric Languages: Differing Norms in Different Nations. Walter de Gruyter. p. 306. ISBN 978-3-11-012855-0.
  12. ^ Ito, Masako. Politics of Ethnic Classification in Vietnam.
  13. ^ Ito, Masako (2013). Politics of Ethnic Classification in Vietnam. Kyoto University Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-920901-72-1.
  14. ^ Volker, Craig Alan; Anderson, Fred E. (2015). Education in Languages of Lesser Power: Asia-Pacific Perspectives. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 68. ISBN 978-90-272-6958-4.
  15. ^ Pelkey, Jamin R. (2011). Dialectology as Dialectic: Interpreting Phula Variation. Walter de Gruyter. p. 154. ISBN 978-3-11-024585-1.
  16. ^ Holm, David (2003). Killing a buffalo for the ancestors: a Zhuang cosmological text from Southwest China. Southeast Asia Publications, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. ISBN 978-1-891134-25-8.
  17. ^ Harper, Damian (2007). China's Southwest. Lonely Planet. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-74104-185-9.
  18. ^ Li Lan , 2009, Southwestern Mandarin Areas (Draft)
  19. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 66-67. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.

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