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Southwestern Mandarin

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Title: Southwestern Mandarin  
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Subject: Mandarin Chinese, Sichuanese Mandarin, Minjiang dialect, Waxiang Chinese, Laotian Chinese
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Southwestern Mandarin

Southwestern Mandarin
Upper Yangtze Mandarin
Region Sichuan, Yunnan, Hubei
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 xghu
Glottolog xina1239[1]

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 primary branch of Mandarin Chinese spoken in much of central and southwestern China, including in Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Guizhou, most parts of Hubei, the western part of Hunan, the northern part of Guangxi, and some southern parts of Shaanxi and Gansu.

Varieties of Southwestern Mandarin are spoken by roughly 200 million people. If removed from the larger "Mandarin Chinese group", it would have the 6th-most native speakers in the world, behind Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Bengali.


Modern Southwestern Mandarin was formed by the waves of immigrants brought to the regions during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Because of this comparatively recent move, these dialects show more similarity to modern Standard Mandarin than to languages like Cantonese or Min Nan. For example, like most southern Chinese languages, Southwestern Mandarin does not possess the retroflex consonants (zh, ch, sh, r) of Standard Mandarin, but nor does it retain the entering tone, as most southern languages do. The Chengdu-Chongqing and Hubei dialects are believed to reflect aspects of the Mandarin lingua franca spoken during the Ming Dynasty.[2] However, some scholars believe its origins may be more similar to Lower Yangtze Mandarin.[3]

Though part of the Mandarin language 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 group of non-Mandarin dialects.[4]

Southwestern Mandarin is one of two official languages of the Wa State, an unrecognised autonomous state within Myanmar, alongside the Wa language. Because the Wa language has no written form, Mandarin Chinese is the official working language of the Wa State government.[5][6]



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

Tones of Southwestern Mandarin Dialects[7]
Name Dark-level Light-level Rising tone Departing tone 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 West-central Hubei
Shishou dialect 45 13 41 (light) 214/ (dark) 33 25 South Hubei(Jingzhou)
Hanshou dialect 55 213 42 (light) 35/ (dark) 33 55 North Hunan(Changde)
Li County dialect 55 13 21 (light) 213/ (dark) 33 (light)35 North Hunan(Changde)
Xiangfan dialect 34 52 55 212 light-level Northern Hubei
Guilin dialect 33 21 55 35 light-level Northern Guangxi, southern Hunan, southern Guizhou


Southwestern Mandarin dialects do not possess the retroflex consonants of Standard Mandarin, but otherwise share most Mandarin phonological features. Most 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, as well as the sounds "fen" and "feng". Some varieties also lack a distinction between the labiodental sound /f/ and the glottal /h/.


Southwestern Mandarin has been classified into twelve dialect groups:[8]

  • Chengyu 成渝 (Chengdu and Chongqing)
  • Dianxi 滇西 (western Yunnan): Yaoli 姚里 and Baolu 保潞 clusters
  • Qianbei 黔北 (northern Guizhou)
  • Kungui 昆貴 (Kunming and Guiyang)
  • Guanchi 灌赤 (Minjiang dialect, southwest Sichuan and northern Yunnan): Minjiang 岷江, Renfu 仁富, Yamian 雅棉, and Lichuan 丽川 clusters
  • Ebei 鄂北 (northern Hubei)
  • Wutian 武天 (Wuhan)
  • Cenjiang 岑江
  • Xiangnan 湘南 (southern Hunan)
  • Guiliu 桂柳 (Guilin and Liuzhou)
  • Changhe 常鹤

See also


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Xinan Guanhua (Southwest Mandarin)". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Zhou and Xu 周及徐, 2005. "The pronunciation and historical evolution of '虽遂'-class characters in Ba-Shu dialects" 《巴蜀方言中“虽遂”等字的读音及历史演变》, Zhonghua Wenhua Luntan 中华文化论坛.
  3. ^ Wang Qing 王庆, 2007. "Consonants in Ming Dynasty Repopulation Area Dialects and Southern Mandarin" 《明代人口重建地区方言的知照系声母与南系官话》, Chongqing Normal University Journal 重庆师范大学学报.
  4. ^ Liu Xiaomei 刘晓梅 and Li Rulong 李如龙, 2003. "Special Vocabulary Research in Mandarin Dialects" 《官话方言特征词研究》, Yuwen Yanjiu 语文研究.
  5. ^ Interactive Myanmar Map, The Stimson Center
  6. ^ Wa, Infomekong
  7. ^ Li Lan 李蓝, 2009, Southwestern Mandarin Areas (Draft)
  8. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects.  
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