Huizhou Chinese

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The Huī (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Huí (回) ethnic group of China.
Native to China
Region southern Anhui, neighbouring portions of Zhejiang and Jiangxi, about 12 counties in total
Native speakers
4.6 million  (2000 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 czh
Glottolog huiz1242[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Hui Chinese
Traditional Chinese 徽語
Simplified Chinese 徽语
Hanyu Pinyin Huī Yu
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 徽州話
Simplified Chinese 徽州话
Hanyu Pinyin Huīzhōu Huà

Huizhou (simplified Chinese: 徽州话; traditional Chinese: 徽州話; pinyin: Huīzhōu-huà) or Hui (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Huī-yǔ), is a division of Chinese.

Hui is spoken over a small area compared to other Chinese varieties: in and around the historical region of Huizhou (for which it is named), in about ten or so mountainous counties in southern Anhui, plus a few more in neighbouring Zhejiang and Jiangxi. Despite its small size, Hui displays a very high degree of internal variation. Nearly every county has its own distinct dialect unintelligible to a speaker a few counties away. It is for this reason that bilingualism and multilingualism are common among speakers of Hui.

Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is plenty of dispute as to whether Hui is a language or a dialect. See Varieties of Chinese for the issues surrounding this dispute.


Huizhou Chinese was originally classified under Jianghuai Mandarin, but it is currently classified separately from Jianghuai.[3] The Chinese Academy of Social Science supported the separation of the Huizhou Chinese from the Jianghuai Mandarin dialects in 1987.[4]

Its classification is disputed, with some linguists such as Matisoff classifying it as Wu, others such as Bradley (2007) as Gan, and still others setting it apart as a primary branch of Chinese.


In the Ming and Qing dynasties Jianghuai speakers moved into Hui dialect areas.[5]

Some works of literature produced in Yangzhou, such as Qingfengzha, a novel, contain Jianghuai Mandarin. People in Yangzhou identified by the dialect they speak, locals spoke the dialect, as opposed to sojourners, who spoke dialects like Huizhou or Wu. This led to the formation of identity based on dialect. Large numbers of merchants from Huizhou lived in Yangzhou and effectively were responsible for keeping the town afloat.[6] Merchants in the later imperial period also sponsored operas and performances in the Hui dialect. [7]


Hui can be divided into five dialects:

Dialects of Huizhou Chinese differ from village to village.[8] People in different villages (even in one county and township) often cannot speak with one other.


Phonologically speaking, Hui is noted for its massive loss of codas, including -i, -u, and nasals:

Character Meaning Hui of Tunxi Wu of Shanghai Huai(Jianghuai) of Hefei Mandarin of Beijing
burn /ɕiɔ/ /sɔ/ /ʂɔ/ /ʂɑu/
firewood /sa/ /za/ /tʂʰɛ/ /tʂʰai/
line /siːɛ/ /ɕi/ /ɕĩ/ /ɕiɛn/
sheet /tɕiau/ /tsɑ̃/ /tʂɑ̃/ /tʂɑŋ/
web /mau/ /mɑ̃/ /wɑ̃/ /wɑŋ/
threshold /kʰɔ/ /kʰɛ/ /kʰã/ /kʰan/

Many dialects of Hui have diphthongs with a higher, lengthened first part. For example, ("speech") is /uːɜ/ in Xiuning County (Putonghua /xuɑ/), ("yard") is /yːɛ/ in Xiuning County (Putonghua /yɛn/); ("knot") is /tɕiːaʔ/ in Yi County (Putonghua /tɕiɛ/), ("agreement") is /iːuʔ/ in Yi County (Putonghua /yɛ/). A few areas take this to extremes. For example, Likou in Qimen County has /fũːmɛ̃/ for ("rice") (Putonghua /fan/), with the /m/ appearing directly as a result of the lengthened, nasalized /ũː/.

Because nasal codas have mostly dropped off, Hui reuses the /-n/ ending as a diminutive. For example, in the Tunxi dialect, there is ("rope") /soːn/ < /soʔ/ + /-n/.


  1. ^ Hui at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Hui". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Barbara F. Grimes, Joseph Evans Grimes, Summer Institute of Linguistics (2000). Barbara F. Grimes, Joseph Evans Grimes, Summer Institute of Linguistics, ed. Ethnologue, Volume 1 (14 ed.). SIL International. p. 404. ISBN 1-55671-103-4. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Formerly considered to be part of the Jianghuai dialect of Mandarin, but now considered by many to be a separate major variety of Chinese. Dialects are reported to differ greatly from each other. Different from the Huizhou dialect of  (the University of Michigan)
  4. ^ Xiao-bin Ji, Eric Dalle (2003). Xiao-bin Ji, Eric Dalle, ed. Facts about China (illustrated ed.). H.W. Wilson. p. 70. ISBN 0-8242-0961-3. Retrieved 23 September 2011. For this reason, the Chinese Academy of Social Science suggested in 1987 that two new groups, the Jin and the Hui, be separated from the northwestern and the Jiang-Huai Mandarin subgroups. Distinctive Features: Mandarin dialects are  (the University of California)
  5. ^ Hilary Chappell (2004). Hilary Chappell, ed. Chinese grammar: synchronic and diachronic perspectives (illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0-19-927213-1. Retrieved 23 September 2011. According to Hirata, however, Hui is composed of many layers: its dialects are spoken in an area originally occupied by the Yue i* tribe, suggestive of a possible substrate, later to be overlaid by migrations from Northern China in the Medieval Nanbeichao period and the Tang and Song dynasties. This was followed by the Jiang-Huai Mandarin dialects of the migrants who arrived during the Ming and Qing periods, and more recently by Wu dialects in particular, acquired by peripatetic Hui merchants who have represented an active 
  6. ^ Lucie B. Olivová, Vibeke Børdahl, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (2009). Lucie B. Olivová, Vibeke Børdahl, ed. Lifestyle and entertainment in Yangzhou (Issue 44 of NIAS studies in Asian topics, Nordisk Institut for Asienstudier København) (illustrated ed.). NIAS Press. p. 184. ISBN 87-7694-035-7. Retrieved 23 September 2011. Some grammatical features of Yangzhou dialect are shared with Jianghuai Mandarin. Others may be of more limited usage but are used in Dingyuan County (the setting of Qingfengzha), which belongs to the same subgroup of Jianghuai. 
  7. ^ Guo, Qitao (2005). Ritual Opera and Mercantile Lineage: The Confucian Transformation of Popular Culture in Late Imperial Huizhou. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804750327. 
  8. ^ 孟庆惠; 安徽省地方志编纂委员会. 安徽省志 方言志 - 第五篇 皖南徽语. 方志出版社. p. 412. 

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