This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Chinese Wikipedia. (June 2011)
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The beginnings of the Kunming dialect are closely linked with the migration of the Han Chinese to Yunnan. The differences between "old" Kunming dialect and the "new" dialect began in the 1940s. In the aftermath of the Second Sino-Japanese War, large numbers of refugees from the north of China and the Jiangnan region fled to Kunming, with profound effects for the politics, economy and culture of the city. This large influx of outsiders also had an influence on the local dialect, which slowly developed into the "new" Kunming dialect.
The tones, pronunciation, and lexicon are distinct between Northern Mandarin and Kunming dialect.
The Kunming dialect’s basic vocabulary exhibits a high degree of consistency with northern Chinese and standard dialects. Although words in the Kunming dialect typically possess substantial differences in pronunciation from their counterparts in standard Mandarin and can be unintelligible even to other Chinese speakers, a large portion of the dialect’s morphology and word meanings are identical to those of other northern dialects. The Kunming dialect also preserves an exceptionally high number of classical Chinese words. In particular, a number of phrases dating from northern literary works produced during the Yuan and Ming dynasties remain in common usage in the Kunming dialect’s popular vernacular despite having virtually disappeared from usage in northern China.
^International Pragmatics Association (2002). Pragmatics: quarterly publication of the International Pragmatics Association, Volume 12. The Association. p. 187. Retrieved 23 September 2011. "The differences between Kunming Chinese and the Northern Mandarin (or Mandarin in short, with Beijing dialect as the representative) mainly lie in the tones of words, the tone values of the tones, the lexicon, and the different pronunciations of some words." (the University of Michigan)