“Xiang Language” written in Chinese characters
|Region||Central and southwestern Hunan, and northern Guangxi, some parts of Sichuan and Shaanxi|
|Ethnicity||Hunanese people (Han Chinese)|
|38 million (2007)|
|Commonly known as|
Xiang (Hsiang, simplified Chinese: 湘语; traditional Chinese: 湘語) or Hunanese (Chinese: 湖南话), is a group of linguistically similar varieties of Chinese spoken mainly in Hunan province but also in Guangxi, Sichuan and Shaanxi. Scholars divided Hunanese into Five main dialects, which are Chang-Yi, Lou-Shao, Hengzhou, Chen-Xu and Yong-Quan. Among those, Lou-shao, as known as Old Hunanese, still exhibit 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 Ming Dynasty.
Xiang speakers played an important role in Modern Chinese history, especially in those reformatory and revolutionary movements such as Self-Strengthening Movement, Hundred Days' Reform, Xinhai Revolution and Chinese Communist Revolution. Few examples of Xiang speakers are Mao Zedong, Zuo Zongtang, Huang Xing and Ma Ying-jeou.
During Qin and Han dynasty, most part of today's Hunan belonged to Changsha county or Changsha country. According to Yang Xiong's Fangyan, people in this region spoke Southern Chu language. Southern Chu language is considered the ancestor of Xiang language today.
Middle ages and recent history
During the Tang dynasty, a large-scale emigration took place with people emigrating from the north to the south, bringing Middle Chinese into Hunan. Today's Xiang still keeps some Middle Chinese words, such as 嬉 (to have fun), 薅 (to weed), 行 (to walk). Rusheng vowels (入声韵) started weakening in Hunan at this time.
The late Yuan Dynasty peasant uprising caused a great many casualties in Hunan. During the Ming Dynasty, a large-scale emigration from Jiangxi to Hunan took place. Gan, which was brought by settlers from Jiangxi, influenced Xiang language. The language in east Hunan differentiated into New Xiang during that period.
In the meantime, Quanzhou (全州) was included into Guangxi province after the administrative division adjustment of Ming Dynasty. Some features of Xiang language at that time was kept in this region.
Take the character "床" (bed) for an example to show the characteristics of different dialects of Xiang.
|Urban Changsha||Urban Xiangtan||Urban Yiyang||Meicheng, Anhua, Hunan||Urban Loudi||Chengguan, Xiangxiang, Hunan||Pushi, Luxi, Hunan||Guanyang, Guangxi||Jingzhou, Sichuan||Hanyin, Shaanxi|
Xiang is spoken by over 36 million people in China, primarily in the most part of the Hunan province, in about 20 counties of Sichuan province, the four counties of Quanzhou, Guanyang, Ziyuan, and Xing'an in northern Guangxi province, and parts of Guangdong province. It is abutted by Southwestern Mandarin-speaking areas to the north and west, as well as by Gàn in the eastern parts of Hunan and Jiangxi. Xiang is also in contact with the Tujia and Hmong languages in the northwest.
|New Xiang||Quanzhuo consonants(全浊声母) in middle Chinese become unaspirated unvoived consonant. Most of the dialects of New Xiang has Rusheng tone(入声调).||17.8 million|
|Old Xiang||Quanzhuo consonants still exist. Rusheng tone does not exist in most of the dialects.||11.5 million|
|Chen-Xu Xiang||Some of the Quanzhuo consonants are voiced.||3.4 million|
|Hengzhou Xiang||Sometimes Hengzhou dialects are considered a part of New Xiang.||4.3 million|
|Yong-Quan Xiang||Quanzhuo consonants still exist. Sometimes Yong-Quan dialects are considered a part of Old Xiang.||6.5 million.|
According to Bao & Chen (2007), five main dialect groups of Xiang in Hunan Province have been identified. In Language Atlas of China (1987), Xiang was divided into three main dialect groups. The chart below is on the basis of Bao & Chen's point of view.
- Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
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- Norman 1988, §8.1
- Moser, Leo J. (1985). The Chinese mosaic: the peoples and provinces of China. Westview Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-86531-085-8. "Historically speaking, the Wannan, Gan, and Xiang sublanguages appear to represent the remnants of a once much wider east-to-west linguistic belt that stretched along the lower Yangzi, linking western Hunan to the Wu-speaking zones by gradual stages."
- 袁家骅 (1983). 汉语方言槪要. p. 333. ISBN 9787801264749.
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- Bào, hòuxīng & Chén, huī. (2005). "Xiāngyǔ de fēnqū" (The divisions of Xiang languages). Fāngyán: 261–270. (鮑厚星, 陳暉. 2005. "湘語的分區".方言: 261-270)
- Norman, Jerry.  (2002). Chinese. Cambridge, England: CUP ISBN 0-521-29653-6
- Wu, Yunji (2005). A synchronic and diachronic study of the grammar of the Chinese Xiang dialects. Trends in linguistics 162. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-018366-8.
- Yuán, Jiāhuá (1989). Hànyǔ fāngyán gàiyào [An introduction to Chinese dialects]. Beijing, China: Wénzì gǎigé chūbǎnshè. (袁家驊. 1989. 漢語方言概要. 北京:文字改革出版社.)
|Xiang Chinese test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|