Jin Chinese

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晋语 / 晉語
晋方言 / 晉方言
Jinyu written in Chinese characters (vertically, traditional Chinese on the left, simplified Chinese on the right)
Native toChina
Regionmost of Shanxi province; central Inner Mongolia; parts of Hebei, Henan, Shaanxi
Native speakers
63.05 million (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cjy
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese晉語
Simplified Chinese晋语
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese山西話
Simplified Chinese山西话
Literal meaningShanxi speech
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Jin (simplified Chinese: 晋语; traditional Chinese: 晉語; pinyin: Jìnyǔ; simplified Chinese: 晋方言; traditional Chinese: 晉方言; pinyin: Jìn fāngyán) is a proposed group of varieties of Chinese spoken by roughly 63 million people in northern China, including most of Shanxi province, much of central Inner Mongolia, and adjoining areas in Hebei, Henan, and Shaanxi provinces. The status of Jin is disputed among linguists; some prefer to include it within Mandarin, but others set it apart as a closely related, but separate sister-group.


After the concept Mandarin Chinese was proposed, the Jinnish dialects were universally included within it, mainly because Chinese linguists paid little attention to these dialects at the time. In order to promote Standard Mandarin in the early days of People's Republic of China, linguists started to research various dialects in Shanxi, comparing these dialects with Standard Mandarin for helping the locals to learn it more quickly. During this period, a few linguists discovered some unique features of Jin Chinese that do not exist in other northern Mandarin dialects, planting the seeds for the future independence of Jin Chinese. Finally, in 1985, Li Rong proposed that Jin should be considered a separate top-level dialect group, similar to Yue or Wu. His main criterion was that Jin dialects had preserved the entering tone as a separate category, still marked with a glottal stop as in the Wu dialects, but distinct in this respect from most other Mandarin dialects. Some linguists have adopted this classification. However, others disagree that Jin should be considered a separate dialect group for these reasons:[2][3]

  1. Use of the entering tone as a diagnostic feature is inconsistent with the way that all other Chinese dialect groups have been delineated based on the reflexes of the Middle Chinese voiced initials.
  2. Certain other Mandarin dialects also preserve the glottal stop, especially the Jianghuai dialects, and so far, no linguist has claimed that these dialects should also be split from Mandarin.


The Language Atlas of China, divided Jin into the following eight subgroups:[4]

The main dialect areas of Jin in China.

The Taiyuan dialect from the Bingzhou subgroup is sometimes taken as a convenient representative of Jin because many studies of this dialect are available, but most linguists agree that the Taiyuan vocabulary is heavily influenced by Mandarin, making it unrepresentative of Jin.[6] The Lüliang subgroup is usually regarded as the "core" of the Jin language group as it preserves most archaic features of Jin. However, there is no consensus as to which dialect among the Lüliang subgroup is the representative dialect.


Unlike most varieties of Mandarin, Jin has preserved a final glottal stop, which is the remnant of a final stop consonant (/p/, /t/ or /k/). This is in common with the Early Mandarin of the Yuan Dynasty (c. 14th century AD) and with a number of modern southern varieties of Chinese. In Middle Chinese, syllables closed with a stop consonant had no tone. However, Chinese linguists prefer to categorize such syllables as belonging to a separate tone class, traditionally called the "entering tone". Syllables closed with a glottal stop in Jin are still toneless, or alternatively, Jin can be said to still maintain the entering tone. In standard Mandarin Chinese, syllables formerly ending with a glottal stop have been reassigned to one of the other tone classes in a seemingly random fashion.


Consonants of the Taiyuan dialect[7]
Labial Alveolar Alveolo-
Stop voiceless p t k
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tɕʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ɕ x
voiced v z ɣ
Nasal m n (ŋ)
Approximant l
  • [ŋ] is mainly used in finals.
Consonants of the Fenyang dialect[8]
Labial Alveolar Alveolo-
Retroflex Velar
Stop voiceless p t k
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ tɕʰ tʂʰ
Fricative voiceless f s ɕ ʂ x
voiced v z ʐ
prenasal nᵈz
Nasal m n ɲ ɳ ŋ
Approximant l
  • The nasal consonant sounds may vary between nasal sounds [m, n, ɲ, ɳ, ŋ] or prenasal stop sounds [ᵐb, ⁿd, ᶯɖʐ, ᶮdʲ, ᵑɡ].
  • A prenasal affricated fricative sound /nᵈz/, is also present.


Vowels of the Taiyuan dialect[7][9]
Oral Nasal Check
Medial coda a e i u ŋ æ̃ ɛ̃ ə a
Nucleus ei ɒŋ æ̃ ɒ̃ ɐʔ əʔ
Vowel i ia ie iɛ̃ iɒ̃ iəʔ iaʔ
y ye yɛ̃ yəʔ
a ai au
əu əŋ
u ua uæ̃ uɒ̃ uəʔ uaʔ
Triphthong iəu uai uei iau iəŋ
Syllabic ɹ̩ əɹ̩
Vowels of the Fenyang dialect[8][10]
Oral Nasal Check
Medial lab. coda a i u ŋ ã a ə
Nucleus ɑu ã ə̃ əʔ
Vowel i ia iu ĩ ieʔ iaʔ
y ya yeʔ yaʔ
ei eu
a ai
o ou
u ua ui ueʔ uaʔ uəʔ
Triphthong iai uai uei iɑu
iou uoŋ
Syllabic ɹ̩ ɹ̩ʷ əɹ̩
  • The diphthong /ɤu/ may also be realized as a monophthong close central vowel [ʉ].
  • Sounds ending in the sequence /-aʔ/ may also be heard as [-ɛʔ], then realized as [ɛʔ, iɛʔ, yɛʔ, uɛʔ].
  • /y/ can also be heard as a labio-palatal approximant [ɥ] when preceding initial consonants.
  • /i/ when occurring after alveolar sounds /ts, tsʰ, s/ can be heard as an alveolar syllabic [ɹ̩], and is heard as a retroflex syllabic [ɻ̩] when occurring after retroflex consonants /tʂ, tʂʰ, ʂ, ʐ/.

Jin employs extremely complex tone sandhi, or tone changes that occur when words are put together into phrases. The tone sandhi of Jin is notable in two ways among Chinese varieties:[citation needed]

  • Tone sandhi rules depend on the grammatical structure of the words being put together. Hence, an adjective–noun compound may go through different sets of changes compared to a verb–object compound.
  • There are tones that merge when words are pronounced alone, but behave differently (and hence are differentiated) during tone sandhi.


Jin readily employs prefixes such as /kəʔ/, /xəʔ/, /xuəʔ/, and (日) /ʐəʔ/, in a variety of derivational constructions. For example:
"fool around" < "ghost, devil"

In addition, there are a number of words in Jin that evolved, evidently, by splitting a mono-syllabic word into two, adding an 'l' in between (cf. Ubbi Dubbi, but with /l/ instead of /b/). For example:

/pəʔ ləŋ/ < pəŋ "hop"
/tʰəʔ luɤ/ < tʰuɤ "drag"
/kuəʔ la/ < kua "scrape"
/xəʔ lɒ̃/ < xɒ̃ "street"

A similar process can in fact be found in most Mandarin dialects (e.g. 窟窿 kulong < kong), but it is especially common in Jin.

This may be a kind of reservation for double-initials in Old Chinese, although this is still controversial. For example, the character (pronounced /kʰoːŋ/ in Mandarin) which appears more often as 窟窿 /kʰuəʔ luŋ/ in Jin, had the pronunciation like /kʰloːŋ/ in Old Chinese.[citation needed]


Lexical diversity in Jin Chinese is obvious, with some words having a very distinct regionality. Usually, there are more unique words in the core dialects than in the non-core dialects and moreover, some cannot be represented in chinese characters.

Some dialects of Jin make a three-way distinction in demonstratives. (Modern English, for example, has only a two-way distinction between "this" and "that", with "yon" being archaic.)



  1. ^ CASS 2012, p. 3.
  2. ^ Yan 2006, pp. 60–61, 67–69.
  3. ^ Kurpaska 2010, pp. 74–75.
  4. ^ Kurpaska 2010, p. 68.
  5. ^ Fan, Huiqin 范慧琴. "Jìn yǔ wǔ tái piàn yīn píng hé shàng shēng de fèn hé jí qí yǎn biàn" 晋语五台片阴平和上声的分合及其演变 [The separation and combination of level and rising tones in Wutai dialects of Jin Chinese and their evolution]. p. 1. 文章认为晋语五台片阴平和上声的分合有忻州型和宁武型两个类型,不同类型以及不同方言点的共时差异反映出两个声调的历时演变过程是渐进式的,合流是声调晚期演变的结果,调值相近是合流的直接动因。。
  6. ^ Qiao, Quansheng 乔全生. "Jìn fāngyán yánjiū de lìshǐ, xiànzhuàng yǔ wèilái" 晋方言研究的历史、现状与未来 [The History, Current State and Future of the Research on Jin Chinese] (PDF). p. 10. 太原方言的词汇与其他方言比较,结果认为晋方言的词汇与官话方言非常接近。
  7. ^ a b Wen, Duanzheng 溫端政; Shen, Ming 沈明 (1999). Hou, Jingyi 侯精一 (ed.). Tàiyuánhuà yīndàng 太原话音档 [The Sound System of the Taiyuan Dialect] (in Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe. pp. 4–12.
  8. ^ a b "[汾阳方言语音教程] 第五课 - 汾阳话拼音方案 ([Fenyang Dialect Phonetics Course] Lesson 5 - Fenyang Dialect Pinyin Scheme)". 2017. Retrieved 2022-04-11.
  9. ^ Xia, Liping; Hu, Fang (2016). Vowels and Diphthongs in the Taiyuan Jin Chinese Dialect. Interspeech 2016. pp. 993–997. doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2016-249.
  10. ^ Juncheng, Zhao (1989). 汾阳话与普通话简编 [A Compendium of Fenyang and Mandarin]. 山西省汾阳县志办公室 [Shanxi Province Fenyang County Office]. pp. 1–3.


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