Northeastern Mandarin

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Northeastern Mandarin
東北話 / 东北话
Native to Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia provinces of China; (Overseas, United States-New York City, Russia-primarily in Primorsky Krai)
Region Northeast China
Native speakers
(82 million cited 1987)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 dbiu
Glottolog None
huab1238  Huabei Guanhua
Linguasphere 79-AAA-bc
Mandarín noreste.png

Northeastern Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 东北话; traditional Chinese: 東北話; pinyin: Dōngběihuà; literally: "Northeast Speech" or 东北官话/東北官話 Dōngběiguānhuà "Northeast Mandarin") is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Northeastern Mandarin varieties are spoken in the Northeastern part of China, in the provinces of Liaoning (except its southern part from Dalian to Dandong where Jiaoliao Mandarin is spoken), Jilin and Heilongjiang, and in some northern parts of Inner Mongolia.[2] The number of speakers was estimated in 1987 as 82 million.[1] Like other Mandarin dialects, differences between Northeastern Mandarin and other forms arise from the wide geographical distribution and cultural diversity of northern China. The Language Atlas of China divided Northeastern Mandarin into three subgroups, following a classification be Hè Wēi based on the occurrence of nasal initials in words having a zero initial in Beijing:[2][3][4]

  • Jí–Shěn (吉沈) in the east, including Jilin dialect and Shenyang dialect dialect, has a zero initial in these words, as in Beijing.
  • Hā–Fù (哈阜) in the west, including Harbin dialect and Changchun dialect, have nasal initials in these words.
  • Hēi–Sōng (黑松) in the north, including Qiqihar dialect, have zero or nasal initials in random variation.

More distant varieties tend to be more similar to the Beijing dialect than closer ones, so that the speech of Harbin is closer to that of Beijing than that of Jilin and Changchun, which in turn are closer than that of Shenyang.[5]

A form of Northeastern Mandarin (with some words from Udege and Nanai) has been spoken since approximately 1800 by the Taz people nearby in the Russian Far East, primarily in Primorsky Krai.[citation needed]

Overseas, Northeastern Mandarin is being spoken in increasingly larger communities in the Chinatowns of New York City in the United States.


Northeastern Mandarin shares similarities with the Beijing dialect, such as a similar development of the entering tone and the preservation of initial [w], where the dialects of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, have [v]. For this reason, the Chinese dialectologist Li Rong argued that Beijing Mandarin could be grouped with northeastern dialects.[5] However, in northeastern Chinese, final -ian or -üan is pronounced with an [æ] rather than with [ɛ] or [e] as in the standard.[6] The [ʐ] initial of Beijing (spelled r- in pinyin) is generally omitted in northeastern varieties.[7]

Cultural and regional identity[edit]

Although not considered a language in academic circles, Mandarin variants like Northeastern Mandarin often contribute to a strong regional identity. Because of its informal usage of words and tones, comedians often use Northeast dialects when performing.

The comedian Zhao Benshan is recognized nationwide for his performances which make humorous use of Northeastern dialect and the Er ren zhuan folk dance and song traditions of northeast people.[8]


  1. ^ a b Yan (2006), p. 62.
  2. ^ a b Wurm et al. (1987), Map B1.
  3. ^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 64.
  4. ^ VanNess Simmons (2016), p. 70.
  5. ^ a b Li (2004), p. 101.
  6. ^ Li (2004), p. 115.
  7. ^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 90.
  8. ^ Liu (2011), p. 74.

Works cited

  • Kurpaska, Maria (2010), Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects", Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2. 
  • Li, Chris Wen-Chao (2004), "Conflicting notions of language purity: the interplay of archaising, ethnographic, reformist, elitist and xenophobic purism in the perception of Standard Chinese", Language & Communication, 24 (2): 97–133, doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2003.09.002. 
  • Liu, Jin (2011), "Deviant Writing and Youth Identity: Representation of Dialects with Chinese Characters on the Internet", Chinese Language and Discourse, 2 (1): 58–79, doi:10.1075/cld.2.1.03liu. 
  • VanNess Simmons, Richard (2016), "The Dōngbĕi varieties of Mandarin", Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 26 (1): 56–80, doi:10.1075/japc.26.1.03van. 
  • Wurm, Stephen Adolphe; Li, Rong; Baumann, Theo; Lee, Mei W. (1987), Language Atlas of China, Longman, ISBN 978-962-359-085-3. 
  • Yan, Margaret Mian (2006), Introduction to Chinese Dialectology, LINCOM Europa, ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6.