Southwestern Mandarin

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Southwestern Mandarin
Upper Yangtze Mandarin
Region Sichuan, Yunnan, Hubei, Northern Vietnam, Kokang in Northern Myanmar, Wa State
Native speakers
more than 260 million[citation needed] (date missing)[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 xghu
Glottolog xina1239[1]
Mandarín del Suroeste.png
Southwestern Mandarin, excluding New Xiang

Southwestern Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 西南官话; traditional Chinese: 西南官話; pinyin: Xīnán Guānhuà), also known as Upper Yangtze Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 上江官话; traditional Chinese: 上江官話; pinyin: Shàngjiāng Guānhuà), is a primary branch of Mandarin Chinese spoken in much of central and southwestern China, including in Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Guizhou, most parts of Hubei, the northwestern part of Hunan, the northern part of Guangxi, and some southern parts of Shaanxi and Gansu. Some forms of Southwest Mandarin are not entirely mutually intelligible with Standard Mandarin Chinese or other forms of Mandarin.[2]

Varieties of Southwestern Mandarin are spoken by roughly 200 million people.[citation needed] If removed from the larger "Mandarin Chinese group", it would have the 6th-most native speakers in the world, behind Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi, and Bengali.


Modern Southwestern Mandarin was formed by the waves of immigrants brought to the regions during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Because of this comparatively recent move, these dialects show more similarity to modern Standard Mandarin than to other varieties of Chinese like Cantonese or Hokkien. For example, like most southern Chinese dialects, Southwestern Mandarin does not possess the retroflex consonants (zh, ch, sh, r) of Standard Mandarin, but nor does it retain the entering tone, as most southern dialects do. The Chengdu-Chongqing and Hubei dialects are believed to reflect aspects of the Mandarin lingua franca spoken during the Ming Dynasty.[3] However, some scholars believe its origins may be more similar to Lower Yangtze Mandarin.[4] Though part of the Mandarin group, Southwestern Mandarin has many striking and pronounced differences with Standard Mandarin such that, until 1955, it was generally categorized alongside Cantonese and Wu Chinese as a branch of Chinese varieties.[5]

Southwestern Mandarin is the common language in the (Han-Chinese majority) Kokang district in Northern Myanmar. Southwestern Mandarin is also one of two official languages of the Wa State, an unrecognised autonomous state within Myanmar, alongside Wa language. Because Wa has no written form, Chinese is the official working language of the Wa State government.[6][7] It is also spoken in parts of Northern Vietnam.[8]



Most Southwestern Mandarin dialects have, like Standard Mandarin, only retained four of the original eight tones of Middle Chinese. However, the entering tone has completely merged with the light-level tone in most Southwestern dialects, while in Standard Mandarin it is seemingly randomly dispersed among the remaining tones.

Tones of Southwestern Mandarin Dialects[9]
Name Dark-Level Light-Level Rising tone Dark-
Entering tone Geographic Distribution
Sichuan (Chengdu dialect) ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ˦˨ (42) ˨˩˧ (213) light-level merge Main Sichuan Basin, parts of Guizhou
Luzhou dialect ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ˦˨ (42) ˩˧ (13) ˧ (33) Southwest Sichuan Basin
Luding County dialect ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ˥˧ (53) ˨˦ (24) dark-level merge Ya'an vicinity
Neijiang dialect ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ˦˨ (42) ˨˩˧ (213) departing merge Lower Tuo River area
Hanzhong dialect ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ˨˦ (24) ˨˩˨ (212) level tone merge Southern Shaanxi
Kunming dialect ˦ (44) ˧˩ (31) ˥˧ (53) ˨˩˨ (212) light-level merge Central Yunnan
Gejiu dialect ˥ (55) ˦˨ (42) ˧ (33) ˩˨ (12) light-level merge Southern Yunnan
Baoshan dialect ˧˨ (32) ˦ (44) ˥˧ (53) ˨˥ (25) light-level merge Western Yunnan
Huguang (Wuhan dialect) ˥ (55) ˨˩˧ (213) ˦˨ (42) ˧˥ (35) light-level merge Central Hubei
Shishou dialect ˦˥ (45) ˩˧ (13) ˦˩ (41) ˧ (33) ˨˩˦ (214) ˨˥ (25) Southern Hubei (Jingzhou)
Hanshou dialect ˥ (55) ˨˩˧ (213) ˦˨ (42) ˧ (33) ˧˥ (35) ˥ (55) Northwestern Hunan (Changde)
Li County dialect ˥ (55) ˩˧ (13) ˨˩ (21) ˧ (33) ˨˩˧ (213) (light) ˧˥ (35) Northwestern Hunan (Changde)
Xiangfan dialect ˧˦ (34) ˥˨ (52) ˥ (55) ˨˩˨ (212) light-level Northern Hubei
Guilin dialect ˧ (33) ˨˩ (21) ˥ (55) ˧˥ (35) light-level Northern Guangxi, Southern Guizhou, parts of Southern Hunan
New Xiang (Changsha dialect) ˧ (33) ˩˧ (13) ˦˩ (41) ˦˥ (45) ~ ˥ (55) ˨˩ (21) ~ ˩ (11) ˨˦ (24)


Southwestern Mandarin dialects do not possess the retroflex consonants of Standard Mandarin, but otherwise share most Mandarin phonological features. Most have lost the distinction between the nasal consonant /n/ and the lateral consonant /l/ and the nasal finals /-n/ and /-ŋ/. For example, the sounds "la" and "na" are generally indistinguishable, as well as the sounds "fen" and "feng". Some varieties also lack a distinction between the labiodental sound /f/ and the glottal /h/.


Chengyu and Guanchi subgroups in Sichuan and Chongqing

Southwestern Mandarin was classified into twelve dialect groups in the Language Atlas of China:[10]

  • Chengyu 成渝: Chengdu and Chongqing
  • Dianxi 滇西 (western Yunnan): Yaoli 姚里 and Baolu 保潞 clusters
  • Qianbei 黔北 (northern Guizhou)
  • Kungui 昆貴: Kunming and Guiyang
  • Guanchi 灌赤 (southwest Sichuan and northern Yunnan): Minjiang 岷江, Renfu 仁富, Yamian 雅棉, and Lichuan 丽川 clusters
  • Ebei 鄂北 (northern Hubei)
  • Wutian 武天: Wuhan
  • Cenjiang 岑江 (eastern Guizhou)
  • Qiannan 黔南 (southern Guizhou)
  • Xiangnan 湘南 (southern Hunan): Yongzhou and Chenzhou
  • Guiliu 桂柳 (northern Guangxi): Guilin and Liuzhou
  • Changhe 常鹤 (northwestern Hunan): Changde and Zhangjiajie

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Xinan Guanhua [Southwest Mandarin]". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Cheng, Chin-Chuan. "Extra-Linguistic Data for Understanding Dialect Mutual Intelligibility". 
  3. ^ Zhou and Xu 周及徐, 2005. "The pronunciation and historical evolution of '虽遂'-class characters in Ba-Shu dialects" 《巴蜀方言中“虽遂”等字的读音及历史演变》, Zhonghua Wenhua Luntan 中华文化论坛.
  4. ^ Wang Qing 王庆, 2007. "Consonants in Ming Dynasty Repopulation Area Dialects and Southern Mandarin" 《明代人口重建地区方言的知照系声母与南系官话》, Chongqing Normal University Journal 重庆师范大学学报.
  5. ^ Liu Xiaomei 刘晓梅 and Li Rulong 李如龙, 2003. "Special Vocabulary Research in Mandarin Dialects" 《官话方言特征词研究》, Yuwen Yanjiu 语文研究.
  6. ^ Interactive Myanmar Map, The Stimson Center
  7. ^ Wa, Infomekong
  8. ^ Ito, Masako. Politics of Ethnic Classification in Vietnam. 
  9. ^ Li Lan 李蓝, 2009, Southwestern Mandarin Areas (Draft)
  10. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.