|溫州話 / 温州话
Iu1 ciou1 hhuo2
|Native to||Wenzhou, Zhejiang, China|
|Region||Southeastern China, and in Wenzhou immigrant populations in New York City; Paris; Milan and Prato, Italy|
|Ethnicity||Wenzhounese (Han Chinese)|
|(4.2 million cited 1987)|
|ISO 639-3||None (
Wenzhounese (simplified Chinese: 温州话; traditional Chinese: 溫州話; pinyin: wēnzhōuhuà), also known as Oujiang (simplified Chinese: 瓯江话; traditional Chinese: 甌江話; pinyin: ōujiānghuà) or Dong'ou (東甌), is the speech of Wenzhou, the southern prefecture of Zhejiang, China. Nicknamed the "Devil's Language" for its complexity and difficulty, it is the most divergent division of Wu Chinese, with little to no mutual intelligibility with other Wu dialects or any other variety of Chinese. It features noticeable elements of Min dialects, which is spoken to the south in Fujian. Oujiang is sometimes used as the broad umbrella term, reserving Wenzhou for Wenzhounese proper in sensu stricto.
Due to its long history and the isolation of the region in which it is spoken, Wenzhounese is so unusual in its phonology that it has the reputation of being the least comprehensible dialect for an average Mandarin speaker.[clarification needed] It preserves a large amount of vocabulary of classical Chinese lost elsewhere, earning itself the nickname "the living fossil", and has distinct grammatical differences from Mandarin.
Wenzhou is further divided into many dialects. When people refer to the most standard Wenzhou dialect, it refers to the Wenzhounese spoken by the population of over 1 million people living in Lucheng District which is downtown Wenzhou. Over five million people from more developed areas of Lucheng District, Longwan District, Rui'an, Yueqing and Ouhai District, speak dialects of Wenzhou that are mutually intelligible. People who speak the Wu dialect from Taizhou, a city that borders Wenzhou to the north, cannot comprehend Wenzhounese.
Reputation for eccentricity
Due to its high degree of eccentricity and difficulty for non-locals to understand,[clarification needed] the language is reputed to have been used during the Second Sino-Japanese War during wartime communication as Code talkers and in Sino-Vietnamese War for programming military code. There is a common rhymed saying in China that reflects this comprehension difficulty: "Fear not the Heavens, fear not the Earth, but fear the Wenzhou man speaking Wenzhounese" (天不怕，地不怕，就怕温州人说温州话).
Wenzhounese is spoken primarily in Wenzhou and the surrounding southern portion of Zhejiang Province of China. To a lesser extent, it is also spoken in scattered pockets of Fujian Province in Southeastern China. Overseas, it is spoken in increasingly larger communities in Flushing Chinatown and Brooklyn Chinatown, New York City, United States. Wenzhounese is the most spoken language of Chinese overseas in Europe, in particular Italy, France, and Spain. Compared to Mandarin this variety is more widely used among the Chinese immigrant communities in Italy, which is home to about half of the Wenzhounese diaspora in Europe.
Oujiang (Dong'ou) 甌江 (東甌)
The most important difference between eastern Wenzhounese dialects such as Wencheng and Wenzhou proper are tonal differences (Wencheng has no falling tones) and the retention of /f/ before /o/:
The tones of all other Oujiang dialects are similar to Wenzhounese. (Wenzhounese puu transcribes the lengthened entering tone.)
Phonetics and phonology
Vowels are a ɛ e i ø y ɜ ɨ o u. Diphthongs are ai au ei øy ɤu/ou iɛ uɔ/yɔ. The only coda is eng, in aŋ eŋ oŋ and syllabic ŋ̩.
Wenzhou has three phonemic tones. While it has eight phonetic tones, most of these are predictable: The yin–yang tone split dating from Middle Chinese still corresponds to the voicing of the initial consonant in Wenzhou, and the shang tones are abrupt and end in glottal stop (this has been used as evidence for a similar situation independently posited for Old Chinese). The ru tones, however, are unusual in being distinct despite having lost their final stops; in addition, the vowel has lengthened, and the tone has become more complex than the other tones (though some speakers may simplify them to low falling or rising tones).
|Tone number||Tone name||Tone contour|
|1||yin ping (陰平)||˧ 3|
|2||yang ping (陽平)||ʱ˧˩ 31|
|3||yin shang (陰上)||˧˥ʔ 35|
|4||yang shang (陽上)||ʱ˨˦ʔ 24|
|5||yin qu (陰去)||˦˨ 42|
|6||yang qu (陽去)||ʱ˩ 1|
|7||yin ru (陰入)||˧˨˧ː 323|
|8||yang ru (陽入)||ʱ˨˩˨ː 212|
The shang and ru tones are barely distinguishable apart from the voicing of the initial consonant, and so are phonetically closer to two tones than four. Chen (2000) summarizes the tones as M & ML (ping), MH (shang), HM & L (qu), and dipping (MLM, ru); not only are the ping and qu pairs obviously distinct phonetically, but they behave as four different tones in the ways they undergo tone sandhi.[clarification needed]
As in Shanghainese, in Wenzhounese only some of the syllables of a phonological word carry tone. In Wenzhounese there may be three such syllables, with the tone of any subsequent (post-tonic) syllables determined by the last of these. In addition, there may be pre-tonic syllables (clitics), which take a low tone. However, in Wenzhounese only one tonic word may exist in a prosodic unit; all other words are reduced to low tone.
Up to three tonic syllables may occur together, but the number of resulting tones is reduced by tone sandhi. Of the six phonetic tones, there are only fourteen lexical patterns created by two tonic syllables. With one exception, the shang and qu tones reduce to HM (yin qu) before any other tone, and again with one exception, ru tone does not interact with a following tone. Shang and ru tone change a preceding non-ru tone to HM, and are themselves never affected.
(Sandhi that are exceptions to the generalizations above are in bold.)
With a compound word of three syllables, the patterns above apply to the last two. The antepenultimate tonic syllable takes only two possible tones, by dissimilation: low if the following syllable (in sandhi form) starts high (HM), high otherwise. So, for example, the unusually long compound noun "daily necessities" (lit., 'firewood-rice-oil-salt-sauce-vinegar-tea') has the underlying tones
Per sandhi, the last two syllables become L.L. The antepenult then dissimilates to H, and all pre-tonic syllables become L, for:
At a phrasal level, these tones may separate, with a HM tone, for example, shifting to the beginning of a phrase. In the lexicalized phrase "radio receiver" ('wireless telephone tube'), the underlying tones are
Per sandhi, the last two become HM.ML. There is no dissimilation, explained by this being grammatically a lexicalized phrase rather than a compound. The HM shifts forward, with intermediate syllables becoming M (the tone the HM leaves off at):
Although checked (MLM) syllables rarely change in compound words, they do change in phrases. For example, "tall steel case" is underlyingly M.MLM.HM. The middle syllable shifts to HM, and sandhi operates on this *HM.HM sequence to produce HM.ML. The HM then shifts back, yielding /HM.M.ML/.
Such behaviour has been used to support arguments that contour tones in languages like Chinese are single units, and that they are independent of vowels or other segments.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2008)|
Wenzhou has a tonic deictic morpheme. To convey the sense of "this", the classifier changes its tone to ru (dipping), and a voiced initial consonant is devoiced. For example, from /pa˧/ 'group' there is /pa˧˨˧/ 'this group', and from /le˧˩/ 'some (people)' there is /l̥e˧˨˧/ 'these (people)'.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2008)|
Like other Chinese dialects, Wenzhou dialect has mainly SVO language structure, but in some situations it can be SOV or OSV. SOV is commonly used with verb+suffix, the common suffixes are 过去起落来牢得还.
- ex. 书（给）渠还, （个）瓶水pai去
|This section requires expansion. (May 2008)|
There are several sub-branches of Oujiang dialects, and some are not mutually intelligible to the Wenzhou city dialect and the Wencheng dialect, but neighboring dialects are often mutually intelligible. For example, there are 2 dialects spoken in Li'ao Village in the Ouhai District of Wenzhou: one spoken in Baimen (白門), where the local people have 姜 as their surname, and one spoken in Wangzhai (王宅), where local people have normally 王 or 黄 as their surname. Their dialects are almost fully mutually intelligible except for a few vocabulary. An example would be the word for "garbage" (垃圾), which is /ʔlutsuu/ in the Baimen dialect and /ʔladʒee/ in the Wangzhai dialect.
Numbers in Oujiang Dialects
(The long vowels transcribe the lengthened ru tone.)
Literature in Wenzhounese
"THE FOUR GOSPELS AND ACTS, IN WENCHOW." was published in 1894 under the title of "Chaò-chî Yi-sû Chī-tuh Sang Iah Sing Shī: Sz̀ fuh-iang tà sź-du ae-djüe fa üe-tsiu t'û", with the entire book in Wenzhou dialect.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Oujiang". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- "《珠三角熱話》". 無綫新聞. 2013-12-15.Template:Zh-yue
- "What It’s Like to Live in China and Speak the ‘Devil-Language’". Retrieved 28 November 2015.
- 关于越南战争期间中方使用的密码语言，有一说认为并不是温州话，而是来自温州苍南县（当时仍属平阳县）钱库一带的蛮话，参见 访今寻古之三：扑朔迷离说蛮话，苍南广电网
- "WenZhounese in New York". WenZhounese.info. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
- "Wenzhounese in NYC (Facebook)". Retrieved 2010-09-30.
- Dinh, Hinh T.; Rawski, Thomas G.; Zafar, Ali; Wang, Lihong; Mavroeidi, Eleonora. [Tales from the Development Frontier: How China and Other Countries Harness ... Tales from the Development Frontier: How China and Other Countries Harness ...] Check
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- Tsu-lin Mei, 1970. "Tones and prosody in Middle Chinese and the origin of the rising tone", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 30:86–110
- Phil Rose, 2008. "Oujiang Wu tones are acoustic reconstruction", in Morphology and language history: in honour of Harold Koch, p 237
- Matthew Chen, 2000. Tone Sandhi: patterns across Chinese dialects, p 476ff.
- Zhiming Bao, 1999. The structure of tone, p 119
- Chaò-chî Yi-sû Chī-tuh Sang Iah Sing Shī: Sz̀ fuh-iang tà sź-du ae-djüe fa üe-tsiu t'û. Dà-ìang sing-shï whaỳi yiáng-ge. 1894. p. 564.