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Dialects in Hunan Province?

Meng Lelan

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There are many dialects (and languages) in West Hunan. When I taught there in 1997 new students in the college often couldn't understand each other and communicated by passing notes for the first few weeks. No one understood anyone in the local market! :)

The situation is that West Hunan is mountainous and until relatively recently each valley was isolated from the next. So, each valley had a different dialect. It is only in recent years that rail and roads have opened the area up somewhat.

That said, most people understand Mandarin (even if they don't speak it.)

Where exactly in West Hunan are you going to?

I can also recommend that you have a look at Shen Congwen's books such as Beautiful Xiangxi and Selected Short Stories etc.

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Not really going there anytime soon - I had a friend from west part of Hunan who explained his dialect was spoken north of mountains there. I couldn't quite understand the explanation. So that is what I am trying to find out, what is the dialect spoken north of the mountains in west Hunan!

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North of the mountains in West Hunan isn't Hunan It's the east of Sichuan.

If you mean the northern mountain areas of Hunan, then my previous answer applies. Many.

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My wife is from northern part of western Hunan (Baojing, slightly north of Jishou, the capital of the region), and her area's dialect is similar to that spoken in most of Sichuan. (well, she can understand local folks in Chengdu, at any rate)

There are Miao and Tujia minorities there, but most young people use the local variant of Mandarin rather then the Miao or Tujia languages.

As for the name of the dialect, in a typical Chinese fashion the name my wife uses depends on who she is talking to... she'll usually start with 湘西话,then 吉首话,then narrow it down to 保靖话 if necessary. (xiangxi->jishou->baojing)

Regards, Henry

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Mao spoke the Xiangtan dialect... which nobody can understand :)

I just asked my wife about nihao, xiexie, and zaijian- here is my attempt to express the pronunciation...

nihao= ni1huh4



See if those work with your friend :)

Or this- ni1 si2 la1li4 zzeng4? (English 'z', starting low and dropping)


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It's always worth remembering that Hunan dialects, especially in the west, regularly change /h/ to /f/ and /n/ to /l/. Except at the end of words.

So Hunan is pronounced as Fulan, for example.

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  • 6 years later...

I have a few friends from Hunan here in Guangzhou. I like to tell them, "Wo hui shuo fu lan fua." Good stuff.


My friend is from Liuyang. She was teaching me to say, "Fulanren, huyan huyu." What Hunan people say is nonsense, or after they drinking they don't know what they're talking about.


And "Fulanren hulai" means Hunan people don't follow the rules to the card game.


I have a number of Hunan friends. They can be fierce.

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