Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

东北话 Northeastern Mandarin - Lingua Franca of Dongbei, China?


LinZhenPu

Recommended Posts

LinZhenPu

My wife speaks 东北话,apparently fluently. We once happened upon an old man on the bus who said 我的普通话不好. I asked where in China he was from and he said 东北。So my wife and this old man had a conversation in something that sounded like Mandarin but a little different. I could barely understand a word. It was very interesting! They were speaking in 东北话。

 

I just looked up 东北话 on Wikipedia and it says that 东北话 or Northeastern Mandarin refers to a subgroup of varieties of Mandarin dialects spoken in Northeastern China. However I was under the impression that aside from the subgroup of different 方言's spoken in Dongbei and aside from 普通话(Mandarin), there also exists a particular variety of these dialects which everyone who grows up in Dongbei is able to speak and understand, so that two people who are from different areas of Dongbei are able to communicate, because if they talked to each other in their respective hometowns' dialects there would be a language barrier.

 

This would explain how my wife was able to hold a conversation with the old man from Dongbei on the bus. Or is it more likely that this old man's dialect and my wife's dialect were mutually intelligible dialects? Or perhaps this old man happened to be from the same area of Dongbei as my wife? Or is there a way of speaking for people from 东北 which uses only vocabulary that is common to every area in the region?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

Well no one has replied so I'll venture my own guess/observations. I don't believe there is a third "not dialect, not mandarin, dongbei lingua franca" being spoken. Instead they're both probably just speaking their own dialects which are largely mutually intelligible. Mandarin dialects are not anywhere near as fractured as the southern dialects are where, for example, Hakka speakers can rarely speak to other Hakka speakers who aren't from the same 縣 or even 村. Hell, even people from the south can understand mandarin dialects spoken in Shanxi, Henan, etc. and I imagine the Dongbei dialect is perhaps even easier, and this is to say nothing of someone who actually speaks another dongbei dialect.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic shouldn't be under Non-Mandarin Chinese sub forum. I feel 东北话 is very close to standard mandarin, it's just often a bit different vocabulary (for a limited amount of things) and sloppy pronunciation with a bit of erhua. Cities themselves will also have specific vocabulary for a number of things. For example small supermarkets in Harbin are called 仓卖.

 

Your story of your wife and the old man speaking sounds a little strange to me, to be honest. I think you not understanding is not because of them speaking 东北话 but just that they were speaking in a natural native speaker way. Even if they were using a lot of 东北 specific vocabulary you should still be able to somewhat understand what is being spoken if your Chinese is good.

 

In the other thread you quoted a teacher from Harbin saying that whether people speak 东北话 or not is a class thing and that people in Harbin don't use that much 东北话. I don't fully agree. First of all people in Harbin do use a lot of 东北话. It is roughly true that people with lower education and people from country side are more prone to speak it, but for example my circle of friends consists almost completely of middle class Harbin locals who are university educated and they do speak 东北话 with each other, some more, some less. That's the way kids in school speak with each other, it's natural for everybody. It's also just kind of fun to speak it, shouting 你嘎哈呢 instead of 你干嘛 is just... funny. 东北话, however, sound a bit rural so some people will avoid speaking it and stick to standard mandarin. I find it hilarious that a clerk in my local supermarket always asks all the other customers "你要袋儿吗?" but from me she asks "你要袋子吗?".

 

You can watch the following video for some common vocabulary used in the north east: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKzfaK3h724

Link to post
Share on other sites
LinZhenPu

I guess that was just this teacher's effort to discourage me from learning Dongbeihua.

And I guess it's just because my Chinese isn't that good, that I couldn't understand what my wife and the old man on the bus were saying.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think vocabulary has a lot to do with it as well. Older speakers, or speakers who don't need standard Putonghua in most every day life, will use a lot more dialect-specific words. I know from Shenyang that it was almost impossible for me to understand older speakers speaking among themselves in Dongbeihua due to the amount of non-standard words and expressions, not so much the pronunciation. Younger speakers seemed to use less of these words and were able to explain words using more standard Mandarin forms. I think this echos what Eliaso has said.

Link to post
Share on other sites
 tend to agree with "eliaso" that 东北话 is very close to standard Mandarin with some fast and sloppy pronunciation with a bit of 儿化.  The better your standard Mandarin, the more easily you will be able to understand these regional idiosyncrasies.  But 东北话 is not a separate dialect; it's more akin to the Appalachian drawl in the US (where dialect is of Scotts-Irish derivation).  

 

I've been studying Mandarin for about 5 years now (I live in Harbin in the summers, and Skype study the rest of the year).   Each year, the Harbin-hua is more understandable to me (and I don't think the locals are accommodating me any more charitably from year to year); you just have to have the vocabulary and flexibility to guess at meanings or root words, and you'll start to understand (even your wife).  

 

Throughout China, the educated class (anyone with at least a high-school degree) will speak the standard Mandarin, while the farmers and workers tend to speak with some traditional idiosyncrasies.  You would be setting yourself up for severe disappointment and a lot of wasted effort were you to decide that you wanted to pick up one of these local dialects.   First, one city may speak the language differently from another.  And which city would you choose (do you intend never to travel anywhere else in China)?  Second, you would be classified as an uneducated person, which would probably hamper access in China and otherwise be unpleasant.   

 

I lived in Hong Kong for 12 years; they have a widely spoken form of Cantonese which is different than what is spoken in Canton (GuangDong).  But many HK words have 4-5 pronunciations in Cantonese, and foreigners typically learn putonghua before attempting the HK local dialect.  My take:  why even bother?  Standard Mandarin is easier to learn, there are many more very good materials for learning out there, and it's the language of the future (even for the Chinese locals)

 

Why would you want to learn anything but standard Mandarin?

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Flickserve

I lived in Hong Kong for 12 years; they have a widely spoken form of Cantonese which is different than what is spoken in Canton (GuangDong). But many HK words have 4-5 pronunciations in Cantonese, and foreigners typically learn putonghua before attempting the HK local dialect. My take: why even bother? Standard Mandarin is easier to learn, there are many more very good materials for learning out there, and it's the language of the future (even for the Chinese locals)

Why would you want to learn anything but standard Mandarin?

Because of personal interest and individual circumstances. It allows you to feel more accepted.

Let's take your experience of HK. If you had learnt Cantonese, you and others around you would feel much more at ease with communicating at an individual and group level. If I were married to a person who spoke dongbeihua and utilised it in daily life, I probably would get interested in it. Speaking and understanding the rest of the family better can be a bonus....(hopefully :) )

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think picking up a slight Dongbeihua accent is harmless and locals would probably appreciate it. Throwing in the odd Dongbeihua expression will probably get a few laughs or smiles from locals, but don't expect others to understand them. Speaking Dongbeihua full of dialectal words like a local 50+ year-old farmer is another issue...

 

I am also unsure what is meant by 'many HK words have 4-5 pronunciations in Cantonese'?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess most Chinese "dialects" fall in a continuum, like if you get farther and farther, the harder it gets for you to understand what the locals are saying. Sometimes, mutual intelligibility is low that they can be considered separate languages. See, there is a thin line between a language and a dialect. Dongbeihua, Sichuanese, Beijinghua, and Standard Mandarin, among others belong to the Mandarin subgroup and more or less the speakers of these varieties could understand each other. I also hope that everyone in this forum appreciate the diversity of the languages in China, and do not regard them as sloppy pronunciations or corrupt forms of Standard Mandarin. Most regional Chinese languages are getting moribund since the younger generation is speaking Standard Mandarin and speaking local languages is being frowned upon and discouraged.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...