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Squawk 1200

Mandarin dialects

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Squawk 1200

How different are various Mandarin (NOT Cantonese, Fujianese etc.) dialects from each other? Can someone from Beijing understand someone from Sichuan or Anhui or Henan if they try to communicate using their dialects?

 

 

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fabiothebest

Some dialects are unintelligible even by Chinese people from different areas, some are understandable. If you hear people from different parts of China you may notice the different pronunciation of some sounds, for example sh and ch. Chinese people and also foreigners with good listening skills can understand such variations, unfortunately there are words in dialect that are pronounced in a completely different way from Mandarin and meaning can't be guessed unless you learn that dialect.

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Publius

He's talking about the subgroups of Mandarin (about 4-9 in total, depending on how you count them).

Speaking from my personal experience:

Northeastern Mandarin (spoken in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, part of Inner Mogolia) is the closest to Beijing Mandarin (which forms the basis of Modern Standard Mandarin/Putonghua/Guoyu whatever you call it). People can understand each other with little to no effort (that is if you don't use too many dialectal terms).

Jianghuai Mandarin (spoken in parts of Anhui and Jiangsu) differs significantly from MSM, to the point of largely unintelligible.

Southwestern Mandarin (spoken in Sichuan, Yuannan, Guizhou, Hubei, and parts of the neighboring provinces) is also quite different, but due partly to its greater media exposure, partly to my own personal experience, I don't find it difficult to understand. But your mileage may vary from person to person.

The others are in between, with the exception of the dialect spoken on the Jiaodong Peninsula, which I find too hard to comprehend.

By the way I don't understand why Jin is considered by scholars a separate language. To me it's no difference from the Northwestern Mandarin.

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陳德聰

Publius if I recall correctly, are you from Beijing?

 

晉語 has a different tone structure, different grammatical particles, retains a bunch of Old Chinese words, etc.

 

Languages, like dialects, exist on a continuum that isn't exclusively based on mutual intelligibility.

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Publius
1 hour ago, 陳德聰 said:

Publius if I recall correctly, are you from Beijing?

Yes, I grew up in Beijing (if you don't count the three and a half years before I could remember things), but my parents aren't from Beijing, and the linguistic environment I grew up in was pretty mixed, with people coming from "five lakes and four seas".

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ParkeNYU

To give you an idea of the magnitude of difference, I've transcribed a Mandarin Romanisation system formerly used by missionaries that was designed to cover both the Peking (北方) and Nanking (江淮) dialects using the same spellings. Its official name is the Educational Association of China's Mandarin Romanization (1904), but to avoid confusion, I've since renamed it 平寧官話羅馬字 in Chinese, which is a way of referring to Beijing (北平) and Nanjing (寧) without implying that either of them is more of a legitimate capital than the other (which is also coincidentally an abbreviation of 平和寧靜, or 'peace & tranquility'). This system was devised at a time when the prestige dialect of Mandarin as a lingua franca had only just recently shifted from the Nanjing standard to the Beijing standard (lagging behind the much earlier yet related transition from Ming to Qing), which was made official in 1932 anyway after 1913's 'frankenstein-Mandarin' (老國音) failed to catch on.

 

 

Mandarin_Romanization_Primer.pdf

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anonymoose

I've just been to Hefei in Anhui province. I was surprised to hear that the local dialect, which supposedly belongs to the mandarin group, was completely unintelligible and did not even sound like mandarin. Just from the sound, it reminded me more of Shanghainese, though I asked a local who denied it had any relation to Shanghainese either.

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大块头

I used to work for an Chinese engineering firm that had a lot of land development projects scattered around Jiangsu province.

 

Through no fault of our own, there always seemed to be some sort of conflict between the developers and local residents. A couple of times my coworkers and I found ourselves surrounded by angry locals, who would start scolding us in the local dialect. I had no idea what they were saying, and my coworkers didn't either because they were all 外地人.

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Tomsima

this is a topic I'm personally really interested in, but it's so difficult to find resources on. I have been living in Hubei for the last number of years and have gradually got closer and closer to being able to understand the 方言 here. and of course that means as soon as I move my position by 30km or so I can't understand anything anymore and locals laugh at me for speaking the weird hick language from across the valley.

 

my reflections on the differences between standard mandarin and it's dialects (for me 'southwestern mandarin'): the range of noticeable difference entirely depends on conversation topic. if we are taking about food or health, the local language has many of its own words (eg. 藕 pa1 bu pa1,  ke qi bao ten 膝蓋疼) but as soon as you branch out into more unfamiliar topics unique words tends to disappear and you are left with a kind of 'country bumpkin' mandarin that is spoken in all different tones and lacks zh sh. In the case of the local dialect here, all ü become i, and final 了 turns into 啊地. Hope it helps, if anyone else is interested in sharing their southwestern mandarin knowledge would love to study more!

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