- Sichuanese Mandarin
Sichuanese 四川话 Pronunciation locally [sɨ˨˩˧tsʰwan˥xwa˨˩˧] Spoken in China Region Sichuan, Chongqing and their neighboring provinces Native speakers ~ 100 million Language family Language codes ISO 639-3 –Sichuanese in China This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Sichuanese Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 四川官话; traditional Chinese: 四川官話; pinyin: Sìchuān Guānhuà), commonly known as Sichuanese, Szechuanese or Szechwanese (simplified Chinese: 四川话; traditional Chinese: 四川話; Sichuanese Pinyin: Si4cuan1hua4; pinyin: Sìchuānhuà; Wade–Giles: Szŭ4-ch'uan1-hua4), is a branch of Southwestern Mandarin, spoken mainly in Sichuan and Chongqing, which was part of Sichuan until 1997, and the adjacent regions of their neighboring provinces, such as Hubei, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Shaanxi. In addition, because Sichuanese is the lingua franca in Sichuan, Chongqing and part of Tibet, it is also used by many Tibetan, Yi, Qiang and other groups as a second language.
Although Sichuanese is generally classified as a dialect of Mandarin, it is highly divergent in phonology, vocabulary, and even grammar from the standard language. Minjiang dialect is especially difficult for speakers of other Mandarin dialects to understand. As Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province and an important central city, the Chengdu dialect is the most representative dialect of Southwestern Mandarin, and is used widely in Sichuan Opera and other artistic fields of the province.
Modern Sichuanese was formed rather recently in a great wave of immigration during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644): many immigrants, mainly from Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangdong, flooded into Sichuan, bringing their languages with them. Sichuanese is spoken by about 120 million people, so if it were counted as a separate language, it would be the 10th largest language by number of speakers, just behind Japanese.
Geographic distribution and dialects
Sichuanese is mainly spoken in and around the Sichuan Basin, covering almost all of Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, except for some Tibetan and Yi inhabited areas. It is also spoken in border regions of Sichuan's neighboring provinces: northern Yunnan and Guizhou, southern Shaanxi and western Hubei.
Sichuanese has one of the most uniform dialects in all of Inner China. However, it is possible to divide Sichuanese into four dialects according to the preservation or distribution of the checked tone: the Minjiang dialect (岷江小片) where the checked tone is preserved, the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect (成渝片) where the checked tone is redistributed into the light level tone, the Renshou-Fushun dialect (仁富小片) where the checked tone is redistributed into the departing tone, and the Ya'an-Shimian dialect (雅棉小片) where the checked tone is redistributed into the dark level tone.
The Minjiang, Ya'an-Shimian and Renshou-Fushun dialects are spoken mainly in South Sichuan and West Sichuan where people have significantly more indigenous Sichuanese descent than North Sichuan and East Sichuan. Thus, these dialects preserve many characteristics of Bashu (the language of indigenous Sichuanese), and are often referred as Old Sichuanese. Meanwhile, the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect, named after the two largest cities in Sichuan: Chengdu and Chongqing, are spoken mainly in North and East Sichuan. It is often referred as New Sichuanese because it keeps fewer characteristics of the Bashu Language.
Dialects of Sichuanese Name Characteristics Spoken areas Chengdu–Chongqing dialect entering tone distributed into light level tone North and East Sichuan, the northeastern part of Chengdu Plain, several cities or counties in southwestern Sichuan (Panzhihua, Dechang, Yanyuan, Huili and Ningnan), Southern Shaanxi and Western Hubei Minjiang dialect entering tone preserved 44 cities or counties in Minjiang River valley or along the Yangtze River in South and West Sichuan, Xichang, Xichong, Yanting, Shehong, northern Yunnan and northern Guizhou Renshou–Fushun dialect entering tone distributed into departing tone 8 cities or counties in Tuo River valley (Renshou, Jingyan, Weiyuan, Zigong, Rongxian, Fushun, Neijiang and Longchang), Junlian and Mianning Ya'an–Shimian dialect entering tone distributed into dark level tone Ya'an (prefecture-level city) in West Sichuan
Like many of the southern provinces in China, Sichuan was fully sinicized by the end of the Tang Dynasty. Sichuan has one of the most uniform dialects in all of Inner China, evidence that the variety of Chinese spoken there formed relatively recently. In the thirteenth century, the population of Sichuan dropped precipitously, suspected to be due in part to a series of plagues and Mongol invasions. The population did not recover until it was replenished by subsequent migrations of Proto-Mandarin-speakers from Hubei, Xiang-speakers, Gan-speakers and Hakka-speakers in the following centuries. These varieties largely supplanted the earlier varieties of Chinese in Sichuan, known as Ba-Shu Chinese or Old Sichuanese. Like Min Chinese, Ba-Shu Chinese was different from the Middle Chinese of the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties, but instead a divergent dialect group independently descended from the Old Chinese of the Han Dynasty, which formed a substratum that influenced the formation of the modern dialect group and helps to explain the distinctivity of Modern Sichuanese within the Mandarin dialect continuum.
There are five phonemic tones in Sichuanese: dark level tone, light level tone, rising tone, departing tone and entering tone (or checked tone). In some regions the checked tone of Sichuanese has been redistributed entirely into another tone, which is very different from standard Mandarin, whose checked tone has been redistributed irregularly into the other 4 tones. According to Phonology of Sichuan dialect (四川方言音系), among all the 150 Sichuanese-speaking cities and counties, 48 keep the checked tone while the other 102 have only 4 tones. Particularly, in some sub-dialects of Minjiang dialect (such as Yingjing dialect), the departing tone has developed into two different tones: a colloquial tone (which is similar to the 2nd tone as a chracteristic of Ba-Shu: 平声似去) and a literary tone (which is the same as Chengdu dialect). 
The tone contours of the Sichuanese dialects are highly and quite different from those of Beijing Mandarin. In Sichuanese, the first tone (dark level tone) is a high level tone (like Beijing), the second tone (light level tone) is a low falling tone (the mirror image of Beijing), the third tone (rising tone) is a high falling tone and the fourth tone (departing tone) is a low or mid rising tone (interchanged compared to Beijing) and the fifth tone (entering tone) is mid or high if it's not merged, as shown in the chart below.
Sub-dialects 1st tone 2nd tone 3rd tone 4th tone 5th tone Chengdu ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˥˧ 53 ˨˩˧ 213 distributed into the 2nd ˨˩ Chongqing ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˨˩˦ 214 distributed into the 2nd ˨˩ Leshan ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˥˨ 52 ˨˨˦ 224 ˧ 3 (checked) Yingjing ˥ 45 ˩˨˩ 121 ˥˧ 53 ˩ 11 (colloquial)
˨˩˧ 213 (literary)
˧ 33 Luzhou ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˩˧ 13 ˧ 33 Ya'an ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˩˦ 14 distributed into the 1st ˥ Zigong ˥ 55 ˧˩ 31 ˥˧ 53 ˨˦ 24 distributed into the 4th ˨˦
In the areas which keep the entering tone, the five tones of Sichuanese are nearly identical to the values of 5 of the 6 tones of the indigenous Southern Qiang language.
Initials (or syllable onsets) are initial consonants of possible syllables. There are 21 initials in the Chengdu dialect of Sichuanese (academically referred as Standard Sichuanese). Four Sichuanese initial consonants do not exist in Beijing: [z], [v], [ŋ] and [nʲ]. On the other hand, five initials in Beijing do not exist in Sichuanese: [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [ʂ], [ʐ] and [l].
The following is the initial consonant inventory of Sichuanese, transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and under every IPA symbol in the inventory below there is the standard orthography of that sound in Sichuanese Pinyin and a Chinese character using that initial:
Bilabial abiodental Coronal Alveolar alveopalatal Velar Stop plain p
Affricate plain ts
Fricative Voiceless f
Finals (or syllable rimes) are made from vowels and final consonants, which form the part of syllable after the initial. There are 21 finals in the Chengdu dialect of Sichuanese. Four Sichuanese syllable rimes do not exist in Beijing: [ɛ], [iai], [uɛ], and [yo]. On the other hand, three syllable rimes in Beijing do not exist in Sichuanese: [ɤ], [iŋ], and [əŋ].
The following is the syllable rime inventory of Sichuanese, transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and under every IPA symbol in the inventory below there is the standard orthography of that sound in Sichuanese Pinyin and a Chinese character using that syllable rime:
-Ø -i or -u nasal finals Ø- ɿ
Tense vowels for checked tone
There's a discrepancy between Old Sichuanese and New Sichuanese in terms of finals. In the "old" Minjiang dialect, the stop consonants for checked-tone syllables in Middle Chinese have developed into tense vowels to create a phonemical contrast, and in several cities and counties the tense vowels are followed by a glottal stop to emphasize the contrast. Meanwhile, the checked tone has disappeared in other Sichuanese dialects. The following table shows the tense vowels of Minjiang dialect's three sub-dialects, spoken in Luzhou, Qionglai and Leshan, and a comparison with other Sichuanese dialects is also presented.
example Minjiang Ya'an-Shimian Chengdu-Chongqing Renshou-Fushun Luzhou Qionglai Leshan Luding Chengdu Zigong 搭 æ æ æ a a a 说 ɵ ʊ ʊ o o o 黑 e æ e ɛ ɛ ɛ 踢 ie ie ie i iɛ i 出 ɵ ʊ ʊ u u u 欲 yɵ yʊ yʊ y yo yi 湿 ə ə ə ɿ ɿ ɿ 掐 iæ iɐ iæ ia ia ia 刮 uæ uɐ uæ ua ua ua 铁 ie ie ie iɛ iɛ iɛ 获 ɵ uæ æ uɛ uɛ ue 阅 yɵ ye yʊ yɛ yɛ yɛ 药 yɵ yʊ yʊ yo yo yo
Literary and colloquial readings
The existence of literary and colloquial readings (文白异读), is a notable feature in Sichuanese and some other Sinitic varieties, such as Cantonese or Hokkien. In Sichuanese, colloquial readings tend to resemble Ba-Shu Chinese (Middle Sichuanese) or Southern Proto-Mandarin, while literary readings tend to resemble modern standard Mandarin. For example, in Yaoling Dialect (摇铃话) the colloquial reading of "物" (means "things") is [væʔ], which is very similar to its prounciation of Ba-Shu Chinese in Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). Meanwhile its literary reading, [voʔ], is relatively similar to the standard Mandarin pronunciation [u]. The table below shows some examples of the chinese charactors with both literary and colloquial readings in Sichuanese.
Example Colloquial Reading Literary Reading Meaning Standard Mandarin Pronunciation 在 tɛ tsai at tsai 提 tia tʰi lift tʰi 去 tɕʰie tɕʰy go tɕʰy 锯 kɛ tɕy cut tɕy 下 xa ɕia down ɕia 横 xuan xuən across xəŋ 严 ŋan ȵian strict ian 鼠 suei su rat ʂu 大 tʰai ta big ta 主 toŋ tsu master tʂu
Only 47.8% of Sichuanese vocabulary is in common with the Beijing dialect on which Standard Chinese is based; indeed Sichuanese shares more vocabulary with the Xiang and Gan varieties of Chinese, even though Sichuanese is usually classified as a dialect of Mandarin.
The vocabulary of Sichuanese has three main origins: Bashu (or Ancient Sichuanese), Middle Chinese and the languages of the immigrants, including Proto-Mandarin from Hubei, Xiang, Gan and Hakka, which were brought to Sichuan during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Recently, many loanwords have been introduced to Sichuanese from standard Mandarin and English. Meanwhile, new Sichuanese words are developing in large cities, such as Chengdu and Chongqing, which then spread at a dramatic speed through Sichuan. "雄起" (xiong2qi3) (meaning "to cheer someone on") is a typical example of a novel Sichuanese word, equivalent to "加油" (jiāyóu) in standard Mandarin. The table below presents some common words in Sichuanese and their standard equivalents.
Words with the same number of syllables Sichuanese standard meaning Sichuanese standard meaning Sichuanese standard meaning entirely
躂 da2 跌 diē to fall down 耍 sua3 玩 wán to play 院 yuan4 绕 rào to go around 车 ce1 转 zhuàn to rotate 膀 pang3 碰 pòng to touch 膼 zua2 踢 tī to kick 煪 qiu1 熏 xūn to smoke 豁 ho1 骗 piàn to cheat 挼 rua2 揉 róu to knead 破 po4 剖 pōu to cut open 掌 zang3 扶 fú to support 挎 kua3 脱 tuō to get undressed 晏 ngan4 晚 wǎn late 拢 nong3 到 dào to arrive 蹅 ca1 踩 cǎi to step on 校 gao4 试 shì to try 痨 nao4 毒 dú to poison 滗 bi2 滤 lǜ to filter 角孽 go2nie2 吵架 chǎojià to quarrel 噗鼾 pu2han4 呼噜 hūlu to snore 活路 ho2nu4 工作 gōngzuò job 经佑 jin1you1 照顾 zhàogù to look after 刹角 sa2go2 结束 jiéshù to end 横顺 huan2sen1 反正 fǎnzhèng anyway 行市 hang2si4 能干 nénggàn capable 背时 bei4si2 倒霉 dǎoméi bad luck 伸抖 cen1tou3 整齐 zhěngqí neat 往回 wang3hui2 以前 yǐqián before 二回 er4hui2 以后 yǐhòu after 颈项 jin3hang2 脖子 bózi neck 晓得 xiao3de2 知道 zhīdào know 造孽 zao4nie2 可怜 kělián pitiful 安逸 ngan1yi2 舒服 shūfu comfortable 踏踏 ta2ta2 地方 dìfāng place 各人 go2ren2 自己 zìjǐ self 相应 xiang1yin1 便宜 piányi cheap partially
拉丝 na1si1 拉链 lāliàn zipper 火炮儿 ho3per4 鞭炮 biānpào fireworks 转来 zuan3nai2 回来 húilái to return 院坝 yuan4ba4 院子 yuànzi yard 鼻子 bi2zi3 鼻涕 bítì snot 火闪 ho3san3 闪电 shǎndiàn lightning 灰面 hui1mian4 面粉 miànfěn flour 皮面 pi2mian4 表面 biǎomiàn surface 缺缺 que2que1 缺口 quēkǒu gap 抽抽 cou1cou1 抽屉 chōutì drawer 别个 bie2go4 别人 biérén other people 不了 bu2niao3 不止 bùzhǐ more than 晌午 sang3vu3 午饭 wǔfàn lunch 侧边 ze2bian1 旁边 pángbiān beside 声气 sen1qi4 声音 shēngyīn sound different
鸡公 ji1gong1 公鸡 gōngjī cockerel 鸡母 ji1mu2 母鸡 mǔjī hen 气力 qi4ni2 力气 lìqì strength 闹热 nao4re2 热闹 rènào noisy 人客 ren2ke2 客人 kèrén guest 欢喜 huan1xi3 喜欢 xǐhuān to like Words with different numbers of syllables Sichuanese standard meaning Sichuanese standard meaning Sichuanese standard meaning 歪 wai1 凶恶 xiōng'è rude 巴 ba1 粘贴 zhāntiē to stick 谙 ngan2 以为 yĭwéi to think 奓 za1 张开 zhāngkāi to splay 饮 yin4 浇灌 jiāoguàn to water 抱 bao4 孵化 fūhuà to incubate 左 zo3 调换 diàohuàn to switch 马 ma3 欺负 qīfù to bully 费 fei4 调皮 tiáopí naughty 撵 nian3 追赶 zhūigǎn to run after 号 hao4 批阅 pīyuè to correct 咀 ju2 吮吸 shǔnxī to suck 搌 zan3 挪动 nuódòng to move 争 zen1 欠缺 qiànquē to lack 摸 mo1 磨蹭 mócèng to dally 湓 men4 溢出 yìchū to overflow 槽 cao4 翻动 fāndòng to stir 翕 xie1 裂开 lièkāi to crack 瓢羹儿 piao2ger1 勺 sháo spoon 估到 gu3dao3 逼 bī to force 巴适 ba1si2 好 hǎo good 嘎嘎 ga3ga3 肉 ròu meat 啪啦 pa1la1 堆 dūi pile 几下 ji3ha4 快 kuài to hurry 巴壁虎 ba1bi2fu3 壁虎 bìhǔ gecko 檐老鼠 yan2nao3su3 蝙蝠 biǎnfú bat 扯把子 ce3ba3zi3 撒谎 sāhuǎng to tell a lie 月母子 yue2mu3zi3 孕妇 yùnfù pregnant woman 磕膝头 ke2qi1ter2 膝盖 xīgài knee 丁丁猫儿 din1din1mer1 蜻蜓 qīngtíng dragonfly 雪弹子 xue2dan4zi3 冰雹 bīngbáo hail 贼娃子 zui2wa2zi3 小偷 xiǎotōu thief 冒皮皮 mao4pi2pi2 吹牛 chūiníu to boast
Relation with other Chinese dialects
If one selects the Chengdu dialect to represent Sichuanese, and compare its lexicon with other varieties of Chinese, we can try to find the relationship between Sichuanese and those dialects. Sichuanese shares the most similar vocabulary with Yunnanese, a dialect of Southwestern Mandarin spoken in the neighboring province. However, the relationship between Sichuanese and Northern Mandarin dialects, including the standard language, is weaker than the relationship between Xiang and Gan.
In terms of vocabulary, Sichuanese has the second closest relationship with Xiang. The two languages share a large number of exclusively unique words. This is mainly because many Xiang-speaking immigrants from Hunan moved to Sichuan during the great wave of immigration during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, so Xiang does not have such a close relationship with other southwestern varieties of Chinese, such as those spoken in Yunnan, Guangxi or Hubei. For example, in both Sichuanese and Xiang the verb "to squat" is "跍" (gu1) but "蹲" (dūn) in standard Mandarin, the noun "kitchen" is "灶屋" (zao4vu2) but "厨房" (chúfáng) in standard, and the adjective "thick" is "酽" (nyian4) but "浓" (nóng) in standard. Furthermore, the Sichuanese vocabulary also contains words from Old Xiang and Middle Xiang, such as "謱謰" (sloppy), "革" (old) and "崽" (son)
Rank of lexical similarity between Sichuanese and other Chinese dialects Rank Chinese dialects Major sub-dialect Percentage of the same vocabulary with Sichuanese 1 Yunnanese Kunming 58.3% 2 Xiang Changsha 54.9% 3 Jianghuai Mandarin Yangzhou 52.7% 4 Gan Nanchang 49.4% 5 Northern Mandarin Beijing 47.8% 6 Wu Suzhou 36.4% 7 Yue Guangzhou 27.4% 8 Hakka Meixian 27.2% 9 Min Xiamen 20.2%
Though the Sichuanese is not as endangered as some other Chinese languages, the Sichuanese's prevalence has dramatically lessened as the popularity of Standard Chinese rises. The government policy limits the use of Sichuanese in broadcasting, television and many public places. Furthermore, the use of Sichuanese as a teaching medium is not permitted in the curriculum, which results in the reduce of fluency among young people in Sichuanese-speaking areas in post-80s and 90s. The Sichuanese spoken by them is greatly affected by the national language.
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