The Characteristics of Mandarin Dialects

Authored by: Ho Dah-an

The Sino-Tibetan Languages

Print publication date:  December  2002
Online publication date:  May  2006

Print ISBN: 9780700711291
eBook ISBN: 9780203221051
Adobe ISBN: 9781135797188


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The Mandarin dialects are mainly spoken in the valleys of the Yellow and Huai Rivers, Inner Mongolia, the Northeast, Shaanxi, Gansu, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou, and along the Yangtze River, by a population of over one billion. As an official language, Mandarin proper (or Putonghua the common language) is in fact spoken throughout all of China. Mandarin dialects are divided into the regions of Northern Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, and Jiang-Huai Mandarin. Based on the accent of the educated in Beijing, which is a part of Northern Mandarin, Putonghua is not completely identical to the colloquial spoken in Beijing. For instance, po A2, 1 1

The A, B, C, D after each transcribed word stands for the traditional terms level tone, rising tone, departing tone, and entering tone, respectively. 1 and 2 mean upper or lower variety of the tone, respectively.

in Putonghua are pau A2, ɕiau A2, ʂai C1, tɕiŋ A1 in the colloquial of Beijing. The Beijing dialect (like many Chinese dialects, including the other Northern dialects listed above) has a distinction between literary and figurative/colloquial strata, and its literary reading is what is taken for Putonghua.

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