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Wenzhounese (), also known as Oujiang (), Tong Au () or Auish (), is the language spoken in
Wenzhou Wenzhou (pronounced ; Wenzhounese: Yuziou y33–11 tɕiɤu33–32 ) is a prefecture-level city in southeastern Zhejiang province of China, province in the China, People's Republic of China. Wenzhou is located at the extreme south east of ...

Wenzhou
, the southern prefecture of
Zhejiang Zhejiang (, ; , Chinese postal romanization, also romanized as Chekiang) is an East China, eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered ...

Zhejiang
, China. Nicknamed the "Devil's Language" for its complexity and difficulty, it is the most divergent division of
Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily in Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four ...
, with little to no
mutual intelligibility In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...
with other Wu dialects or any other variety of Chinese. It features noticeable elements in common with
Min Chinese Min (; Bàng-uâ-cê, BUC: Mìng ngṳ̄) is a broad group of Sinitic languages spoken by about 30 million people in Fujian Provinces of China, province as well as by the descendants of Min speaking colonists on Leizhou peninsula and Hainan, or as ...
, which is spoken to the south in
Fujian Fujian (; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, sub ...

Fujian
. ''Oujiang'' is sometimes used as the broader term, and ''Wenzhou'' for Wenzhounese proper in a narrow sense. Due to its long history and the isolation of the region in which it is spoken, Wenzhounese is so unusual in its
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

phonology
that it has the reputation of being the least comprehensible dialect for an average
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
speaker. It preserves a large amount of vocabulary of
classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; Written vernacular Chinese, modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the cla ...
lost elsewhere, earning itself the nickname "the
living fossil A living fossil is an extant taxon Neontology is a part of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, ...
", and has distinct grammatical differences from Mandarin. Wenzhounese is one of five
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, ...
other than Standard Mandarin used for broadcasting by
China Radio International China Radio International (CRI) is the State media, state-owned international radio broadcaster of China. It is currently headquartered in the Babaoshan area of Beijing's Shijingshan District. It was founded on December 3, 1941, as Radio Pekin ...

China Radio International
, alongside
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, Brit ...

Cantonese
,
Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureau ...
, Teochew, and
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
.


Classification

Wenzhounese is part of the Wu group of Chinese dialects, sharing many linguistic features with them. These are spoken over the Zhejiang and south Jiangsu provinces. Wenzhounese is seen as a typical representative of southern Wu.


Geographic distribution

Wenzhounese is spoken primarily in Wenzhou and the surrounding southern portion of
Zhejiang Zhejiang (, ; , Chinese postal romanization, also romanized as Chekiang) is an East China, eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered ...

Zhejiang
, China. To a lesser extent, it is also spoken in scattered pockets of
Fujian Fujian (; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, sub ...

Fujian
in southeastern China. Overseas, it is spoken in increasingly larger communities in the
Flushing Chinatown There are multiple Chinatowns in the borough A borough is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, a ...

Flushing Chinatown
and the
Chinatowns in Brooklyn The first Brooklyn Chinatown (), was originally established in the Sunset Park area of the New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, en ...
in
New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State New York is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of ...
in the United States. Wenzhounese is also spoken by some
Overseas Chinese Overseas Chinese () refers to people of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by popula ...

Overseas Chinese
communities in Europe, in particular Italy, France, and Spain. It is used more widely among the
Chinese people in Italy The community of Chinese people in Italy has grown rapidly in the past ten years. Official statistics indicate there are at least 320,794 Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, Chinese citizens in Italy, although these figures do not ac ...
than Mandarin, which is home to about half of the Wenzhounese diaspora in Europe. Over 80% of the Chinese diaspora that are resident in the city of
Prato Prato ( , ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenance of local roads and public ...

Prato
, Tuscany, were born in Zhejiang Province.


Dialects

Wenzhounese can be generally divided into the following three dialects: * Northern Dialect, including dialects spoken in Wenzhou, Ouhai, Yongqiong, Yongjia, and some towns in Yueqing like Liushi and Baixiang. * Southern Dialect, including
Rui'an dialect The Ruian dialect (; pronounced in the Rui'an dialect; standard ) is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in Ruian. It belongs to the Oujiang sub-group of Wu Chinese dialects. It is closely related to the Pingyang dialect and Lucheng dialect, generall ...
, Wencheng dialect, Longgang dialect, Pingyang dialect, etc. * Northeastern Dialect, which is spoken in the city of Yueqing. The most important difference between eastern Wenzhounese dialects such as Wencheng and Wenzhou proper are tonal differences (Wencheng has no falling tones) and the retention of before : The tones of all other Oujiang dialects are similar to Wenzhounese. (Wenzhounese ''puu'' transcribes the lengthened
entering tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the ...
.)


Phonology


Consonants


Vowels

Vowels are . Diphthongs are . The only
coda Coda or CODA may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Coda'' (1987 film), an Australian horror film about a serial killer, made for television * ''Coda'' (2019 film), a Canadian drama film starring Patrick Stewart, Katie Holmes, a ...
is eng, in and
syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables *Abugida, writing system us ...
.


Tone


Citation tones

Wenzhou has three phonemic tones. While it has eight phonetic tones, most of these are predictable: The ''yīn–yáng'' tone split dating from Middle Chinese still corresponds to the voicing of the initial consonant in Wenzhou, and the ''shǎng'' tones are abrupt and end in
glottal stop
glottal stop
(this has been used as evidence for a similar situation independently posited for
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
). The ''rù'' tones, however, are unusual in being distinct despite having lost their final stops; in addition, the vowel has lengthened, and the tone has become more complex than the other tones (though some speakers may simplify them to low falling or rising tones). The ''shǎng'' and ''rù'' tones are barely distinguishable apart from the voicing of the initial consonant, and so are phonetically closer to two tones than four. Chen (2000) summarizes the tones as M & ML (''ping''), MH (''shǎng''), HM & L (''qu''), and dipping (MLM, ''rù''); not only are the ''píng'' and ''qù'' pairs obviously distinct phonetically, but they behave as four different tones in the ways they undergo
tone sandhi Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absol ...
. As in
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily ...
, in Wenzhounese only some of the syllables of a phonological word carry tone. In Wenzhounese there may be three such syllables, with the tone of any subsequent (post-tonic) syllables determined by the last of these. In addition, there may be pre-tonic syllables (
clitic In morphology and syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word ...
s), which take a low tone. However, in Wenzhounese only one tonic word may exist in a
prosodic unit In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
; all other words are reduced to low tone.


Tone sandhi

Up to three tonic syllables may occur together, but the number of resulting tones is reduced by
tone sandhi Tone sandhi is a phonological change occurring in tonal languages Tone is the use of pitch Pitch may refer to: Acoustic frequency * Pitch (music), the perceived frequency of sound including "definite pitch" and "indefinite pitch" ** Absol ...
. Of the six phonetic tones, there are only fourteen lexical patterns created by two tonic syllables. With one exception, the ''shǎng'' and ''qù'' tones reduce to HM (''yīn qù'') before any other tone, and again with one exception, the ''rù'' tone does not interact with a following tone. The ''shǎng'' and ''rù'' tones change a preceding non-''rù'' tone to HM, and are themselves never affected. (Sandhi that are exceptions to the generalizations above are in bold.) With a compound word of three syllables, the patterns above apply to the last two. The antepenultimate tonic syllable takes only two possible tones, by
dissimilation In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one t ...
: low if the following syllable (in sandhi form) starts high (HM), high otherwise. So, for example, the unusually long compound noun "daily necessities" (lit., 'firewood-rice-oil-salt-sauce-vinegar-tea') has the underlying tones :, ML.MH.ML.ML.HM.HM.ML, Per sandhi, the last two syllables become L.L. The antepenult then dissimilates to H, and all pre-tonic syllables become L, for: :/L.L.L.L.H.L.L/ At a phrasal level, these tones may separate, with a HM tone, for example, shifting to the beginning of a phrase. In the lexicalized phrase "radio receiver" ('wireless telephone tube'), the underlying tones are :, ML.HM.L.L.ML, Per sandhi, the last two become HM.ML. There is no dissimilation, explained by this being grammatically a lexicalized phrase rather than a compound. The HM shifts forward, with intermediate syllables becoming M (the tone the HM leaves off at): :/HM.M.M.M.ML/ Although checked (MLM) syllables rarely change in compound words, they can change in phrases: "tall steel case" is underlyingly M.MLM.HM. The middle syllable shifts to HM, and sandhi operates on this *HM.HM sequence to produce HM.ML. The HM then shifts back, yielding /HM.M.ML/. Such behaviour has been used to support arguments that contour tones in languages like Chinese are single units and they are independent of vowels or other segments.


Grammar


Morphology

Wenzhou has a tonic
deictic In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic ...

deictic
morpheme. To convey the sense of "this", the classifier changes its tone to ''rù'' (dipping), and a voiced initial consonant is devoiced. For example, from 'group' there is 'this group', and from 'some (people)' there is 'these (people)'.


Syntax

Like other Chinese dialects, Wenzhou dialect has mainly SVO language structure, but in some situations it can be SOV or OSV. SOV is commonly used with verb+suffix, the common suffixes are 过去起落来牢得还. :ex. 书(给)渠还, (个)瓶水pai去


Reputation for eccentricity

Wenzhounese is reputed to have been used during the
Second Sino-Japanese War The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) was a military conflict that was primarily waged between the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. The war made up the Chinese theater of the wider Pacific War, Pac ...
during wartime communication via
code talker A code talker was a person employed by the military during wartime to use a little-known language as a means of secret communication. The term is now usually associated with United States service members during the world war A world war i ...
s and in the
Sino-Vietnamese War The Sino-Vietnamese War ( zh, s=中越战争; vi, Chiến tranh biên giới Việt–Trung) was a border war fought between China and Vietnam in early 1979. China launched an offensive in response to Vietnam's Cambodian–Vietnamese War, act ...
for programming military
code In communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', mean ...

code
. There is a common rhymed saying in China that reflects this comprehension difficulty: "Fear not the Heavens, fear not the Earth, but fear the Wenzhou man speaking Wenzhounese" ().


Examples

There are several sub-branches of Oujiang dialects, and some are not mutually intelligible to the Wenzhou city dialect and the Wencheng dialect, but neighboring dialects are often mutually intelligible. For example, there are 2 dialects spoken in Li'ao Village in the Ouhai District of Wenzhou: one spoken in Baimen (白門), where the local people have 姜 as their surname, and one spoken in Wangzhai (王宅), where local people have normally 王 or 黄 as their surname. Their dialects are almost fully mutually intelligible except for a few vocabulary. An example would be the word for "garbage" (垃圾), which is in the Baimen dialect and in the Wangzhai dialect. Numbers in Oujiang Dialects (The long vowels transcribe the lengthened ''ru'' tone.)


Literature in Wenzhounese

A translation of part of the
New Testament The New Testament grc, Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη, Transliteration, transl. ; la, Novum Testamentum. (NT) is the second division of the Christian biblical canon. It discusses the teachings and person of Jesus in Christianity, Jesus, as ...

New Testament
, specifically the
four gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message ("the gospel"), but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out. In this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrative of the words an ...

four gospels
and the book of
Acts The Acts of the Apostles ( grc-koi, Πράξεις Ἀποστόλων, ''Práxeis Apostólōn''; la, Actūs Apostolōrum), often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament The New Te ...
, was published in 1894 under the title "''Chaò-chî Yi-sû Chī-tuh Sang Iah Sing Shī: Sz̀ fuh-iang tà sź-du ae-djüe fa üe-tsiu t'û''", with the entire book in romanized Wenzhou dialect.


See also

*
List of varieties of Chinese The following is a list of Sinitic languages and their dialects. For a traditional dialectological overview, see also varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are ...
* Wenzhounese romanisation *
Suzhou dialect The Suzhou dialect (; Suzhounese: ''Sou-tseu ghé-ghô'' ), also known as Suzhounese, is the variety of Chinese traditionally spoken in the city of Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a ...
*
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily ...
*
Hangzhou dialect The Hangzhou dialect (, ''Rhangzei Rhwa'') is spoken in the city of Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is ...


References


Citations


General sources

* Qian Nairong (1992). ''Dāngdài Wúyǔ yánjiū''. (Contemporary Wu linguistics studies). Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe. (錢乃榮. 1992. 當代吳語研究. 上海敎育出版社) * Shen, Kecheng (2009). ''Wēnzhōuhuà cíyǔ kǎoshì''. Ningbo: Ningbo chubanshe. (宁波 : 宁波出版社, 2009.) {{Zhejiang topics
Languages of China {{Commons cat, Languages of China Chinese culture Languages by country, China Languages of East Asia, China Languages of Asia by country, China ...
Languages of France Languages of Italy Languages of Spain Wenzhou Wu Chinese