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The Wu languages (; Wu romanization and
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IPA
: ''ngu1 ngiu2'' [], Mandarin pinyin and IPA: ''Wúyǔ'' []) is a major group of Sinitic languages spoken primarily in
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
, Zhejiang, Zhejiang Province and the part of Jiangsu, Jiangsu Province south of the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
, which makes up the cultural region of Wu. The
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 ...
was the
prestige dialect In sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure ...
of Wu as of the 19th century and it formed the basis of Wu's koiné dialect,
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 ...
, at the turn of the 20th century. Speakers of various Wu languages sometimes inaccurately labelled their mother tongue as "Shanghainese" when introduced to foreigners. The languages of Northern Wu are
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
with each other, while those of Southern Wu are not.
Historical linguists History (from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the History of writing#Inventions of writing, invention of writing systems are considered ...
view Wu of great significance because it distinguished itself from other
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, ...
by preserving the voiced initials of the ancient
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
and by preserving the
checked tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
as a
glottal stop
glottal stop
. The phonological divergence between Wu and other Chinese is significant, for instance, the phrase "Shanghainese language" () is pronounced as /nowiki>/nowiki> in Wu and in Beijing Mandarin. Wu and the Suzhou dialect in particular is perceived as soft in the ears of Mandarin speakers; hence there is the idiom "the tender speech of Wu" (). The decline of Wu began from around 1986, when students were banned from speaking "uncivilized dialects" during class, a term used by the State Language Commission to refer to all Chinese languages other than
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bri ...
. In 1992, students in Shanghai were banned from speaking Wu at all times on campuses. Since the late 2000s, Wu mostly survived in kitchens and theatres, as a " kitchen language" among the elderly housewives and as a theatrical language in folk
Yue opera Yue opera, also known as Shaoxing opera, is the Chinese opera genre. Only Peking opera is more popular nationwide. Originating in Shengzhou, Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in 1906, Yue opera features actresses in male roles as well as femininity i ...
,
Shanghai opera Shanghai opera (), formerly known as Shenqu (), is a variety of Chinese opera from Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-admin ...

Shanghai opera
and Pingtan. As of now, Wu has no official status, no legal protection and there is no officially-sanctioned romanization of Wu.阙政 (19 November 2012), 第三种语言从娃娃抓起, ''新民周刊'' '' /nowiki>Xinmin_Weekly.html" ;"title="Xinmin_Weekly.html" ;"title="/nowiki>Xinmin Weekly">/nowiki>Xinmin Weekly">Xinmin_Weekly.html" ;"title="/nowiki>Xinmin Weekly">/nowiki>Xinmin Weekly/nowiki>'', , . Reprinted alongside other articles in the same issue as:


Names

Speakers of Wu varieties are mostly unaware of this term for their speech since the term "Wu" is a relatively recent classificatory imposition on what are less clearly defined and highly heterogeneous natural forms. Saying one speaks Wu is akin to saying one speaks a Romance language. It is not a particularly defined entity like Standard Mandarin or Standard German, Hochdeutsch. Most speakers are only vaguely aware of their local variety's affinities with other similarly classified varieties and will generally only refer to their local Wu variety rather than the dialect family. They do this by affixing '' (speech) to their location's endonym. For example, () is used for
Wenzhounese Wenzhounese (), also known as Oujiang (), Tong Au () or Auish (), is the language spoken in Wenzhou, the southern prefecture of Zhejiang Zhejiang (, formerly romanized as Chekiang) is an eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of th ...
. Affixing is also common and more typical of the Taihu division, as in ''Kashin'ghenwo'' for Jiaxing dialect. * Wu (,
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 ...
: ;
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 ...
: ;
Wuxi dialect The Wuxi dialect ( Simplified Chinese: 无锡话; Traditional Chinese: 無錫話; Pinyin: Wúxīhuà, Wu : mu1 sik1 wo3 , Wuxi dialect : u˨˨˧ siɪʔ˦ ɦu˨ is a dialect of Wu. It is spoken in the city of Wuxi Wuxi () is a city in sou ...
: , 'Wu language'): the formal name and standard reference in
dialectology Dialectology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxim ...
literature. * Wuyue language (; "the language of Wu-Yue"): a poetic and historical name in the modern sense, it highlights the roots of the language to the ancient states and hence the culture of Wu and Yue in the
Warring states period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
. :* Goetian, derived from the Japanese spelling of Wuyue (吳越, Gō-etsu), is among the alternative names listed by ''
Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as Ethnoloɠue) is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living language A language is a structured system of communicat ...
''. * The Wu dialect (), a derogatory, self-deprecating yet common academic name that belittles the status of Wu language as a dialect of "the neChinese language", usually used by Mandarin-speaking academics in state-administered universities. * Jiang–Zhe speech (): a non-standard name meaning "the speech of
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of the leading provinces in finance, education, ...

Jiangsu
and
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
", occasionally used to highlight the fact that the language is spoken in two provinces. * Jiangnan speech (): a non-standard and uncommon name that links the language to the cultural region of
Jiangnan Jiangnan or Jiang Nan (; formerly romanized Kiang-nan, literally "South of the River" meaning "South of the Yangtze") is a geographic area in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It i ...

Jiangnan
("south of the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
")


History

Wu Chinese is the most ancient of the six major southern Chinese varieties, tracing its origin to more than 3,000 years ago, when the
ZhouZhou may refer to: Chinese history * King Zhou of Shang () (1105 BC–1046 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty * Predynastic Zhou (), 11th-century BC precursor to the Zhou dynasty * Zhou dynasty () (1046 BC–256 BC), a dynasty of China ** Weste ...
princes
Taibo Taibo ()(circa 1150 BCE) or Wu Taibo was the eldest son of King Tai of ZhouKing Tai of Zhou () or Gugong Danfu () was a great leader of the predynastic Zhou, Zhou clan during the Shang dynasty. His great-grandson King Wu of Zhou, Fa would later c ...
and Zhongyong migrated from the
Guanzhong Guanzhong (, formerly romanised Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and mode ...
region in modern
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
to the
Wuxi Wuxi () is a city in southern Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of t ...

Wuxi
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , 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 c ...

Suzhou
area of the
Jiangnan Jiangnan or Jiang Nan (; formerly romanized Kiang-nan, literally "South of the River" meaning "South of the Yangtze") is a geographic area in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It i ...

Jiangnan
region, where they established the state of Wu. The northern language they brought formed the foundation of Wu Chinese. By the
Six Dynasties __NOTOC__ Six Dynasties (; 220–589 or 222–589) is a collective term for six Han Han may refer to: Ethnic groups * Han Chinese The Han Chinese,
era, Wu had already been developing for a millennium and differed considerably from the northern speech. When large numbers of northern Chinese migrated to Jiangnan following the fall of the
Western Jin Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
dynasty, they discovered great discrepancies between the two varieties of Chinese. This is recorded in contemporary texts such as the '' Shi Shuo Xin Yu''. The Japanese readings of Chinese characters (obtained from the
Eastern Wu Wu (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 count ...
during the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the End of the Han dynasty, end of the Han dynasty#East ...

Three Kingdoms
period) are from the ancient Wu Chinese of this period. However, as Wu Chinese has been under strong influence from the north throughout history, many of its ancient features have been lost. The language of today is largely descendant from the Middle Chinese of the Tang era (6–8th centuries), as is true of most contemporary Chinese languages, 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 ...
languages being notable exceptions.← However, many of the ancient Wu features have been preserved in Min, as the latter began its life as the Old Wu spoken by migrants to
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
during the century that marked the transition from the late
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
to the
Three Kingdoms The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the states of Cao Wei, Wei, Shu Han, Shu, and Eastern Wu, Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the End of the Han dynasty, end of the Han dynasty#East ...

Three Kingdoms
and the
Western Jin Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
.


Substrate influences

Wu is considered the most ancient southern Chinese variety, since the
Jiangnan Jiangnan or Jiang Nan (; formerly romanized Kiang-nan, literally "South of the River" meaning "South of the Yangtze") is a geographic area in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It i ...

Jiangnan
region was the first one settled that was non-contiguous with the northern Chinese states. Proto-Min or Old Wu–Min is also the language from which the Min dialects evolved as the populace migrated farther south, so some knowledge of this language would not only offer insight into the development of these dialects and Sino-Tibetan but also into the indigenous languages of the region, knowledge of which would also be invaluable towards establishing the phylogeny of related Asian languages and towards reconstructing them. According to traditional history,
Taibo of Wu Taibo ()(circa 1150 BCE) or Wu Taibo was the eldest son of King Tai of Zhou and the legendary founder of the State of Wu. His exact birth and death dates are unknown. Biography According to Sima Qian, Taibo was the founder of the State of Wu. B ...
settled in the area during the
Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang dynasty
, bringing along a large section of the population and Chinese administrative practices to form the state of Wu. The state of Wu might have been ruled by a Chinese minority along with sinified Yue peoples, and the bulk of the population would have remained Yue until later migrations and absorption into the greater Chinese populace (though many likely fled south as well). Many have wondered about what effect the Yue people's language may have had on the dialect spoken there, since, for example, names and other social practices in the state of Yue are markedly different from the rest of Chinese civilization.
Bernhard Karlgren Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren (; 15 October 1889 – 20 October 1978) was a Swedish sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (P ...

Bernhard Karlgren
, on the other hand, noted that the Tang ''koine'' was adopted by most speakers in China (except for those in Fujian) with only slight remnants of "
vulgar Vulgar is a Latin word meaning "common" or "pertaining to ordinary people." Language * Vulgar or common language, the vernacular speech of a region or a people * Language use characterised by vulgarity, see Vulgarism and Other uses *A vulg ...
" speech from pre-Tang times, which he believed were preserved among the lower classes, albeit this makes many presumptions about Tang China's class structure and sociolinguistic situation. Most linguists today refer to these remnants as dialectal strata or substrata. In many ways, the koiné can be considered the language from which Wu varieties evolved, with the earlier language leaving behind a pre-Tang dialectal stratum which itself may have included a substratum from the Yue language(s). Western dialectologists have found a small handful of words that appear to be part of an
Austroasiatic The Austroasiatic languages , also known as Mon–Khmer , are a large language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken lan ...

Austroasiatic
substratum in many Wu and Min languages. Mandarin Chinese also possesses some words of Austroasiatic origin, such as the original name of the Yangtze River "江" (jiāng; Old Chinese *''krung'', compared to Old Vietnamese ''*krong''), which has evolved into the word for river. Min languages, which were less affected by the koine, definitely appear to possess an Austroasiatic substratum, such as a Min word for ''shaman'' or ''spirit healer'' such as in Jian'ou Min ''toŋ³'' which appears to be cognate with Vietnamese ''ʔdoŋ²'', Written Mon ''doŋ'', and Santali ''dōŋ'' which all have meanings similar to the Min word. However, Laurent Sagart (2008) points out that the resemblance between the Min word for ''shaman'' or ''spirit healer'' and Vietnamese term is undoubtedly fortuitous. The most notable examples are the word for person in some Wu varieties as *''nong'', usually written as in Chinese, and the word for ''wet'' in many Wu and Min dialects with a /t/ initial which is clearly in no way related to the Chinese word but cognate with Vietnamese . Min languages notably retain the bilabial nasal coda for this word. However, Laurent Sagart (2008) shows that the Min words for ''wet'', ''duckweed'', ''(small) salted fish'', which seem to be cognates with Vietnamese , , , are either East Asian areal words if not Chinese words in disguise ('duckweed', 'wet'), and long shots ('salted fish'). Li Hui (2001) identifies 126 Tai-Kadai cognates in
Maqiao ''A Dictionary of Maqiao'' () is a novel written by Chinese writer Han Shaogong. It was first published in 1996 and was translated into English by Julia Lovell in 2003. ''Yazhou Zhoukan'' selected it as one of the top 100 greatest Chinese novels in ...
Wu dialect spoken in the suburbs of
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
out of more than a thousand lexical items surveyed. According to the author, these cognates are likely traces of ' old Yue language' (). Analysis of the '' Song of the Yue Boatman'', a song in the Yue language transcribed by a Chinese official in Chinese characters, clearly points to a Tai language rather than an Austroasiatic one. Chinese discussion of Wenzhounese often mentions the strong Tai affinities the dialect possesses. The
Zhuang languages The Zhuang languages (; autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, in ...
in Guangxi and western Guangdong, for example, are also Tai, so it would appear that Tai populated southern China before the Chinese expansion. The term Yue was clearly applied indiscriminately to any non-Chinese in the area that the Chinese encountered. The impact of these languages still appears to be fairly minimal overall. Though Sino-Tibetan, Tai–Kadai, Austronesian and Austroasiatic are mostly considered to be unrelated to each other,
Laurent Sagart Laurent Sagart (; born 1951) is a senior researcher at the Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale (CRLAO – UMR 8563) unit of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Pushing boundaries , formation = , type = Gover ...
has proposed some possible phylogenetic affinities. Specifically, Tai–Kadai and Sino-Tibetan could possibly both belong to the Sino-Austronesian language family (not to be confused with Austroasiatic) due to a scattering of cognates between their ancestral forms, and there is also some, albeit much more tenuous, evidence to suggest that Austroasiatic should also be included, however his views are but one among competing hypotheses about the phylogeny of these languages, see the
Sino-Austronesian languages Sino-Austronesian or Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian is a proposed language family suggested by Laurent Sagart in 1990. Using reconstructions of Old Chinese, Sagart argued that the Austronesian languages are related to the Sinitic languages phonologicall ...
article for some further detail. During the 8th and 9th centuries, ethnic Koreans from
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE57 BCE according to the '' Samguk Sagi''; however Seth 2010 notes that "these dates are dutifully given in many textbooks and published materials in Korea today, but their basis is in myth; only Goguryeo may be traced ...

Silla
made overseas communities in the Wu speaking region. It does appear that Wu varieties have had non-Sinitic influences, and many contain words cognate with those of other languages in various strata. These words however are few and far between, and Wu on the whole is most strongly influenced by Tang Chinese rather than any other linguistic influence.


Migrations

As early as the time of
Guo Pu Guo Pu (; AD 276–324), courtesy name Jingchun () was a Chinese historian, poet, and writer during the Eastern Jin Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is ...

Guo Pu
(276–324), speakers easily perceived differences between dialects in different parts of China including the area where Wu varieties are spoken today. According to records of the
Eastern Jin Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited (), also known as China Eastern, is an airline An airline is a company that provides air transport services for traveling passenge ...
, the earliest known dialect of Nanjing was an ancient Wu dialect. After the
Wu Hu uprising The Upheaval of the Five Barbarians () is a Chinese expression referring to a series of rebellions and invasions between 304 and 316 by non-Han Chinese, Han peoples, commonly called the Five Barbarians, living in North China against the Jin dynasty ...

Wu Hu uprising
and the
Disaster of Yongjia The Disaster of Yongjia () refers to events in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was me ...
in 311, the Jin Emperor and many northern Chinese fled south, establishing the new capital
Jiankang Jiankang (), or Jianye (), as it was originally called, was capital city of the Eastern Wu (229–265 and 266–280 CE), the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty (317–420 CE) and the Southern Dynasties (420–552), including the Chen dynasty (5 ...
in what is modern-day Nanjing. The lower Yangtze region became heavily inundated by settlers from Northern China, mostly coming from what is now northern Jiangsu province and Shandong province, with smaller numbers of settlers coming from the Central Plains. From the 4th to the 5th century, Northern people moved into Wu areas, adding characteristics to the lexicon of Northern Wu, traces of which can still be found in Northern Wu varieties today. One prominent historical speaker of the Wu dialect was Emperor
Yangdi Emperor Yang of Sui (隋煬帝, 569 – 11 April 618), personal name Yang Guang (), alternative name Ying (), Xianbei The Xianbei (; ) were a Proto-Mongolic Proto-Mongolic is the hypothetical ancestor language of the modern Mongolic lang ...
of the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han Chinese, Han in the entirety of ...

Sui dynasty
and his Empress Xiao.
Emperor Xuan of Western Liang Emperor Xuan of (Western) Liang ((西)梁宣帝; 519–562), personal name Xiao Cha (蕭詧), courtesy name Lisun (理孫), was the founding emperor of the History of China, Chinese Western Liang (555–587), Western Liang dynasty. He took the Li ...
, a member of
Emperor Wu of Liang Emperor Wu of Liang (梁武帝) (464–549), personal name Xiao Yan (蕭衍), courtesy name Shuda (叔達), nickname Lian'er (練兒), was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty of Chinese Northern and Southern dynasties, Northern and southern ...

Emperor Wu of Liang
's court, was Empress Xiao's grandfather and he most likely learned the Wu dialect at
Jiankang Jiankang (), or Jianye (), as it was originally called, was capital city of the Eastern Wu (229–265 and 266–280 CE), the Jin dynasty (265–420), Jin dynasty (317–420 CE) and the Southern Dynasties (420–552), including the Chen dynasty (5 ...
. After the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of a ...
at the end of the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
, in which the Wu-speaking region was devastated by war, Shanghai was inundated with migrants from other parts of the Wu-speaking area. This greatly affected the variety of Shanghai, bringing, for example, influence from the
Ningbo dialect The Ningbo dialect () is a dialect 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, St ...
to a dialect which, at least within the walled city of Shanghai, was almost identical to the
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 ...
. As a result of the population boom, in the first half of the 20th century, Shanghainese became almost a lingua franca within the region, eclipsing the status of the Suzhou variety. However, due to its pastiche of features from different languages, it is rarely used to infer historical information about the Wu group and is less representative of Wu than the Suzhou variety.


Written sources

There are few written sources of study for Wu, and research is generally concentrated on modern speech forms rather than texts. Written Chinese has always been in the classical form, so Wu speakers would have written in this classical form and read it in a literary form of their dialect based on the phonetic distinctions outlined in rhyme dictionaries. Therefore, no text in classical Chinese from the region would give a clear notion about the actual speech of the writer, although there may have been cleverly disguised puns based on local pronunciations that are lost on modern readers or other dialect speakers.
Yue opera Yue opera, also known as Shaoxing opera, is the Chinese opera genre. Only Peking opera is more popular nationwide. Originating in Shengzhou, Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province in 1906, Yue opera features actresses in male roles as well as femininity i ...
, for example, is performed in the
Shaoxing dialectThe Shaoxing dialect () is a Wu dialect spoken in the city of Shaoxing more specifically in the city center of Yuecheng and its surrounding areas. It is a representative Wu dialect with a tripartite distinction on voiced stop initials and a textbo ...
, however the register is more literary than oral. There are still a number of primary documents available, but they do not always give a clear sense of the dialects' historical pronunciation. They do often offer insight into lexical differences. Most of the sources for diachronic Wu study lie in the folk literature of the region. Since the average person was illiterate and the literate were often traditionalists who possibly perceived their local form of Chinese as a degenerated version of a classical ideal, very little was recorded, although local vocabulary often sneaks into written records. A "ballad–narrative" () known as "The Story of Xue Rengui Crossing the Sea and Pacifying Liao" (), which is about the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
hero
Xue Rengui Xue Rengui (; 614–683), formal name Xue Li but went by the courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East Asi ...
, is believed to have been written in the
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 ...
of Wu. The main sources of study are from the Ming and Qing period, since the dialectal differences were not as obvious until Ming times, and lie in historical folk songs, tanci (a kind of ballad or lyric poem), local records, legendary stories, baihua novels, educational material produced for the region, notes which have survived among individuals' effects, the linguistic descriptions made by foreigners (primarily by missionaries), and the bibles translated into Wu dialects. These all give glimpses into the past, but except for the bibles, are not so useful for phonological studies. They are, however, of tremendous importance for diachronic studies of vocabulary and to a lesser extent grammar and syntax. The diachronic study of written Ming and Qing Wu, the time when the dialects began to take on wholly unique features, can be placed into three stages: the Early Period, the Middle Period, and the Late Period. The "Early Period" begins at the end of the Ming dynasty to the beginning of the Qing in the 17th century, when the first documents showing distinctly Wu characteristics appear. The representative work from this period is the collection of folk songs gathered by Feng Menglong entitled "Shan Ge" . The majority of early period documents record the Wu varieties of southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang, so any discussion in this section is primarily relevant to Northern Wu or the Taihu division. Along with some other legends and works, the following list contains many of the documents that are either written in Wu or contain parts where dialects are used. * San Yan , a trilogy of collected stories compiled by
Feng Menglong Feng Menglong (1574–1646), courtesy names Youlong (), Gongyu (), Ziyou (), or Eryou (), was a Chinese historian, novelist, and poet of the late Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of Ch ...
* Er Pai , two short story collections by
Ling Mengchu Ling Mengchu (; 1580–1644) was a Chinese writer of the Ming Dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation .... He is best known for his vernacular short fiction collections '' Slapping ...
* Xing Shi Yan , a novella recorded by Lu Renlong * Huan Sha Ji , an opera by Liang Chenyu * Mo Hanzhai dingben chuanqi , Feng Menglong * Qing zhong pu * Doupeng xianhua , early Qing baihua novel * Guzhang jue chen , late Ming novel collection * Bo zhong lian These works contain a small handful of unique grammatical features, some of which are not found in contemporary Mandarin, classical Chinese, or in contemporary Wu varieties. They do contain many of the unique features present in contemporary Wu such as pronouns, but clearly indicate that not all of the earlier unique features of these Wu dialects were carried into the present. These works also possess a number of characters uniquely formed to express features not found in the classical language and used some common characters as phonetic loans (see
Chinese character classification All Chinese characters are logograms, but several different types can be identified, based on the manner in which they are formed or derived. There are a handful which derive from pictographs () and a number which are ideogram, ideographic () in or ...
) to express other uniquely Wu vocabulary. During the Ming dynasty, Wu speakers moved into
Jianghuai Mandarin Lower Yangtze Mandarin () is one of the most divergent and least mutually-intelligible of the Mandarin language Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages spoken across most of northern and southwestern China China, offici ...
speaking regions, influencing the Tairu and Tongtai dialects of Jianghuai. During the time between the
Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming Dynasty
and early Republican era, the main characteristics of modern Wu were formed. The
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 ...
became the most influential, and many dialectologists use it in citing examples of Wu. The Middle Period () took place in the middle of the Qing dynasty in the 18th century. Representative works from this section include the operas (especially kunqu operas) by Qian Decang () in the collection , and the legends written by or what are known as "", as well as huge numbers of tanci () ballads. Many of the common phenomena found in the Shan Ge are not present in works from this period, but we see the production of many new words and new means of using words. The Late Period () is the period from late Qing to Republican China, in the 19th and 20th centuries. The representative works from this period are Wu vernacular novels ( or ) such as '' The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai'' and '' The Nine-tailed Turtle''. Other works include: * ''Haitian Hongxue Ji'' * ''The Nine-tailed Fox'' * '' Officialdom Unmasked 官場現形記'' * ''Wuge Jiaji'' * ''He Dian'' Wu-speaking writers who wrote in vernacular Mandarin often left traces of their native varieties in their works, as can be found in ''Guanchang Xianxing Ji'' and ''Fubao Zatan'' (). Another source from this period is from the work of the missionary
Joseph Edkins Joseph Edkins (19 December 1823 – 23 April 1905) was a British Protestant missionary who spent 57 years in China, 30 of them in Beijing. As a Sinologue, he specialised in Chinese religions. He was also a linguistics, linguist, a translator, an ...

Joseph Edkins
, who gathered large amounts of data and published several educational works on Shanghainese as well as a bible in Shanghainese and a few other major Wu varieties. Works in this period also saw an explosion of new vocabulary in Wu dialects to describe their changing world. This clearly reflects the great social changes which were occurring during the time. There are currently three works available on the topic: * (Ming and Qing Wu and Modern Dialect Research) by Shi Rujie () * (Studies of Wu words found in Ming and Qing literature) by Chu Bannong () * (Dictionary of Ming and Qing Wu) edited by Shi Rujie ()


Post-1949

After the founding of the
People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
, the strong promotion of
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 ...
in the Wu-speaking region yet again influenced the development of Wu Chinese. Wu was gradually excluded from most modern media and schools. Public organizations were required to use Mandarin. With the influx of a migrant non-Wu-speaking population, the near total conversion of public media and organizations to the exclusive use of Mandarin as well as radical Mandarin promotion measures, the modernization and standardization of or literacy in Wu languages became improbable and left them more prone to Mandarinization. The promotion measures, which at present mostly consist of signs like the one pictured, are primarily aimed at limiting the usage of local dialects in conducting public or administrative affairs, although it, like the smoking ban, is commonly violated and it is not so uncommon to hear people speaking local dialects in a government office or a bank. The usage of local dialects in all other spheres is officially tolerated. Standardization of dialects, however, may be perceived as a precursor to possible regionalism, so this, too, would most likely be deterred. On the other hand, few speakers consider their dialect important enough to be written or standardized. To most speakers, dialects are in essence a wholly oral phenomenon. It is not uncommon to encounter children who grew up with a regional variant of Mandarin as their parent tongue with little or no fluency in a Wu variety at all. However, this is primarily when parents are speakers of different languages and communicate in Mandarin and more rarely due to the parents' attitudes towards using language or dialect, which most associate with the warmth of home and family life. Many people have noticed this trend and thus call for the preservation and documentation of not only Wu but all Chinese varieties. The first major attempt was the '' Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects'', which surveyed 2,791 locations across the nation, including 121 Wu locations (a step up from the two locations in PKU's earlier surveys), and led to the formation of an elaborate database including digital recordings of all locations; however, this database is not available to the general public. The atlas's editor, Cao Zhiyun, considers many of these languages "endangered" and has introduced the term (Languages in danger) or "endangered dialects" into the Chinese language to raise people's attention to the issue, while others try to draw attention to how the dialects fall under the scope of UNESCO's
intangible cultural heritage An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies ...
and as such deserve to be preserved and respected. More TV programs are appearing in Wu varieties and nearly every city/town has at least one show in their native variety. However, they are no longer permitted to air during primetime. They are generally more playful than serious and the majority of these shows, such as Hangzhou's "Old Liutou tells you the news", provide local or regional news in the dialect, but most are limited to fifteen minutes of airtime. Popular video sites such as
Youku Youku Tudou Inc. (formerly Youku Inc.), doing business as Youku (), is a video hosting service based in Beijing, China. It operates as a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, Alibaba Group Holding Limited. Youku has its headquarters in the Sinosteel Pl ...
and
Tudou Tudou, Inc. () is a Chinese video-sharing website A website (also written as web site) is a collection of web page A web page (or webpage) is a hypertext Hypertext is text displayed on a or other with references () to othe ...
also host a variety of user-uploaded audio and visual media in many Wu languages and dialects, most of which are dialectal TV shows, although some are user-created songs and the like. A number of popular books are also appearing to teach people how to speak the Shanghainese, Suzhou dialect and Wenzhounese but they are more playful and entertaining than serious attempts at promoting literacy or standardization. Jianghuai Mandarin has replaced Wu as the language of multiple counties in Jiangsu. An example of this is Zaicheng Town in Lishui County; both Jianghuai and Wu languages were spoken in several towns in Lishui, with Wu being spoken by more people in more towns than Jianghuai. The Wu dialect is called "old Zaicheng Speech", while the Jianghuai dialect is called "new Zaicheng speech", with Wu languages being driven rapidly to extinction. Only use it to talk to relatives. The Jianghuai dialect has been present there for about a century, even though all of the surrounding are Wu speaking. Jianghuai was always confined inside the town itself until the 1960s; at present, it is overtaking Wu.


Number of speakers

Wu Chinese was once historically dominant north of the Yangtze River and most of what is now Anhui province during the Sui dynasty. Its strength in areas north of the Yangtze vastly declined from the late Tang dynasty until the late Ming dynasty, when the first characteristics of Early Modern Wu were formed. During the early Qing period, Wu speakers represented about 20% of the whole Chinese population. This percentage drastically declined after the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of a ...
devastated the Wu-speaking region, and it was reduced to about 8% by 1984, when the total number of speakers was estimated to be 80 million.


Classification

Wu's place within the greater scope of Sinitic varieties is less easily typified than protoypically northern Chinese such as Mandarin or prototypically southern Chinese such as Cantonese. Its original classification, along with the other Sinitic varieties, was established in 1937 by
Li Fang-Kuei Li Fang-Kuei (20 August 190221 August 1987) was a Chinese linguist known for his studies of the varieties of Chinese, and for his reconstructions of Old Chinese and Proto-Tai. Biography Li Fang-Kuei was born on 20 August 1902 in Guangzhou ...
, whose boundaries more or less have remained the same and were adopted by
Yuan Jiahua Yuan Jiahua (, ; January 19034 September 1980) was a Chinese linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classi ...
in his influential 1961 dialect primer. The sole basis of Li's classification was the evolution of
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
voiced stops. In the original sense, a Wu variety was by definition one which retained voiced initials. This definition is problematic considering the devoicing process which has begun in many southern Wu varieties that are surrounded by dialects which retain the ancestral voicing. The loss of voicing in a dialect does not entail that its other features will suddenly become dramatically different from the dialects it has had long historic ties with. It furthermore would place
Old Xiang Old Xiang, also known as Lou-Shao (娄邵片 / 婁邵片), is a conservative Xiang Chinese Xiang or Hsiang (; ); Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known a ...
in this category. Therefore, more elaborate systems have developed, but they still mostly delineate the same regions. Regardless of the justification, the Wu region has been clearly outlined, and Li's boundary in some ways has remained the de facto standard. In Jerry Norman's usage, Wu dialects can be considered "central dialects" or dialects that are clearly in a transition zone containing features that typify both northern and southern Chinese. .


Possible Kra–Dai substratum

Li Hui (2001) finds possible 126 Kra-Dai cognates in the
Maqiao ''A Dictionary of Maqiao'' () is a novel written by Chinese writer Han Shaogong. It was first published in 1996 and was translated into English by Julia Lovell in 2003. ''Yazhou Zhoukan'' selected it as one of the top 100 greatest Chinese novels in ...
Wu dialect spoken in the suburbs of
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
, out of more than 1,000 lexical items surveyed. According to the author, these cognates are likely traces of the " old Yue language" (gu Yueyu 古越語). The two tables below show lexical comparisons between the Maqiao Wu dialect and Kra-Dai languages as quoted from Li Hui (2001). He notes that, in Wu Chinese, final consonants such as -m, -ɯ, -i, ụ, etc do not exist, and therefore, -m in the Maqiao dialect tends to become -ŋ, -n, or zero. In some cases, -m even becomes a final glottal stop.


Languages and dialects

Wu languages are spoken in most 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
province, the whole municipality of
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
, southern
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of the leading provinces in finance, education, ...

Jiangsu
province, as well as smaller parts of
Anhui Anhui (; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Anhwei) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, part of the East China region. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is l ...

Anhui
and
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese Gan, Gann or Kan is a group of Sinitic languages The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with "Chinese languages", constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibe ...

Jiangxi
provinces. Many are located in the lower
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
valley. Dialectologists traditionally establish linguistic boundaries based on several overlapping
isogloss An isogloss, also called a heterogloss (see Etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English ''The'' () is a grammatical article Article often refers to: * Article (grammar) An article is any member of a class of dedicate ...
es of linguistic features. One of the critical historical factors for these boundaries lies in the movement of the population of speakers. This is often determined by the administrative boundaries established during imperial times. As such, imperial boundaries are essential for delineating one variety from another, and many varieties' isogloss clusters line up perfectly with the county boundaries established in imperial times, although some counties contain more than one variety and others may span several counties. Another factor that influences movement and transportation as well as the establishment of administrative boundaries is geography. Northernmost Zhejiang and Jiangsu are very flat, in the middle of a river delta, and as such are more uniform than the more mountainous regions farther south towards Fujian. The Taihu varieties, like Mandarin in the flat northern plains, are more homogeneous than Southern Wu, which has a significantly greater diversity of linguistic forms, and this is likely a direct result of geography. Coastal varieties also share more featural affinities, likely because the East China Sea provides a means of transportation. The same phenomenon can be seen with Min varieties.


Major groupings

Wu is divided into two major groups: Northern Wu () and Southern Wu (), which are only partially mutually intelligible. Individual words spoken in isolation may be comprehensible among these speakers, but the flowing discourse of everyday life mostly is not. There is another lesser group, Western Wu, synonymous with the Xuanzhou division, which has a larger influence from the surrounding Mandarin varieties than Northern Wu, making it typologically much different from the rest of Wu. Southern Wu is well known among
linguists 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 branch of the Indo ...

linguists
and sinologists as being one of the most internally diverse among the Sinitic groups, with very little mutual intelligibility between varieties across subgroups. On the other hand, some Wu varieties like
Wenzhounese Wenzhounese (), also known as Oujiang (), Tong Au () or Auish (), is the language spoken in Wenzhou, the southern prefecture of Zhejiang Zhejiang (, formerly romanized as Chekiang) is an eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of th ...
have gained notoriety for their high incomprehensibility to both Wu and non-Wu speakers alike, so much so that Wenzhounese was used during the Second World War to avoid Japanese interception. In the ''
Language Atlas of China The ''Language Atlas of China'' (), published in two parts in 1987 and 1989, maps the distribution of both the varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are the centr ...
'' (1987), Wu was divided into six subgroups: * Taihu (i.e.,
Lake Tai Taihu (), also known as Lake Tai or Lake Taihu, is a lake in the Yangtze Delta and one of the largest freshwater lakes in China. The lake lies in Jiangsu province and significant part of its southern shore forms its border with Zhejiang. With ...

Lake Tai
region): Spoken over much of southern
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of the leading provinces in finance, education, ...

Jiangsu
province, including
Suzhou Suzhou (; ; , 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 c ...

Suzhou
,
Wuxi Wuxi () is a city in southern Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of t ...

Wuxi
,
Changzhou Changzhou ( Changzhounese: ''Zaon Tsei'', ) is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), off ...

Changzhou
, the southern part of
Nantong Nantong (; alternate names: Nan-t'ung, Nantung, Tongzhou, or Tungchow; Qihai dialect: ) is a prefecture-level city in southeastern Jiangsu province of China, province, China. Located on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, near the river mouth. ...

Nantong
,
Jingjiang Jingjiang () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a Administrative divisions of China#County level (3 ...
and Danyang; the city of
Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four Direct-administered municipalities of China, direct-administered municipalities of the China, People's Republic of China. The city is located on the sou ...

Shanghai
; and the northern part 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
province, including
Ningbo Ningbo (; , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; f ...
,
Hangzhou Hangzhou (, , Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ...

Hangzhou
,
Huzhou Huzhou (, ) is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of ...

Huzhou
,
Shaoxing Shaoxing (; ) is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic ...

Shaoxing
and Jiaxing. This group makes up the largest population among all Wu speakers. The local varieties of this region are mostly mutually intelligible among each other. **
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 ...
**
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 ...
**
Ningbo dialect The Ningbo dialect () is a dialect 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, St ...
**
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 ...
**
Wuxi dialect The Wuxi dialect ( Simplified Chinese: 无锡话; Traditional Chinese: 無錫話; Pinyin: Wúxīhuà, Wu : mu1 sik1 wo3 , Wuxi dialect : u˨˨˧ siɪʔ˦ ɦu˨ is a dialect of Wu. It is spoken in the city of Wuxi Wuxi () is a city in sou ...
**
Changzhou dialect Changzhou dialect (Simplified Chinese Simplification, Simplify, or Simplified may refer to: Mathematics Simplification is the process of replacing a mathematical expression by an equivalent one, that is simpler (usually shorter), for example * Si ...
**
Jiangyin dialect Jiangyin dialect (江阴话) is a Northern Wu Chinese dialect spoken in the city of Jiangyin Jiangyin (, Jiangyin dialect: ) is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefec ...
** Qi–Hai dialect **
Jinxiang dialect Jinxiang dialect (金鄉話), is a Taihu Wu dialects, Taihu Wu dialect, or a Northern Wu dialect, spoken in Cangnan county of Wenzhou prefecture-level city. It is considered to be a Taihu Wu linguistic exclave within the mostly Min Nan-speaking par ...
*
Taizhou Taizhou (Taichow) may refer to either of two cities in eastern China: * Taizhou, Jiangsu (), located on the Yangtze River, northwest of Shanghai * Taizhou, Zhejiang (), located along the East China Sea, south of Shanghai See also

* Táozhō ...
(台州): Spoken in and around
Taizhou Taizhou (Taichow) may refer to either of two cities in eastern China: * Taizhou, Jiangsu (), located on the Yangtze River, northwest of Shanghai * Taizhou, Zhejiang (), located along the East China Sea, south of Shanghai See also

* Táozhō ...
,
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
province. Taizhou Wu is among the southern varieties that are the closest to Taihu Wu, also known as North Wu, and speakers can communicate with speakers of Taihu Wu. **
Taizhou dialect The Taizhou dialect (Taizhou dialect: T'e-tsiu wa; ) is a dialect of Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily in Shanghai Sha ...
* Oujiang/Dong'ou (/): Spoken in and around the city of
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
,
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
province. This variety is the most distinctive and mutually unintelligible amongst all the Wu varieties. Some dialectologists even treat it as a variety separate from the rest of Wu and call it "Ou language" or . **
Wenzhounese Wenzhounese (), also known as Oujiang (), Tong Au () or Auish (), is the language spoken in Wenzhou, the southern prefecture of Zhejiang Zhejiang (, formerly romanized as Chekiang) is an eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of th ...
** Yueqing dialect *
Wuzhou Wuzhou (, postal: Wuchow; za, Ngouzcouh / Ŋouƨcouƅ), formerly Ngchow, is a prefecture-level city A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply " Yangxin County from the neighboring Xianning), but still fro ...
(婺州): Spoken in and around
Jinhua , alternately romanized as Kinhwa, is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially ...

Jinhua
,
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
province. Like Taizhou Wu, it is somewhat mutually intelligible with Taihu Wu. * Chu–Qu (處衢): Spoken in and around Lishui, Zhejiang, Lishui and Quzhou in
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
as well as in Shangrao County and Yushan County in
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese Gan, Gann or Kan is a group of Sinitic languages The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with "Chinese languages", constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibe ...

Jiangxi
province. **Quzhou dialect **Jiangshan dialect **Qingtian dialect *Xuanzhou Wu dialects, Xuanzhou (宣州): Spoken in and around Xuancheng,
Anhui Anhui (; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Anhwei) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, part of the East China region. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is l ...

Anhui
province. This part of Wu is becoming less spoken since the campaign started by the
Taiping Rebellion The Taiping Rebellion, also known as the Taiping Civil War or the Taiping Revolution, was a massive rebellion Rebellion, uprising, or insurrection is a refusal of obedience or order. It refers to the open resistance against the orders of a ...
, and it is being slowly replaced by the immigrant Mandarin from north of the Yangtse river.


Southern Wu

Chinese dialectologist Cao Zhiyun has rearranged some of the divisions based on a larger corpus of data. According to Cao, Southern Wu can be divided into three broad divisions (note that he is using the pre-republican boundaries for the cited locations): * Jin–Qu (), which contains twelve locations. **Jinhua Prefecture:
Jinhua , alternately romanized as Kinhwa, is a prefecture-level city A prefectural-level municipality (), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China China (), officially ...

Jinhua
, Tangxi, Jinhua, Tangxi, Lanxi, Zhejiang, Lanxi, Pujiang County, Zhejiang, Pujiang, Yiwu, Dongyang, Pan'an, Yongkang, Zhejiang, Yongkang, and Wuyi County, Zhejiang, Wuyi **Quzhou Prefecture: Quzhou and Longyou **Lishui Prefecture: Jinyun * Shang–Li (), which contains seventeen locations and has two subdivisions: **''Shang–Shan'' (), which contains six locations. ***Shangrao prefecture, Jiangxi province: Shangrao, Guangfeng, Yushan County, Yushan ***Quzhou prefecture: Kaihua, Changshan, Jiangshan **''Lishui'' (), which contains eleven locations. ***Lishui Prefecture: Lishui, Suichang, Songyang, (former county of Lishui, now belonging to Wuyi County, Zhejiang, Wuyi), Qingtian, Yunhe County, Yunhe, Jingning She Autonomous County, Longquan, and Qingyuan County, Zhejiang, Qingyuan ***
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
Prefecture: Taishun county ***Nanping Prefecture in Fujian: Pucheng County, Fujian, Pucheng * Oujiang or Ou River, which contains eight locations. **Wenzhou prefecture:
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
, Yongjia County, Yongjia, Yueqing, Rui'an, Dongtou, Pingyang County, Pingyang, Cangnan, and Wencheng County, Wencheng (excluding the Min speaking regions of Pingyang and Cangnan).


Phonology

The Wu dialects are notable among Chinese varieties in having kept the "muddy" (voice (phonetics), voiced; whispery voiced word-initially) plosives and fricative consonant, fricatives of
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
, such as ''etc.'', thus maintaining the three-way contrast of Middle Chinese stop consonants and affricates, , , ''etc.'' (For example, 「凍 痛 洞」 , where other varieties have only .) Because Wu dialects never lost these voiced obstruents, the tone split of Middle Chinese may still be allophonic, and most dialects have three syllabic tones (though counted as eight in traditional descriptions). In Shanghai, these are reduced to two word tones. Wu varieties and Germanic languages have the largest vowel quality inventories in the world. The Jinhui dialect spoken in Shanghai's Fengxian District has 20 vowel qualities. Because of these different changes within Wu, which gives it its unique quality, it has also sometimes been called the "French language, French of China". For more details, see , , and .


Grammar

The pronoun systems of many Wu dialects are complex when it comes to personal and demonstrative pronouns. For example, Wu exhibits clusivity (having different forms of the first-person plural pronoun depending on whether or not the addressee is included). Wu employs six demonstratives, three of which are used to refer to close objects, and three of which are used for farther objects. In terms of word order, Wu uses SVO (like Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin), but unlike Mandarin, it also has a high occurrence of SOV and in some cases OSV. In terms of phonology, tone sandhi is extremely complex, and helps parse multisyllabic words and idiomatic phrases. In some cases, indirect objects are distinguished from direct objects by a voiced/voiceless distinction. In most cases, Chinese classifier, classifiers take the place of genitive particles and articles – a quality shared with Cantonese – as shown by the following examples:


Plural pronouns

Wu dialects vary in the way they pluralize pronouns. In the
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 ...
, second- and third-person pronouns are suffixed with , while the first-person plural is a separate root, , from the singular. 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 ...
, the first-person pronoun is suffixed with , and third-person with (underlying ), but the second-person plural is a separate root, . In the Haiyan County, Zhejiang, Haiyan dialect, first- and third-person pronouns are pluralized with , but the second-person plural is a separate root .


Classifiers

All nouns could have just one Chinese classifier, classifier in Shanghainese.


Examples


Romanization

There are three major schools of romanization of Wu Chinese.


Vocabulary

Like other varieties of Southern Chinese, Wu Chinese retains some archaic vocabulary from Classical Chinese,
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
, and Old Chinese. For instance, for "to speak" or "speaking", Wu dialects, with the exception of Hangzhou dialect, use ''góng'' (Simplified Chinese: 讲; Traditional Chinese: 講), whereas Mandarin uses ''shuō'' (Simplified Chinese: 说; Traditional Chinese: 說). Furthermore, in Guangfeng and Yushan County, Yushan County, counties of
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese Gan, Gann or Kan is a group of Sinitic languages The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with "Chinese languages", constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibe ...

Jiangxi
province, 曰 or 'yuē', is generally preferred over its Mandarin counterpart. In Shangrao county of
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; alternately romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi, Gan Chinese Gan, Gann or Kan is a group of Sinitic languages The Sinitic languages, often synonymous with "Chinese languages", constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibe ...

Jiangxi
province, Simplified Chinese: 话 Traditional Chinese: 話 pinyin: Huà/ is preferred over the spoke Mandarin version of the word for "to speak" or "speaking".


Examples

All IPA transcriptions and examples listed below are from
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 Wu dialects, the morphology of the words are similar, but the characters are switched around. Not all Wu Chinese words exhibit this phenomenon, only some words in some dialects.


Colloquialisms

In Wu Chinese, there are colloquialisms that are traced back to ancestral Chinese varieties, such as Middle or Old Chinese. Many of those colloquialisms are cognates of other words found in other modern southern Chinese dialects, such as Gan Chinese, Gan, Xiang Chinese, Xiang, or Min Chinese, Min. Mandarin equivalents and their pronunciation on Wu Chinese are in parentheses. All IPA transcriptions and examples listed below are from
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 ...
. *「鑊子」 (鍋子) wok, cooking pot. The Mandarin equivalent term is also used, but both of them are synonyms and are thus interchangeable. *「衣裳」 (衣服) clothing. Found in other Chinese dialects. It is a reference to traditional Han Chinese clothing, where it consists of the upper garments 「衣」 and the lower garments 「裳」.


Literature

The genres of ''kunqu'' opera and '' tanci'' song, appearing in the
Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming Dynasty
, were the first instances of the use of Wu dialect in literature. By the turn of the 20th century it was used in several novels that had prostitution as a subject.Snow, p
33
In many of these novels, Wu is mainly used as dialog of prostitute characters. In one work, ''Shanghai Flowers'' by Han Bangqing, all of the dialog is in Wu.Snow, p
34
Wu originally developed in genres related to oral performance. It was used in manners related to oral performance when it proliferated in written literature and it was widely used in fiction about prostitutes, a particular genre, and not in other genres. Donald B. Snow, author of ''Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular'', compared the development of Wu in this manner to the patterns of Written vernacular Chinese, Baihua and Japanese vernacular writing. According to Jean Duval, author of "The Nine-Tailed Turtle: Pornography or 'fiction of exposure," at the time '' The Nine-tailed Turtle'' by () was published, it was one of the most popular novels written in the Wu dialect.Snow, p
261
''Magnificent Dreams in Shanghai'' () by Sun Jiazhen () was another example of a prostitute novel with Wu dialog from the turn of the 20th century.Snow, p
34
Snow wrote that Wu literature "achieved a certain degree of prominence" by 1910. After 1910 there had been no novels which were as popular as ''The Nine-tailed Turtle'' or the critical acclaim garnered by ''Shanghai Flowers''. In the popular fiction of the early 20th century the usage of Wu remained in use in prostitute dialog but, as asserted by Snow, "apparently" did not extend beyond that. In 1926 Hu Shih stated that of all of the Chinese dialects, within literature, Wu had the brightest future. Snow concluded that instead Wu dialect writing became "a transient phenomenon that died out not long after its growth gathered steam." Snow argued that the primary reason was the increase of prestige and importance in Baihua, and that one other contributing reason was changing market factors since Shanghai's publishing industry, which grew, served all of China and not just Shanghai. Duval argued that many Chinese critics had a low opinion of Wu works, mainly originating from the eroticism within them, and that contributed to the decline in Wu literature.


See also

* Romanization of Wu Chinese * Huizhou Chinese * * ''Wo Bau-Sae'' *
Jiangnan Jiangnan or Jiang Nan (; formerly romanized Kiang-nan, literally "South of the River" meaning "South of the Yangtze") is a geographic area in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It i ...

Jiangnan
* List of varieties of Chinese * Wu (region) * Speakers of Wu Chinese * Wuyue * Wuyue culture


Notes


References


Sources

* * * * * * * Snow, Donald B. ''Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular''. Hong Kong University Press, 2004. . . * * * * * * * *


External links


Resources on Wu dialects


glossika.com
*
Shanghainese Wu Dictionary
Search in Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin, International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA, or *
Classification of Wu Dialects
– By James Campbell *

– Compiled by James Campbell * A BBS set up in 2004, in which topics such as phonology, grammar, orthography and romanization of Wu Chinese are widely talked about. The cultural and linguistic diversity within China is also a significant concerning of this forum. * A website aimed at modernization of Wu Chinese, including basics of Wu, Wu romanization scheme, pronunciation dictionaries of different dialects, Wu input method development, Wu research literatures, written Wu experiment, Wu orthography, a discussion forum etc. * Excellent references on Wu Chinese, including tones of the sub-dialects.
Tatoeba Project Tatoeba.org
- Examples sentences in Shanghainese dialect, and in Suzhouan dialect. *hdl:10125/38799, Wu wordlist available through Kaipuleohone
Pronunciation dictionary
- with audio from various Chinese cities.


Articles



– A comprehensive article, written by Wu Mei and Guo Zhenzhi of World Association for Christian Communication, related to the struggle for national cultural unity by current Chinese Communist national government while desperately fighting for preservation on Chinese regional cultures that have been the precious roots of all Han Chinese people (including Hangzhou Wu dialect). Excellent for anyone doing research on Chinese language linguistic, anthropology on Chinese culture, international business, foreign languages, global studies, and translation/interpretation.
Modernisation a Threat to Dialects in China
– An excellent article originally from Straits Times Interactive through YTL Community website, it provides an insight of Chinese dialects, both major and minor, losing their speakers to Standard Mandarin due to greater mobility and interaction. Excellent for anyone doing research on Chinese language linguistic, anthropology on Chinese culture, international business, foreign languages, global studies, and translation/interpretation.
Middlebury Expands Study Abroad Horizons
– An excellent article including a section on future exchange programs in learning Chinese language in Hangzhou (plus colorful, positive impression on the Hangzhou dialect, too). Requires registration of online account before viewing.
Mind your language (from The Standard, Hong Kong)
– This newspaper article provides a deep insight on the danger of decline in the usage of dialects, including Wu dialects, other than the rising star of Standard Mandarin. It also mentions an exception where some grassroots' organizations and, sometimes, larger institutions, are the force behind the preservation of their dialects. Another excellent article for research on Chinese language linguistics, anthropology on Chinese culture, international business, foreign languages, global studies, and translation/interpretation.
China: Dialect use on TV worries Beijing (originally from Straits Times Interactive, Singapore and posted on AsiaMedia Media News Daily from UCLA)
– Article on the use of dialects other than standard Mandarin in China where strict media censorship is high.
Standard or Local Chinese – TV Programs in Dialect (from Radio86.co.uk)
– Another article on the use of dialects other than standard Mandarin in China. {{Portal bar, Language, China Wu Chinese, Languages of China Subject–verb–object languages