The Beijing dialect (simplified Chinese: 北京话; traditional Chinese: 北京話; pinyin: Běijīnghuà), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China.[3] It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, which is the official language in the People's Republic of China and Republic of China and one of the official languages in Singapore.

Although the Beijing dialect and Standard Chinese are similar, various differences generally make clear to Chinese speakers whether an individual is a native of Beijing speaking the local Beijing variant or is an individual speaking Standard Chinese.

Mutual intelligibility with other Mandarin dialects

Dungan language speakers like Iasyr Shivaza and others have reported that Chinese who speak Beijing dialect can understand Dungan, but Dungans could not understand the Beijing Mandarin.[4]


In fundamental structure, the phonology of the Beijing dialect and Standard Chinese are almost identical. In part, this is because the pronunciation of Standard Chinese was based on Beijing pronunciation. (See Standard Chinese for its phonology charts; the same basic structure applies to the Beijing dialect.)

However, some striking differences exist. Most prominent is the proliferation of rhotic vowels. All rhotic vowels are the result of the use of the - /-ɚ/, a noun suffix, except for a few words pronounced [ɐɚ̯] that do not have this suffix. In Standard Chinese, these also occur but much less often than they appear in Beijing dialect. This phenomenon is known as érhuà (儿化) or rhotacization, as is considered one of the iconic characteristics of Beijing Mandarin.

When /w/ occurs in syllable-initial position, many speakers use [ʋ] before vowels other than [o] as in , and [u] as in 五 wu, e.g. 尾巴 wěiba [ʋei̯˨pa˦].[5]

Moreover, Beijing dialect has a few phonetic reductions that are usually considered too "colloquial" for use in Standard Chinese. For example, in fast speech, initial consonants go through lenition if they are in an unstressed syllable: pinyinzh ch sh/tʂ tʂʰ ʂ/ become ⟨r⟩ /ɻ/, so 不知道 bùzhīdào "don't know" can sound like bùrdào; ⟨j q x⟩ /tɕ tɕʰ ɕ/ become ⟨y⟩ /j/, so 赶紧去 gǎnjǐnqù "go quickly" can sound like gǎnyǐnqù; pinyin ⟨b d g⟩ /p t k/ go through voicing to become [b d ɡ]; similar changes also occur on other consonants.

Some of these changes yield syllables that violate the syllable structure of Standard Chinese, such as 大柵欄 Dà Zhàlán Street, which locals pronounce as Dàshlàr.[6]

The tones of Beijing dialect tend to be more exaggerated than Standard Chinese. In Standard Chinese, the four tones are high flat, high rising, low dipping, and falling; in Beijing dialect, the first two tones are higher, the third one dips more prominently, and the fourth one falls more.

Influence of Beijing dialect phonology on Manchu

Many of the Manchu words are now pronounced with some Chinese peculiarities of pronunciation, so k before i and e=ch', g before i and e=ch, h and s before i=hs, etc. H before a, o, u, ū, is the guttural Scotch or German ch.

A Manchu Grammar: With Analysed Texts, Paul Georg von Möllendorff, p. 1.[7]

The Chinese Northern Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing had a major impact on the phonology of the dialect of Manchu spoken in Beijing, and since Manchu phonology was transcribed into Chinese and European sources based on the sinified pronunciation of Manchus from Beijing, the original authentic Manchu pronunciation is unknown to scholars.[8][9]

The Manchus that lived in Peking (Beijing) were influenced by the Chinese dialect spoken in the area to the point where pronouncing Manchu sounds was hard for them, and they pronounced Manchu according to Chinese phonetics, while in contrast, the Manchus of Aigun (in Heilongjiang) could both pronounce Manchu sounds properly and mimick the sinified pronunciation of Manchus in Peking (Beijing), since they learned the Pekinese (Beijing) pronunciation from either studying in Peking or from officials sent to Aigun from Beijing, and they could tell them apart, using the Chinese influenced Pekinese pronunciation when demonstrating that they were better educated or their superior stature in society.[10]


Beijing dialect typically uses many words that are considered slang, and therefore occur much less or not at all in Standard Chinese. Speakers not native to Beijing may have trouble understanding many or most of these. Many of such slang words employ the rhotic suffix "-r", which is known as erhua. Examples include:

  • 倍儿 bèir – very, especially (referring to manner or attribute)
  • 别价 biéjie – do not; usually followed by if used as an imperative (usually used when rejecting a favor or politeness from close friends)
  • 搓火儿 cuōhuǒr – to be angry
  • 颠儿了 diārle – to leave; to run away
  • 二把刀 èrbǎdāo – a person with limited abilities, klutz
  • 撒丫子 sayazi – to let go on feet, to go, leave.
  • sóng / 蔫儿 niār – no backbone, spiritless
  • 消停 xiāoting – to finally and thankfully become quiet and calm
  • zhé – way (to do something); equivalent to Standard Chinese 办法
  • 褶子了 zhezile – ruined (especially things to do)
  • shang - often used in place of , meaning "to go".
  • ge - often used in place of , meaning "to place".

Some Beijing phrases may be somewhat disseminated outside Beijing:

  • 抠门儿 kōumér – stingy, miserly (may be used even outside Beijing)
  • 劳驾 láojia – "Excuse me"; heard often on public transportation, from Classical Chinese
  • 溜达 liūda – to stroll about; equivalent to Standard Chinese 逛街 or 散步

Note that some of the slang are considered to be tuhua (土话), or "base" or "uneducated" language, that are carryovers from an older generation and are no longer used amongst more educated speakers, for example:

  • 起小儿 qíxiǎor – since a young age, similar to 打小儿 dǎxiǎor, which is more often used by the younger generation
  • 晕菜 yūncài – to be disoriented, to be confused, to be bewildered

Others may be viewed as neologistic expressions used among younger speakers and in "trendier" circles:

  • shuǎng – cool (in relation to a matter); cf. () (describes a person)
  • 套瓷儿 tàocír – to toss into the hoop; used of basketball
  • 小蜜 xiǎomì – special female friend (negative connotation)


The Beijing dialect has been studied by linguists including Joseph Edkins and Robert Morrison.[11] There are important dissimilarities between Standard Mandarin and Beijing dialect Mandarin even as Beijing Mandarin's phonology is held to be the same as Standard Mandarin's. 2 Both southern and Mandarin features of syntax were mixed into Standard Mandarin while northern Mandarin is the main basis of Beijing Mandarin and this sets the syntax of Standard Mandarin and Beijing Mandarin apart.[12]

The grammar of the Beijing dialect utilizes colloquial expressions differently from Standard Chinese. In general, Standard Chinese is influenced by Classical Chinese, which makes it more condensed and concise; Beijing dialect can therefore seem more longwinded (though note the generally faster speaking rate and phonetic reductions of colloquial Beijing speech).

An example:[better example needed]

  • Standard Chinese:
    • 今天会下雨,所以出门的时候要记得带雨伞。
    • Jīntiān huì xiàyǔ, suǒyǐ chūmén de shíhou yào jìde dài yǔsan.
    • Translation: It is going to rain today, so remember to bring an umbrella when you go out.
  • Beijing dialect:
    • 今儿得下雨,(所以)出门儿时候记着带雨伞!
    • Jīnr děi xiàyǔ, (suǒyǐ) chūménr shíhòu jìzhe dài yǔsan!
  • Under the influence of the Beijing dialect's phonetic reductions:
    • Jīr děi xiàyǔ, (suǒyǐ) chūmér ríhòu jìr dài yǔsan!

See also


  1. ^ Zhou, Yimin (2002). 现代北京话研究. Beijing Normal University Press. p. 202. ISBN 7-303-06225-4. 
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Beijing Mandarin". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Beijing dialect. WordNet 3.0, 2006 by Princeton University.
  4. ^ Fu ren da xue (Beijing, China); S.V.D. Research Institute; Society of the Divine Word; Monumenta Serica Institute (1977). Monumenta serica, Volume 33. H. Vetch. p. 351. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  5. ^ Seth Wiener & Ya-ting Shih. "Divergent places of articulation: [w] and [ʋ] in modern spoken Mandarin" (PDF). 
  6. ^ Language Log
  7. ^ Möllendorff, Paul Georg von (1892). A Manchu Grammar: With Analysed Texts (reprint ed.). Shanghai: Printed at the American Presbyterian mission Press. p. 1. Archived from the original on Oct 26, 2007. Retrieved 1 April 2013. [1]
  8. ^ Gorelova, Liliya M., ed. (2002). Manchu Grammar, Part 8. Volume 7 of Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 8 Uralic and Central Asian Studies. Brill. p. 77. ISBN 9004123075. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  9. ^ Cahiers de linguistique: Asie orientale, Volumes 31-32. Contributor Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale. Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale. 2002. p. 208. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Shirokogoroff, S. M. (1934) [August 1929]. "Reading and Transliteration of Manchu Lit.". Archives polonaises d'etudes orientales, Volumes 8-10. Contributors Polskie Towarzystwo Orientalistyczne, Polska Akademia Nauk. Komitet Nauk Orientalistycznych. Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe. p. 122. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  11. ^ Missionary recorder: a repository of intelligence from eastern missions, and a medium of general information, Volume 1. FOOCHOW: American M.E. Mission Press. 1867. p. 40. Retrieved 23 September 2011. 
  12. ^ Chirkova, Katia; Chen, Yiya. "Běijīng Mandarin, the language of Běijīng". In Sybesma, Rint. Encyclopedia of Chinese Linguistics (PDF). Leiden: Brill. p. 11. 

External links