Wu (Shanghainese: [ɦu˨˨ ɲy˦˦];
dialect: [ŋ˨˨˧ nʲy˨˨]) is a group of
linguistically similar and historically related varieties of Chinese
primarily spoken in the whole city of Shanghai,
the southern half of
province, as well as bordering areas.
Major Wu varieties include those of Shanghai, Suzhou, Ningbo, Wuxi,
Wenzhou/Oujiang, Hangzhou, Shaoxing,
and Yongkang. Wu speakers,
such as Chiang Kai-shek,
and Cai Yuanpei, occupied positions of
great importance in modern Chinese culture and politics. Wu can also
be found being used in
opera, the former
which is second only in national popularity to Peking opera; as well
as in the performances of the popular entertainer and comedian Zhou
Libo. Wu is also spoken in a large number of diaspora communities,
with significant centers of immigration originating from Shanghai,
has traditionally been the linguistic center of Wu and was
likely the first place the distinct variety of Sinitic known as Wu
is widely considered to be the most
linguistically representative of the family. It was mostly the basis
of the Wu lingua franca that developed in
leading to the
formation of standard Shanghainese, which as a center of economic
power and possessing the largest population of Wu speakers, has
attracted the most attention. Due to the influence of Shanghainese, Wu
as a whole is incorrectly labelled in English as simply,
"Shanghainese", when introducing the language family to
non-specialists. Wu is the more accurate terminology for the greater
grouping that the
variety is part of; other less precise
terms include "
speech" (江南話), "Jiangzhe
(Jiangsu–Zhejiang) speech" (江浙話), and less commonly "Wuyue
The Wu group (Southern Wu in particular) is well-known among linguists
and sinologists as being one of the most internally diverse among the
Sinitic groups, with very little mutual intelligibility between
varieties across subgroups. Among speakers of other Sinitic languages,
Wu is often subjectively judged to be soft, light, and flowing. There
is an idiom in Mandarin that specifically describes these qualities of
Wu speech: Ngu nung nioe ngiu (吴侬软语), which literally means
"the tender speech of Wu". On the other hand, some Wu varieties like
have gained notoriety for their high incomprehensibility
to both Wu and non-Wu speakers alike, so much so that
used during the Second World War to avoid Japanese
Wu dialects are typified linguistically as having preserved the voiced
initials of Middle Chinese, having a majority of
undergo a register split, and preserving a checked tone typically
terminating in a glottal stop, although some dialects maintain the
tone without the stop and certain dialects of Southern Wu have
undergone or are starting to undergo a process of devoicing. The
historical relations which determine Wu classification primarily
consist in two main factors: firstly, geography, both in terms of
physical geography and distance south or away from Mandarin, that is,
Wu varieties are part of a Wu–Min dialect continuum from southern
and Chaoshan. The second factor is
the drawing of historical administrative boundaries, which, in
addition to physical barriers, limit mobility and in the majority of
cases more or less determine the boundary of a Wu dialect.
Wu Chinese, along with Min, is also of great significance to
historical linguists due to their retention of many ancient features.
These two languages have proven pivotal in determining the phonetic
history of the Chinese languages.
More pressing concerns of the present are those of language
preservation. Many[who?] within and outside of
fear that the
increased usage of Mandarin may eventually altogether supplant the
languages that have no written form, legal protection, or official
status and are officially barred from use in public discourse.
However, many analysts[who?] believe that a stable state of diglossia
will endure for at least several generations if not indefinitely.
2.1 Substrate influences
2.3 Written sources
2.5 Number of speakers
4 Geographic distribution and subgrouping
6.1 Plural pronouns
9 See also
12 External links
12.1 Resources on Wu dialects
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 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 '話' Wo (speech) to their location's
endonym. For example, 溫州話 Wēnzhōuhuà is used for Wenzhounese.
Affixing 閒話 xiánhuà is also common and more typical of the Taihu
division, as in 嘉興閒話 Kashin'ghenwo for Jiaxing dialect.
Wu (simplified Chinese: 吴语; traditional Chinese: 吳語; pinyin:
Wúyǔ, 'Wu language'): the formal name and standard reference in
Wu dialects (simplified Chinese: 吴语方言; traditional Chinese:
吳語方言; pinyin: Wúyǔ fāngyán, can be interpreted as either
"dialects of the Wu language" or "Chinese dialects in the Wu family"):
another scholastic term.
Northern Wu (simplified Chinese: 北部吴语; traditional Chinese:
北部吳語; pinyin: Běibù Wúyǔ): Wu typically spoken in the
north of Zhejiang, the city of
Shanghai and parts of Jiangsu,
comprising the Taihu and usually the Taizhou divisions. It by default
includes the Xuanzhou division in
Anhui as well, however this division
is often neglected in Northern Wu discussions.
Southern Wu (simplified Chinese: 南部吴语; traditional Chinese:
南部吳語; pinyin: Nánbù Wúyǔ): Wu spoken in southern Zhejiang
and periphery, comprising the Oujiang, Wuzhou, and Chuqu divisions.
Western Wu (simplified Chinese: 西部吴语; traditional Chinese:
西部吳語; pinyin: Xībù Wúyǔ): A term gaining in usage as a
synonym for the Xuanzhou division and modeled after the previous two
terms since the Xuanzhou division is less representative of Northern
Shanghainese (simplified Chinese: 上海话/上海闲话; traditional
Chinese: 上海話/上海閒話; pinyin: Shànghǎihuà/Shànghǎi
xiánhuà): is also a very common name, used because
Shanghai is the
most well-known city in the Wu-speaking region, and most people are
unfamiliar with the term Wu Chinese. The use of the term Shanghainese
for referring to the family is more typically used outside of China
and in simplified introductions to the areas where it is spoken or to
other similar topics, for example one might encounter sentences like
"They speak a kind of
Shanghainese in Ningbo." The term Shanghainese
is never used by serious linguists to refer to anything but the
variety used in Shanghai.
Wuyue language (simplified Chinese: 吴越语; traditional Chinese:
吳越語; pinyin: Wúyuèyǔ; "the language of Wu and Yue"): an
ancient name, now seldom used, referring to the language(s) spoken in
the ancient states of Wu, Yue, and
Wuyue or the general region where
they were located and by extension the modern forms of the language(s)
spoken there. It was also used as an older term for what is now simply
known as Wu Chinese. Initially, some dialectologists had grouped the
Wu dialects in
Jiangsu under the term 吳語 Wúyǔ where the ancient
Wu kingdom had been located and the Wu dialects in
Zhejiang under the
term 越語 Yuèyǔ where the ancient Yue kingdom had been located.
These were coined however for purely historical reasons. Today, most
dialectologists consider the Wu dialects in northern
Zhejiang to be
far more similar to those of southern
Jiangsu than to those of
southern Zhejiang, so this terminology is no longer appropriate from a
linguistic perspective. As a result, the terms Southern and Northern
Wu have become more and more common in dialectology literature to
differentiate between those in
Jiangsu and the northern half of
Zhejiang and those in southern
Zhejiang and its Wu-speaking periphery.
Jiangnan language (simplified Chinese: 江南话; traditional Chinese:
江南話; pinyin: Jiāngnánhuà): meaning the language of the area
south of the Yangtze, used because most of the Wu speakers live south
Yangtze River in an area called Jiangnan.
Kiang–Che or Jiang–Zhe language (simplified Chinese: 江浙话;
traditional Chinese: 江浙話; pinyin: Jiāngzhèhuà): meaning "the
Jiangsu and Zhejiang".
An example of the
Wuxi dialect of Wu
Modern Wu can be traced back to the ancient Wu and Yue centered around
what is now southern
Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang. The Japanese Go-on
(呉音, goon, pinyin: Wú yīn) readings of Chinese characters
(obtained from the
Eastern Wu during the
Three Kingdoms period) are
from the same region of
China where Wu is spoken today, however the
readings do not necessarily reflect the pronunciation of Wu Chinese.
Wu Chinese itself has a history of more than 2,500 years, dating back
to the Chinese settlement of the region in the Spring and Autumn
Period, however there are only very minor traces from these earlier
periods. The language of today is wholly descendant from the Middle
Chinese of the Sui–Tang era (6–8th centuries), as is true of all
contemporary Chinese languages except Min Chinese.
Like most other branches of Chinese, Wu mostly descends from Middle
Chinese, which more or less supplanted the pre-existing language. This
language, called Old Wu–Min, was one of the earliest splits[clarify]
from Northern Chinese and is still preserved in the Min languages and
Chaoshan that also originate from this
language[clarify]. Wu varieties, like those of Min,
retain many ancient characteristics and are considered some of the
most historic languages. Wu was, however, more
heavily influenced by northern dialects throughout its development
than Min, as, for example, in its lenition of unreleased /k/, /t/, /p/
finals into glottal stops, which also happened in the Mandarin
varieties before disappearing in most others. Some
Mandarin varieties, especially ones farther south, still possess the
glottal stops while some Wu varieties have entirely lost them. Most
Min varieties,[example needed] however, completely retain the series.
These developments in Wu are likely areal influences due to its
geographical closeness to North China, the ease of transport with many
waterways in the north, the placement of the Southern Song capital in
Hangzhou, as well as to the high rate of education in this region.
Wu is sometimes considered to be one of the first or most ancient
dialects, since the region was the first one settled that was
non-contiguous with the other 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
According to traditional history,
Taibo of Wu
Taibo of Wu settled in the area
during the 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, 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" 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 substratum in many Wu and Min
Mandarin Chinese also possesses some words of
Austroasiatic origin, such as the original name of the Yangtze River
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 儂 nóng 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 濕 shī but cognate with
Vietnamese đầm. 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 đầm, bèo, kè, are either East Asian
areal words if not Chinese words in disguise ('duckweed', 'wet'), and
long shots (‘salted fish’). Jerry Norman and Tsu-Lin Mei
hypothesis, which proposed an
Austroasiatic homeland along the middle
Yangtze, has been largely abandoned in most circles, and left
unsupported by the majority of
Austroasiatic specialists. The
Austroasiatic predecessor of modern Vietnamese language has been
proven to originate in modern-day
Bolikhamsai Province and Khammouane
Laos as well as parts of
Nghệ An Province
Nghệ An Province and Quảng
Province in Vietnam, rather than in the region north of the Red
Li Hui (2001) identifies 126 Tai-Kadai cognates in Maqiao Wu dialect
spoken in the suburbs of
Shanghai out of more than a thousand lexical
items surveyed. According to the author, these cognates are likely
traces of 'old Yue language' (gu Yueyu 古越語).
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
Wenzhounese often mentions the strong Tai affinities the
dialect possesses. The
Zhuang languages in Guangxi and western
Guangdong, for example, are also Tai, so it would appear that Tai
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, and Austronesian are mostly
considered to be unrelated to each other,
Laurent Sagart has proposed
some possible phylogenetic affinities. Specifically, Tai–Kadai,
Austronesian and Sino-Tibetan could possibly belong to the
hypothesized Sino-Austronesian language family due to a scattering of
cognates between their ancestral forms, however his views are but one
among competing hypotheses about the phylogeny of these languages, see
Austronesian languages article for some further detail.
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.
As early as the time of
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, the earliest known dialect of
Nanjing was an ancient Wu dialect. After the
Wu Hu uprising
Wu Hu uprising and the
Disaster of Yongjia
Disaster of Yongjia in 311, the Jin Emperor and many northern Chinese
fled south, establishing the new capital
Jiankang in what is
modern-day Nanjing. The lower Yantze region became heavily
inundated by settlers from Northern China, mostly coming from what is
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
Sui dynasty and his Empress Xiao. Emperor Xuan of Western
Liang, a member of Emperor Wu of Liang's court, was Empress Xiao's
grandfather and he most likely learned the Wu dialect at
Taiping Rebellion at the end of the Qing dynasty, 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
Ningbo dialect to a dialect which, at least within the walled
city of Shanghai, was almost identical to the
Suzhou dialect. 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.
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
Shaoxing opera, for example, is performed in the Shaoxing
dialect, 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
A "ballad–narrative" (說晿詞話) known as "The Story of Xue
Rengui Crossing the Sea and Pacifying Liao"
(薛仁貴跨海征遼故事), which is about the
Tang dynasty hero
Xue Rengui, is believed to have been written in the
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
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" 山歌. 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 三言, a trilogy of collected stories compiled by Feng
Er Pai 二拍, two short story collections by Ling Mengchu
Xing Shi Yan 型世言, a novella recorded by Lu Renlong 陸人龍
Huan Sha Ji 浣紗記, an opera by Liang Chenyu 梁辰魚
Mo Hanzhai dingben chuanqi 墨憨齋定本傳奇, Feng Menglong
Qing zhong pu 清忠譜
Doupeng xianhua 豆棚閒話, early Qing baihua novel
Guzhang jue chen 鼓掌絕塵, late Ming novel collection
Bo zhong lian 缽中蓮
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
Chinese character classification) to express other uniquely
During the Ming dynasty, Wu speakers moved into Jianghuai Mandarin
speaking regions, influencing the Tairu and Tongtai dialects of
Jianghuai. During the time between the
Ming Dynasty and early
Republican era, the main characteristics of modern Wu were formed. The
Suzhou dialect became the most influential, and many dialectologists
use it in citing examples of Wu.
The Middle Period (Chinese: 中期; pinyin: zhōngqī) 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 (錢德蒼) in the collection 綴白裘, and the
legends written by Shen Qifeng (沈起鳳) or what are known as
沈氏四種, as well as huge numbers of tanci (彈詞) 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 (Chinese: 晚期; pinyin: wǎnqī) 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
(蘇白小說 or 吳語小說) such as The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai
and The Nine-tailed Turtle. Other works include:
Haitian Hongxue Ji 海天鴻雪記
The Nine-tailed Fox 九尾狐
Wuge Jiaji 吳哥甲集
He Dian 何典
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 (负曝闲谈).
Another source from this period is from the work of the missionary
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:
明清吴语和现代方言研究 (Ming and Qing Wu and Modern Dialect
Research) by Shi Rujie (石汝杰)
明清文学中的吴语词研究 (Studies of Wu words found in Ming
and Qing literature) by Chu Bannong (褚半农)
明清吴语词典 (Dictionary of Ming and Qing Wu) edited by Shi
A sign in
Lishui urging people to speak Mandarin: "Speak Mandarin
well—It's easier for all of us."
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the strong
promotion of Mandarin 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[who?] 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 濒危方言 (Languages in danger) or
"endangered dialects" into the
Chinese language to raise people's
attention to the issue, while others[who?] try to draw attention
to how the dialects fall under the scope of UNESCO's intangible
cultural heritage and as such deserve to be preserved and respected.
More TV programs are appearing in Wu varieties[example needed] 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 阿六头说新闻 "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
Tudou 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
Suzhou dialect and Wenzhounese[example needed] 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 old people[clarify] use it to
talk to relatives.[tone] 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 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.
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, whose boundaries more or less
have remained the same and were adopted by
Yuan Jiahua in his
influential 1961 dialect primer.[a]
The sole basis of Li's classification was the evolution of Middle
Chinese 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
Old Xiang 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
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. .
Geographic distribution and subgrouping
Wu varieties are spoken in most of
Zhejiang province, the whole
municipality of Shanghai, southern
Jiangsu province, as well as
smaller parts of
Jiangxi provinces. Many are located in
Yangtze River valley.
Dialectologists traditionally establish linguistic boundaries based on
several overlapping isoglosses 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
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
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
Map of the main subgroups of Wu in China
In the Language Atlas of
China (1987), Wu was divided into six
Lake Tai region): Spoken over much of southern Jiangsu
province, including Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, the southern part of
Jingjiang and Danyang; the city of Shanghai; and the northern
Zhejiang province, including Ningbo, Hangzhou, Huzhou,
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.
Taizhou: Spoken in and around Taizhou,
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
Oujiang/Dong'ou (東甌/东瓯): Spoken in and around the city of
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 瓯语 Ōuyǔ.
Wuzhou: Spoken in and around Jinhua,
Zhejiang province. Like Taizhou
Wu, it is somewhat mutually intelligible with Taihu Wu.
Chu–Qu: Spoken in and around
Zhejiang as well
Shangrao County and
Yushan County in
Xuanzhou: Spoken in and around Xuancheng,
Anhui province. This part of
Wu is becoming less spoken since the campaign started by the Taiping
Rebellion, and it is being slowly replaced by the immigrant Mandarin
from north of the Yangtse river.
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 (Chinese: 金衢; pinyin: Jīn–Qú), which contains twelve
Jinhua Prefecture: Jinhua, Tangxi (汤溪 Tāngxī, now part of Jinhua
county/金华县 Jīnhuá xiàn), Lanxi, Pujiang, Yiwu, Dongyang,
Pan'an, Yongkang, and Wuyi
Quzhou and Longyou
Lishui Prefecture: Jinyun
Shang–Li (simplified Chinese: 上丽; traditional Chinese: 上麗;
pinyin: Shàng–Lí), which contains seventeen locations and has two
Shang–Shan (Chinese: 上山; pinyin: Shàng–Shān), which contains
Jiangxi province: Shangrao, Guangfeng, Yushan
Quzhou prefecture: Kaihua, Changshan, Jiangshan
Lishui (simplified Chinese: 丽水; traditional Chinese: 麗水;
pinyin: Líshuǐ), which contains eleven locations.
Lishui Prefecture: Lishui, Suichang, Songyang, Xuanping (宣平
Lishui county now belonging to Wuyi), Qingtian,
Yunhe, Jingning She Autonomous County, Longquan, and Qingyuan
Nanping Prefecture in Fujian: Pucheng
Oujiang or Ou River, which contains eight locations.
Wenzhou prefecture: Wenzhou, Yongjia, Yueqing, Rui'an, Dongtou,
Pingyang, Cangnan, and Wencheng (excluding the Min speaking regions of
Pingyang and Cangnan).
The Wu dialects are notable among Chinese varieties in having kept the
"muddy" (voiced; whispery voiced word-initially) plosives and
fricatives of Middle Chinese, such as /b/, /d/, /ɡ/, /z/, /v/, etc.,
thus maintaining the three-way contrast of
Middle Chinese stop
consonants and affricates, /p pʰ b/, /tɕ tɕʰ dʑ/, etc. (For
example, 「凍 痛 洞」 /t tʰ d/, where other varieties have only
/t tʰ/.) 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
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.
For more details, see
Shanghainese § Phonology,
§ Phonology, and
Wenzhounese § Phonology.
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), but unlike
Mandarin, it also has a high occurrence of SOV and in some cases
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, classifiers take the place of genitive particles and
articles – a quality shared with
Cantonese – as shown by the
following examples:
the volume [of] book is very good
the book is very good
my stick [of] pen
his bowl [of] congee
Wu dialects vary in the way they pluralize pronouns. In the Suzhou
dialect, second- and third-person pronouns are suffixed with [toʔ],
while the first-person plural is a separate root, [ni], from the
singular. In Shanghainese, the first-person pronoun is suffixed with
伲,[clarification needed] and third-person with [la˦] (underlying
/la˥˧/), but the second-person plural is a separate root, [nʌ˨˧].
In the Haiyan dialect, first- and third-person pronouns are pluralized
with [la], but the second-person plural is a separate root [na].
All nouns could have just one classifier in Shanghainese.
其 勒 門口頭 立 勒許。
[ɦi le məŋ.kʰɤɯ.dɤɯ lɪʔ lɐˑ.he]
(third person) (past participle) doorway (particle, indicate location)
He was standing at the door.
Like other varieties of Southern Chinese,
Wu Chinese retains some
archaic vocabulary from Classical Chinese, Middle Chinese, 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
Yushan counties of
Jiangxi province, 曰 [je] or 'yuē', is generally
preferred over its Mandarin counterpart. In
Shangrao county of Jiangxi
province, Simplified Chinese: 话 Traditional Chinese: 話 pinyin:
Huà/[wa] is preferred over the spoke Mandarin version of the word for
"to speak" or "speaking".
All IPA transcriptions and examples listed below are
Wu word pronunciation
Mandarin Chinese word
Equivalent Mandarin word pronunciation in Wu
to hide something
twenty (the Mandarin equivalent, 二十, is also used to a lesser
extent, mostly in its literary pronunciation)
「立」(站) [lʲɪʔ] (dzɛ) to stand
「囡」 [nø]/[n̥ø] child, whelp (It is pronounced as nān in
「睏」(睡) [kʰwəŋ] (zø/zəi) to sleep
「尋」(找) [ʑiɲ] (tsɔ) to find
「戇」 [ɡɑ̃] foolish, stupid. (It is a cognate of the Minnan 戇
「揎」 [ɕyø] to strike (a person)
「逐」(追) [dzoʔ] or [tsoʔ] (tsø) to chase
「焐」 [ʔu] to make warm, to warm up (ex. 焐焐熱)
「肯」 [kʰəŋ] to permit, to allow
「事體」 [ẓ tʰi] thing (business, affair, matter)
「歡喜」 [hʷø ɕi] to like, to be keen on something, to be fond
of, to love
「物事」 [məʔ ẓ] things (more specifically, material things)
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.
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, Xiang, or Min.
Mandarin equivalents and their pronunciation on
Wu Chinese are in
parentheses. All IPA transcriptions and examples
listed below are from Shanghainese.
「鑊子」 （鍋子） [ɦɔʔ tsɨ] (ɡu tsɨ) wok, cooking pot.
The Mandarin equivalent term is also used, but both of them are
synonyms and are thus interchangeable.
「衣裳」 (衣服) [i zã] (i voʔ) 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」.
The genres of kunqu opera and tanci song, appearing in the 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. In many of these
novels, Wu is mainly used as dialog of prostitute characters. In one
Shanghai Flowers by
Han Bangqing (T: 韓邦慶, S: 韩邦庆, P:
Hán Bāngqìng), all of the dialog is in Wu. 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 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 Zhang Chunfan (T: 張春帆, S: 张春帆, Pinyin: Zhāng
Chūnfān) was published, it was one of the most popular novels
written in the Wu dialect. Magnificent Dreams in Shanghai
(T:海上繁華夢, S: 海上繁华梦, P: Hǎishàng Fánhuá Mèng)
by Sun Jiazhen (T: 孫家振, S: 孙家振, P: Sūn Jiāzhèn) was
another example of a prostitute novel with Wu dialog from the turn of
the 20th century.
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
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 Shi 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
Chinatowns in Queens § Flushing
List of varieties of Chinese
Speakers of Wu Chinese
^ 袁家驊 – 漢語方言概要
^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's
100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
(2017). "Wu Chinese".
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
^ a b c Norman (1988), p. 180.
^ 蒋冰冰 (2003). 吴语宣州片方言音韵研究. Shanghai:
华东师范大学出版社. p. 1. ISBN 7-5617-3299-6.
^ Starostin, Sergei (2009). Reconstruction of
Old Chinese Phonology.
Shanghai: 上海教育出版社. p. 3.
Yuan Jiahua (2006). 汉语方言概要. Beijing: 语文出版社.
p. 55. ISBN 7-80126-474-6.
^ Henry, Eric (May 2007). "The Submerged History of Yuè".
Sino-Platonic Papers. 176.
^ Norman, Jerry L.;
W. South Coblin (Oct–Dec 1995). "A New Approach
to Chinese Historical Linguistics". Journal of the American Oriental
Society. 115 (4): 576. doi:10.2307/604728.
^ Norman (1988), p. 18.
^ Norman (1988), pp. 18–19.
^ Sagart (2008), p. 142.
^ Sagart (2008), p. 143.
^ Chamberlain (2016), p. 30.
^ Chamberlain, J.R. 1998, "The origin of Sek: implications for Tai and
Vietnamese history", in The International Conference on Tai Studies,
ed. S. Burusphat, Bangkok, Thailand, pp. 97-128. Institute of Language
and Culture for Rural Development, Mahidol University.
^ Li 2001, p. 15.
^ Hui 2001, p. 15.
^ Edmondson, Jerold A. "The power of language over the past: Tai
settlement and Tai linguistics in southern
China and northern Vietnam"
(PDF). Studies in Southeast Asian languages and linguistics.
^ 游汝杰 (March 1999). "Some special grammatical features of the
Wenzhou dialect and their corresponding forms in Tai languages
(1998)". 游汝杰自选集. Guilin: 227–245.
^ Coblin (1983), p. 25.
^ Kurpaska (2010), p. 161.
^ Coblin (2002), pp. 530–531.
^ Victor Cunrui Xiong (2006). Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty: his
life, times, and legacy (illustrated, annotated ed.). SUNY Press.
p. 19. ISBN 0-7914-6587-X. Retrieved 2012-03-10.
conversed fluently with his wife in the Wu dialect of the South. For a
Northerner, a high level of competence in this dialect was no mean
feat: It required years of early exposure.
Yangdi probably picked it
up at an early age from Lady Xiao, whose grandfather Xiao Cha 蕭詧
grew up at the court of Liang Wudi 梁武帝 in Jiankang, a Wu dialect
area, before setting up his own court in Jiangling. ()
^ Victor Cunrui Xiong (2006). Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty: his
life, times, and legacy (illustrated, annotated ed.). SUNY Press.
p. 266. ISBN 0-7914-6587-X. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 19. On
Yangdi's divinatory skills and proficiency in the Wu dialect, see ZZTJ
^ Boudewijn Walraven; Remco E. Breuker (2007). Remco E. Breuker, ed.
Korea in the middle: Korean studies and area studies : essays in
honour of Boudewijn Walraven. Volume 153 of CNWS publications
(illustrated ed.). CNWS Publications. p. 341.
ISBN 90-5789-153-0. Retrieved 2012-03-10. A prosimetrical
Xue Rengui kuahai zheng Liao gushi
薛仁貴跨海征遼故事 (The story of
Xue Rengui crossing the sea
and Pacifying Liao), which shares its opening prose paragraph with the
Xue Rengui zheng Liao shilüe, is preserved in a printing of 1471; it
is one of the shuochang cihua 說晿詞話 (ballad-narratives ()
^ Boudewijn Walraven; Remco E. Breuker (2007). Remco E. Breuker, ed.
Korea in the middle: Korean studies and area studies : essays in
honour of Boudewijn Walraven. Volume 153 of CNWS publications
(illustrated ed.). CNWS Publications. p. 342.
ISBN 90-5789-153-0. Retrieved 2012-03-10. for telling and
singing) which were discovered in the suburbs of
Shanghai in 1967.3
While these shuochang cihua had been printed in modern-day Beijing,
their language suggests that they had been composed in the Wu-dialect
Suzhou and surroundings, ()
^ 石汝杰 (2006). 明清吴语和现代方言研究. Shanghai:
上海辞书出版社. p. 141. ISBN 7-5326-2162-6.
^ Coblin (2002), p. 541.
^ 石汝杰 (2006). 明清吴语和现代方言研究. Shanghai:
上海辞书出版社. pp. 141–9.
^ "Chinese: Information from". Answers.com. Retrieved
^ 曹志耘 (2008).
Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects
Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects 3 vol.
Beijing: The Commercial Press. ISBN 978-7-100-05774-5.
^ 曹志耘 (2008). 汉语语言文字学论丛：方言卷. Beijing:
Beijing Language and Culture University Press. p. 39.
^ Song, Wei (14 Jan 2011). "Dialects to be phased out of prime time
China Daily. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
^ Journal of Asian Pacific communication, Volume 16, Issues 1-2.
Multilingual Matters. 2006. p. 336. Retrieved 23 September
2011. (the University of Michigan)
^ "Chinese, Wu". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
^ Norman (1988), pp. 197–198.
^ "Wu Language". Greentranslations.com. Archived from the original on
7 September 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
^ Nils Göran David Malmqvist (2010). Bernhard Karlgren: portrait of a
scholar. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 302.
ISBN 1-61146-000-X. Retrieved 2012-03-10. In 1925, Chao Yuen Ren
returned to Qinghua University. The following year, he began his
comprehensive study of the Wu dialects in the lower Yangtze valley. In
1929, he was appointed head of the section of linguistics in the
Academia Sinica and became responsible for the planning and
^ N. G. D. Malmqvist (2010). Bernhard Karlgren: Portrait of a Scholar.
Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1-61146-001-8. Retrieved
2012-03-10. In 1925, Chao Yuen Ren returned to Qinghua University. The
following year, he began his comprehensive study of the Wu dialects in
the lower Yangzi valley. In 1929, he was appointed head of the section
of linguistics in the Academia Sinica and became responsible for the
planning and the ()
^ a b 王文胜 (2008). 处州方言的地理语言学研究. Beijing:
中国社会科学出版社. ISBN 978-7-5004-6637-6.
^ Yuen Ren Society. "How many Chinese dialects are there, anyway?".
Retrieved 12 June 2011.
^ 曹志耘 (2002). 南部吴语语音研究. Beijing: The Commercial
Press. pp. 2, 5. ISBN 7-100-03533-3.
^ Yan (2006), p. 87.
^ Chuan-Chao Wang; Qi-Liang Ding; Huan Tao; Hui Li (2012). "Comment on
"Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language
Expansion from Africa"". Science. 335 (6069): 657.
doi:10.1126/science.1207846. PMID 22323803. Retrieved 19 February
^ 奉贤金汇方言"语音最复杂" 元音巅峰值达20个左右
(in Chinese). Eastday. 14 February 2012.
^ "Wu Chinese". Cis.upenn.edu. Archived from the original on 4 July
2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
^ Yue (2003), p. 94.
^ Yue (2003), p. 86.
^ Yue (2003), p. 85.
^ Snow, p. 33.
^ a b c d e f g h Snow, p. 34.
^ Snow, p. 261.
^ Snow, p. 34.
Chamberlain, James R. (2016), "Kra-Dai and the Proto-History of South
China and Vietnam", Journal of the Siam Society, 104: 27–77.
Chao, Yuen Ren (1967), "Contrastive aspects of the Wu dialects",
Language, 43 (1): 92–101, JSTOR 411386.
Coblin, W. South (1983), A Handbook of Eastern Han Sound Glosses, Hong
Kong: Chinese University Press, ISBN 962-201-258-2.
—— (2002), "Migration history and dialect development in the lower
Yangtze watershed", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African
Studies, 65 (3): 529–543, doi:10.1017/S0041977X02000320,
Kurpaska, Maria (2010), Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism
of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects", Walter de
Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
Norman, Jerry (1988), Chinese, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Snow, Donald B.
Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written
Chinese Vernacular. Hong Kong University Press, 2004.
ISBN 978-962-209-709-4. ISBN 962-209-709-X.
Hui, Li (2001), "Daic Background Vocabulary in
Dialect" (PDF), Proceedings for Conference of Minority Cultures in
Hainan and Taiwan, Haikou: Research Society for Chinese National
Pan, Wuyun (1991), "An Introduction to the Wu Dialects", in Wang,
William S.-Y., Languages and Dialects of China, Journal of Chinese
Linguistics Monograph Series, 3, Chinese University Press,
pp. 235–291, JSTOR 23827040, OCLC 600555701.
Sagart, Laurent (2008), "The expansion of Setaria farmers in East
Asia", in Sanchez-Mazas, Alicia; Blench, Roger; Ross, Malcolm D.;
Peiros, Ilia; Lin, Marie, Past Human Migrations in East Asia: Matching
Linguistics and Genetics (Routledge Studies in the Early
History of Asia) 1st Edition, Routledge, pp. 133–157,
Wurm, Stephen Adolphe; Li, Rong; Baumann, Theo; Lee, Mei W. (1987),
Language Atlas of China, Longman, ISBN 978-962-359-085-3.
Yan, Margaret Mian (2006), Introduction to Chinese Dialectology,
LINCOM Europa, ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6.
Yue, Anne O. (2003), "Chinese dialects: grammar", in Thurgood, Graham;
LaPolla, Randy J. (eds.), The Sino-Tibetan languages, Routledge,
pp. 84–125, ISBN 978-0-7007-1129-1. CS1 maint: Extra
text: editors list (link)
Zhengzhang, Shangfang; Zheng, Wei (2015), "Wu dialect", in Wang,
William S.-Y.; Sun, Chaofen, The Oxford Handbook of Chinese
Linguistics, Oxford University Press, pp. 190–199,
Wu Chinese edition of, the free encyclopedia
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Wu Chinese
Wikivoyage has content for Wu phrasebook.
Resources on Wu dialects
Shanghainese Wu Dictionary – Search in Mandarin, IPA, or[dead link]
Classification of Wu Dialects – By James Campbell
Tones in Wu Dialects – Compiled by James Campbell
Linguistic Forum of Wu Chinese(Chinese: 吴语论坛)
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.
Wu Chinese Online Association (Chinese: 吴语协会)(in Wuu)
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.
"The elegant language in
Jiangnan area" (Chinese:
江南雅音话吴语)(in simplified Chinese)
Excellent reference on Wu Chinese, including tones of the
Tatoeba Project Tatoeba.org - Examples sentences in Shanghainese
dialect, and in Suzhouan dialect.
Wu wordlist available through Kaipuleohone
Globalization, National Culture and the Search for Identity: A Chinese
Dilemma (1st Quarter of 2006, Media Development) – 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
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
Middlebury Expands Study Abroad Horizons – An excellent article
including a section on future exchange programs in learning Chinese
Hangzhou (plus colorful, positive impression on the
Hangzhou dialect, too). Requires registration of online account before
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
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.
Languages of China
Provinces / SARs
Languages with Taiwan Origin(Austronesian)
Hong Kong SignHK/MC
GX = Guangxi
HK = Hong Kong
MC = Macau
NM = Inner Mongolia
XJ = Xinjiang
XZ = Tibet
Southern Peninsular Malaysian Hokkien
Standard Chinese (Mandarin)
Literary and colloquial readings
Mainland Chinese Braille
Two-Cell Chinese Braille
List of varieties of Chinese