List of Chinese dialects

List of Chinese dialects

The following is a list of Chinese dialects and languages.


Linguists classify these languages as the "Sinitic" branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Within this broad classification, linguistics identify between seven and fourteen subgroups.

Traditional classification

Traditional Chinese classification lists seven groups, comprising:

See also Campbell's article on classifying Chinese dialects [cite web
title=Chinese Dialect Classification
author=James Campbell
Includes descriptions of the dialects spoken in over 2,500 cities and counties in China. Includes interactive map.
] and ChinaDC's chart of Sino-Tibetan languages. [cite web
title=Linguistic chart of Sino-Tibetan Languages
In Chinese.

As the above categories illustrate, there are three common approaches to naming categories and languages in English:

* A Romanization of the name in Standard Mandarin (e.g. "Gan" or "Xiang")
* The common English name, where there is one (e.g. "Cantonese" or "Mandarin")
* A Romanization of the name in the principal language of the group (e.g. "Hakka" or "Hokkien")

The classification used here is a combination of the classifications given above.

Distinction between dialects and languages

In addition to the languages and dialects given below, it is customary to speak informally of languages and dialects belonging to each province, e.g. "Sichuan dialect", "Henan dialect". These designations do not always correspond to classifications used by linguists, but each nevertheless has approximate characteristics of its own.

The question of whether these should be called dialects or languages in their own right is particularly interesting in Chinese. On the one hand, the designation seems to be as much socio-political as linguistic, reflecting Max Weinreich's comment that "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy." Purely from a linguistic point of view, many of these idioms seem to meet the criteria of a language. On the other hand, to a large degree the various Chinese idioms share a common written language and literature, lending weight to calling them "dialects". Because the written language is grammatically closest to Standard Mandarin, many Chinese speakers view Standard Mandarin as "the Chinese language", and everything else as dialects.

List of dialects and languages

Gan - 赣语/贛語

Jin - 晋语/晉語

Sometimes subcategory of Mandarin.

Wu - 吴语/吳語


See also

*Chinese language
*Chinese spoken language
*Chinese written language
*Dialects of Mandarin
*Dialect (discussion of "dialect" or "language")
*Identification of the varieties of Chinese


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