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Beijing dialect

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Title: Beijing dialect  
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Subject: Mandarin Chinese, Standard Chinese, Chinese language, Lower Yangtze Mandarin, Standard Chinese phonology
Collection: City Colloquials, Culture in Beijing, Mandarin Chinese
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Beijing dialect

Beijing dialect
北京話 / 京腔
Region Beijing and surrounding areas
Northern Xinjiang
Overseas, in the United States (New York City)[1]
Native speakers
(this article does not contain any information regarding the number of speakers)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 bjgh (Beijing area)
bjjg (Beijing proper)
Linguist list
cmn-bei (Beijing area)
  cmn-bej (Beijing proper)
Glottolog None
huab1238  (Huabei Guanhua)[2]
Beijing dialect in the broad sense.

The Beijing dialect (simplified Chinese: 北京话; traditional Chinese: 北京話; pinyin: Běijīnghuà), also known as Pekingese, is the 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 highly 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.


  • Distribution 1
  • Mutual intelligibility with other Mandarin dialects 2
  • Phonology 3
    • Influence of Beijing dialect phonology on Manchu 3.1
  • Vocabulary 4
  • Grammar 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The term "Beijing dialect" usually refers to the dialect spoken in the urban area of Beijing only. However, linguists have given a broader definition for Beijing Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 北京官话; traditional Chinese: 北京官話; pinyin: Běijīng Guānhuà) that also includes some dialects closely akin to that of urban Beijing.

For example, the topolect of Chengde, Hebei, a city to the north of Beijing, is considered sufficiently close to Beijing dialect to be put into this category. Standard Chinese is also put into this category, since it is based on the local dialect of Beijing.

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 - /-ɻ/, a noun suffix, except for a few words pronounced /ɑɻ/ 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 any vowel except [o] as in , 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: pinyin zh 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. Also, final -n /-n/ and (less frequently) -ng /-ŋ/ can fail to close entirely, so that a nasal vowel is pronounced instead of a nasal stop; for example, nín ends up sounding like [nĩ˧˥] (nasalized), instead of [nin˧˥] as in Standard Chinese:
Pinyin Standard Chinese Typical pronunciation
in Beijing
an [an] [aɨ̃]
ian [i̯æn] [i̯æɨ̃]
en [ən] [əɨ̃]
in [in] [iɨ̃]
ang [ɑŋ] [ɑɯ̃]
eng [ɤŋ] [ɤɯ̃]
ing [i̯ɤŋ] [i̯ɤɯ̃]

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, [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 of 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][11]


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. 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
  • 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:

  • 迄小儿 qíxiǎor – since a young age
  • 晕菜 yūncài – to be disoriented

Others may be viewed as neologistic expressions used amongst 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.[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:

  • Standard Chinese:
    • 今天会下雨,所以出门的时侯要记得带雨伞。
    • 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. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Beijing dialect. WordNet 3.0, 2006 by Princeton University.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Language Log
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links

  • [2]
  • (the University of Michigan)(Digitized May 14, 2008)
  • (the University of Michigan)(Digitized May 14, 2008)
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