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Changzhou dialect

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Title: Changzhou dialect  
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Subject: Wu Chinese, Taihu Wu dialects, Jiangyin dialect, Wuxi dialect, Chinese language
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Changzhou dialect

Changzhou dialect
Native to People's Republic of China
Region Changzhou, Jiangsu Province
Overseas, in the United States (New York City)
Native speakers
3–4 million  (date missing)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 plig
Glottolog pili1238  (Piling)[1]

Changzhou dialect (Simplified Chinese: 常州话; Traditional Chinese: 常州話; Pinyin: Chángzhōu huà), sometimes called Changzhounese, is a dialect of Wu, a Sino-Tibetan language, and belongs to the Taihu dialect group. It is spoken in the city of Changzhou and surrounding areas in Jiangsu province of China. It has many similarities with the Shanghainese and Suzhou dialect. It is not at all mutually intelligible with Mandarin, China's official language. It is much more closely related to the neighboring Wuxi dialect with which it is mostly mutually intelligible.

Phonetically, the Changzhou dialect makes use of a number of voiced or slack voiced initials [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊ v̥ z̥ d̥z̥ d̥ʑ̊] that not found in Mandarin as well as a larger number of vowel sounds [ɑ ɐ ɔ o æ ə ɨ ɨʷ ɛ ɤɯ e i u y].[2] The tone system also is of greater complexity, using 7 tones based on the classical tonal system. It also has a more complex tone sandhi than found in modern Chinese.


  • Geographic distribution 1
  • Phonetics and phonology 2
    • Initials 2.1
    • Finals 2.2
    • Tones 2.3
      • Tone sandhi 2.3.1
  • Examples 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Geographic distribution

The Changzhou dialect is centered around the city of Changzhou and is spoken throughout the prefecture. It is notable as being one of the last places one hears Wu when traveling West before it gives way to the Southern Mandarin dialects, with the possible exception of the Gaochun dialect spoken in Southern Nanjing county.

Within the prefecture, there are also small but noticeable distinctions in pronunciation between the city center and the more rural surroundings which can be easily detected by native speakers. It is likely that as most residents have remained in the same village for many generations and have been locally educated these variations have managed to persist.

As one travels closer to Wuxi, the dialect begins to be closer to that spoken in neighboring Wuxi, the dialect of Wu that is most closely related to the Changzhou dialect. Speakers from the eastern Changzhou villages have little difficulty conversing fluently with those from the western end of Wuxi Prefecture.

In addition to the surrounding areas of Jiangsu Province, Changzhounese is also emerging as a spoken dialect in Shanghai, and overseas in New York City in the United States.

Phonetics and phonology


Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive voiceless p t k ʔ
slack voice c ɡ̊
Affricate voiceless ts
aspirated tsʰ
slack voice d̥z̥ d̥ʑ̊
Fricative voiceless f s ɕ* h
slack voice
Approximant l ʎ ʟ ɦ


open -i -u nasal -ng -r
zero -ɨ -ʌ -ɔ -ɛ -æe -ei -ɯu -ɤɯ -æ̃ -õ -ʌŋ -ɛŋ - -ɚ
i- -i - - - -iɯu -iɤɯ -ĩ - -iʌŋ - -ioŋ
u- -u - - - -uæe -uæ̃ - -uʌŋ -uɛŋ
ü- -y - -yiŋ


  • The original tables[3] were compiled using a different system of transcription. Those letters have been replaced with the appropriate IPA phonetic notation. The order of the initials table has been made to match that of the article on the Shanghainese dialect.


Like a number of other Wu dialects, Changzhou dialect is considered to have seven tones. However, since the tone split dating from Middle Chinese still depends on the voicing of the initial consonant, these constitute just three phonemic tones. The seven tonic allophones were divided according to register by the Chinese-American linguist and Changzhou native Yuen Ren Chao. The high register includes the first, third, fourth and sixth tone with the second, fifth and seventh tone in the low register.[4]

Tone chart of Changzhou dialect[5][6]
Number Tone name Tone contour Notes
1 陰平 yīn píng ˦ (44) mid-high
2 陽平 yáng píng ˩˧ (13) rising
3 上 shàng ˥ (55) high
4 陰去 yīn qù ˥˨˧ (523) dipping
5 陽去 yáng qù ˨˦ (24) mid-rising
6 陰入 yīn rù ˥ʔ (5) high entering
7 陽入 yáng rù ˨˧ʔ (23) rising entering, shorter than most other tones

Tone sandhi

Sandhi in Wu dialects is complex compared to Mandarin, though Changzhou sandhi is not nearly as complex as that of the Suzhou dialect of Wu.

In the case of pairs of syllables have the stress on the second syllable, the only notable changes are the second syllable changing from [ ˥˨˧ ] (523) to [ ˥˨ ] (52) in the case of the fourth tone, or from [ ˩˧ ] (13) to [ ˩ ] (11) with the second tone.[7]

Tone sandhi for Changzhou dialect[8]
1st 3rd 4th 6th 2nd 5th 7th
first [ ˧.˧ ] [ ˥.˧˨ ] [ ˥.˧˨ ] [ ˥.˧ ] [ ˧.˧ ] [ ˥.˧˨ ] [ ˥.˧ ]
third [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ]
fourth [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥˧.˨ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ]
sixth [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˦˨ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˥ ] [ ˥.˦˨ ] [ ˥.˥ ]
second [ ˩.˧ ] [ ˩.˥ ] [ ˩.˧ ] [ ˩.˥ ] [ ˩.˧ ] [ ˩.˧ ] [ ˩.˧ ]
fifth [ ˧˨.˨˧ ] [ ˧˨.˨˧ ] [ ˧˥.˧˨ ] [ ˧˨.˨˧ ] [ ˧˨.˩˧ ] [ ˧˥.˧˨ ] [ ˧˨.˨˧ ]
seventh [ ˨˧.˧ ] [ ˨˧.˧ ] [ ˨˧.˦˨ ] [ ˨˧.˧ ] [ ˨˧.˧ ] [ ˨˧.˧˨ ] [ ˨˧.˧ ]


Translation IPA Chinese character
Changzhou [zɑŋ.tsei] 常州
Changzhou dialect [zɑŋ.tsei.ɦɔ] 常州话
I [ŋʌɯ]
You [ɲi]
Have you eaten? [tɕʰiʔ.væ̃.vɛn] 喫飯朆(吃饭没)

See also


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Piling". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ 《江苏省和上海市方言概况》江苏人民出版社 1960
  3. ^ Chao 1976, p. 49.
  4. ^ Chao 1976, p. 55.
  5. ^ Chao 1976, p. 54.
  6. ^ Tones in Wu Dialects
  7. ^ Chao 1976, p. 57.
  8. ^ Chao 1976, p. 58.


Chao, Yuen Ren (1976). Aspects of Chinese Sociolinguistics: Essays. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.  

External links

  • Wu Association
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