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Wu (linguistics)

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(Redirected from Wu language)
Wu (吴语)
Spoken in: China
Region: Shanghai; most of Zhejiang province; southern Jiangsu province; Xuancheng prefecture-level city of Anhui province; Singapore; North Point, Hong Kong
Total speakers: 90-95 million
Ranking: 10
Genetic classification: Sino-Tibetan
 Chinese
  Wu
Official status
Official language of: ---
Regulated by: ---
Language codes
ISO 639-1zh
ISO 639-2chi (B), zho (T)
SILWUU
See also: LanguageList of languages

Wu (吳方言 pinyin w fāng yn; 吳語 pinyin w yǔ) is one of the major divisions of the Chinese language. It is spoken in most of Zhejiang province, the municipality of Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province, as well as smaller parts of Anhui, Jiangxi, and Fujian provinces. Major Wu dialects include those of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Yongkang and Shaoxing. As of 1991, there are 87 million speakers of Wu Chinese, making it the second largest form of Chinese after Mandarin Chinese (which has 800 million speakers).

Among speakers of other Chinese varieties, Wu is often subjectively judged to be soft, light, and flowing. There is even a special term used to describe the quality of Wu speech: 吳儂軟語/吴侬软语 wnngruǎnyǔ. The actual source of this impression is harder to place. It is likely a combination of many factors. Among speakers of Wu, for example, Shanghainese is considered softer and mellower than the variant spoken in Ningbo.

Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is plenty of dispute as to whether Wu is a language or a dialect. Please see here for the issues surrounding this dispute.

Contents

History

The modern Wu language can be traced back to the ancient Yue peoples centred around southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang. The Japanese Go-on (呉音) pronunciation of Chinese characters (obtained from the Wu Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms period) is from the same region of China where Wu is spoken today.

See language tree of the Chinese dialects starting from 1500 BC, and Wu's position relative to them.

Dialects

The Northern Wu dialects are not mutually intelligible with the Southern Wu dialects. Wu is divided into six dialect areas:

Sounds

Wu dialects are notable among Chinese languages in having kept voiced consonants, such as /b/, /d/, /g/, /z/, /v/, etc. (These may in fact be better described as voiceless consonants that create a voiced breathy element across the syllable: i.e. /p\/, /t\/, etc). Neither Mandarin nor Cantonese have voiced consonants.

See Suzhou dialect and Shanghai dialect for examples of Wu phonology.

Grammar

Wu dialects have a relatively higher amount of Subject-Object-Verb sentence structure than Mandarin or Cantonese. There is huge array of personal and demonstrative pronouns used within the Wu dialects. Sandhi is also 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.

Vocabulary

References

External Links


Chinese: spoken varieties
Categories:

Mandarin | Jin | Wu | Hui | Xiang | Gan | Hakka | Yue | Pinghua | Min
Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua | Xianghua

Subcategories of Min: Min Dong | Min Bei | Min Zhong | Pu Xian | Min Nan | Qiong Wen | Shao Jiang
Note: The above is only one classification scheme among many.
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
Official spoken varieties: Standard Mandarin | Standard Cantonese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Chinese: written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese
Other varieties: Written Cantonese
ast:Chinu vu

de:Wu (Sprache) es:Idioma wu ja:呉方言 zh-cn:吴方言

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