Beijing Mandarin (division of Mandarin)
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Beijing Mandarin Division of Mandarin
Beijing Mandarin
? / ?
B?ij?ng Gu?nhuà
PronunciationBeijing dialect: [pèit?í? kwánxwâ]
RegionBeijing, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Tianjin
Native speakers
27 million (2004)[1]
Language codes

In Chinese dialectology, Beijing Mandarin (simplified Chinese: ?; traditional Chinese: ?; pinyin: B?ij?ng Gu?nhuà) refers to a major branch of Mandarin Chinese recognized by the Language Atlas of China, encompassing a number of dialects spoken in areas of Beijing, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Tianjin,[1] the most important of which is the Beijing dialect, which provides the phonological basis for Standard Chinese.


Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin were proposed by Chinese linguist Li Rong as two separate branches of Mandarin in the 1980s.[2] In Li's 1985 paper, he suggested using tonal reflexes of Middle Chinese checked tone characters as the criterion for classifying Mandarin dialects.[3] In this paper, he used the term "Beijing Mandarin" (?) to refer the dialect group in which checked tone characters with a voiceless initial have dark level, light level, rising and departing tone reflexes.[3] He chose the name Beijing Mandarin as this Mandarin group is approximate to the Beijing dialect.[4]

He subsequently proposed a split of Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin in 1987, listing the following as reasons:[5][6]

  • Checked-tone characters with voiceless initials in Middle Chinese are far more commonly distributed into the rising tone category in Northeastern Mandarin than in Beijing Mandarin;
  • The tonal value of the dark level tone is lower in Northeastern Mandarin than that in Beijing Mandarin;
  • Generally, the ? initial of Middle Chinese developed into a modern non-null initial in Beijing Mandarin and a modern null initial in Northeastern Mandarin.

The 2012 edition of Language Atlas of China added one more method for distinguishing Beijing Mandarin from Northeastern Mandarin:[7]

  • The modern pronunciations of the ?, ?, ? and ? initials of Middle Chinese are two sets of sibilants--dental and retroflex--and these two sets are not merged or confused in Beijing Mandarin.

Meanwhile, there are some scholars who regard Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin as a single division of Mandarin. Lin (1987) noticed the phonological similarity between Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin.[8] Zhang (2010) suggested that the criteria for the division of Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin as top-level Mandarin groups are inconsistent with the criterion for the division of other top-level Mandarin groups.[9]


Beijing Mandarin is classified into the following subdivisions in the 2012 edition of Language Atlas of China:[10]

  • J?ng-Chéng ()
    • J?ngsh? (; ), including the urban area and some inner suburbs of Beijing.
    • Huái-Chéng (; ), including some suburbs of Beijing, parts of Langfang, most parts of Chengde, Wuqing and Duolun.
  • Cháo-F?ng (), an area between the Huái-Chéng cluster and the Northeastern Mandarin, covering the cities of Chaoyang and Chifeng. This subgroup has characteristics intermediate of those of Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin.[11]

Per the 2012 edition of Atlas, these subgroups are distinguished by the following features:[1]

  • J?ng-Chéng subgroup has a high dark level tone, and the Cháo-F?ng subgroup a relatively low one;
  • Within the J?ng-Chéng subgroup, dialects in the Huái-Chéng cluster append an /n/ or /?/ initial to kaikou hu characters with ?, ?, ? and ? initials in Middle Chinese, while an initial is absent in the J?ngsh? cluster.

Compared with the first edition (1987), the second edition (2012) of the Atlas demoted J?ngsh? and Huái-Chéng subgroups to clusters of a new J?ng-Chéng subgroup. Shí-Kè () or B?iji?ng () subgroup (including the cities of Shihezi and Karamay), listed as a subgroup of Beijing Mandarin in the 1987 edition, is re-allocated to a B?iji?ng () subgroup of Lanyin Mandarin and a Nánji?ng () subgroup of Central Plains Mandarin. The Cháo-F?ng subgroup covers a greater area in the 2012 edition.[12]

Phonological features


With regard to initials, the reflexes of kaikou hu syllables with any of the ?, ?, ? and ? initials in Middle Chinese differ amongst the subgroups: a null initial is found in the J?ngsh? cluster, while /n/ or /?/ initials are often present in the Huái-Chéng cluster and the Cháo-F?ng subgroup.[1][13]

Initial in Middle Chinese ? *? *? *? *? *?
Subdivision Location ? / ? ? ? / ? ? ? / ?
Jingshi Beijing ? ? ? ? ?
Huai-Cheng Chengde[14] n n n n n
Chao-Feng Chifeng[15]
? ? ? ? n

Dental and retroflex sibilants are distinct phonemes in Beijing Mandarin.[5] This is contrary to Northeastern Mandarin, in which the two categories are either in free variation or merged into a single type of sibilants.[5]


In both Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin, the checked tone of Middle Chinese has completely dissolved and is distributed irregularly[16] among the remaining tones.[17] However, Beijing Mandarin has significantly fewer rising-tone characters with a checked-tone origin, compared with Northeastern Mandarin.[18]

Subdivision Location ? ? ? / ? [19]
Beijing Mandarin Beijing dark level light level departing
Northeastern Mandarin Harbin rising rising rising

The Cháo-F?ng subgroup generally has a lower tonal value for the dark level tone.[1]

Tones of Beijing Mandarin dialects
Subdivision Location Dark level Light level Rising Departing Ref.
Jingshi Beijing ? (55) (35) (214) (51) [20]
Huai-Cheng Chengde ? (55) (35) (214) (51) [20]
Chao-Feng Chifeng ? (55) (335) (213) (52) [20]
Chifeng ? (55) (335) (213) (51) [21]

Lexical features

The Cháo-F?ng subgroup has more words in common with that of Northeastern Mandarin.[11]

this place to envy to deceive to show off;
to brag
dirty to do
MSC ? / ? / ? / ? ?
Chao-Feng ? / ? / ?

The intensifier ? is also used in the Cháo-F?ng subgroup.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 42.
  2. ^ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 41.
  3. ^ a b Li (1985), p. 3, 4.
  4. ^ Li (1989), p. 247.
  5. ^ a b c Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 40.
  6. ^ Li (1989), p. 246.
  7. ^ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 35, 40, 41.
  8. ^ Lin (1987), p. 166-167.
  9. ^ Zhang (2010), p. 45.
  10. ^ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 42 - 43.
  11. ^ a b c Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 37.
  12. ^ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 11.
  13. ^ Hou (2002), p. 18.
  14. ^ There are also other ways to pronounce such initials in this dialect. (Zhang 2010, p. 79)
  15. ^ There are also other ways to pronounce such initials in this dialect. (Zhang 2010, p. 79)
  16. ^ Zhang (2010), p. 180.
  17. ^ Hou (2002), p. 17.
  18. ^ Hou (2002), p. 19.
  19. ^ Referring to its checked-toned pronunciation, as in / .
  20. ^ a b c Hou (2002), p. 38.
  21. ^ Zhang (2010), p. 241.


  • Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), Zh?ngguó Y?yán Dìtú Jí ? [Language Atlas of China], Hàny? F?ngyán Juàn [Chinese dialects volume] (2nd ed.), Beijing: Commercial Press, ISBN 9787100070546
  • Hou, Jingyi (2002), Xiàndài Hàny? F?ngyán Gàilùn , Shanghai Educational Publishing House, ISBN 7-5320-8084-6
  • Li, Rong (1985), "Gu?nhuà F?ngyán de F?nq?" ?, F?ngyán (1): 2-5, ISSN 0257-0203
  • Li, Rong (1989), "Hàny? F?ngyán de F?nq?" ?, F?ngyán (4): 241-259, ISSN 0257-0203
  • Lin, Tao (1987), "B?ij?ng Gu?nhuà Q? de Huàf?n" , F?ngyán (3): 166-172, ISSN 0257-0203
  • Zhang, Shifang (2010), B?ij?ng Gu?nhuà Y?y?n Yánji? , Beijing Language and Culture University Press, ISBN 978-7-5619-2775-5

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