Beijing Dialect
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Beijing Dialect
Beijing dialect

RegionBeijing urban districts[1]
Language codes
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The Beijing dialect (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: B?ij?nghuà), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, the official language in the People's Republic of China and Republic of China (Taiwan) and one of the official languages in Singapore. Despite the similarity to Standard Chinese, it is characterized by some "iconic" differences, including the addition of a final rhotic -r / ? to some words (e.g. ).[2] Between the Yuan and Qing, the Ming dynasty also introduced southern dialectal influences into the dialect.[3]


Status as prestige dialect

As the political and cultural capital of China, Beijing has held much historical significance as a city, and its speech has held sway as a lingua franca. Being officially selected to form the basis of the phonology of Standard Mandarin has further contributed to its status as a prestige dialect, or sometimes the prestige dialect of Chinese.[4][5]

Other scholars have referred to it as the "elite Beijing accent."[6]

Until at least the late eighteenth century, the standard language of the Chinese elite had been the Nanjing dialect, despite political power having already been located in Beijing.[6] Through the nineteenth century, evidence from Western dictionaries suggests that a shift occurred in the court from a Nanjing-based standard to a more local Beijing-based one.[7]

During the Qing dynasty it was used alongside the Manchu language as the official court language.[8]

The establishment of phonology of Standard Chinese dates from a 1913 decision by the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation, which took the Beijing dialect as its base but retained a lot of phonology from other varieties of Mandarin, resulting in the Old National Pronunciation. This was overturned in 1926, resulting in the "pronunciation of the educated natives of Beijing" officially adopted as the basis for the phonology of Standard Chinese (Guoyu) in 1926.[8][9]

In 1955, the People's Republic of China declared that Standard Chinese (Putonghua) was to be "modeled on the pronunciation of Beijing, draws on Northern Chinese as its base dialect, and receives its syntactic norms from exemplary works of vernacular literature".[8][10]

The Beijing dialect has been described as carrying a lot of "cultural heft."[3] According to Zhang Shifang, professor at Beijing Language and Culture University,

"As China's ancient and modern capital, Beijing and thus its linguistic culture as well are representative of our entire nation's civilization... For Beijing people themselves, the Beijing dialect is an important symbol of identity."[3]

Some argue that Shanghainese also retains a level of local prestige,[2] and others argue that Cantonese is the "only dialect which has attained a level of prestige that rivals that of the standard national language."[11]

The dialect has been described as "the official language of the entertainment industry", making it also the "showbiz accent."[12]

Even within Beijing the dialect varies. Those north of the Forbidden City spoke with a more "refined" accent than the poorer people, craftsmen, and performers of the south.[3]

Younger generation

Some fear that the vernacular Beijing dialect will disappear.[3] According to a 2010 study by Beijing Union University, 49% of young Beijingers born after 1980 prefer to speak standard Mandarin rather than the Beijing dialect.[13] According to a UN report, nearly 100 Chinese dialects, especially those spoken by the 55 ethnic minorities in China, are endangered.[14]

Mutual intelligibility

The Beijing dialect is generally mutually intelligible with other Mandarin dialects, including Putonghua. However it is not intelligible with other Sino-Tibetan languages or even other Chinese languages including Cantonese, Hokkien, and Wu Chinese.[2]

Dungan language is a Mandarin-derived Sinitic language spoken throughout Central Asia, particularly in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Speakers like Dungan poet and scholar Iasyr Shivaza and others have reported that Chinese who speak Beijing dialect could understand Dungan, but Dungans could not understand Beijing Mandarin.[15]


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.)[2] However, the Beijing dialect also has vernacular readings of characters which are not only different, but have initial and final combinations that are not present in Standard Chinese, such as di? ?, s?i ?, béng ?, t?i ?'[16] and sh?i ? .

However, some striking differences exist. Most prominent is the proliferation of rhotic vowels. All rhotic vowels are the result of the use of the -? /-?/, a noun suffix, except for a few words pronounced [] 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 () or rhotacization, as is considered one of the iconic characteristics of Beijing Mandarin.[2][3]

When /w/ occurs in syllable-initial position, many speakers use [?] before vowels other than [o] as in ? w?, and [u] as in ? wu, e.g. w?iba [?eipa?].[17][16]

When /?/ occurs before a glide or vowel it is often eliminated along with any following glides so zh?ngy?ng is pronounced zhu?ng and g?ng'?njú as gu?ngjú. [18]

Sibilant initials differ a lot between Standard Chinese and the Beijing dialect. The initials ⟨z c s⟩ /ts ts? s/ are pronounced as [t? t ?] in Beijing. ⟨j q x⟩ /t? t ?/ are pronounced as /ts ts? s/ by some female speakers, a feature known as n?guóy?n, or "female Standard Chinese pronunciation".[16]

Moreover, Beijing dialect has a few phonetic reductions that are usually considered too "colloquial" for use in Standard Chinese. These are often dependent on which syllables are stressed and unstressed. For example, in fast speech, initial consonants go through lenition if they are in an unstressed syllable: pinyinzh ch sh/t? t ?/ before ⟨e i u⟩ become ⟨r⟩ /?/, so bùzh?dào "don't know" can sound like bùrdào; laoshi can sound like laoer; resulting in a "swallowing of consonants",[3] or t?ny?n .

⟨j q x⟩ /t? t ?/ become ⟨y⟩ /j/, so g?nj?nqù "go quickly" can sound like g?ny?nqù; pinyin ⟨b d g⟩ /p t k/ go through voicing to become [b d ?]; intervocalic ⟨p t k⟩ /p? t? k?/ also lose aspiration and can be voiced, sounding identical to ⟨b d g⟩;[16] similar changes also occur on other consonants.[]

⟨f⟩ is voiced and relaxed in intervocalic positions, resulting in [?].[]

Affricates are elided into fricatives when not word initial, such as máocè becoming máosi.[16]

Some of these changes yield syllables that violate the syllable structure of Standard Chinese, such as Dà Zhàlán Street, which locals pronounce as Dàshlàr.[19][20][21]

The literary 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.[] However, toneless syllables are incredibly common in vernacular Beijing dialect and the third tone is realized as a low tone instead of a dipping tone, known as a "half third tone".[]

Influence 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, ?, is the guttural Scotch or German ch.

A Manchu Grammar: With Analysed Texts, Paul Georg von Möllendorff, p. 1.[22]

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.[23][24]

The Manchus that lived in Beijing were influenced by Beijing dialect insofar as pronouncing Manchu sounds was hard for them, and they pronounced Manchu according to Chinese phonetics. In contrast, the Manchus of Aigun, Heilongjiang could both pronounce Manchu sounds properly and mimic the sinified pronunciation of Manchus in Beijing. This was because they learned the Beijing pronunciation from either studying in Peking or from officials sent to Aigun from Beijing. They could also tell them apart, using the Chinese influenced pronunciation of Beijing to demonstrate that they were better educated and had "superior stature" in society.[25]

Influence on Mongolian

A substantial proportion of the loanwords in Mongolian are derived from Chinese, with the oldest layer of loanwords in Written Mongolian being Chinese in origin.[26] Much of Mongolian spoken in Inner Mongolia has been affected by Mandarin: lexical influence is claimed to be strong in Khorchin Mongolian, whilst there have been claims of phonetic influence from Mandarin Chinese in the Kharchin variety of Mongolian.[27] The aspirated bilabial stop /p?/ and the labial approximant /w/ are phonemes only found in loanwords from Chinese and Tibetan, evident in their limited distribution in Mongolian.[28] Substantial diglossia can also be observed in Inner Mongolia.[29]


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", which is known as erhua. Examples include:

  • bèir - very, especially (referring to manner or attribute)
  • biéjie - do not; usually followed by ? if used as an imperative (usually used when rejecting a favor or politeness from close friends)
  • cu?hu?r - to be angry
  • di?rle - to leave; to run away
  • èrb?d?o - a person with limited abilities, klutz
  • sayazi - to let go on feet, to go, leave.
  • ? sóng / ni?r - no backbone, spiritless
  • xi?oting - to finally and thankfully become quiet and calm
  • ? zhé - way (to do something); equivalent to Standard Chinese
  • 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:

  • k?umér - stingy, miserly (may be used even outside Beijing)
  • láojia - "Excuse me"; heard often on public transportation, from Classical Chinese
  • li?da - to stroll about; equivalent to Standard Chinese or
  • ? - very; a stronger version of Standard Chinese ? and believed to derive from [30]

Note that some of the slang are considered to be tuhua (), or "base" or "uneducated" language, that are carryovers from an older generation and are no longer used amongst more educated speakers, for example:

  • qíxi?or - since a young age, similar to d?xi?or, which is more often used by the younger generation
  • y?ncài - to be disoriented, to be confused, to be bewildered

Others may be viewed as neologistic expressions used among younger speakers and in "trendier" circles:

  • ? shu?ng - cool (in relation to a matter); cf. ? () (describes a person)
  • tàocír - to toss into the hoop; used of basketball
  • xi?omì - special female friend (negative connotation)

Manchu and Mongol loanwords

The dialect also contains both Manchu and Mongol loanwords:[3]

  • hútòng - hutong, from Middle Mongolian quddug ("water well", modern Mongolian ) or ?udum ("passage"; modern Mongolian ), possibly with influence from Chinese ? ("street, passage") and ? ("lane, alley").
  • ? zhàn - station, from Middle Mongolian ?am?i ("post station", in modern Mongolian ? "guide")
  • / h?nduo - to reproach, from Manchu hendu[31][32]


There are syntactic differences between Standard Mandarin and Beijing dialect.[33] Both southern Chinese and southern Mandarin syntactic features were incorporated into Standard Mandarin, while the Beijing dialect retains features of northern Mandarin.[34] The Beijing dialect also uses colloquial expressions differently.

There is a conditional loss of the classifier under certain circumstances after the numeral ? "one", usually pronounced in the second tone, as if undergoing tone sandhi with the classifier ? after it.[30][34]

In general, Standard Chinese is influenced by Classical Chinese, which makes it more condense and concise. Beijing dialect can therefore seem more longwinded; but this is sometime balanced by the generally faster speaking rate and phonetic reductions of colloquial Beijing speech.[]


  • Standard Chinese:
    • ,
    • J?nti?n huì xiày?, su?y? ch?mén de shíhou yào jìde dài y?san.
    • Translation: It is going to rain today, so remember to bring an umbrella when you go out.
  • Beijing dialect:
    • ,()?!
    • J?nr d?i xiày?, (su?y?) ch?ménr shíhòu jìzhe dài y?san!
  • Under the influence of the Beijing dialect's phonetic reductions:
    • J?r d?i xiày?, (su?y?) ch?mér ríhòu jìr dài y?san!

See also


  1. ^ Zhou, Yimin (2002). ?. Beijing Normal University Press. p. 202. ISBN 7-303-06225-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e "China: One Nation, How Many Languages? -". Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Feng, Emily (2016-11-23). "The Disappearing Dialect at the Heart of China's Capital". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Kaiman, Jonathan. "Learning Mandarin is really, really hard -- even for many Chinese people". Retrieved .
  5. ^ Christensen, Matthew B. (2016-11-15). Geek in China: Discovering the Land of Alibaba, Bullet Trains and Dim Sum. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 9781462918362.
  6. ^ a b Jie, Dong (2009). "The enregisterment of Putonghua in practice" (PDF). p. 4.
  7. ^ Huang, Chu-Ren; Jing-Schmidt, Zhuo; Meisterernst, Barbara (2019). The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Applied Linguistics. Routledge. ISBN 9781317231141. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Simmons, Richard Vanness (2017). "Whence Came Mandarin? Q?ng Gu?nhuà, the B?ij?ng Dialect, and the National Language Standard in Early Republican China". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 137 (1): 63-88. doi:10.7817/jameroriesoci.137.1.0063. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 10.7817/jameroriesoci.137.1.0063.
  9. ^ Chen, Ping (1999). Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics (1st ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 16-19. ISBN 9780521645720.
  10. ^ Wen-Chao Li, Chris (April 2004). "Conflicting notions of language purity: the interplay of archaising, ethnographic, reformist, elitist and xenophobic purism in the perception of Standard Chinese". Language & Communication. 24 (2): 97-133. doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2003.09.002.
  11. ^ Li, David C. S. (January 2006). "Chinese as a Lingua Franca in Greater China". Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. 26: 149-176. doi:10.1017/S0267190506000080. ISSN 1471-6356.
  12. ^ "How well do you know your Chinese accents? A quick guide to 5 common accents and what they say about the speaker". Shanghaiist. 2011-06-09. Retrieved .
  13. ^ "?". Retrieved .
  14. ^ "China's minority languages face threat of extinction". Reuters. 2010-03-12. Retrieved .
  15. ^ Fu ren da xue (Beijing, China); S.V.D. Research Institute; Society of the Divine Word; Monumenta Serica Institute (1977). Monumenta serica, Volume 33. H. Vetch. p. 351. Retrieved .
  16. ^ a b c d e Chirkova, Yen. "Beijing, the Language of".
  17. ^ Seth Wiener & Ya-ting Shih. "Divergent places of articulation: [w] and [?] in modern spoken Mandarin" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ "?,""?! - ". Retrieved .
  19. ^ Language Log
  20. ^ "A Quick Guide to China's Main Dialects". Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ Hu, King. "A Question That Is Not a Question" (PDF). Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ Möllendorff, Paul Georg von (1892). A Manchu Grammar: With Analysed Texts (reprint ed.). Shanghai: Printed at the American Presbyterian mission Press. p. 1. Retrieved 2013.[1]
  23. ^ Gorelova, Liliya M., ed. (2002). Manchu Grammar, Part 8. Volume 7 of Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 8 Uralic and Central Asian Studies. Brill. p. 77. ISBN 9004123075. Retrieved 2014. |volume= has extra text (help)
  24. ^ Cahiers de linguistique: Asie orientale, Volumes 31-32. Contributor Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales. Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale. Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale. 2002. p. 208. Retrieved 2014.CS1 maint: others (link)
  25. ^ Shirokogoroff, S. M. (1934) [August 1929]. "Reading and Transliteration of Manchu Lit.". Archives polonaises d'etudes orientales, Volumes 8-10. Contributors Polskie Towarzystwo Orientalistyczne, Polska Akademia Nauk. Komitet Nauk Orientalistycznych. Pa?stwowe Wydawn. Naukowe. p. 122. Retrieved 2014.
  26. ^ Poppe, Nicholas (1974). Grammar of Written Mongolian. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 3. ISBN 9783447006842.
  27. ^ Janhunen, Juha A. (2012). Mongolian. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 12. ISBN 9789027273055. Retrieved 2019.
  28. ^ Janhunen, Juha A. (2012). Mongolian. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 27. ISBN 9789027273055. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ More morphologies : contributions to the Festival of Languages, Bremen, 17 Sep to 7 Oct, 2009. Brockmeyer Verlag. 2012. pp. 89-120. ISBN 9783819608964.
  30. ^ a b Zhao, Hui. "Language Variation and Social Identity in Beijing" (PDF). Retrieved 2019.
  31. ^ Wadley, Stephen A. (1996). "Altaic Influences on Beijing Dialect: The Manchu Case". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 116 (1): 99-104. doi:10.2307/606376. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 606376.
  32. ^ "» ?". Retrieved 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ Missionary recorder: a repository of intelligence from eastern missions, and a medium of general information, Volume 1. FOOCHOW: American M.E. Mission Press. 1867. p. 40. Retrieved 2011.
  34. ^ a b Chirkova, Katia; Chen, Yiya. "B?ij?ng Mandarin, the language of B?ij?ng" (PDF). In Sybesma, Rint (ed.). Encyclopedia of Chinese Linguistics. Leiden: Brill. p. 11.

External links

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