Xiang Chinese
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Xiang Chinese
"Xiang Language" written in Chinese characters
Native toChina
RegionCentral and southwestern Hunan, northern Guangxi, parts of Guizhou and Hubei provinces
EthnicityHunanese people
Native speakers
38 million (2007)[1]
Language codes
Idioma xiang.png
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Xiang or Hsiang (Chinese: ?; pinyin: xi?ng; Mandarin pronunciation: [?i?]); Changsha Xiang: sian1 y3, also known as Hunanese , is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages, spoken mainly in Hunan province but also in northern Guangxi and parts of neighboring Guizhou and Hubei provinces. Scholars divided Xiang into five subgroups, Chang-Yi, Lou-Shao, Hengzhou, Chen-Xu and Yong-Quan.[2] Among those, Lou-shao, also known as Old Xiang, still exhibits the three-way distinction of Middle Chinese obstruents, preserving the voiced stops, fricatives, and affricates. Xiang has also been heavily influenced by Mandarin, which adjoins three of the four sides of the Xiang speaking territory, and Gan in Jiangxi Province, from where a large population immigrated to Hunan during the Ming Dynasty.[3]

Xiang-speaking Hunanese people have played an important role in Modern Chinese history, especially in those reformatory and revolutionary movements such as the Self-Strengthening Movement, Hundred Days' Reform, Xinhai Revolution[4] and Chinese Communist Revolution.[5] Some examples of Xiang speakers are Mao Zedong, Zuo Zongtang, Huang Xing and Ma Ying-jeou.[6]


Ancient ages

Prehistorically, the main inhabitants were the ancient country of Ba, Nanman, Baiyue and other tribes whose languages cannot be studied. During the Warring States period, large numbers of Chu migrated into Hunan. Their language blended with that of the original natives to produce a new dialect Nanchu (Southern Chu).[7] During Qin and Han dynasty, most part of today's Eastern Hunan belonged to Changsha Kingdom. According to Yang Xiong's Fangyan, people in this region spoke Southern Chu, which is considered[by whom?] the ancestor of Xiang Chinese today.[8][verification needed]

Middle ages and recent history

During the Tang dynasty, a large-scale emigration took place with people emigrating from the north to the south, bringing Middle Chinese into Hunan.[9] Today's Xiang still keeps some Middle Chinese words, such as ? (to have fun), ? (to weed), ? (to walk). Entering tone vowels started weakening in Hunan at this time. Migrants who came from the North mainly settled in northern Hunan followed by western Hunan. For this reason northern and western Hunan are Mandarin districts.[7]

Migrants from Jiangxi concentrated mainly in southeastern Hunan and present day Shaoyang and Xinhua districts. They came for two reasons:[7] The first is that Jiangxi became too crowded and its people sought expansion. The second is that Hunan suffered greatly during the Mongol conquest of the Song dynasty, when there was mass slaughter.[10] The late Yuan Dynasty peasant uprising caused a great many casualties in Hunan.

During the Ming dynasty, a large-scale emigration from Jiangxi to Hunan took place. In the early Ming dynasty, large numbers of migrants came from Jiangxi and settled in present day Yueyang, Changsha, Zhuzhou, Xiangtan, and Hengyang districts. After the middle of the Ming dynasty, migrants came more diverse, and came more for economic reasons and commerce.[7] Gan, which was brought by settlers from Jiangxi, influenced Xiang. The speech in east Hunan differentiated into New Xiang during that period.

Quanzhou County became part of Guangxi province after the adjustment of administrative divisions in the Ming Dynasty. Some features of Xiang at that time were kept in this region.

Languages and dialects

Dialect map of Hunan Province. New Xiang orange, Old Xiang yellow, Chen-Xu Xiang light red. Xiangnan Tuhua dark green and medium green.
Note other dialects are shown in larger areas than in the next map. Hakka pink, Southwestern Mandarin light blue, medium blue, light green, and Waxiang dark blue

Since the classification of Yuan Jiahua (1960), Xiang has been considered one of seven major groups of varieties of Chinese.[11] Jerry Norman classified Xiang, Gan and Wu as central groups, intermediate between the Mandarin group to the north and the southern groups, Min, Hakka and Yue.[12]

In Xiang languages, the voiced initials of Middle Chinese yield unaspirated initials in all tone categories. A few varieties have retained voicing in all tones, but most have voiceless initials in some or all tone categories.[13]

Development of voiced initials in different tones[13]
gloss Middle Chinese Chengbu Shuangfeng Shaoyang Changsha
peach ? daw dao2 d?2 da?2 ta?2
sit ? dzwaX dzo6 dzu6 tso6 tso6
together ? gjowngH go?6 ga?6 ko?6 ko?5
white ? baek ba7 pi?6 pe6 p?7
Xiang and other subgroups identified by Bao & Chen
     New Xiang (Chang-Yi)      Waxiang
     Hengzhou      Xiangnan Tuhua
     Chen-Xu (Ji-Xu)
     Old Xiang (Lou-Shao)

Pervasive influence from Mandarin dialects has made Xiang dialects difficult to classify.[13] Yuan Jiahua divided Xiang into New Xiang, in which voicing has been lost completely, and Old Xiang varieties, which retain voiced initials in at least some tones.[14] The Changsha dialect is usually taken as representative of New Xiang, while Shuangfeng dialect represents Old Xiang.[15] Norman describes the boundary between New Xiang and Southwestern Mandarin as one of the weakest in China, with considerable similarities between dialects near either side of the boundary, though more distant dialects are mutually unintelligible.[16] Indeed, Zhou Zhenhe and You Rujie (unlike most authors) classified New Xiang as part of Southwestern Mandarin.[17][18]

The Language Atlas of China relabelled the New and Old Xiang groups as Chang-Yi and Lou-Shao respectively, and identified a third subgroup, Ji-Xu, in some parts of Western Hunan.[19] Bao & Chen (2005) split out part of Atlas's Chang-Yi subgroup as a new Hengzhou subgroup, and part of Lou-Shao as a Yong-Quan subgroup. They also reclassified parts of the Ji-Xu subgroup as Southwestern Mandarin, renaming the remainder of the subgroup as Chen-Xu Xiang. Their five subgroups are:

(17.8 million speakers) voiced initials in Middle Chinese become unaspirated voiceless consonant. Most of the dialects retain the entering tone as a separate category.
(11.5 million speakers) Voiced initials still exist. The entering tone does not exist in most of the dialects.
Chen-Xu Xiang
(3.4 million speakers) Some of the voiced consonants are retained.
Hengzhou Xiang
(4.3 million speakers)
Yong-Quan Xiang
(6.5 million speakers) Voiced consonants still exist.

Geographic distribution

Xiang is spoken by over 36 million people in China, primarily in the most part of the Hunan province, and in the four counties of Quanzhou, Guanyang, Ziyuan, and Xing'an in northeastern Guangxi province, and in several places of Guizhou and Guangdong provinces. It is abutted by Southwestern Mandarin-speaking areas to the north and west, as well as by Gan in the eastern parts of Hunan and Jiangxi. Xiang is also in contact with the Qo-Xiong Miao and Tujia languages in West Hunan.

Distribution of Xiang subgroups according to Bao & Chen (2005)
Subgroup Division Main cities and counties
New Xiang Chang-Tan Urban Changsha, Changsha County, Wangcheng District, Ningxiang, Liuyang*, Urban Zhuzhou, Zhuzhou County, Urban Xiangtan, Xiangyin, Miluo, Nanxian, Anxiang*
Yi-Yuan Urban Yiyang, Yuanjiang, Taojiang, Anhua, Nanxian*
Yueyang Yueyang County, Urban Yueyang
Old Xiang Xiang-Shuang Xiangtan County, Shuangfeng, Shaoshan, Urban Loudi, Hengshan*
Lian-Mei Lianyuan, Lengshuijiang*, Anhua*, Ningxiang*
Xinhua Xinhua, Lengshuijiang
Shao-Wu Urban Shaoyang, Wugang, Shaodong, Shaoyang County, Xinshao, Longhui, Xinning, Chengbu, Dongkou*
Sui-Hui Suining, Huitong
Hengzhou Hengyang Urban Hengyang, Hengyang County, Hengnan
Hengshan Hengshan, Hengdong, Nanyue
Chen-Xu - Chenxi, Xupu, Luxi, Jishou**, Baojing**, Huayuan**, Guzhang**, Yuanling*
Yong-Quan Dong-Qi Urban Yongzhou, Dong'an, Qiyang, Qidong
Dao-Jiang Jiangyong, Daoxian, Jianghua*, Xintian*
Quan-Zi Quanzhou County, Xing'an, Guanyang, Ziyuan
*Small part of this territory belongs to this Xiang subgroup.
**Included in Xiang only in Language Atlas of China.


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ ?, ?; (24 August 2005). (?). (20053?): 261.
  3. ^ ?, ?. 60%? :?. . Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  4. ^ Qi, Feng (October 2010). ?,?. ? (201110?). Retrieved 2014.
  5. ^ Ma, Na. : . . Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ Liu, Shuangshuang (20 July 2005). . Xinhua Net. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Jiang 2006, p. 8.
  8. ^ (1983). . p. 333. ISBN 9787801264749.
  9. ^ . . ?,?,?,?,,?,
  10. ^ Coblin, W. South (2011). Comparative Phonology of the Central Xi?ng Dialects. Taipei, Taiwan: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica. ISBN 978-986-02-9803-1.
  11. ^ Norman 1988, p. 181.
  12. ^ Norman 1988, pp. 181-183.
  13. ^ a b c Norman 1988, p. 207.
  14. ^ Wu 2005, p. 2.
  15. ^ Yan 2006, p. 107.
  16. ^ Norman 1988, p. 190.
  17. ^ Zhou & You 1986.
  18. ^ Kurpaska 2010, p. 55.
  19. ^ Yan 2006, pp. 105, 107.


  • Bào, Hòux?ng ; Chén, Hu? (2005). "Xi?ngy? de f?nq?" [The divisions of Xiang languages]. F?ngyán: 261-270.
  • Jiang, Junfeng (June 2006). Xi?ngxi?ng f?ngyán y?y?n yánji? [A Phonological Study of Xiangxiang Dialect] (PhD thesis). Hunan Normal University. Retrieved 2018.
  • Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
  • Norman, Jerry (1988). Chinese. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-29653-6.
  • Wu, Yunji (2005). A synchronic and diachronic study of the grammar of the Chinese Xiang dialects. Trends in linguistics. 162. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-018366-8.
  • Yan, Margaret Mian (2006). Introduction to Chinese Dialectology. LINCOM Europa. ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6.
  • Yang, Shifeng () (1974). (1-2). [?66?]. Taipei: . ISBN 978-0009121760..
  • Yuan, Jiahua (1989) [1960]. Hàny? f?ngyán gàiyào [An introduction to Chinese dialects]. Beijing: Wénzì g?igé ch?b?nshè ?.
  • Zhou, Zhenhe; You, Rujie (1986). F?ngyán y? zh?ngguó wénhuà ? [Dialects and Chinese culture]. Shanghai Renmin Chubanshe.

External links

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