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What Dialects Are There in Chinese?

There are so many Chinese dialects in China that it's difficult to estimate how many there are. Putonghua (Mandarin), Gan, Kejia (Hakka), Min, Wu, Xiang, and Yue dialects can all be roughly categorised into one of seven main groups (Cantonese). There are many dialects within each language group.

These are the Chinese languages spoken primarily by the Han people, who account for roughly 92 percent of the population. The non-Chinese languages spoken by China's minorities, such as Tibetan, Mongolian, and Miao, as well as their dialects, are not covered in this post.

Despite the fact that the dialects of the seven groups are extremely distinct, a non-Mandarin speaker can usually communicate in Mandarin, even if with a strong accent.

Despite their vast variances, all Chinese dialects use the same writing system based on Chinese characters. However, depending on whose dialect one speaks, the same character is pronounced differently. Take the word for "I" or "me," for instance. It's pronounced "wo" in Mandarin, "ngu" in Wu, "gua" in Min and "ngo" in Cantonese.

Chinese Dialects and Regionality

China is a big country with a variety of dialects spoken based on the region, similar to how there are many accents in America.

As previously stated, Mandarin, or Putonghua, is the official language of China and can be heard throughout the country. However, because it is mostly based on the Beijing dialect, it is considered a northern dialect.

In western China, the Gan dialect can be heard. It is particularly popular in and around Jiangxi province.

Kejia, or Hakka, is the language of the Hakka people, who live in Taiwan, Guangdong, Jiangxi, Guizhou, and other parts of China.

Fujian, China's southernmost coastal province, speaks Min. It's the most diversified dialect, which means there are still a lot of distinct ways to pronounce words within the dialect group.

The Wu dialect is spoken in the Yangtze Delta and Shanghai. Wu is sometimes referred to as a Shanghainese.

Hunan province is home to a dialect known as Xiang.

Cantonese, often known as Yue, is a southern dialect. Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, and Macau all speak it.


Tone is a distinctive element of all Chinese languages. Mandarin, for example, has four tones and Cantonese has six. In terms of language, tone refers to the pitch at which syllables in words are spoken. Different words in Chinese stress different pitches. Pitch variation can even be found within a single syllable in some words.

As a result, in any Chinese dialect, tone is extremely significant. Many times, words printed in pinyin (the conventional alphabetical transcription of Chinese characters) are the same, but how they are spoken alters their meaning. For instance, in Mandarin, 妈 (mā) means mother, 马 (mǎ) means horse, and 骂 (mà) means to scold.

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