Saturday, October 4, 2008

Xiang Chinese

Xiāng , also known as Hunan, Hunanese , or Hsiang is a spoken mainly in the Hunan province, but also in a few other provinces such as Sichuan and Guangxi. It is a group of languages of immense interest to Chinese and because some of its languages still exhibit the three-way distinction of Middle Chinese obstruents, preserving the s, s and s as in the modern . However, it is surrounded by in the north, west and south, thus exhibits heavy Mandarin influences. New Xiang, which has lost the voiced obstruents, is to a certain extent intelligible to speakers of Southwestern Mandarin.

One of the most well-known native speakers of the Xiang language was Mao Zedong, a native of Xiangtan, who was not fluent in Mandarin.


Xiāng is one of the families, which in turn forms part of the larger Sino-Tibetan language family. Despite being a distinct language family, the Xiang languages at large are close to the Wu languages because of the voiced obstruents and to Mandarin because of the grammatical and lexical influence it has on the Xiang languages, notably the new Xiang languages, which is reminiscent of a similar linguistic situation of the Hangzhou dialect.

Geographic distribution

Xiang is spoken by over 36 million people in China, primarily in the central and southwestern parts of the Hunan province, over 20 counties in Sichuan, the 4 counties of Quánzhōu , Guànyáng , Zīyuán and Xīngān in northern Guangxi and parts of Guangdong. Apart from being surrounded by Mandarin speaking areas in the north, west and south, Xiang also borders Gan in the eastern part of Hunan and Jiangxi. Geographically, Xiang is also in contact with the and languages in the northwest.


As mentioned above, linguists distinguish two sub-families within the Xiang family, namely the Old and New Xiang languages. Old Xiang, aside from having preserved the Middle Chinese obstruents, is also spoken in the southern regions and New Xiang in the north, therefore more heavily influenced by than the Old Xiang languages.

According to Bao & Chen , three main dialect groups have been identified, amongst other unclassified dialects:

* Chángyì sub-group including 32 cities and counties
** , , Xiāngtán city , Xiāngtán , Zhūzhōu city , Zhūzhōu , Píngjiāng , Liúyáng , Níngxiāng , Wàngchéng , Xiāngyīn , Yìyáng city , Yìyáng , Táojiāng , Yuánjiāng , Mìluó , Yuèyáng city , Yuèyáng , Nánxiàn , ?nxiāng , ?nhuà , Héngyáng , Héngyángyáng , Héngnán , Héngdōng , Héngshān , Shàodōng , Xīnshào , Qiányáng , Hóngjiāng city , Huìtóng , Suíníng

* Lóushào sub-group including 21 cities and counties
**Hunan province: Lóudǐ city , Xiāngxiāng , Shuāngfēng , Liányuán , Lěngshuǐjiāng city , Xīnhuà , ?nhuà , Shàoyáng city , Shàoyáng , Dòngkǒu , Lōnghuí , Wǔgāng , Qídōng , Qíyáng , Chéngbù , Xīnníng and Máyáng .
**Guangxi province : Quánzhōu , Guànyáng , Zīyuán and Xīng'ān

* Jíxù subgroup including 8 cities and counties
**Jíshǒu , Bǎojìng , Huāyuán , Gǔzhàng , Lúqī , Chénxī, Xùpǔ , Yuánlíng

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