|Region||Beijing urban districts|
The Beijing dialect (simplified Chinese: 北京话; traditional Chinese: 北京話; pinyin: Běijīnghuà), 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 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 / 儿 to some words (e.g. 哪儿). Lexically, the dialect has absorbed influences from the Mongolian language and Manchu language, legacies of Beijing's "tumultuous history" including the Mongol invasion and Manchu invasion. Between the Yuan and Qing, the Ming dynasty also introduced southern dialectal influences into the dialect.
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.
Other scholars have referred to it as the "elite Beijing accent."
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. Through the nineteeth 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.
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.
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".
“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.”
Some argue that Shanghainese also retains a level of local prestige, and others argue that Cantonese is the "only dialect which has attained a level of prestige that rivals that of the standard national language."
The dialect has been described as "the official language of the entertainment industry", making it also the "showbiz accent."
Some fear that the vernacular Beijing dialect will disappear. 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. According to a UN report, nearly 100 Chinese dialects, especially those spoken by the 55 ethnic minorities in China, are endangered.
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.
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.
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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.)
However, some striking differences exist. Most prominent is the proliferation of rhotic vowels. All rhotic vowels are the result of the use of the -儿 /-ɚ/, a noun suffix, except for a few words pronounced [ɐɚ̯] 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 (儿化) or rhotacization, as is considered one of the iconic characteristics of Beijing Mandarin.
When /w/ occurs in syllable-initial position, many speakers use [ʋ] before vowels other than [o] as in 我 wǒ, and [u] as in 五 wu, e.g. 尾巴 wěiba [ʋei̯˨pa˦].
Moreover, Beijing dialect has a few phonetic reductions that are usually considered too "colloquial" for use in Standard Chinese. For example, in fast speech, initial consonants go through lenition if they are in an unstressed syllable: pinyin ⟨zh ch sh⟩ /tʂ tʂʰ ʂ/ become ⟨r⟩ /ɻ/, so 不知道 bùzhīdào "don't know" can sound like bùrdào; laoshi 老师 can sound like laoer; resulting in a "swallowing of consonants".
⟨j q x⟩ /tɕ tɕʰ ɕ/ become ⟨y⟩ /j/, so 赶紧去 gǎnjǐnqù "go quickly" can sound like gǎnyǐnqù; pinyin ⟨b d g⟩ /p t k/ go through voicing to become [b d ɡ]; similar changes also occur on other consonants.
The 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.
Influence on Manchu
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.
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.
Influence on Mongolian
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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. 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. The aspirated bilabial stop /pʰ/ and the labial approximant /w/ are phonemes only found in loanwords from Chinese and Tibetan, evident in their limited distribution in Mongolian. Substantial diglossia can also be observed in Inner Mongolia.
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:
- 倍儿 bèir – very, especially (referring to manner or attribute)
- 别价 biéjie – do not; usually followed by 呀 if used as an imperative (usually used when rejecting a favor or politeness from close friends)
- 搓火儿 cuōhuǒr – to be angry
- 颠儿了 diārle – to leave; to run away
- 二把刀 èrbǎdāo – a person with limited abilities, klutz
- 撒丫子 sayazi – to let go on feet, to go, leave.
- 怂 sóng / 蔫儿 niār – no backbone, spiritless
- 消停 xiāoting – to finally and thankfully become quiet and calm
- 辙 zhé – way (to do something); equivalent to Standard Chinese 办法
- 褶子了 zhezile – ruined (especially things to do)
- 上 shang - often used in place of 去, meaning "to go".
- 搁 ge - often used in place of 放, meaning "to place".
Some Beijing phrases may be somewhat disseminated outside Beijing:
- 抠门儿 kōumér – stingy, miserly (may be used even outside Beijing)
- 劳驾 láojia – "Excuse me"; heard often on public transportation, from Classical Chinese
- 溜达 liūda – to stroll about; equivalent to Standard Chinese 逛街 or 散步
- 特 tè – very; a stronger version of Standard Chinese 很 and believed to derive from 特别
Note that some of the slang are considered to be tuhua (土话), or "base" or "uneducated" language, that are carryovers from an older generation and are no longer used amongst more educated speakers, for example:
- 起小儿 qíxiǎor – since a young age, similar to 打小儿 dǎxiǎor, which is more often used by the younger generation
- 晕菜 yūncài – to be disoriented, to be confused, to be bewildered
Others may be viewed as neologistic expressions used among younger speakers and in "trendier" circles:
- 爽 shuǎng – cool (in relation to a matter); cf. 酷 (kù) (describes a person)
- 套瓷儿 tàocír – to toss into the hoop; used of basketball
- 小蜜 xiǎomì – special female friend (negative connotation)
Manchu and Mongol loanwords
- 胡同 hútòng – hutong, from Middle Mongolian quddug ("water well", modern Mongolian худаг) or ɣudum ("passage"; modern Mongolian гудам), possibly with influence from Chinese 衕 ("street, passage") and 巷 ("lane, alley").
- 站 zhàn – station, from Middle Mongolian ǰamči ("post station", in modern Mongolian замч "guide")
- 哏哆/哏叨 hēnduo - to reproach, from Manchu hendu
There are syntactic differences between Standard Mandarin and Beijing dialect. Both southern Chinese and southern Mandarin syntactic features were incorporated into Standard Mandarin, while the Beijing dialect retains features of northern Mandarin. The Beijing dialect also uses colloquial expressions differently.
There is a conditional loss of the classifier under certain circumstances after the numeral 一 "one", usually pronounced yí in the second tone, as if undergoing tone sandhi with the classifier 个 gè after it.
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.
This article needs to be updated. In particular: More examples and better examples are needed.June 2019)(
- Standard Chinese:
- Jīntiān huì xiàyǔ, suǒyǐ chūmén de shíhou yào jìde dài yǔsan.
- Translation: It is going to rain today, so remember to bring an umbrella when you go out.
- Beijing dialect:
- Jīnr děi xiàyǔ, (suǒyǐ) chūménr shíhòu jìzhe dài yǔsan!
- Under the influence of the Beijing dialect's phonetic reductions:
- Jīr děi xiàyǔ, (suǒyǐ) chūmér ríhòu jìr dài yǔsan!
- Chinese in New York City
- List of Chinese dialects
- Varieties of Chinese
- Sino-Tibetan languages
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