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PronunciationChengdu [sz˨˩˧tsʰwan˦˥xwa˨˩˧] Chongqing [sz˨˩˦tsʰwan˥xwa˨˩˦]
Native toChina
RegionSichuan, Chongqing and their neighboring provinces
EthnicitySichuanese people
Language codes
ISO 639-3(a proposal to use scm was rejected in 2018[1])
Sichuanese in Greater China
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Sichuanese or Szechwanese (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; Sichuanese Pinyin: Si4cuan1hua4; pinyin: Sìchuānhuà; Wade–Giles: Szŭ4-ch'uan1-hua4), also called Sichuanese/Szechwanese Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 四川官话; traditional Chinese: 四川官話; pinyin: Sìchuān Guānhuà), is a branch of Southwestern Mandarin spoken mainly in Sichuan and Chongqing, which was part of Sichuan Province until 1997, and the adjacent regions of their neighboring provinces, such as Hubei, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Shaanxi. Although "Sichuanese" is often synonymous with the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect, there is still a great amount of diversity among the Sichuanese dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible with each other. In addition, because Sichuanese is the lingua franca in Sichuan, Chongqing and part of Tibet, it is also used by many Tibetan, Yi, Qiang and other ethnic minority groups as a second language.[2][3][4]

Sichuanese is more similar to Standard Chinese than southeastern Chinese varieties but is still quite divergent in phonology, vocabulary, and even grammar.[2] The Minjiang dialect is especially difficult for speakers of other Mandarin dialects to understand.[5][6][7][8] Sichuanese can be further divided into a number of dialects: Chengdu–Chongqing, Minjiang, Renshou–Fushun, and Ya'an–Shimian. The dialect of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and an important central city, is the most representative dialect of Southwestern Mandarin and is used widely in Sichuan opera and other art forms of the region.

Modern Sichuanese evolved due to a great wave of immigration during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644): many immigrants, mainly from Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangdong, flooded into Sichuan bringing their languages with them.[9] The influence of Sichuanese has resulted in a distinct form of Standard Chinese that is often confused with "real" Sichuanese. Sichuanese, spoken by about 120 million people, would rank tenth among languages by number of speakers (just behind Japanese) if counted as a separate language.

Geographic distribution and dialects

Sichuanese is mainly spoken in and around the Sichuan Basin, which includes almost all of Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality except for some Tibetan and Yi inhabited areas. It is also spoken in the border regions of Sichuan's neighboring provinces: northern Yunnan and Guizhou, southern Shaanxi and western Hubei.

However, it is possible to divide Sichuanese into four sub-dialects according to the preservation or distribution of the Middle Chinese checked tone: the Minjiang dialect (岷江小片), which preserves the checked tone; the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect (), in which the checked tone has merged into the light level tone; the Renshou-Fushun dialect (小片), which merges the checked tone into the departing tone; and the Ya'an–Shimian dialect (小片), in which the checked tone is merged into the dark level tone.[2][10]

The Minjiang, Ya'an–Shimian and Renshou–Fushun dialects are spoken mainly in South and West Sichuan, regions in which the inhabitants have significantly more indigenous Sichuanese descent than those of North and East Sichuan. Thus, these dialects are often referred as Old Sichuanese, as the preserve many characteristics of Bashu,[which?] the extinct language formerly spoken by the first Sichuanese Han Chinese people. The Chengdu-Chongqing dialect, named after the two largest cities in greater Sichuan, are spoken in a contiguous area mainly in North and East Sichuan. It is often referred as New Sichuanese because it exhibits fewer characteristics of the Bashu language.[11]

map showing locations of Sichuanese dialects
Name Characteristics Spoken areas
Chengdu–Chongqing dialect entering tone distributed into light level tone North and East Sichuan, the northeastern part of Chengdu Plain, several cities or counties in southwestern Sichuan (Panzhihua, Dechang, Yanyuan, Huili and Ningnan), Southern Shaanxi and Western Hubei
Minjiang dialect entering tone preserved 44 cities or counties in Minjiang River valley or along the Yangtze River in South and West Sichuan, Xichang, Xichong, Yanting, Shehong, northern Yunnan and northern Guizhou
Renshou–Fushun dialect entering tone distributed into departing tone 8 cities or counties in Tuo River valley (Renshou, Jingyan, Weiyuan, Zigong, Rongxian, Fushun, Neijiang and Longchang), Junlian and Mianning
Ya'an–Shimian dialect entering tone distributed into dark level tone Ya'an (prefecture-level city) in West Sichuan


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Sichuanese dialects" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (October 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Like many of the southern provinces in China, Sichuan was fully sinicized by the end of the Tang dynasty.[12] The modern variety of Chinese spoken in the region formed relatively recently.[12] In the thirteenth century, the population of Sichuan dropped precipitously, suspected to be due in part to a series of plagues and Mongol invasions.[12] The population did not recover until it was replenished by subsequent migrations from Hubei, as well as Xiang, Gan and Hakka-speakers in the following centuries. These varieties largely supplanted the earlier varieties of Chinese in Sichuan,[12] known as Ba–Shu Chinese or Old Sichuanese. Like Min Chinese, Ba-Shu Chinese was different from the Middle Chinese of the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties, but instead a divergent dialect group independently descended from the Old Chinese of the Han dynasty,[citation needed] which formed a substratum that influenced the formation of the modern dialect group and helps to explain the distinctiveness of Modern Sichuanese within the Mandarin dialect continuum.[citation needed]


This article should specify the language of its non-English content, using ((lang)), ((transliteration)) for transliterated languages, and ((IPA)) for phonetic transcriptions, with an appropriate ISO 639 code. Wikipedia's multilingual support templates may also be used. See why. (October 2023)


There are five phonemic tones in Sichuanese: dark level tone, light level tone, rising tone, departing tone and entering tone (or checked tone). In some regions the checked tone of Sichuanese has been merged into another tone, which is very different from standard Mandarin, whose checked tone has been merged irregularly into the other four tones. According to Phonology of Sichuan dialect (四川方言音系), among all the 150 Sichuanese-speaking cities and counties, 48 keep the checked tone while the other 102 have only four tones.[13] Particularly, in some sub-dialects of the Minjiang dialect (such as the Yingjing dialect), the departing tone has developed into two different tones: a colloquial tone (which is similar to the second tone as a characteristic of Ba-Shu: 平声似去) and a literary tone (which is the same as the Chengdu dialect).[14]

The tone contours of the Sichuanese dialects are highly and quite different from those of Beijing Mandarin. In Sichuanese, the first tone (dark level tone) is a high level tone (like Beijing), the second tone (light level tone) is a low falling tone (the mirror image of Beijing), the third tone (rising tone) is a high falling tone and the fourth tone (departing tone) is a low or mid rising tone (interchanged compared to Beijing) and the fifth tone (entering tone) is mid or high if it's not merged, as shown in the chart below.[13]

Sub-dialects 1st tone 2nd tone 3rd tone 4th tone 5th tone
Chengdu ˥ 55
˦˥ 45[15]
˨˩ 21 ˥˧ 53 ˨˩˧ 213 merged into the 2nd ˨˩
Chongqing ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˨˩˦ 214 merged into the 2nd ˨˩
Leshan ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˥˨ 52 ˨˨˦ 224 ˧ 3 (checked)
Yingjing ˥ 45 ˩˨˩ 121 ˥˧ 53 ˩ 11 (colloquial)
˨˩˧ 213 (literary)
˧ 33
Luzhou ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˩˧ 13 ˧ 33
Ya'an ˥ 55 ˨˩ 21 ˦˨ 42 ˩˦ 14 merged into the 1st ˥
Zigong ˥ 55 ˧˩ 31 ˥˧ 53 ˨˦ 24 merged into the 4th ˨˦

In the areas which keep the entering tone, the five tones of Sichuanese are nearly identical to the values of 5 of the 6 tones of the indigenous Southern Qiang language.


Initials (or syllable onsets) are initial consonants of possible syllables. There are 21 initials in the Chengdu dialect of Sichuanese (academically referred as Standard Sichuanese). Four Sichuanese initial consonants do not exist in Beijing: [z], [v], [ŋ] and [nʲ]. On the other hand, five initials in Beijing do not exist in Sichuanese: [tʂ], [tʂʰ], [ʂ], [ʐ] and [l].

The following is the initial consonant inventory of Sichuanese, transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and under every IPA symbol in the inventory below there is the transcription of that sound in Sichuanese Pinyin and a Chinese character using that initial:[13]

Labial Coronal Alveolo-palatal Velar
Plosive plain /p/
b 贝
d 得
g 古
aspirated //
p 配
t 套
k 可
Affricate plain /ts/
z 早
j 价
aspirated /tsʰ/
c 草
q 巧
Nasal /m/
m 没
n 路
ȵ 你
ng 我
Fricative Voiceless /f/
f 发
s 是
x 小
h 好
Voiced /v/
v 五
r 如


A final, the remainder of syllable after the initial, consists of an optional medial glide, a vowel and an optional final consonants. There are 36 finals in the Chengdu dialect of Sichuanese. Four Sichuanese finals do not exist in Beijing: [ɛ], [iai], [uɛ], and [yo]. On the other hand, three Beijing finals do not exist in Sichuanese: [ɤ], [iŋ], and [əŋ].

The following is the inventory of Sichuanese finals, transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and under every IPA symbol in the inventory below there is the standard orthography of that sound in Sichuanese Pinyin and a Chinese character using that final:[13]

-i or -u nasal finals
Ø- /z̩/
i 日
er 二
a 大
o 我
e 黑
ai 街
ei 批
ao 包
ou 走
an 烦[16]
en 樱
ang 帮
ong 亩
i- /i/
i 一
ia 牙
ie 叶
iai 介
iao 标
iu 九
ian 变[16]
in 兵
iang 量
u- /u/
u 五
ua 瓜
ue 国
uai 乖
ui 类
uan 段[16]
un 春
uang 光
y- /y/
ü 鱼
üo 药
üe 绝
üan 鲜[16]
ün 泳
iong 蓉

Tense vowels for checked tone

There is a discrepancy between Old Sichuanese and New Sichuanese in terms of finals. In the "old" Minjiang dialect, the stop consonants for checked-tone syllables in Middle Chinese have developed into tense vowels to create a phonemic contrast, and in several cities and counties the tense vowels are followed by a glottal stop to emphasize the contrast. Meanwhile, the checked tone has disappeared in other Sichuanese dialects.[17] The following table shows the tense vowels of Minjiang dialect's three sub-dialects, spoken in Luzhou, Qionglai and Leshan, and a comparison with other Sichuanese dialects is also presented.

example Minjiang Ya'an–Shimian Chengdu-Chongqing Renshou–Fushun
Luzhou Qionglai Leshan Luding Chengdu Chongqing Zigong
[æ] [æ] [æ] [a] [a] [a] [a]
[ɵ] [ʊ] [ʊ] [o] [o] [o] [o]
[e] [æ] [e] [ɛ] [ɛ] [ɛ] [ɛ]
[ie] [ie] [ie] [i] [iɛ] [i] [i]
[ɵ] [ʊ] [ʊ] [u] [u] [u] [u]
[yɵ] [yʊ] [yʊ] [y] [yo] [yu] [yi]
湿 [ə] [ə] [ə] [z̩] [z̩] [z̩] [z̩]
[iæ] [iɐ] [iæ] [ia] [ia] [ia] [ia]
[uæ] [uɐ] [uæ] [ua] [ua] [ua] [ua]
[ie] [ie] [ie] [iɛ] [iɛ] [iɛ] [iɛ]
[ɵ] [uæ] [æ] [uɛ] [uɛ] [uɛ] [ue]
[yɵ] [ye] [yʊ] [yɛ] [yɛ] [yɛ] [yɛ]
[yɵ] [yʊ] [yʊ] [yo] [yo] [yo] [yo]

Literary and colloquial readings

The existence of literary and colloquial readings (文白异读), is a notable feature in Sichuanese and some other Sinitic varieties, such as Cantonese or Hokkien. In Sichuanese, colloquial readings tend to resemble Ba-Shu Chinese (Old Sichuanese) or Southern Old Mandarin, while literary readings tend to resemble modern standard Mandarin. For example, in the Yaoling dialect (摇铃话), the colloquial reading of "" (means "things") is [væʔ],[18] which is very similar to its pronunciation of Ba-Shu Chinese in the Song dynasty (960–1279).[19] Meanwhile, its literary reading, [voʔ], is relatively similar to the standard Mandarin pronunciation [wu]. The table below shows some examples of Chinese characters with both literary and colloquial readings in Sichuanese.[20]

Example Colloquial Reading Literary Reading Meaning Standard Mandarin Pronunciation
/tɛ˨˩˧/ /tsai˨˩˧/ at /tsai˥˩/
/tia˥/ /tʰi˨˩/ lift /tʰi˧˥/
/tɕʰie˨˩˧/ /tɕʰy˨˩˧/ go /tɕʰy˥˩/
/kɛ/ /tɕy˨˩˧/ cut /tɕy˥˩/
/xa˨˩˧/ /ɕia˨˩˧/ down /ɕia˥˩/
/xuan˨˩/ /xuən˨˩/ across /xəŋ˧˥/
/ŋan/ /ȵian/ strict /iɛn˧˥/
/suei/ /su˥˧/ rat /ʂu˨˩˦/
/tʰai/ /ta˨˩˧/ big /ta˥˩/
/toŋ/ /tsu˥˧/ master /tʂu˨˩˦/


Only 47.8% of Sichuanese vocabulary is in common with the Beijing dialect on which Standard Chinese is based; indeed Sichuanese shares more vocabulary with the Xiang and Gan varieties of Chinese, even though Sichuanese is usually classified as a dialect of Mandarin.[2]

The vocabulary of Sichuanese has three main origins: Ba-Shu (or Ancient Sichuanese), Middle Chinese and the languages of the immigrants, including Proto-Mandarin from Hubei, Xiang, Gan and Hakka, which were brought to Sichuan during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Recently, many loanwords have been introduced to Sichuanese from standard Mandarin and English. Meanwhile, new Sichuanese words are developing in large cities, such as Chengdu and Chongqing, which then spread at a dramatic speed through Sichuan.[21][22] "雄起" (xiong2qi3) (meaning "to cheer someone on") is a typical example of a novel Sichuanese word, equivalent to "加油" (jiāyóu) in standard Mandarin. "耙耳朵" (Pá ěr duo) is a word exclusive to Sichuanese, which means "henpecked husbands". A standard Mandarin equivalent of "耙耳朵" is "妻管严" (qī guǎn yán). The prototype of "耙耳朵" comes from a kind of bicycle with "ears" in Chengdu, which was first invented by men in Chengdu in order to make their wives sit more comfortably. There are still a few such bikes on streets of Chengdu.

Common Vocabulary difference
Sichuanese Dialect Standard Chinese Sichuanese Dialect Standard Chinese
歪(waī) 凶恶(xīong è) 巴(bā) 粘贴(zhān tiē)
左(zuǒ) 跑音(pǎo yīn) 费(feì) 调皮(tíao pí)
撵(nǐan) 追赶(zhuī gǎn) 刨(páo) 拨弄(bō nòng)
号(hào) 批阅(pī yuè) 摸(mō) 拖延(tuō yán)
巴适(bā shì) 好(hǎo) 盐巴(yán bá) 盐(yán)
瓢羹(píao gēng) 勺(sháo) 𤆵和(pā huó) 软(ruǎn)
嘎嘎(ga ga) 肉(roù) 几下(jǐ xià) 快(kuaì)
估到(gū dào) 逼(bī) 啪啦(pā lā) 堆(duī)

Relation with other Chinese languages

The Chengdu dialect is usually taken as a representative of Sichuanese.[2] Sichuanese shares the most similar vocabulary with Yunnanese, a dialect of Southwestern Mandarin spoken in the neighboring province. However, the relationship between Sichuanese and Northern Mandarin dialects, including the standard language, is weaker than the relationship between Xiang and Gan.

In terms of vocabulary, Sichuanese has the second closest relationship with Xiang. The two varieties share a large number of exclusively unique words. This is mainly because many Xiang-speaking immigrants from Hunan moved to Sichuan during the great wave of immigration during the Ming and Qing dynasties, so Xiang does not have such a close relationship with other southwestern varieties of Chinese, such as those spoken in Yunnan, Guangxi or Hubei.[23] For example, in both Sichuanese and Xiang the verb "to squat" is "" (gu1) but "" (dūn) in standard Mandarin, the noun "kitchen" is "灶屋" (zao4vu2) but "厨房" (chúfáng) in standard, and the adjective "thick" is "" (ȵian4) but "" (nóng) in standard.[24] Furthermore, the Sichuanese vocabulary also contains words from Old Xiang and Middle Xiang, such as "謱謰" (sloppy), "" (old) and "" (son).[23]

Rank of lexical similarity between Sichuanese and other Chinese languages[2]
Rank Chinese languages Major dialect Percentage of the same vocabulary with Sichuanese
1 Southwestern Mandarin-Yunnanese Kunming 58.3%
2 Xiang Changsha 54.9%
3 Jianghuai Mandarin Yangzhou 52.7%
4 Gan Nanchang 49.4%
5 Northern Mandarin Beijing 47.8%
6 Wu Suzhou 36.4%
7 Yue Guangzhou 27.4%
8 Hakka Meixian 27.2%
9 Min Xiamen 20.2%


Though Sichuanese is not as endangered as some other languages of China,[25] the prevalence of Sichuanese has dramatically lessened as the popularity of Mandarin Chinese has risen.[26] Government policy limits the use of Sichuanese in broadcasting, television and many public places. Furthermore, the use of Sichuanese as a teaching medium is not permitted in the curriculum, which has resulted in a reduction of fluency among young people in Sichuanese-speaking areas since the 1980s and 1990s. The Sichuanese spoken by them is greatly influenced by the national language.[27]

The decline of Sichuanese threatens to severely impact Ba-Shu culture, rooted in the Sichuanese dialect, particularly traditional Shu arts such as Sichuan opera, risking severe decline or even extinction.[28] China enacted laws in 2000 mandating the use of Mandarin. Provinces, including Sichuan, established language committees to advise, monitor, and enforce Mandarin usage.[29] The mandate inevitably caused massive decline in audience members and the performance of traditional Ba-shu folk art.

See also


  1. ^ "Change Request Documentation: 2017-025". SIL International.
  2. ^ a b c d e f 崔荣昌 (1996). "第三章:四川的官话". 《四川方言与巴蜀文化》 (in Chinese). 四川大学出版社. ISBN 7-5614-1296-7.
  3. ^ 严奇岩 (April 2007). 《移民与四川人"打乡谈"》. 成都大学学报(社科版).
  4. ^ 田畅(2009-07-29),《在四川灾区支教的300多个日夜》,鞍山日报
  5. ^ 李彬、涂鸣华 (2007). 《百年中国新闻人(上册)》. 福建人民出版社. p. 563. ISBN 978-7-211-05482-4.
  6. ^ 吴丹, 梁晓明 (Nov 23, 2005). 四川交通:"窗口"飞来普通话. 中国交通报.
  7. ^ 张国盛, 余勇 (Jun 1, 2009). 大学生村官恶补四川方言 现在能用流利四川话和村民交流. 北京晨报.
  8. ^ 走进大山的志愿者. 四川青年报. Jul 18, 2009.
  9. ^ 彭金祥(March 2006),《四川方音在宋代以后的发展》,乐山师范学院学报
  10. ^ 翟时雨 (2003). 中篇第四节:四川话的分区. 《汉语方言学》. 西南师范大学出版社. ISBN 7-5621-2942-8.
  11. ^ 蓝勇 (1997). 第十三章:历史时期西南综合文化区的划分. 《西南历史文化地理》. 西南师范大学出版社. ISBN 7-5621-1603-2.
  12. ^ a b c d Ramsey, S. Robert (1987). The Languages of China. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01468-X.
  13. ^ a b c d 甄尚灵等(March 1960),《四川方言音系》,四川大学学报(社会科学版)
  14. ^ 易杰(2010),《川西大邑等七县市方言音系调查研究》,四川师范大学
  15. ^ Li, Rong. Chengdu Dialect Dictionary. 1998
  16. ^ a b c d There's a trend in Chengdu dialect that [æ] will replace [an]
  17. ^ 余江(May 2004),《四川官话雅棉小片入声归阴平研究》,汕头大学 (in Chinese)
  18. ^ 杨升初(1985年S2期),《剑阁摇铃话音系记略》,湘潭大学社会科学学报. (in Chinese)
  19. ^ 王庆(April 2010),《四川方言中没、术、物的演变》,西华大学学报(哲学社会科学版) (in Chinese)
  20. ^ 甄尚灵(January 1958),《成都语音的初步研究》,四川大学学报(哲学社会科学版)
  21. ^ 杨文全、鲁科颖(May 2005),《当代成都方言新词汇例释——兼论其造词心理与民间文化意蕴》,西华师范大学学报(哲学社会科学版)(in Chinese)
  22. ^ 沈荭(February 2008),《重庆言子儿的文化透视》,重庆大学学报(社会科学版)(in Chinese)
  23. ^ a b 罗昕如 (2006). 第九章第三节:从词汇看湘语与西南官话的关系. 《湘方言词汇研究》 (in Chinese). Hunan Normal University Press. ISBN 978-7-81081-616-8.
  24. ^ 崔荣昌 (1996). 《四川境内的湘方言》 (in Chinese). 中华书局(台湾). ISBN 978-957-671-397-2.
  25. ^ "四川经验:剽悍方言无需要保卫" (in Chinese). 新浪网新民周刊专题. Retrieved 2010-05-15.
  26. ^ 夏中易(April 2002),《近四十年成都话语音变动现象考论》,成都大学学报(社科版) (in Chinese)
  27. ^ 周及徐(April 2001),《20世纪成都话音变研究》,四川师范大学学报(社会科学版)(in Chinese)
  28. ^ Min, Chen (2022-04-13). "川剧传承保护何去何从?". Sohu.
  29. ^ Ni, Vincent (January 16, 2022). "Chinese dialects in decline as government enforces Mandarin". The Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2024.