Tiantai dialect

Tiantai Dialect
天台話 / 天台话
PronunciationTiantai Dialect: [tʰi.tʰai.u]
Native toChina
RegionTiantai County, Taizhou, Zhejiang
Language codes
ISO 639-3

The Tiantai dialect, also known as Tiantaihua (simplified Chinese: 天台话; traditional Chinese: 天台話; pinyin: tiāntāihuà; Tiantai dialect pronunciation: [tʰi.tʰai.u]) is a regiolect of Wu Chinese in the Taizhou Wu dialect group. It is spoken in Tiantai County, Taizhou, Zhejiang province, China.

Like other dialects in the Wu family, Tiantaihua has a three-way contrast between voiced, unaspirated voiceless, and aspirated initial consonants (e.g., /t tʰ d/), preserving an earlier feature of Chinese which Mandarin has collapsed into a two-way distinction.

Tiantai dialect
Traditional Chinese天台話
Simplified Chinese天台话

The Tiantai dialect is the main representative of the northern Taizhou dialect family.

Comparison with Standard Chinese

The meaning of many common words and phrases in the Tiantai dialect differs from that of Standard Chinese. Below is a list of common differences:

Difference of meaning of words
Chinese word Original meaning Meaning in the Tiantai dialect References
味道 Taste Comfort, enjoyment [1]
老實好 Honestly good Praise, very good
煞夾 Tightly squeezed Very powerful
老官 Veteran official Husband
天亮 Sunrise, dawn Tomorrow
拔好 Properly pulled Immediately
活動 Activity Smart, intelligent
Longevity Silliness, lack of empathy [2]
Sloppy Bad behaviour [3]
大慧 Very intelligent Able person [4]
大吹 Big blow Stupid person [5]

Proverbs and phrases in the Tiantai dialect can be shorter in comparison with the corresponding phrase in Standard Chinese. For example, the phrase "露出馬腳" (literally "exposing the cloven hoof", metaphorically "exposed") is shortened to the phrase "出腳", literally meaning "taking the foot out".[1]

Sentences can be shorter as well; see the example below.[6]

Original Chinese 小王 比起來 還是 小李
English Literal As John compared to , it's still Terry taller .
Rearranged As compared to John (who is)
Contracted Literal As compared to John it's still Terry who is taller
Chinese 小王 小李


Pronouns in the Tiantai dialect[7]
Person Regular Chinese pronoun English equivalent Tiantai dialect pronoun(s)
1st person singular I
2nd person singular you (singular) [n 1]
3rd person singular he 佢/渠[n 2]
it (animals)
it (objects)
1st person plural 我們 we 我等/我拉/我拉個/項等
2nd person plural 你們 you (plural) 爾拉/爾拉個
3rd person plural 他們 they 佢拉/佢拉個/渠拉/渠拉個
  1. ^ The word "爾" stands for "you" in middle Chinese.
  2. ^ These words are thought to have come from the word "其", a 3rd person pronoun in Middle Chinese.

Syllable structure


Table of consonants (translated from[8])
Consonant Voiceless unaspirated plosive Voiceless aspirated plosive Plosive voiced Voiceless fricative Voiced fricative Glottalised?[citation needed] half voiced Half voiced
Consonant Example Consonant Example Consonant Example Consonant Example Consonant Example Consonant Example Consonant Example
Labial p ph b f 敷 v 'm m
Dental ts tsh dz s 生 z 'l l
Coronal t th d 'n n
Alveolo-palatal c ch 穿 j sh zh
Velar k kh g 'ng ng
Glottal ' h gh y


Table of vowels (translated from[8])
See also: Four hu
Open mouth Closed mouth Even teeth Round mouth
Vowel Example Vowel Example Vowel Example Vowel Example
u iu
a ua ia
e ue ie
o uo
ae uae
oe uoe ioe
au iau
eu ieu
an uan ian
aon uaon iaon
en uen
in iuin
on ion
aeh uaeh
ah uah iah
aoh uaoh iaoh
eh ieh
ih iuih
oeh uoeh ioeh
oh ioh
m n ng


There are 8 tones in the Tiantai dialect, which are obtained by splitting each of the four tones in Mandarin to yin (陰) and yang (陽).

Tones in Tiantai dialect[9]
Tone name Tone letters
yin ping (陰平) ˧˧ (33)
yang ping (陽平) ˨˦ (24)
yin shang (陰上) ˧˨˥ (325)
yang shang (陽上) ˨˩˦ (214)
yin qu (陰去) ˥˥ (55)
yang qu (陽去) ˧˥ (35)
yin ru (陰入) ˥ʔ (5)
yang ru (陽入) ˨˧ʔ (23)


  1. ^ a b "天台話100句翻譯,啥意思格" [100 Sentences in the Tiantai Dialect and What do they Mean]. iFuun.com. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  2. ^ "天台話中「壽頭」是指什麼頭?" [What does "Long-lived head" mean in the Tiantai dialect?]. iFuun.com. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  3. ^ Dai, Zhaoming (24 Nov 2006). "浙江天台方言词考源数则". 方言. 4: 374–377.
  4. ^ Wang, Lin (2008). "大慧天台". 安徽文學. 12: 144–145.
  5. ^ Chen, Luqian (2012). "从吴语趣谈"个"字" [Talking about the word “个” from Wu Chinese]. 文学教育. 17: 132–133.
  6. ^ Xiong, Zhongru (August 2007). "現代漢語與方言中差比句的句法結構分析" [An Analysis of Syntactic Structure of Difference Sentences in Modern Chinese and Regional Dialects] (PDF). Language and Linguistics. 8.4: 1043–1063.
  7. ^ Dai, Zhaoming (24 Nov 2003). "浙江天台方言的代词" [The Pronouns of the Tiantai Dialect in Zhejiang]. 方言. 4: 314–323.
  8. ^ a b "天台话拼音方案" [Pinyin scheme of the Tiantai Dialect]. 通用吴语拼音. 15 March 2008. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  9. ^ Dai, Zhaoming (24 Nov 1999). "天台话的几种语法现象". 方言. 4: 249–258.

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