Waxiang Chinese

Waxianghua, Wogang
Native toChina
Regionwestern Hunan
Native speakers
(300,000 cited 1995)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wxa
Dialect map of Hunan.
Waxianhua is the bit of dark blue in the medium blue (SW Mandarin) just above the red (Xiang)

Waxiang (simplified Chinese: 瓦乡话; traditional Chinese: 瓦鄉話; pinyin: wǎxiānghuà; ɕioŋ˥tsa˧) is a divergent variety of Chinese,[2][3] spoken by the Waxiang people, an unrecognized ethnic minority group in the northwestern part of Hunan province, China. Waxiang is a distinct language, very different from its surrounding Southwestern Mandarin, Xiang and Qo Xiong languages.


As noted by Laurent Sagart (2011)[4] and others,[5][6][7] Waxiang appears to share some words with the Caijia language of western Guizhou. Sagart (2011) considers Caijia to be a sister of Waxiang. Currently, Waxiang is classified as a divergent Chinese variety rather than a non-Sinitic language.[2][3] Similarities among Old Chinese, Waxiang, Caijia, and Bai have also been pointed out by Wu & Shen (2010).[8]

Qu & Tang (2017) show that Waxiang and Miao (Qo Xiong) have had little mutual influence on each other.[9]


Waxianghua is found in Luxi, Guzhang and Yongshun counties in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Zhangjiajie prefecture-level city (in Dayong 大庸), and Chenxi, Xupu and Yuanling counties in Huaihua prefecture-level city. Neighboring languages include Southwestern Mandarin, Xiang Chinese, Tujia, Qo Xiong, and Hm Nai.

  • "hua" means speech in Mandarin Chinese,
  • "xiang" means rural in Mandarin Chinese
  • "wa" means speech in Southern Chinese dialects.

The word Wa 瓦 is only a phonetic transcription.

Wu & Shen (2010) report Waxianghua to be spoken in the following villages.

  • Yuanling County: Qingshuiping 清水坪, Maxipu 麻溪铺, Taichang 太常, Wusu 乌宿, Liangshuijing 凉水井
  • Luxi County: Basheping 八什坪, Shangbao 上堡, Liangjiatan 梁家谭, Baisha 白沙镇
  • Guzhang County: Linchang 林场 of Gaowangjie 高望界, Gaofeng 高峰 (in Taojin 淘金村, Beishuiping 北水坪, etc.), Yantouzhai 岩头寨, Shanzao 山枣, Yezhu 野竹, Hepeng 河蓬, Caotan 草潭
  • Chenxi County: Tianwan 田湾, Banqiao 板桥, Chuanxiyi 船溪驿, Tanjiafang 谭家坊
  • Xupu County: Rangjiaxi 让家溪, Daweixi 大渭溪, Muxi 木溪
  • Yongshun County: Limin 里明村, Zhenxi 镇溪, Xiaoxi 小溪 of Wangcun Township 王村镇

Liubaohua 六保话, a dialect closely related to Waxianghua, is spoken in several villages in southeastern Guazhang County (including in Shaojitian Village 筲箕田村, Shanzao Township 山枣乡) and parts of Luxi County.[10] Liubaohua is spoken in the following locations (Zou 2013).

  • Guzhang County
    • Shanzao Township 山枣乡: Huoma 火麻村, Gaozhai 高寨村, Shaojitian 筲箕田村, Modao 磨刀村
    • Yantouzhai Township 岩头寨乡: Yinping 银坪村, Zimuping 梓木坪村, Wangouxi 碗沟溪村, etc.
  • Luxi County: Basheping Township 八什坪乡
  • Yuanling County: Maxipu Town 麻溪铺镇 and Shaojiwan Town 筲箕湾镇

Conservative features

Waxiang preserves a number of features of Old Chinese not found in most modern varieties of Chinese, such as the initial *l- (which became a voiced dental stop in Middle Chinese):[11]

  • Guzhang li6, OC (Baxter–Sagart) *lˤejs > MC dijH > Mandarin 'earth, ground'
  • Guzhang lu6, OC *lˤats > MC dajH > Mandarin 'big'
  • Guzhang li2, OC *lrəj > MC drij > Mandarin chí 'slow'
  • Guzhang luʔ8, OC *C.lˤok > MC duwk > Mandarin 'read'

Waxiang also has some cases of /z/ for Old Chinese *r- (which became l- in Middle Chinese):[12]

  • Guzhang za2, OC *C.rəj > MC lij > Mandarin 'pear tree, pear'
  • Guzhang zɛ2, OC *mə.rˤək > *rˤə > MC loj > Mandarin lái 'come'

In a number of words, Waxiang and Proto-Min have affricate initials where Middle Chinese has sy-:[13]

  • Guzhang tsu3, pMin *tšyiB, OC *s.turʔ > MC sywijX > Mandarin shuǐ 'water'
  • Guzhang tɕiəu1, pMin *tšyA, OC *s-ta > MC syo > Mandarin shū 'writing'

In some words, Waxiang and Proto-Min have voiced affricates where Middle Chinese has y-:[14]

  • Guzhang dzoŋ3, pMin *-džioŋB, OC *Cə.ɢaŋʔ > MC yangX > Mandarin yǎng 'itch'

Waxiang and Caijia

Sagart argues that Waxiang and Caijia together constitute the earliest branching of Chinese. Like Waxiang, Caijia preserves Old Chinese *l-, has a voiced fricative reflex of *r-, and retains the Old Chinese word 'love', which has been replaced by in all other Chinese varieties. Waxiang and Caijia also share two words not found in other Chinese varieties:[4]

  • 'two': Caijia ta˥, Waxiang tso˥˧, from Old Chinese *tsˤəs 'twice'
  • 'milk': Caijia mi˥, Waxiang mi˥, which Sagart suggests is a non-Sinitic word

See also


  1. ^ Waxiang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b Baxter, William; Sagart, Laurent (2014). Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction. Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-19-994537-5.
  3. ^ a b Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Walter de Gruyter. p. 73. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2.
  4. ^ a b Sagart, Laurent. 2011. Classifying Chinese dialects/Sinitic languages on shared innovations. Talk given at Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale, Norgent sur Marne.
  5. ^ de Sousa, Hilário. 2015. The Far Southern Sinitic Languages as part of Mainland Southeast Asia. In Enfield, N.J. & Comrie, Bernard (eds.), Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia: The state of the art (Pacific Linguistics 649), 356–439. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. doi:10.1515/9781501501685-009.
  6. ^ 湘西瓦乡话“吃饭”【柔摸】读音来历考
  7. ^ 沅陵乡话(船溪)与白语蔡家话个别读音对比
  8. ^ Wu Yunji, Shen Ruiqing [伍云姬、沈瑞清]. 2010. An Investigative Report of Waxianghua of Guzhang County, Xiangxi Prefecture [湘西古丈瓦乡话调查报告]. Shanghai Educational Press [上海教育出版社].
  9. ^ Qu Jianhui 瞿建慧; Tang Jiaxin 唐家新. 2017. 湘西乡话与湘西苗语. Minzu Yuwen, vol. 2.
  10. ^ Zou Xiaoling 邹晓玲. 2013. 湘西古丈县“六保话”的系属.
  11. ^ Baxter & Sagart (2014), p. 109.
  12. ^ Baxter & Sagart (2014), p. 110.
  13. ^ Baxter & Sagart (2014), p. 93.
  14. ^ Baxter & Sagart (2014), p. 189.

Further reading

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