Sichuan 1

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BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

AGE: 30s

DATE OF BIRTH (DD/MM/YYYY): 1970s

PLACE OF BIRTH: Tengchong, Yunnan Province

GENDER: female

ETHNICITY: Han Chinese

OCCUPATION: university teacher

EDUCATION: master’s degree in Interpretation

AREA(S) OF RESIDENCE OUTSIDE REPRESENTATIVE REGION FOR LONGER THAN SIX MONTHS:

Subject was born in Yunnan but moved to Chengdu, Sichuan, as a baby and grew up there and considers herself Sichuanese. When she was 18, she moved to university in Chongqing, also in Sichuan Province. She came to work in Suzhou eight years before the date of the recording.

OTHER INFLUENCES ON SPEECH:

Subject began to learn English the age of 13 but only moved from her native province when she was a young adult. Her English teachers, from age 13, were both Chinese and native speakers, and these may have influenced her English pronunciation. There is also a possible conscious effort to adopt a Received Pronunciation (RP) style when speaking in English.

The text used in our recordings of scripted speech can be found by clicking here.

RECORDED BY: Bill McCann

DATE OF RECORDING (DD/MM/YYYY): 14/04/2010

PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION OF SCRIPTED SPEECH: N/A

TRANSCRIBED BY: N/A

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): N/A

ORTHOGRAPHIC TRANSCRIPTION OF UNSCRIPTED SPEECH:

My hometown is Chengdu, but I was born in Tenchhong Yunnan Province. When I was a baby, I was brought to Chengdu by my mother. So, I consider my Cheng – I’m a Chengdu native rather than a Yunnan native. (Ahm) During the years I’ve been spending [pause] in Chengdu, I think my hometown has taken on a earth- (ah) shaking changes and (ah, ah) skyscrapers were building up and (ah) people’s livelihood has been greatly improved. For [pause] my family, we have (ah) increased our living standard and we have our own houses and we eat very healthily, and we have private cars [pause] and (ah) but when I was (ah) about 18 years old I went to a college in Chongqing which is the municipal (ah) district which is under the [pause] direct governance of the central government since 199 – 7, I guess. And (ahm) I liked Chongqing very much even though the weather is terrible – because the people there were very friendly and (ah) I enjoyed the food there very much, it is very s-hot and spicy. I began learning English about (ah, ah) at the age about (ahm) sure – (ah) let’s – 13 (ahm) that is (ah) middle high school, and I was quite crazy about English because I remembered I dreamt in English sometimes [laughing] when I was at that age. (Ahm) I visited places (ah) many in China like Ji’nan like Beijing, Guilin and so on. So, I’ve been working in Suzhou for almost eight years now; I find it a friendly city, but I don’t know I can really fall in love with it or not. Thank you.

TRANSCRIBED BY: Bill McCann

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): 14/04/2010

PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION OF UNSCRIPTED SPEECH: N/A

TRANSCRIBED BY: N/A

DATE OF TRANSCRIPTION (DD/MM/YYYY): N/A

SCHOLARLY COMMENTARY:

The subject was raised in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province. The native language in Chengdu is Sichuanhua. However, some scholars prefer to refer to Chengduhua because of the largely different accents of Sichuanese speakers elsewhere in the province. The premier dialect of Sichuanhua is considered to be spoken in Chongqing municipality, which was historically part of the province. However, there is some rivalry between Chongqing and Chengdu on this question.

The dialect is substantially similar to dialects spoken in the neighboring provinces Guizhou and Yunnan, and there are also close similarities in the dialects of neighboring Hubei, Guizhou,Yunnan,Northwest Hunan and Guangxi provinces. Sichuanhua is one of the major dialects of China and is spoken by about 120 million people. It is possible, however, to identify significant variations between speakers from different places in the province. It is not particularly difficult for Mandarin speakers to understand Sichuanese speakers, and Sichuanese speakers can also communicate with Chinese people from other provinces of Southwest China, (Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Hunan and Hubei) without speaking Mandarin.

Historically, the development of Sichuanhua is anomalous. In common with many of the southern provinces, Sichuan was fully part of China by the end of the Tang Dynasty, AD 907. It should, therefore, be linguistically closer to other southern varieties of Mandarin, such as Cantonese (Yue) and Min. But it is not.  Sichuan has one of the most uniform dialects in all of Inner China, suggesting that the variety of Chinese spoken there formed relatively recently. And, indeed, we find that in the thirteenth century, a combination of plagues and Mongol invasions led to a catastrophic drop in the population of Sichuan. Later, in the mid-seventeenth century, Sichuan was invaded by the rebel Zhang Xian Zhong, who massacred large numbers of the native population. This was subsequently followed by large-scale migrations of Mandarin speakers from the north. The dialect of the newcomers largely replaced the earlier varieties of Chinese in the province.

Noticeable characteristics of Sichuanhua, some of which can be heard on the recording, are its different tonal characteristics, nasalization, and clipped vowels. Like many other Chinese dialects, the retroflex consonants of standard Mandarin are pronounced as fricatives in Sichuan dialect. The lack of retroflex consonants combined with different tones can cause particular difficulties distinguishing between the numbers 4 (Si) and 10 (Shi); natives often use hand gestures: four fingers for “four,” or the index fingers crossed for “ten” (the Chinese character for “ten” being a cross, 十). The speaker on this recording also sometimes substitutes the alveolar plosive /d/ for the /t/ as in “foot and mouth” in the recording. Interestingly, in addition to the vowels found in Standard Mandarin, Sichuanese also has the near-open front unrounded vowel [æ], similar to that found in American English, and this probably accounts for much of the “American twang” in her English.

COMMENTARY BY: Bill McCann

DATE OF COMMENTARY (DD/MM/YYYY): 14/04/2010

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