Waxiang Chinese

Waxiang (simplified Chinese: 瓦乡话; traditional Chinese: 瓦鄉話; pinyin: wǎxiānghuà; ɕioŋ55 tsa33) 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.

Region western Hunan
Native speakers
300,000 (1995)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wxa
Glottolog waxi1236
Dialect map of Hunan.
Waxianhua is the bit of dark blue in the medium blue (SW Mandarin) just above the red (Xiang)


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, MC dijH > "earth, ground"
  • Guzhang lu6, MC dajH > "big"
  • Guzhang li2, MC drij > chí "slow"
  • Guzhang luʔ8, MC duwk > "read"

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

  • Guzhang za2, MC lij > "pear tree, pear"
  • Guzhang zɛ2, MC loj > lái "come"

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

  • Guzhang tsu3, pMin *tšyiB, MC sywijX > shuǐ "water"
  • Guzhang tɕiəu1, pMin *tšyA, MC syo > shū "writing"

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

  • Guzhang dzoŋ3, pMin *-džioŋB, MC yangX > 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 ta⁵⁵, Waxiang tso⁵³, from Old Chinese *[ts]ˤə(ʔ)-s 'twice'
  • 'milk': Caijia mi⁵⁵, Waxiang mi⁵⁵, 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.
  • Yang Wei [杨蔚]. 1999. A study of Yuanling Xianghua [沅陵乡话研究]. Changsha: Hunan Educational Press [湖南敎育出版社].
  • Yang Wei [杨蔚]. 2010. Xianghua comparative phonology [湘西乡话语音研究]. Guangzhou: Guangdong Press [广东省出版集团].

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