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An Introduction to Chinese Dialects

Hang onto your hats, SinoPhiles and Armchair Linguists, you’re about to be overwhelmed.

Awhile back, a visitor to this Web site wrote, “What is it about you Chinese-as-a-second-language folks? You’re so generous! All this information for free and just how I wanted and can use it.”

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, as they say.

I’ve been tracking the development of the “Chinese Dialects” resource at for quite some time, and this site has now reached an amazing critical mass of content that will amaze, inform, and entertain for months, perhaps years if you’re a slow reader. It’s almost too much to catalog now.

As described by James Campbell, the site’s creator:

The Introduction to Chinese Dialects at is designed not just for serious researchers and linguists, but also for anybody interested in the field. However, the data presented here requires some previous knowledge of Chinese lingistics, phonology, or at least some elementary study of one of the languages. If you have no knowledge of this subject, you’re still welcome, but currently this site is not intended to teach you Chinese, Chinese characters, or any of the languages; it is provided as a reference.

This website has hyperlinked cross-references and information on hundreds of dialects. Many researchers will find this information useful as it is all in one location.

On the main page are listed the main Chinese languages. Choose a language for a more detailed list of dialects. Most dialects have tone data, which is listed in master tone lists by language. There is also some tone sandhi data available. Some major dialects have complete phonological data available provided with IPA characters in charts that Chinese dialectologists commonly use. A tutorial is given how to read these charts.

This resource includes a variety of other features, such as a listing of 8400 Chinese city names, robust content on romanization, a fabulous tone tutorial, information about 930 dialect place names and “drill-down” details about several main dialects, a Chinese FAQ addressing some topics I’ve not seen discussed anywhere else on the Web…and tons more.

But don’t just take my word for it. Head on over to and begin to experience this growing and amazing reference site for yourself.

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