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Encyclopedia > Hui (linguistics)
The Hui (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Hui (回) ethnic group of China.

Hui, or Hui-yu (Simplified Chinese: 徽语; Traditional Chinese: 徽語; Hanyu Pinyin: Huīyǔ), or Huizhou-hua (Simplified Chinese: 徽州话; Traditional Chinese: 徽州話; Hanyu Pinyin: Huīzhōuhu), is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. Its exact status is greatly disputed among linguists. Some prefer to classify it under Wu, others prefer to classify it under Gan, still others set it apart as an independent branch.

Hui is spoken over a small area compared to other Chinese varieties: about ten or so mountainous counties in southern Anhui, plus a few more in neighbouring Zhejiang and Jiangxi. Despite its small size, Hui displays a very high degree of internal variation. Nearly every county has its own distinct dialect unintelligible to a speaker a few counties away. It is for this reason that bilingualism and multilingualism are common among speakers of Hui.

Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is plenty of dispute as to whether Hui is a language or a dialect. See here for the issues surrounding this dispute.

Hui (徽语)
Spoken in: China
Region: southern Anhui, neighbouring portions of Zhejiang and Jiangxi, about 12 counties in total
Total speakers: 3.2 million
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Sino-Tibetan


Official status
Official language of: -
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1 zh
ISO 639-2 chi (B) / zho (T)


Hui can be divided into five dialects:

  • Jixi-Shexian, spoken in Jixi, She County, Huizhou, Jingde, and Ningguo, Anhui province, as well as Chun'an, Zhejiang province
  • Xiuning-Yixian, spoken in Tunxi, Taiping, Xiuning, Yi County, and Qimen, as well as Wuyuan, Jiangxi province
  • Qimen-Dexing, spoken in Qimen and Dongzhi, Anhui province, as well as Fuliang, Dexing, and Wuyuan, Jiangxi province
  • Yanzhou, spoken in Chun'an and Jiande, Zhejiang province
  • Jingde-Zhanda, spoken in Jingde, Qimen, Shitai, Yi County, and Ningguo, Anhui province


Phonologically speaking, Hui is noted for its massive loss of codas, including -i, -u, and nasals:

Character Meaning Hui of Tunxi Mandarin of Beijing
burn ɕiɔ ʂɑu
firewood sa tʂʰai
line siːɛ ɕiɛn
sheet tɕiau tʂɑŋ
web mau wɑŋ
threshold kʰɔ kʰan

Many dialects of Hui have diphthongs with a higher, lengthened first part. For example, 話 "speech" is /uːɜ/ in Xiuning County (Putonghua /xuɑ/), 園 "yard" is /yːɛ/ in Xiuning County (Putonghua /yɛn/); 結 "knot" is /tɕiːaʔ/ in Yi County (Putonghua / tɕiɛ/), 約 "agreement" is /iːuʔ/ in Yi County (Putonghua /yɛ/). A few areas take this to extremes. For example, Likou in Qimen County has /fũːmɛ̃/ for 飯 "rice" (Putonghua /fan/), with the /m/ appearing directly as a result of the lengthened, nasalized /ũː/.

Because nasal codas have mostly dropped off, Hui reuses the /-n/ ending as a diminutive. For example, in the Tunxi dialect, there is 索 "rope" /soːn/ < /soʔ/ + /-n/.

Chinese: spoken varieties
Categories: Mandarin | Jin | Wu | Hui | Xiang | Gan | Hakka | Yue | Pinghua | Min
Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua | Xianghua
Subcategories of Min: Min Dong | Min Bei | Min Zhong | Pu Xian | Min Nan | Qiong Wen | Shao Jiang
Note: The above is only one classification scheme among many.
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
Official spoken varieties: Standard Mandarin | Standard Cantonese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Chinese: written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese

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