Gan (linguistics)

Gan (赣?)
Spoken in:China
Region:central and northern Jiangxi, estern Hunan, parts of Fujian, Anhui, Hubei
Total speakers:20 million~50 million
Ranking:42 [1]
Genetic classification:
Official status
Official language of:
Regulated by:
Language codes
ISO 639-1zh
ISO 639-2
SIL
See also: LanguageList of languages


Gàn (赣语) is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese, a member of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Gan speakers are concentrated in and typical of Jiangxi Province, as well as the northwest of Fujian; and some parts of Anhui and Hubei in mainland China.

Different dialects of Gan exist, and the representative dialect is the Nanchang dialect.

The name "Gàn" comes from the shortened name of Jiangxi Province (through which the Gan River flows).

Enlarge picture
Gan in PRC

Classification

The classification of Gan is a subject of ongoing debate. Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is large amount of dispute as to whether Gan is a language or a dialect. It could be generally divided into three viewpoints:
  • The first viewpoint considers Gan to be a dialect of Chinese, which is supported by the scholars in mainland China. Actually Gan, with Xiang, were divided out of the region of Mandarin until 1937. and there are some Gan speakers that think Gan to be a dialect, mostly owing to the politic factors or the national emotion, also because Gan has some more similarities with Mandarin, compared with Cantonese or Min.
  • The second viewpoint considers Gan to be a language with Hakka, called “Gan-Hakka”, or to be a group of languages with Hakka and Cantonese, because there are quite many similarities among the three.
  • The third viewpoint considers Gan to be an independent language. Because Gan is not intelligible with other Chinese languages, and linguistically, it should be divided into different languages in case of intelligibility.
Please see Identification of the varieties of Chinese for the issues surrounding this dispute.

Name

  • Gan:the formal name.
  • Jiangxinese:the most common name. But there are several languages in Jiangxi, and there also many Gan speakers out of Jiangxi, so this name is not very exact.
  • Xi:ancient name. Now it is seldom used.
  • Gan dialect:the name used by the scholars in mainland China. And “Gan” is also used.
  • Right-river language:because most of Gan speakers live in the south of Yangtze River, so this name was used in ancient China.

Relation with other Chinese languages

In ancient times, Jiangxi was divided into the same politic division with its neighboring provinces. Large numbers of people immigrated into Jiangxi naturally resulted in some similarities with the surrounding languages, Gan and Hakka are the most similar.

Index of Overall Mutual Intelligibility between Gan and other Chinese Languages (mean correlation)
HakkaMandarinMin BeiXiangMin NanCantoneseWu
Gan65.6%55.8%54.2%52.2%50.4%49.5%48.1%


Index of Mutual Phonological Intelligibility between Gan and other Chinese Languages (mean correlation)
Min BeiXiangMin NanWuHakkaMandarinCantonese
Gan77.8%77.5%72.7%70.8%68.9%67.6%64.7%


Index of Mutual Lexical Intelligibility between Gan and other Chinese Languages (mean correlation)
XiangMandarinWuHakkaCantoneseMin BeiMin Nan
Gan55.5%46.9%32.8%27.2%23.7%18.4%14.4%

Geographical distribution

Enlarge picture
The area coloured in light yellow shows the Gan-speaking region in the PRC.

Region

Gan speakers almost live in the middle and lower reaches of Gan River, the drainage area of Fu River and the region of Poyang Lake, there are also many Gan speakers living in eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui and northwest Fujian, etc.

According to the《Diagram of Divisions in the People’s Republic of China》(《中華人民共和國行政區劃簡冊》)(2004), Gan is spoken by approximately 48,000,000 people, while 29,000,000 in Jiangxi [2],4,500,000 in Anhui [3]、5,300,000 in Hubei [4]、9,000,000 in Hunan [5]、270,000 in Fujian .

History

Ancient Ages

During the Qin Dynasty (221 BC), a large number of troops were sent to southern China in order to conquer the Baiyue (百越) territories in Fujian and Guangdong, as a result, numerous Han Chinese immigrated to Jiangxi in the years following. In the early years of the Han Dynasty (202 BC), Nanchang was established as the capital of the Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡) (this name stems from the original name of Gan River), along with the 18 counties (縣) of Jiangxi Province. The population of the Yuzhang Commandery increased to 1,670,000 (by AD 140) from 350,000 (in AD 2), with a net growth of 1,320,000. The Yuzhang Commandery ranked forth in population among the more than 100 contemporary commanderies of China. As the largest commandery of YangZhou (揚州), Yuzhang accounted for two fifths of the population and Gan gradually took shape during this period.

Middle Ages

As a result of continuous warfare in the region of central China, the first large scale immigration in the history of China took place. Large numbers of people in central China relocated to southern China in order to escape the bloodshed and at this time, Jiangxi played a role as a transfer station. Also, during this period, ancient Gan began to be exposed to the northern Mandarin Guan-hua (官話) dialects. After centuries of rule by the Southern Dynasties, Gan still retained many original characteristics despite having absorbed some elements of Guan-Hua. Up until the Tang Dynasty, there was little difference between old Gan and the contempory Gan of that era. Beginning in the Five Dynasties period, however, inhabitants in the central and northern parts of Jiangxi Province began to migrate to eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui and northwest Fujian. During this period, following hundreds of years of migration, Gan spread to its current areas of distribution.

Recent History

Guan-hua evolved into a language based on Beijing Mandarin, owing largely to political factors. At the same time, the differences between Gan and Guan-hua continued to become more pronounced. However, because Jiangxi borders on Jianghuai, a Guan-hua, Xiang, and Hakka speaking region, Gan proper has also been influenced by these surrounding languages, especially in its border regions.

Modern Times

After 1949, as a “dialect” in Mainland China, Gan faced a critical period. The impact of Mandarin is quite evident today as a result of official governmental linguistic campaigns. Currently, many youths are unable to master Gan expressions, and some are no longer able speak Gan at all.

Recently, however, as a result of increased interest in protecting the local language, Gan now has begun to appear in various regional media, and there are also newscasts and television programs broadcast in the Gan language.

.

Dialects

According to 《Atlas of Chinese languages》(《中國語言地圖集》)(1987), there are 9 dialects in Gan.

dialect representative Provinces Cities
Chang-DuNanchang dialectnorthwestern Jiangxi(Jaingxi) Nanchang City, Nangchang, Xinjian, Anyi, Yongxiu, Xiushui*, De'an, Xingzi, Duchang, Hukou, Gao'an*, Fengxin*, Jing'an*, Wuning*, Tonggu*; (Hunan) Pingjiang.
Yi-LiuYichun dialectcentral and western Jiangxi(Jiangxi) Yichun City, Yichun, Yifeng*, Shanggao, Qingjiang, Xingan, Xinyu City, Fen yi, Pingxiang City, Fengcheng, Wanzai; (Hunan)Liuyang*, Liling.
Ji-ChaJi'an dialectcentral and southern Jiangxi, eastern Hunan(Jiangxi) Ji'an City, Ji'an*, Jishui, Xiajiang, Taihe*, Yongfeng*, Anfu, Lianhua, Yongxin*, Ninggang*, Jianggangshan* Wan'an, Suichuan*; (Hunan)Youxian*, Chaling*, Linxian.
Fu-GuangFuzhou dialectcentral and eastern Jiangxi, southwestern Fujian(Jiangxi) Fuzhou City, Linchuan, Chongren, Yihuang, Le'an, Nancheng, Lichuan, Zixi, Jinxi, Dongxiang, Jinxian, Nanfeng, Guangchang*; (Fujian)Jianning, Taining.
Ying-YiYingtan dialectnortheastern Jiangxi(Jiangxi) Yingtan City, Guixi, Yujiang, Wannian, Leping, Jingdezhen*, Yugan, Poyang, Pengze, Hengfeng, Yiyang, Chuanshan.
DatongDaye dialectsoutheastern Hubei, eastern Hunan(Hubei) Daya, Xianning City, Jiangyu, Puxin, Chongyang, Tongcheng, Tongshan, Yangxin, Jianli*; (Hunan)Linxiang*, Yueyang*,Huarong.
Lei-ZiLeiyang dialectestern Hunan(Hunan) Leiyang, Changning, Anren, Yongxing, Zixing City.
Dong-SuiDongkou dialectsouthwestern Hunan(Hunan) Dongkou*, Suining*, Longhui*.
Huai-YueHuaining dialectsouthwestern Anhui(Anhui) Huaining, Yuexi, Qianshan, Taihu, Wangjiang*, Susong*, Dongzhi*, Shitai*, Guichi*.
Ps: name with * means Gan is partly spoken in this city.

Phonetics

Like other Chinese tonal language, the function of tones in Gan is to distinguish the words’ meaning, and the tones may change in some cases.

The eight tone of ancient Chinese has been reserved in Gan: (Yin & Yang) level, (Yin & Yang) rising, (Yin & Yang) departing, (Yin & Yang) entering. Some dialects of Gan has reserved all of them.

Tone

Gan (e.g. Nanchang dialect) has 19 syllable onset(聲母), 65 syllable rimes(韻母) and 7 tones.

Enlarge picture
tones of Gan
  1. yin level (42)/ IPA: [˦˨]
  2. yang level (24)/ IPA: [˨˦]
  3. rising (213)/ IPA: [˨˩˧]
  4. yin departing (55)/ IPA: [˥˥]
  5. yang departing (21)/ IPA: [˨˩]
  6. yin entering (5)/ IPA: [˥]
  7. yang entering (21)/ IPA: [˨˩]


Ps: the 6th and 7th tone has the same pitch with 4th and 5th tone. But they are added -t, -k in the final to distinguish the phonetic transition. The definition of tone contains the pitch and phonetic transition, so there are still 7 tones in Gan.

vowels

Gan has 6 vowels:i, y, e, a, o, u.

Apical Front Mid Back
Highɿiyu
Midə
ɛɔ
Lowɑ

Initials

In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA, the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Labio-dental Dental Alveolar Alveo-palatal palatal Velar Glottal
StopsUnvUnasp[p] b ?[t] d ?[k] g ?
Asp[] p ?[] t ?[] k ?
AffricatesUnvUnasp[ʦ] ts ?[ʨ] j ?
Asp[ʦʰ] ts ?[ʨʰ] ch ?
FricativesUnvoiced[ɸ] f ?[s] s ?[ɕ] sh ?[h] h ?
NasalsVoiced[m] m ?[ɲ] gn ?[ŋ] ng ?
LateralsVoiced[l] l ?


Ps: Ø is an initial without sound.

Finals

opening finals(24):

[a] a ?[ia] ia ?[ua] ua ?[ai] ai ?[au] au ?[uai] uai ?
[o] o ?[uo] uo ?[oi] 〔oi 礙?[ɨu] iu ?[iu] iiu ?[ui] ui ?
[e] e ?[ie] ie ?[ue] ue 哇(叫)[ye] ye ?[ei] ei 恁(邊)[ɛu] eu ?[iɛu] ieu ?
[ɿ] i ?[i] ii ?[ɨi] ij ?[y] y ?[u] u ?


nasal finals(19):

[an] an ?[uan] uan ?[] ang ?[iaŋ] iang ?[uaŋ] uang ?
[on] on ?[uon] uon ?[yon] yon ?[ɔŋ] ong ?[iɔŋ] iong ?[uɔŋ] uong ?
[en] en ?[iɛn] ien ?[] ung ?[iuŋ] iung ?
[ɨn] in ?[in] iin ?[un] un ?[yn] yn ?


entering finals(20):

[at] at ?[uat] uat ?[] ak ?[iaʔ] iak ?[uaʔ] uak ?
[ot] ot ?[uot] uot ?[yot] yot ?[ɔʔ] ok ?[iɔʔ] iok ?[uɔʔ] uok ?
[ɛt] et ?[iɛt] iet ?[ut] ut ?[uɛt] uet ?[] uk ?[iuʔ] iuk ?
[ɨt] it ?[it] iit ?[yt] yt ?


independent finals(3):

[] m ?[n] n 乃(你)[ŋ̍] ng ?

consonantal finals

consonantal finals-t-k-n-ng
IPA[-t][][-n][]
Example????

Example

春曉  孟浩然 Tsun1 Shieu3   Mung5 Hau5-lan4
春眠不覺曉, tsun1 mien4 bit6 jyot6 shieu3,
處處聞啼鳥。 tsu2 tsu2 wun4 tii2 nieu3.
夜來風雨聲, ya5 lai4 fung1 yu3 sin1,
花落知多少? fa1 lok7 tzi1 do1 sieu3?

Grammar

In Gan, there are 9 principal grammatical tenses – initial (起始), progressive (進行), experimental (嘗試), durative (持續), processive (經歷), continuative (繼續), repeating (重行), perfect (已然), complete (完成).

The grammar of Gan is similar to southern Chinese languages. The sequence 'subject verb object’ is most typical, but ' subject object verb ' or the passive voice (with the sequence ' 'object subject verb') is possible with particles. Take a simple sentence for example: "I hold you." The words involved are: ngo ("I" or "me"), tsot dok ("to hold"), ň ("you").
  • Subject verb object (typical sequence): The sentence in the typical sequence would be: ngo tsot dok ň. ("I hold you.")
  • Subject lat object verb: Another sentence of roughly equivalent meaning is ngo lat ň tsot dok, with the slight connotation of "I take you and hold" or "I get to you and hold."
  • Object den subject verb (the passive voice): Then, ň den ngo tsot dok means the same thing but in the passive voice, with the connotation of "You allow yourself to be held by me" or "You make yourself available for my holding."
Gan does not have a strong written tradition, and it is written in Chinese characters. There are also some plans of Romanization, but not very popularly used.

Vocabulary

In Gan, there are a number of archaic words and expressions originally found in ancient Chinese, and which are now seldom or no longer used in Mandarin. For example, the noun ‘clothes’ in Gan is ‘衣裳’ while ‘衣服’ in Mandarin, the verb ‘sleep’ in Gan is ‘睏覺’ while ‘睡覺’ in Mandarin. Also, to describe something dirty, Gan speakers use ‘下里巴人’, which is a reference to a song from the Chu (楚國) region dating to China's Spring and Autumn Period.

Additionally, there are numerous interjections in Gan (e.g. 哈、噻、啵), which can largely strengthen sentences, and better express different feelings.

Writing system

Gan speakers usually use Vernacular Chinese as the written form, which is used by all Chinese speakers.[1]

Note

References

  • CHEN Chang-yi 《Summary of Gan»
  • CHEN Chang-yi 《Chorography of languages in Jiangxi»
  • LI Ru-long 《Investigation of Gan-Hakka»
  • XIONG Zheng-hui 《Dictionary of Nanchang Dialect»
  • YAN Sen 《Division of languages in Jiangxi»
  • YAN Sen 《Summary of modern Chinese·Gan»

See also

External links

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Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
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江西省
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Abbreviations: ?  (Pinyin: Gàn)

Origin of name Contraction of:
江南西; Jiāngnán Xī
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湖南省
Húnán Shěng

Abbreviations: ?  (Pinyin: Xiāng)

Origin of name 湖 hú - lake
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福建省
Fújiàn Shěng

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安徽省
Ānhuī Shěng

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Origin of name 安 ān - Anqing
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湖北省
Húběi Shěng

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Origin of name 湖 hú - lake
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江西省
Jiāngxī Shěng

Abbreviations: ?  (Pinyin: Gàn)

Origin of name Contraction of:
江南西; Jiāngnán Xī
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福建省
Fújiàn Shěng

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安徽省
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Origin of name 安 ān - Anqing
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湖北省
Húběi Shěng

Abbreviations: ?  (Pinyin: È)

Origin of name 湖 hú - lake
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Mainland China (Simplified Chinese: 中国大陆; Traditional Chinese: 中國大陸; Pinyin:
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Nanchang dialect (Traditional Chinese: 南昌話; Simplified Chinese: 南昌话; Pinyin: nánchāng huà
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江西省
Jiāngxī Shěng

Abbreviations: ?  (Pinyin: Gàn)

Origin of name Contraction of:
江南西; Jiāngnán Xī
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The Gan River (Chinese: 赣江; Pinyin: Gàn Jiāng) of southern China travels 885 km north through Jiangxi before flowing into Lake Poyang and thence into the Yangtze River.
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Mandarin
官話 Guānhuà
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