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To the west and somewhat south of the Wu area are the Gan 
dialects. These little-known and little-studied varieties of Chinese are 
spoken mostly in Jiangxi, a province that stretches from the hills and 
mountain passes along the border of Guangdong northward to the great 
bow of the Yangtze River as it bends south to touch Boyang Lake. 
Some Gan dialects are also spoken in the eastern part of Hunan, next to 
Jiangxi, and perhaps in the southeastern corner of Hubei Province as 
well; very few details are known about the distribution of Gan dialects in 
these peripheral regions, however. The Gan dialect area is not clearly 
differentiated from the dialect areas adjacent to it. Through the center of 
Jiangxi flows the Gan River, the most prominent geographical feature of 
the region. It has given its name to the region and thus also to the dialect 

For Chinese linguists the most noteworthy characteristic of the Gan 
dialects is that they have no voiced stops such as the b, d, g found in 
neighboring Wu areas. In this respect they are like Mandarin. But they 
differ from Mandarin in the way that the original voiced (and murmured 
or aspirated) consonants found at the Middle Chinese stage of the lan- 
guage were lost. In Mandarin the development of these consonants 
varied, depending on the tone, while in the Gan dialects they consistently 
became aspirated p', t\ k\ and so on. 

Middle Chinese 

(7th century) Gan Peking Shanghai 

'level' b- p'iang- p'ing 2 (ping) bing 2 

'double' b- p'ai" pei 5 (bei) ba 2 

'white' b- p'ak pai 2 (bai) baq* 

'lift' d- r'ia 2 t'i 2 (tQ di 2 

'brother' d- t'i" ti ( (di) di 2 

'enemy' d- tit tr (di) diq 8 

But in a larger, areal perspective the Gan dialects are important as a 
transition between North and South. The Gan River is one of the most 
accessible routes into China's Deep South, and so the dialects spoken 
along its banks have been tinged by Northern influence. Southern fea- 
tures become progressively fewer the closer to the Yangtze a dialect is 
spoken. Final -p, -t, and -k, for example, are said to be distinguished 
quite clearly in the southernmost parts of the Gan area. But in Nanchang, 
a large city near the mouth of the Gan, final -p has merged with -t. The 
younger generation of the city confuse -k and -t as well. 


The Languages of 


Copyright © 1987 by Princeton University Press