Wiktionary:About Chinese/Wu

Wu is a subdivision of Chinese, spoken by about 80 million people. It is native to the Jiangnan and Zhejiang regions of China. Historically, the most influential dialect was the Suzhou dialect (zh). Since the rapid modernisation of Shanghai in the 20th century, the Shanghai dialect (zh) has gradually eclipsed the prestigious status of the Suzhou dialect. Here in Wiktionary, Wu is represented by Shanghainese Wu, and notated by a Wiktionary-specific romanisation system as described below.

All Wu dialects have voiced obstruents, called (zhuó, “muddy”), and several, except for Wenzhounese, have final glottal stops derived from the final stops of Middle Chinese. Together, these features reduce the number of tones that are actually distinctive or phonemic.

Initials and finals

WT Romanisation Voiced? Qian's
IPA Examples
p no b p /p/
ph no p ph /pʰ/
b yes bh b /b̻/
m yes m m /m/
'm no 'm /ʔm/
f no f f /f/
v yes fh v /v̻/
t no d t /t/
th no t th /tʰ/
d yes dh d /d̻/
n yes n n /n/
'n no 'n /ʔn/ (文)(文)
l yes l l /l/
'l no 'l /ʔl/
ts no z ts /t͡s/
tsh no c tsh /t͡sʰ/
s no s s /s/
z yes sh z /z̻/
j no j c(i)
q no q ch(i)
jj yes jh j(i) /d̥͡ʑ/
ny yes ny ny /n̠ʲ/
'ny no 'ny /ʔn̠ʲ/
x no x s(i)
xx yes xh z(i)
k no g k /k/
kh no k kh /kʰ/
g yes gh g /ɡ̊/
ng yes ng ng /ŋ/
'ng no 'ng /ʔŋ/
h no h h /h/
hh yes wh gh
y/w[note 1]
  1. ^ Don't forget to change the final to i-, u-, y-.
WT Romanisation Qian's
IPA Examples
a a a /a̠/
o o o /o̝/
au ao au /ɔ/
eu eu /ɜ/
e e e, ai, ae /e̞/
oe oe oe /ø/
i i, yi i, ie, y, ye /i/
ia ia, ya ia, ya /i̯a̠/
iau iao, yao iau, yau /i̯ɔ/
ieu ieu, yeu /i̯ɜ/
u u u /ʋʷ/
ua ua ua, wa /u̯a̠/
ue ue ue, we /u̯e̞/
uoe uoe, woe /u̯ø/
y yu iu, yu /y/
yoe ioe, yoe /ɥø/
an ang an /ã/
aan ang aon /ɑ̃/
en en en /ə̆ŋ/
on ong on /ʊ̆ŋ/
aq ak ah /ă̠ʔ/
oq ok oh /ŏʔ/
eq ek eh /ə̆ʔ/
ian ian, yan /i̯ã/
iaan iaon, yaon /i̯ɑ̃/ (白)
in in in, yin /ɪ̆ɲ/ (白)
ion ion, yon /i̯ʊ̆ŋ/
iaq iah, yah /i̯ă̠ʔ/
ioq ioh, yoh /i̯ŏʔ/
iq ik ih, yih /i̯ɪ̆ʔ/
uan uan, wan /u̯ã/ ~火
uaan uaon, waon /u̯ɑ̃/
un uen, wun /u̯ə̆ŋ/
uaq uah, wah /u̯ă̠ʔ/
ueq ueh, weh /u̯ə̆ʔ/
yn iuin, yuin /ʏ̆ɲ/
yq uih, yuih /ɥɪ̆ʔ/
er er r /əɻ/ (文)
r y y /z̩/
mm m /m̩/ (白)(白)~沒
ngg n ng /ŋ̍/ (白)端~


Unlike other varieties such as Beijing Mandarin (right-prominent, limited but systematic), Guangzhou Cantonese (rare and non-systematic, but with certain patterns) or Taiwanese Hokkien (right-prominent, widespread and systematic), the tone sandhi rules in Shanghainese comprise two parts—a left-prominent word tone sandhi rule, and a right-prominent phrase tone sandhi rule. Words of fossilised nature follow the first rule, and analysable phrases (usually of verb + noun composition) follow the second rule.

For the former, the tone sandhi pattern is entirely dependent on (i.e. predictable from) the tonal category of the first syllable and independent of the tonal categories of the other syllables.

There are five tonal categories (or "tones") in new-style (中派與新派) Shanghainese, a reduction from six in old-style (老派) Shanghainese. The tonal category a character belongs to can essentially be inferred from its Middle Chinese pronunciation, or pronunciations from other Chinese varieties. Middle Chinese had four tones—level, rising, departing and checked. In the development to Shanghainese, each of the four Middle Chinese tones split in two, conditioned by the voicing (voiceless—dark, voiced—light) of the initial of the character. Three of the resultant eight tonal categories then merged with other categories, producing five tonal categories in total.

Several of these tonal categories are non-phonemic; that is, they are predictable from the voicing of the initial consonant and from whether the syllable is checked (ending in a glottal stop). Only tones 1 and 2 are contrastive: they both occur in syllables with voiceless initials and no final glottal stop.

Suzhou by contrast has seven tones, three of which are phonemic. For more, see Suzhou dialect § Tones on Wikipedia.

Tone number Tone name
(tonal category)
Voicing Tone value Example characters Ancestral MC tones
1 dark level
陰平阴平 (yīnpíng)
voiceless ˥˧ 53 漿 dark level
2 dark departing
陰去阴去 (yīnqù)
voiceless ˧˦ 34 dark rising, dark departing
3 light departing
陽去阳去 (yángqù)
voiced ˨˧ 23 light level, light rising, light departing
4 dark checked
陰入阴入 (yīnrù)
voiceless ˥ʔ 55 dark checked
5 light checked
陽入阳入 (yángrù)
voiced ˩˨ʔ 12 light checked

Left-prominent tone sandhi (word sandhi)

Each of these five categories then has a tone sandhi pattern, depending on the number of syllables in the word.

Left-prominent word tone sandhi patterns
Tonal category Monosyllabics Disyllabics Trisyllabics Tetrasyllabics Pentasyllabics
1. Dark level type 53 55+21 55+33+21 55+33+33+21 55+33+33+33+21
2. Dark departing type 34 33+44 33+55+21 33+55+33+21 33+55+33+33+21
3. Light departing type 23 22+44 22+55+21 22+55+33+21 22+55+33+33+21
4. Dark checked type 55 33+44 33+55+21 33+55+33+21 33+55+33+33+21
5. Light checked type 12 11+23 11+22+23 11+22+22+23

For Wu romanisations in the template {{zh-pron}}, the romanisation is made up of: tonal category of the first character (one-digit number) + romanisations of the initial and final of each character (separated by spaces).

Right-prominent tone sandhi (phrase sandhi)

When words combine form a phrase, the following right-prominent sandhi rules apply. In short, when the word A in appears non-finally in a phrase, its last syllable (A-x) changes to a flat (level) tone. The tone sandhi value that syllable A-x changes to is conditioned by three factors: (1) the tonal category of syllable A-x, (2) the number of syllables in word A, and if the number of syllables in A is 1 – (3) whether word A is tightly associated with the word preceding word A.

Word undergoing sandhi (i.e. word A) Tonal category of last syllable of word undergoing sandhi (i.e. syllable A-x) Example
Tone 1 Tone 2 Tone 3 Tone 4 Tone 5
Monosyllabic word unbound to any word preceding it 44 33 44 22 儂好侬好 (3non+2hau)
炒魷魚炒鱿鱼 (2tshau+3hhieu hhngg)
Monosyllabic word tightly bound to a monosyllabic word preceding it 硬碰硬 (3ngan+-phan+3ngan)
Multisyllabic word 33 33 嘸著嘸落呒着呒落 (3hhmm zaq+3hhmm loq)
Monosyllabic word tightly bound to a multisyllabic word preceding it 前世作孽 (3xxi sr+4tsoq+5nyiq)

Tone "-" forces a mid-tone on a monosyllable.

Conversion from MiniDict tone notation

  • (level), (rising), (departing), and (checked) should be used for reference, not the numbers.
MiniDict to Wiktionary tone conversion
MiniDict Voicing of initial Tone category
voiced 3
voiceless 1
voiced 3
voiceless 2
voiced 3
voiceless 2
voiced 5
voiceless 4

Other notations

The notation + is explained above in the #Right-prominent tone sandhi (phrase sandhi) section. Additionally, the symbol & can be used in sentences to annotate the division of words. This is primarily used in the transcriptions of Wu phrases and sentences in {{zh-x}}; for example, as shown on the page 日腳, the transcription for 今朝是啥日腳? in Wu is 1jin tsau&3zr&2sa&5nyiq jiaq.



  • For checking the pronunciation of words: Comprehensive Dictionary of Shanghainese (《上海话大词典》) - uses IPA notations throughout the book
  • For checking the pronunciation of characters: Wu Chinese MiniDict
    Note that this website uses a different romanisation system than the one implemented here. Their romanisation scheme aims to be a pan-Wu scheme, and occasionally describes the phonology of Shanghainese unintuitively.
    Correspondences with WT romanisation:
    Initials (MiniDict = WT): c = j, ch = q, j = jj, sh = x, zh = xx, si = xi, zi = xxi, gh = hh
    Null-initials followed by glides 'y-', 'w-' are pronounced with the 'hh' initial. i.e. yih = hhiq and waon = hhuaan
    Finals (MiniDict = WT): ou = u, iu = y, yu = r, ie = i, aon = aan, iuin = yn, -h = -q, aeh = eq, iuih = yq, r = er, -iu- = -y-, ng = ngg, m = mm
    Tones: (level), (rising), (departing), (checked). To know whether it is dark or light, check the voicing of the initial. Voiced initials = light, voiceless = dark.

See also

If unsure, hassle User:Jamesjiao.