Final nasal consonants in Jiangnan

This is a tangentially relevant response to Syz’s “Tang minus -ng, Tan minus -n“. More so it’s an addition to the comments on that post. Make sure you’ve read that and heard the audio.

Jiangnan (江南) is the name of the region around Shanghai. It’s every speck of Sunan (苏南, Southern Jiangsu province) south of the Yangtze (长江 chang jiang), plus Shanghai and northern Zhejiang province. It’s alternatively called Huaiyang, but more so as a cuisine and with less connection to language than the name Jiangnan. People from the area are traditionally Wu speakers, and as such their Mandarin is heavily tainted by Wu. One of the characteristics of a Jiangnan accent is an inability to distinguish between the nasal consonant sounds (/n/, /ŋ/, /ɲ/) in word endings. Thus for many speakers, words like “tang” and “tan” might be spoken exactly the same, however it’s far less common with -ang/-an endings.

Here is “tang” and “tan” spoken by a speaker from Nantong, Jiangsu province. Apologies for sound quality. They were both done on the fly in a not-so-great environment.

And the same from someone from Wujin, near Wuxi in Jiangsu, another Wu speaking town. “Tan” comes first in this one.

The place you really hear this is with -in/ing endings. This has caused problems with my own Mandarin where I often blend the two as well, and in many cases I may not be entirely sure if the character in question is an -in or -ing.

This is the first speaker saying both “ying” and “yin”, but not necessarily in that order.

And the second speaker:

Forgetting for a moment that speaker 2 began one with a glottal stop (that moment of holding the air before releasing) and the other with a palatal approximant (the y sound in “yes”), she herself admitted that they were the same. I then asked the first speaker to give me the pinyin for 音,因, 影 and 应. 音 was the only one she was sure about.

Truth be told, I’m never really that sure either.

4 responses to “Final nasal consonants in Jiangnan”

  1. Codfish says:

    A bit off-topic, but I didn’t think Huaiyang and Jiangnan were at all the same regions; I think of Jiangnan as, well, everything south of the river, but most specifically the Wu-speaking areas of Jiangsu, Shanghai, and Zhejiang (basically Wuxi and points south); while Huaiyang refers to the Mandarin-speaking areas of central Jiangsu, most obviously Yangzhou and Huai’an (where the friend I mentioned in a comment to the last post is from; maybe worth noting that both she and the Taiwanese people I was talking about know no other dialects and consider Mandarin to be their mother tongue). I’m not sure where Nanjing falls, though, since it seems to be geographically in Jiangnan but linguistically in Huaiyang, and I haven’t spent any time there myself.

  2. Codfish: The Huaiyang mention wasn’t a direct response to your comment from the other post. There is the occasional reference to the area (Jiangnan) as Huaiyang, even when referring to places south of the river. Mostly when it comes to food, as I mentioned above. This carries over into non-food conversations as well though.

    Apologies if I offended. It wasn’t in any way an attempt to do so. I certainly wasn’t trying to call you out for thinking they were the same. I hadn’t read your comment as such in the first place.

  3. Codfish says:

    Oh, no offense taken; I’m merely rather interested in the various undefined and defined regions of China, and was surprised to see you speak of Huaiyang and Jiangnan as being interchangeable when they’d always been reasonably distinct in my mind. Do you have any examples of “Huaiyang” referring to things south of the river – or, alternately, to “Jiangnan” being used to include, say, Yangzhou? I’d be curious to see them.

  4. As it turns out I do, but all purely anecdotal. I had a roommate who was from north of the river but was a Wu speaker. So they weren’t from Jiangnan according to the geographic definition, but they were based on the linguistic one.

    The other end of it and the one I’d mentioned is that most people I know refer to Shanghainese food as 淮扬菜. When speaking in terms of food, Shanghai is in Huaiyang, but then geographically and linguistically it’s not.

    I don’t think they should be interchangeable and in most cases, they’re not. But it does happen.

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