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I was watching a Chinese show today, where they said '蛮舒服'. Since I've never heard 蛮 before I looked it up, and the dictionary tells me that 蛮 is only used as 'quite' in dialect. Now my question is, where?

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Not only in dialects. Now, In spoken mandarin Chinese and Cantonese, 蛮 as the meaning "quite" is often used. If what you want is the research of the original dialect using 蛮 as "quite", it will be a very difficult task :) –  Stan Jun 29 '13 at 13:05
    
@Stan Ah, the 'dialectal' classifications in Chinese dictionaries maybe shouldn't be trusted! Thanks! –  Jimmy Callin Jun 29 '13 at 16:00
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Mm, 蛮 does come from some dialect, and in some parts of China it would be used more often -- so to this extent, the dictionary isn't wrong. Anyway, you can freely use 蛮 as "quite" when you speak Chinese, native speakers wouldn't feel it dialectal. –  Stan Jun 29 '13 at 16:23
    
挺 also carries the meaning of quite, but not sure when would one be preferred over the other. –  杨以轩 Jun 30 '13 at 3:19
    
@QuestionOverflow it would be personal choice and I don't think there's any strict rule for that. In spoken language, "sound right" would be important, so I may prefer 最近挺烦的 rather than 最近蛮烦的 as 挺烦 is easier in pronunciation. –  Stan Jun 30 '13 at 5:50

4 Answers 4

“蛮" usually used in southern Jiangsu province and northern part of Jiangsu near Yangtze river,and Shanghai,but since Nanjing had been the capital in last century,this usage has slided into Mandarin,but people grown up in northern china do prefer "很" to “蛮”.

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“蛮舒服” means “比较舒服”, 蛮 expresses some extent like “还可以”(It is fine/OK.) It does not saying very "舒服", or you are just expressing some feeling that you feel comfortable. You don't want to stress that it is comfortable very much.

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I lived in 江苏 and 上海. I used it in preference to 很 (I also used 好 in preference to 很). I certainly don't know the total geographical reach, but it's very common at least in the areas I was living.

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好 seems stronger in degree and more subjective than 蛮. Personally I think 好so (indicate subjective mood) > 很very > 蛮quite. For example, if you received a present, saying 收到你的礼物,我好开心 shows more happiness than 收到你的礼物,我蛮开心. I think the difference is like "I'm so happy" and "I'm quite happy". –  Stan Jun 30 '13 at 17:07
    
Agreed on the degrees of intensity. –  AMorrise Jun 30 '13 at 20:45

As others have said, 蛮 is not exactly dialectal. Most Chinese speakers would understand what you mean if you use it to mean "quite."

However, it should be noted that it is colloquial--it shows up in spoken Chinese but rarely in print, hence your discovery of it on a Chinese TV show. In fact, some native Chinese speakers will confuse 蛮 with 满 when asked to write the word down.

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+1 for pointing out the issue of 蛮 and 满. It's been arguing for a long time. Taiwanese pedants says it should be 满 but not 蛮. But now 蛮 as "quite" is well accepted in modern dictionaries in Taiwan and mainland, e.g. 中華民國教育部重編國語辭典修訂本 and 新华字典. So, both 蛮 and 满 are fine to mean "quite". –  Stan Jun 30 '13 at 6:53

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