[Perhaps this is a "which came first - the chicken or the egg?"-type question - but I'm left quite puzzled why anyone would describe things in this manner.]

Why would anyone (or any material for that matter) describe dialects/topolects in terms of Mandarin? Most topolects/dialects would certainly be much older than MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin) - as a, relatively, new 'invented' language.

e.g.: 广安方言与民俗词典 describes a bunch of 广安方言 in terms of:




even going as far to describe some words as:


here's some examples:

声母变异: “敲” kao1 - “qiao1”的音变。指打,击。

韵母变异: “眉” mi2 - 眉“mei2”的音变。如“眉毛”、“峨眉豆”等。

自创音节: “□” pie4 - "指破烂,坏,不好。常写成“孬”。

I highly doubt that these are "变异" seeing as these pronunciations outdate the modern "standard" ones - so why would anyone go to the trouble of describing it this way? besides the fact that MSM is the, now, "standard"?

  • I've never come across a respected linguistic dictionary of 廣東話 or even 上海話 which uses 变异 in that way; however, I can imagine that various phonological forms would seem close enough to be presented as a "variation" of 普通話.
    – Michaelyus
    Mar 3, 2017 at 11:55
  • @Michaelyus Yeah, there are other glaring problems with this publication - wasn't sure whether it could be be deemed respected or not.
    – Mou某
    Mar 3, 2017 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


Yes or No.

In Chinese linguistic study, there are three rules of distinguishing dialects from languages:

  1. Linguistically, mutual intelligibility
  2. Historically, derivation
  3. Politically, anything except the standard

Dialects are picked out mainly because MSM gets politically recognized as a standard in China Mainland.

In practice, a minor reason is that they do not have matured or accurate writing system.

  • Just wish it wasn't so 牵强
    – Mou某
    Mar 3, 2017 at 11:52

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