I traveled to Hunan province and stumbled across something interesting.

I was speaking to a taxi driver and asked him, 'where are you from'? He responded, 'Funan'. I then realized he actually meant 'Hunan' (湖南). I thought, perhaps he had a lisp or accent.

Upon conversing with a hotel receptionist and a porter, they both referred to Hunan as Funan.

That's not all, there is a city in Hunan called Huaihua (怀化). They referred to it as Fuaihua.

Do Hunanese (?) pronounce cities beginning with 'H' with an 'F'? Why is this? Does this pronunciation rule apply only for cities inside Hunan (including the Hunan province?). Does this only apply to place names?

  • users are reminded of Japanese which has no hu, although it has ha,hi,fu,he,ho,and of 夏洛克·福尔摩斯, Sherlock Holmes
    – user6065
    Apr 6, 2018 at 18:35
  • 1
    I've heard native speakers of Cantonese pronounce /hu/ as /fu/ when speaking Mandarin, eg 會所 /hui4 suo3/ coming out as fuiso. /hu-/ is spirantised to /f/. This is reflected in Cantonese in words like 花 faa vs hua.
    – dda
    Apr 8, 2018 at 10:14
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    @dda yes, I've also noticed various differences in pronunciation- such as 上网 (soeng mong5 vs shang wang3). The W's in Mandarin come off as M's in Cantonese. In my opinion this is a language difference and not really an accent. But I understand what you mean in that the difference in pronunciation kicks in when Cantonese speak Mandarin words. In terms of accent, I noticed that native Cantonese speakers cannot or seldom pronounce 'sh' as in 是 shi, they usually say 'si' because that's how it's meant to be pronounced in Cantonese.
    – udidosa
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:48
  • 1
    Yes, that's what I meant: influence of a language when pronouncing another.
    – dda
    Apr 9, 2018 at 2:02

2 Answers 2


It's topolect.

Here's page 27 of《长沙方言词典》:


As you can see 湖 is consistently pronounced: fu (rising tone).

It doesn't have anything to do with being a proper noun or anything else, this is the Xiang language.

If we look at this table, also from《长沙方言词典》


you can see that Changsha has absolutely zero hu pronunciations.

This has been commented on before on Chinese SE: here:

h merges with f (conditioned on following vowel):

Some Sichuan?, Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing


As I know, Hunan folks can't/don't differentiate the pronunciation of F and H, even when they speak mandarin. One of my roommates who was from Fujian can't/don't differentiate R and L. So, it's not unusual to see this kind of things in other regions in China.

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