In MSM 娘 and 孃 are usually considered one and the same, where 孃 is Traditional and 娘 is simplified. These two characters can practically be used interchangeably. In Southwestern Mandarin, however, a split has been maintained.

It should be a little something like this:

  • 娘 = 阳平 = mom

  • 嬢 = 阴平 = woman

I'm not sure if this a special feature of SWM or a remnant of something else. Do other topolects do this? Is there a reason for this split?

  • I'm not sure "why" can be answered. That's kind of like asking "why" the word blank is differentiated from the word bleach. – dROOOze Jan 15 '20 at 7:30
  • I'm thinking that there might be some reason: like how 发 and 发 split to first tone and forth tone in MSM but didn't in other topolects. – Mou某 Jan 15 '20 at 7:31
  • You mean, to distinguish between 髮 and 發? Just like how SW Mandarin wants to distinguish between "mom" and "woman"? – dROOOze Jan 15 '20 at 7:33
  • Right. I'm assuming there may be a reason for it. – Mou某 Jan 15 '20 at 7:36
  • This article might be relevant. – Michaelyus Jan 15 '20 at 16:30

孃 usually is used by people who live in southwest China, to refer women who are in the middle age. People in southwest China use it to call their older female relatives, or female strangers who seemed like in the middle age.

娘 means mom, but it usually used by people who live in North China. In South China, people call their mom as 妈妈

I'm a Chinese, and these are my experiences in using Chinese. Hope it helps.

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