Wu Chinese is a language spoken in Shanghai, Zhejiang province, and surrounding areas. It has got almost 77 millions of speakers, so it is the second native language in China, and the 10th in the World.

Spoken by: ~ 77 million
Spoken in: People's Republic of China
Language family: Sinitic

Phonology Edit

The phonology and phonetic is easier than other chinese languages.

It has 21 unvoiced onsets, 14 voiced onsets, 2 semi-vowels, 16 rimes, and 5 tones, but simplified: there is 3 (2 long and 1 short) tones for unvoiced syllables, and 2 (1 long 1 short) for voiced syllables.

Here is the Un̂ȳ-Latìnzw, match at the best with Wu phonology, using the fewest letters per syllable.

Onsets Edit

Unvoiced Edit

letter IPA
P/p /p/
P̕/p̕ /pʰ/
M̕/m̕ /ʔm/
F/f /f/
F̕/f̕ /ʔʋ/
T/t /t̪/
T̕/t̕ /t̪ʰ/
N̕/n̕ /ʔn̪/
N̂̕/n̂̕ /ʔɲ/
L̕/l̕ /ʔl/
K/k /k/
K̕/k̕ /kʰ/
H/h /h/
S/s /s/
S̕/s̕ /ʔz/
C/c /ʦ/
C̕/c̕ /ʦʰ/
Ŝ/ŝ /ʃ/
Ĉ/ĉ /ʨ/
Ĉ̕/ĉ̕ /ʨʰ/
Q̕/q̕ /ʔŋ/

Voiced Edit

letter IPA
B/b /b/
M/m /m/
V/v /v/
D/d /d̪/
N/n /n̪/
N̂/n̂ /ɲ/
L/l /l/
G/g /g/
Ĥ/ĥ /ɦ/
Z/z /z/
Ẑ/ẑ /ʣ/
Ĵ/ĵ /ʑ/
Ĝ/ĝ /ʥ/
Q/q /ŋ/

Medials Edit

letter IPA
J/j /j/
Ŭ/ŭ /w/

Rimes Edit

letter (with tone compatibility) IPA
a (123,45) /ɑ/, /ă(ʔ)/
aq (123) /ɑ̃/
i (123,45) /i/, /iɪ̆(ʔ)/
in (123) /iɪɲ/
y (123,45) /y/, /yʏ̆(ʔ)/
yn (123) /yʏɲ/
u (123) /ɯ/
w (123) /z̩/, /ɿ/
wr (123) /əɫ/
e (123,45) /ɛ/, /ə(ʔ)/
en (123) /əɲ/
o (123,45) /ɔ/, /ŏ(ʔ)/
oq (123) /ǫ̃/
oŭ/oux (123) /ʊ/, /o/
ŏ/ox (123) /ɘ⁻~ɤ⁺/
eŭ/eux (123) /ø/


The tonal system of Wu is different than others Chinese languages: In monosyllabic words, tones are:

  • Unvoiced:
    • 1:high falling (noted with a grave accent on the first vowel)
    • 2:high rising (noted with an acute accent on the first vowel)
    • 4:high with glottal stop (noted with a dot below the vowel, if there is no onset.)
  • Voiced:
    • 3:low rising (noted with a macron on the vowel except for two letters rimes.)
    • 5:low with glottal stop (unnoted tone)

The glottal stop:

  1. disapear in polysyllabic words if not the first syllable.
  2. comes from ancient -p, -t, -k finals, now disapeared.

In the poly syllabic words, only the tone of the first syllable matters. It results a sandhi, or linked sound

Short sandhiEdit

It is the most common and creates plain words. Tones become then tonic accent.

  • Unvoiced:
    • 1:pitch at first
    • 2:high at first, pitch at second
    • 4:medium with glottal stop at first, pitch at second
  • Voiced:
    • 3:low at first, pitch at second
    • 5:low with glottal stop at first, pitch at last

Long sandhiEdit

It is less common and creates compound words. The syllable preceding a long sandhi (called "left syllable") is adjusted, and a new sandhi begins.

  • The left syllable is alone:
    • 1 or 2:high
    • 4:high with glottal stop
    • 3:medium
    • 5:low with glottal stop
  • the left syllable is part of a short sandhi:
    • 1,2 or 3:medium
    • 4 or 5:medium with glottal stop

Grammar Edit

Wu, as Chinese language, has the same grammar than other Chinese languages, like Mandarin, Yue,...

The usual sentence order is Subject-Verb-Object

  • 巧克力
  • Qw ĉ̕i ĉóŭk̕eli.
    • I eat chocolate.

The interrogative sentence order is the same, you put the interrogative particle "𠲎"/"va" at the end

  • 巧克力𠲎
  • Noq ĉ̕i ĉóŭk̕eli va?
    • Do you eat chocolate?

For wh-questions, you just replace the noun with the interrogative word.

  • Noq ĉ̕i ?
    • What do you eat?
  • 啥人巧克力
  • Sán̂in ĉ̕i ĉóŭk̕eli?
    • Who eat chocolate?
  • 為啥巧克力
  • Ŭēsá noq ĉ̕i ĉóŭk̕eli?
    • Why do you eat chocolate?

Orthography Edit

Wu is usually written with Chinese characters. As Wu is not standardised, the same word can have more than one orthography, using homophone characters: For example, "yellow" can be written "黃" (yellow), or "王" (king) both read "ŭaq".

There is many romanisations of Wu: WT, Fawu,... A project for unify and standardise Wu, use a special romanisation (called "Un̂ȳ-Latìnzw" 吳語拉丁字) that is (or claim to be) the best Wu romanisation.

Common difficulties Edit

The lack of complete and/or credible ressources for non-Mandarin speakers, lack of unified transcription, multiple orthographies, frequent homophones....

Resources Edit

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