Jin (linguistics)

From Academic Kids

Jin (simplified: 晋语; traditional: 晉語; pinyin: jěnyǔ), or Jin-yu, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. Its exact status is disputed among linguists; some prefer to classify it under Mandarin, while others set it apart as an independent branch.

Jin is spoken over most of Shanxi province, except for the lower Fen River valley; much of central Inner Mongolia; as well as adjourning areas in Hebei, Henan, and Shaanxi provinces. Cities covered within this area include Taiyuan, Zhangjiakou, Hohhot, Jiaozuo, and Yulin. In total Jin is spoken by roughly 45 million people.

Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is plenty of dispute as to whether Jin is a language or a dialect. See here for the issues surrounding this dispute.

Jin (晋语)
Spoken in: China
Region: most of Shanxi province; central Inner Mongolia; parts of Hebei, Henan, Shaanxi
Total speakers: 45 million
Ranking: 22
Genetic classification: Sino-Tibetan


Official status
Official language of: -
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1zh
ISO 639-2chi (B) / zho (T)
See also: LanguageList of languages


The speech of Shanxi province is, alone among the various dialects of North China, unique enough to warrant the label of "language" from some linguists. This may well be due to the geographic isolation of Shanxi. The entire province is a plateau surrounded by mountains on all sides. This may well have contributed to the differences between Jin and all the Mandarin dialects that surround it.


Jin can be divided into the following 8 subdivisions


Unlike most varieties of Mandarin, Jin uses the final glottal stop. This is in common with many southern varieties of Chinese. Jin has also kept the entering tone, which is the tone that goes with the final glottal stop.

Jin employs extremely complex tone sandhi, or tone changes that occur when words are put together into phrases. The tone sandhi of Jin is rather unique in two ways among Chinese dialects:

  • Tone sandhi rules depend on the grammatical structure of the words being put together. Hence, an adjective-noun compound may go through different sets of changes compared to a verb-object compound.
  • There are tones that merge when words are pronounced alone, but behave differently (and hence are differentiated) during tone sandhi.


Jin readily employs prefixes such as 圪 /kəʔ/, 忽 /xəʔ/, and 入 /zəʔ/, in a variety of derivational constructions. For example:
入鬼 "fool around" < 鬼 "ghost, devil"

In addition, there are a number of words in Jin that evolved, evidently, by splitting a mono-syllabic word into two. For example:

pəʔ ləŋ < 蹦 pəŋ "hop"
tʰəʔ luɤ < 拖 tʰuɤ "drag"
kuəʔ la < 刮 kua "scrape"
xəʔ lɒ̃ < 巷 xɒ̃ "street"

A similar process can also be found in Mandarin (e.g. 窟窿 kulong < 孔 kong), but it is especially common in Jin.


Some dialects of Jin make a three-way distinction in demonstratives. (English, for example, has only a two-way distinction between "this" and "that".)


Hou Jingyi 侯精一 and Shen Ming 沈明 (2002). Jin-yu (晋语). In Hou Jingyi 侯精一 (Ed.) Xiandai Hanyu Fangyan Gailun 现代汉语方言概论. Shanghai: Shanghai Education Press. ISBN 7-5320-8084-6.

External links

Chinese: spoken varieties

Mandarin | Jin | Wu | Hui | Xiang | Gan | Hakka | Yue | Pinghua | Min
Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua | Xianghua

Subcategories of Min: Min Dong | Min Bei | Min Zhong | Pu Xian | Min Nan | Qiong Wen | Shao Jiang
Note: The above is only one classification scheme among many.
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
Official spoken varieties: Standard Mandarin | Standard Cantonese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Chinese: written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese
Other varieties: Written Cantonese
es:Idioma jin

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