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Gan Chinese

"Gan language" redirects here. For the Gan language of Ghana, see Gã language. For the Gan language of Burkina, see Kaansa language.
Gan ua (Gan) written in Chinese characters
Native to China
Region central and northern Jiangxi, eastern Hunan, parts of Fujian, Anhui, Hubei
Ethnicity Gan people (Han Chinese)
Native speakers
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Language codes
ISO 639-3 gan
Glottolog ganc1239[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Gan Chinese
Simplified Chinese 赣语
Traditional Chinese 贛語
Gan Gon ua
Commonly known as
Simplified Chinese 江西话
Traditional Chinese 江西話
Gan Kongsi ua

Gan (simplified Chinese: 赣语; traditional Chinese: 贛語; Gan: Gon ua, alternatively Chinese: 江西话, Jiāngxī huà; Gan: Kongsi ua) is a group of varieties of Chinese spoken as the native language by many people in the Jiangxi province of China, as well as significant populations in surrounding regions such as Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, and Fujian. Gan is a member of the Sinitic languages of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and Hakka is the closest language to Gan in terms of phonetics.

Different dialects of Gan exist; the Nanchang dialect is usually taken as representative.


Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is a large amount of mutual unintelligibility between Gan Chinese and other varieties. Despite this, Gan is considered to be a dialect of Chinese. Within the variation of Chinese dialects, Gan has more similarities with Mandarin than with Yue or Min.


  • Gan: the most common name. Scholars in mainland China use Gan or Gan dialect.
  • Jiāngxī huà ("Jiangxi language") is commonly used in Chinese, but since the borders of the language do not follow the borders of the province, this name is not geographically very exact.
  • Xi ("right-river language"): an ancient name, now seldom used, arising from the fact that most Gan speakers live south of the Yangtze River, beyond the right-hand bank when traveling downstream.


File:Map of sinitic languages-en.svg
The area coloured in light yellow shows the Gan-speaking region in the PRC.

Most Gan speakers live in the middle and lower reaches of the Gan River, the drainage area of the Fu River, and the region of Poyang Lake. There are also many Gan speakers living in eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui, northwest Fujian, etc.

According to the Diagram of Divisions in the People's Republic of China,[3] Gan is spoken by approximately 48,000,000 people: 29,000,000 in Jiangxi,[4] 4,500,000 in Anhui,[5] 5,300,000 in Hubei,[6] 9,000,000 in Hunan,[7] and 270,000 in Fujian.[8]


Ancient ages

During the Qin Dynasty (221 BC), a large number of troops were sent to southern China in order to conquer the Baiyue territories in Fujian and Guangdong, as a result, numerous Han Chinese emigrated to Jiangxi in the years following. In the early years of the Han Dynasty (202 BC), Nanchang was established as the capital of the Yuzhang Commandery (豫章郡) (this name stems from the original name of Gan River), along with the 18 counties (縣) of Jiangxi Province. The population of the Yuzhang Commandery increased to 1,670,000 (by AD 140) from 350,000 (in AD 2), with a net growth of 1,320,000. The Yuzhang Commandery ranked fourth in population among the more than 100 contemporary commanderies of China. As the largest commandery of Yangzhou, Yuzhang accounted for two fifths of the population and Gan gradually took shape during this period.

Middle ages

As a result of continuous warfare in the region of central China, the first large-scale emigration in the history of China took place. Large numbers of people in central China relocated to southern China in order to escape the bloodshed and at this time, Jiangxi played a role as a transfer station. Also, during this period, ancient Gan began to be exposed to the northern Mandarin dialects. After centuries of rule by the Southern Dynasties, Gan still retained many original characteristics despite having absorbed some elements of Mandarin. Up until the Tang Dynasty, there was little difference between old Gan and the contemporary Gan of that era. Beginning in the Five Dynasties period, however, inhabitants in the central and northern parts of Jiangxi Province began to migrate to eastern Hunan, eastern Hubei, southern Anhui and northwest Fujian. During this period, following hundreds of years of migration, Gan spread to its current areas of distribution.

Late traditional period

Guanhua evolved into a standard language based on Beijing Mandarin, owing largely to political factors. At the same time, the differences between Gan and Guan-hua continued to become more pronounced. However, because Jiangxi borders on Jianghuai, a Guanhua, Xiang, and Hakka speaking region, Gan proper has also been influenced by these surrounding languages, especially in its border regions.

Modern times

After 1949, as a "dialect" in Mainland China, Gan faced a critical period. The impact of Mandarin is quite evident today as a result of official governmental linguistic campaigns. Currently, many youths are unable to master Gan expressions, and some are no longer able speak Gan at all.

Recently, however, as a result of increased interest in protecting the local language, Gan now has begun to appear in various regional media, and there are also newscasts and television programs broadcast in the Gan language.


There are differences within the dialect speaking region. For example in Anfu county which was categorized as Ji-Cha, there are two main dialects, called Nanxiang Hua (Southern region) and Baixiang Hua (Northern region). People from one region cannot even understand people from the other region if they were not well educated or exposed to the other dialects.

File:Gan Dialects.png
The main dialect areas of Gan in Mainland China.

The Language Atlas of China (1987) divides Gan into nine dialect subgroups:[9][10]

Subgroup Representative Provinces Cities
Changdu 昌靖片 Nanchang dialect northwestern Jiangxi Nanchang City, Nangchang, Xinjian, Anyi, Yongxiu, Xiushui*, De'an, Xingzi, Duchang, Hukou, Gao'an*, Fengxin*, Jing'an*, Wuning*, Tonggu*
northeastern Hunan Pingjiang
Yiliu 宜浏片 / 宜瀏片 Yichun dialect central and western Jiangxi Yichun City, Yichun, Yifeng*, Shanggao, Qingjiang, Xingan, Xinyu City, Fen yi, Pingxiang City, Fengcheng, Wanzai
eastern Hunan Liuyang*, Liling
Jicha 吉茶片 Ji'an dialect central and southern Jiangxi Ji'an City, Ji'an*, Jishui, Xiajiang, Taihe*, Yongfeng*, Anfu, Lianhua, Yongxin*, Ninggang*, Jianggangshan* Wan'an, Suichuan*
eastern Hunan Youxian*, Chaling*, Linxian
Fuguang 抚广片 / 撫廣片 Fuzhou dialect (撫州, not to be confused with 福州) central and eastern Jiangxi Fuzhou City, Linchuan, Chongren, Yihuang, Le'an, Nancheng, Lichuan, Zixi, Jinxi, Dongxiang, Jinxian, Nanfeng, Guangchang*
southwestern Fujian Jianning, Taining
Yingyi 鹰弋片 Yingtan dialect northeastern Jiangxi Yingtan City, Guixi, Yujiang, Wannian, Leping, Jingdezhen*, Yugan, Poyang, Pengze, Hengfeng, Yiyang, Chuanshan
Datong 大通片 Daye dialect southeastern Hubei Daye, Xianning City, Jiangyu, Puxin, Chongyang, Tongcheng, Tongshan, Yangxin, Jianli*
eastern Hunan Linxiang*, Yueyang*, Huarong
Leizi 耒资片 / 耒資片 Leiyang dialect eastern Hunan Leiyang, Changning, Anren, Yongxing, Zixing City
Dongsui 洞绥片 / 洞綏片 Dongkou dialect southwestern Hunan Dongkou*, Suining*, Longhui*
Huaiyue 怀岳片 / 懷嶽片 Huaining dialect southwestern Anhui Huaining, Yuexi, Qianshan, Taihu, Wangjiang*, Susong*, Dongzhi*, Shitai*, Guichi*

Cities marked with * are partly Gan-speaking.


Gan (e.g. Nanchang dialect) has 19 syllable onset (聲母), 65 syllable rimes (韻母) and 5 tones (counted as 7 in Chinese classifications).


Gan has 6 vowels:

Front Central Back
plain lab.
Close i y u
Mid ɛ ə ɔ
Open ɑ
Syllabic consonant


Like other Chinese languages, tones in Gan make phonemic distinctions. There are five phonemic tones in Gan, which are reduced to two 'entering tones' before stop consonants. In the traditional classification, these are considered separately:

tones of Gan
Tone number Tone name Pitch numbers IPA transcription (on a)
1 upper level (42) a˦˨ or â
2 lower level (24) a˨˦ or ǎ
3 rising (213) a˨˩˧ or á̀́
4 upper departing (55) or á
5 lower departing (21) a˨˩ or à
6 upper entering (5) ak˥ or ák
7 lower entering (21) ak˨˩ or àk

The 6th and 7th tones are the same as the 4th and 5th tones, except that the syllable ends in a stop consonant, /t/ or /k/.


In each cell below, the first line indicates IPA transcription, the second indicates pinyin.

Bilabial Dental/
Velar Glottal
Nasal m
Plosive plain p


Affricate plain ts

aspirated tsʰ
Fricative ɸ
Lateral l


open finals nasal finals entering finals independent finals

- ɛu
- - -
- - ak
- -
- - iɛu
- - - iɛn
- - iɛt


- iaŋ
- iuŋ
- iuk

- uan
- - ui
- uaŋ
- uk
- yo
- y
- - yon
- yn
- yot
- yt

consonantal finals

consonantal finals -p -t -k -m -n -ng
IPA [-p] [-t] [-k] [-m] [-n] [-ŋ]
  • The finals in italic are at present only reserved in several Gan dialects.

Example 1

春曉  孟浩然 Cun Hieu   Men Hau-len
春眠不覺曉, cun mien but gok hieu,
處處聞啼鳥。 cu cu mun ti tieu.
夜來風雨聲, ya loi fung ui sang,
花落知多少? fa lok zi do seu?

Example 2 (extended from Daniel Jones Phonetic Symbol)



Vowels(12):a:, @, っ, o, Ω, e, u, v, i, n, η, aλ, Ωλ, eλ, っλ


太/t@↑/ 鞋/h@↙/ 北/b@↖/ 挨/η@→/ 怪/gu@↑/ 外/w@↗/ 国/gu@↖/ 喘/t∫v@↓/ 说/∫v@↖/ 月/v@↖/

马/ma:↓/ 达/da:↖/ 夜/ia:↗/ 甲/dзa:↖/ 瓜/gua:→/ 话/hua:↗/ 袜/ua:↖/ 抓/dзva:→/ 刷/∫va:↖/

宝/bっ↓/ 吵/tsっ↓/ 敲/kっ→/ 刀/dっ→/ 巧/t∫っ↓/ 孝/∫っ↑/

社/se↗/ 奢/se→/ 夜/ie↗/ 贴/t∫e↖/ 雪/∫e↖/

少/sΩ↓/ 口/kΩ↓/ 瘦/sΩ↑/ 表/biΩ↓/ 小/∫Ω↓/ 桥/t∫Ω↙/

哥/go→/ 合/ho↖/ 作/zo↖/ 我/ηo↓/ 雀/t∫o↖/ 略/nio↖/ 学/∫o↖/

杯/bai→/ 低/dai→/ 律/lai→/ 回/huai↙/ 桂/guai↑/ 未/uai↗/ 吹/t∫vai→/ 水/∫vai↓/ 睡/∫vai↑/

土/tau↓/ 手/sau↓/ 六/lau↖/ 九/dзau↓/ 牛/niau↙/ 曲/t∫au↖/

刘/niu↙/ 秋/t∫iu→/ 修/∫iu→/

斑/baλ→/ 南/laλ↙/ 眼/ηaλ↓/ 含/haλ↙/ 减/dзaλ↓/ 关/guaλ→/ 环/huaλ↙/

半/bΩλ↑/ 安/ηΩλ→/ 团/tΩλ↙/ 官/guΩλ→/ 换/huΩλ↗/ 碗/uΩλ↓/

战/dzeλ↑/ 生/seλ→/ 年/nieλ↙/ 兼/dзeλ→/ 烟/ieλ→/ 横/hueλ↙/ 专/dзveλ→/ 软/veλ↓/

方/fっλ→/ 唐/tっλ↙/ 窗/tsっλ→/ 两/liっλ↓/ 想/∫っλ↓/ 江/dзっλ→/ 王/uっλ↙/

针/dzan→/ 成/tsan↙/ 孙/san→/ 金/dзan→/ 近/t∫an↗/ 英/ian→/ 坤/kuan→/ 文/uan↙/ 君/dзvan→/

林/lin↙/ 清/t∫in→/

风/faη→/ 中/dzaη→/ 荣/zaη↙/ 穷/t∫aη↙/ 胸/∫aη→/ 绒/iaη↙/ 翁/uaη→/


句/dзv↑/ 去/t∫v↑/ 徐/∫v↙/


In Gan, there are 9 principal grammatical tenses – initial (起始), progressive (進行), experimental (嘗試), durative (持續), processive (經歷), continuative (繼續), repeating (重行), perfect (已然), and complete (完成).

The grammar of Gan is similar to southern Chinese languages. The sequence subject–verb–object is most typical, but subject–object–verb or the passive voice (with the sequence object–subject–verb) is possible with particles. Take a simple sentence for example: "I hold you". The words involved are: ngo ("I" or "me"), tsot dok ("to hold"), ň ("you").

  • Subject–verb–object (typical sequence): The sentence in the typical sequence would be: ngo tsot dok ň. ("I hold you.")
  • Subject–lat–object–verb: Another sentence of roughly equivalent meaning is ngo lat ň tsot dok, with the slight connotation of "I take you and hold" or "I get to you and hold."
  • Object–den–subject–verb (the passive voice): Then, ň den ngo tsot dok means the same thing but in the passive voice, with the connotation of "You allow yourself to be held by me" or "You make yourself available for my holding."


In Gan, there are a number of archaic words and expressions originally found in ancient Chinese, and which are now seldom or no longer used in Mandarin. For example, the noun "clothes" in Gan is "衣裳" while "衣服" in Mandarin, the verb "sleep" in Gan is "睏覺" while "睡覺" in Mandarin. Also, to describe something dirty, Gan speakers use "下里巴人", which is a reference to a song from the Chu (楚國) region dating to China's Spring and Autumn Period.

Additionally, there are numerous interjections in Gan (e.g. 哈、噻、啵), which can largely strengthen sentences, and better express different feelings.

Writing system

Gan is written with Chinese characters, though it does not have a strong written tradition. There are also some romanization schemes, but none are widely used. When writing Gan speakers usually use Mandarin, which is used by all Chinese speakers.[11]


  1. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2007" (The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007), in Nationalencyklopedin
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Gan Chinese". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ 《中華人民共和國行政區劃簡冊》 (in Chinese). 2004. 
  4. ^ 江西人口状况. 泛珠三角合作信息网 (in Chinese). 9 September 2005. 
  5. ^ 安徽人口控制:14年少生800万人. Xinhua (in Chinese) (Shanghai). 7 January 2005. 
  6. ^[dead link]
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ Yan, Margaret Mian (2006). Introduction to Chinese Dialectology. LINCOM Europa. p. 148. ISBN 978-3-89586-629-6. 
  10. ^ Kurpaska, Maria (2010). Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects". Walter de Gruyter. p. 70. ISBN 978-3-11-021914-2. 
  11. ^ Ethnologue report on Gan
  • Chen Changyi. Summary of Gan. 
  • Chen Changyi. Chorography of languages in Jiangxi. 
  • Li Rulong. Investigation of Gan-Hakka. 
  • Xiong Zhenghui. Dictionary of Nanchang Dialect. 
  • Yan Sen. Division of languages in Jiangxi. 
  • Yan Sen. Summary of modern Chinese·Gan. 

External links