Varieties of Chinese

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Varieties of Chinese
Jerry Norman estimated that there are hundreds of mutually unintelligible varieties of Chinese.[39] These varieties form a dialect continuum, in which differences in speech generally become more pronounced as distances increase, though the rate of change varies immensely.[40] Generally, mountainous South China exhibits more linguistic diversity than the North China Plain. In parts of South China, a major city’s dialect may only be marginally intelligible to close neighbors. For instance, Wuzhou is about 120 miles (190 km) upstream from Guangzhou, but the Yue variety spoken there is more like that of Guangzhou than is that of Taishan, 60 miles (95 km) southwest of Guangzhou and separated from it by several rivers.[41] In parts of Fujian the speech of neighboring counties or even villages may be mutually unintelligible.[42]

Until the late 20th century, Chinese emigrants to Southeast Asia and North America came from southeast coastal areas, where Min, Hakka, and Yue dialects are spoken.[43] The vast majority of Chinese immigrants to North America spoke the Taishan dialect, from a small coastal area southwest of Guangzhou.[44]

Grouping
Local varieties of Chinese are conventionally classified into seven dialect groups, largely on the basis of the different evolution of Middle Chinese voiced initials:[45][46]

Mandarin, including Standard Chinese, Pekinese, Sichuanese, and also the Dungan language spoken in Central Asia
Wu, including Shanghainese, Suzhounese, and Wenzhounese
Gan
Xiang
Min, including Fuzhounese, Hainanese, Hokkien, Taiwanese and Teochew
Hakka
Yue, including Cantonese and Taishanese
The classification of Li Rong, which is used in the Language Atlas of China (1987), distinguishes three further groups:[47][48]

Jin, previously included in Mandarin.
Huizhou, previously included in Wu.
Pinghua, previously included in Yue.

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