What is interesting about Hangzhou Wu is that they say "Ngo = Me" where as in Shanghainese some say "Ngu" others say "Wu"... but in Ningbo do they say "Ngo" or "Ngu" ? and is the "Ngo" that is pronounced by Hangzhou people an influence from Northerners of the Song Dynasty who set up their capital at Hangzhou ? if so, then "Ngu" must be the original pronounciation for Northern Wu dialects, while "Ngo" is an import from the Song Dynasty.
Suzhou Wu pronounces it as 'ngou'. I think that 'ngo' is actually an Eastern/Northern Zhejiang pronunciation, including the Southern Wu variant Taizhou Wu. Huzhou, which is located in Northern Zhejiang uses the word 'ng'. As well as some parts of Jiading District in Shanghai.
The Changzhou-Suzhou transition zone (incl. Wuxi, Jiangyin, Liyang) pronounces it as 'ngou'. I think 'wu' may be a Mandarinized influence.
Much of old Songjiang prefecture (modern Shanghai) today, as well as far south as Quzhou (and maybe Jinhua and Lishui) in southern Zhejiang uses 'ngu'. Wenzhou dialect uses 'ng'.
So I'd think 'ng' and 'ngu' are older pronunciations. 'ngou' and 'ngo' are recent derivations.
To break it down:
'ng'- some parts of Shanghai, Huzhou, Quzhou, Wenzhou
'ngu'- most of Shanghai
'ngou'- Anywhere from Suzhou to Changzhou
'ngo'- Shaoxing+Ling'an/old Yuezhou Prefecture, Hangzhou, some parts of Shanghai, old Mingzhou prefecture (Ningbo + Zhoushan), Taizhou
'wu'- most often used by Shanghainese speakers- Mandarinized quick speech.
(For Jiaxing and Pinghu, I am not sure. My guess is either any of the four)
So any of these four pronunciations are scattered all over the place. But it does seem obvious that 'ngou' and 'ngo' cut through the 'ng' and 'ngu' speaking areas.
Note that 吾 can also be written as the first-person pronoun, as 'ngu' or 'ng', same as 我.
Another example would be the word 犬, an archaic word for dog.
It ranges from khioe (Taizhou), chioe (most Wu dialects), chioen (Shaoxing), chio (New Wuxi), chiu (wenzhou, some Ningbo) (But the general pronunciation is chioe)
But even then such pronunciations don't matter. Changzhou dialect and Suzhou dialect are hardly intelligible (though they pronounce the first-person singular in a similar manner), but Suzhou dialect is very intelligible to Shanghainese speakers (though they pronounce the first-person singular differently). Most Wu dialects are grouped by mutual intelligibility. For me, 'ngo, ngu, and ngou' are the same word, just pronounced slightly differently. I can understand that it's the first person singular.
So for me, the closest dialects I can understand are most dialects near Shanghai, Suzhou, and Jiaxing. I can understand them about 90-99% of the time, but I just have to get used to their pronunciation and words. Other Wu dialects range from the slightly harder (Ningbo and Wuxi) to the hardest (Wenzhou). Thing is, Ningbo people can understand what I'm saying, I just don't understand what they're saying sometimes. For Shanghainese speakers, it's hard to talk one-on-one with Ningbo speakers, but I can understand the general context of a conversation between two or more Ningbo speakers.
What's the factor of mutual intelligibility of Wu to me?
First priority is vocabulary and its use of vocabulary. I usually get stumped by Ningbo dialect because of their use of vocabulary. Pronunciation is fine though.
second is grammar, as well as expressions used.
third is probably pronunciation. It's easy for me to spot a Suzhou accent of a Ningbo accent. I can still understand them, depending on the dialect. Suzhou dialect sounds foppish to Shanghainese, but Ningbo dialect sounds rougher and coarse to Shanghainese.
Edited by bloodmerchant, 20 April 2010 - 02:30 AM.