Nick Kaldis writes:
I am wondering if your collective knowledge of Gaomi Shandongese and dialectology can clear something up for me. My late beloved father-in-law, Tóng Jìguāng 佟繼侊, from Gaomi county, would pronounce something like an thi sandong len for "俺是山東人“ [VHM: MSM pron. ǎn shì Shāndōng rén ("I'm a Shandongese")]. My question is: is the lisp in 是 common in Shandongese? And, is there a specific word for "lisp[ing]" (of the letter/sound "s") in Chinese?
My in-laws were from Shandong (from Changyi, not too far from Gaomi), and I've been to Shandong countless times, but I can't recall hearing shi 是 pronounced as thi.
Jonathan Smith (whose in-laws are also from Shandong and who lived there for several years) observes:
I am racking my brain but don't think I can conjure a memory of shi4 是 > "thi4" exactly. If anything there seems to be free variation between z-c-s and the equivalent interdentals (th, etc.) at times; perhaps when zcs and zhchsh merge we could hear both series as interdental? Also interesting that your correspondent writes th- in 是 but s- in 山; maybe this an allophonic effect of some kind related to the nature of the zcs<>zhchsh merger, but if so one I'm not familiar with.
Aside from th etc. for s etc. one often hears frication in w- (as in many other Mandarin dialects) and more distinctively in shu- (> fu-) and zhu- > (vu-); one would think this would also apply to ch- but my impression here is less clear. Some quotes:
"如沂南、莒南方言中，就比普通话多出齿间音 [tθ tθʰ θ] 和舌叶音 [tʃ tʃʰ ʃ] 两组声母。另在枣庄、苍山等方言里则有 [pf pfʰ f v] 一整套唇齿音声母。"
“普 通话零声母合口呼字（如：五、袜），济南话有 /v, ʋ, Ø/ 三 种读音。普 通话 /ʦ, ʦʰ, s/ 声 母字，在济南话中有 /ʦ, ʦʰ, s/ 和 /tθ, tθʰ, θ/ 两 种读音。读后者的人多为年轻男性，发音时舌尖外露程度不一。”
My father-in-law never lost a smidgeon of his Gaomi county Shandong accent, to his passing some 50+ years after arriving in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
From Matt Smith:
I don’t think it’s particularly surprising (though certainly amusing) that ‘sh’ might be at least perceived as ’th'. Mandarin ’s’ is usually dental and, where ’s’ and ‘sh’ merge, I imagine they might both well be realised with the tongue tip against the back of the incisors. The charming Shenyang accent seems to have a rather rougher, or more forceful, s/sh sound, which I don’t recall ever mistaking for ‘th’, but the difficulty many Chinese speakers seem to have in distinguishing ’th’ and ’s’ in English is, I’m convinced, as much due to the dental articulation of ’s’ as due to the absence of ‘th’ in Mandarin.
I'm waiting to learn if Nick's father-in-law also said "Thandong" instead of "Shandong".
If you're wondering what Gaomi speech sounds like, here's a recording posted on Phonemica.
For those who are familiar with standard Mandarin, you will immediately realize how very different Gaomi is. Mind you, Gaomi is a form of Sinitic classified as Mandarin that is spoken in an area only 300 miles southeast from Beijing, on a line running through Tianjin (very much in the news last year [massive explosions]) toward the great coastal city of Qingdao (Tsingtao). Gaomi is the hometown of the author Mo Yan, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2012; some of his stories were set in the region.
And here is a recording of speech from near Yantai, which is about a three hour drive to the northeast from Gaomi on the northern shore of the Shandong Peninsula.