It is typical of the Wu dialects, being rich in vowels and conservative in having many initials. And it has many similarities with the Shanghai dialect, being comprehensible between the speakers.
Due to the city's population flow patterns, many Suzhou-area residents native to the city do not speak Suzhou dialect, but can usually understand it, although the level of fluency varies. Standard Mandarin, therefore, is spoken throughout the city.
Suzhou dialect has a set of voiced initials and exhibits unvoiced unaspirated and aspirated stops, there are unvoiced and voiced fricatives sets. Moreover, palatized initials also feature.
Suzhou has one tripthong rime, [iøʏ ]. Unlike Shanghai, it has no nasalised rimes, although it does have a set of rimes which end in a nasal stop. Middle Chinese entering tone characters which end in [-p -t -k ] end as a glottal stop [-ʔ ] in Suzhou. Middle Chinese nasal endings [-m ] have merged with rimes which end with [-n ] in Suzhou. Middle Chinese [-ŋ ] ending rimes have split into two types in Suzhou. Those which have a high fronted main vowel merge with [-n ] ending rimes. Those which possess a palatising medial [-i- ] and back main vowel, retain the [-ŋ ] ending.
|Tone number||Tone name||Tone letters||Description|
|1||yin ping (陰平)||˦ (44)||high|
|2||yang ping (陽平)||˨˦ (24)||rising|
|3||shang (上)||˥˨ (52)||high falling|
|4||yin qu (陰去)||˦˩˨ (412)||dipping|
|5||yang qu (陽去)||˧˩ (31)||mid falling|
|6||yin ru (陰入)||˦ʔ (4)||high checked|
|7||yang ru (陽入)||˨˧ʔ (23)||rising checked|
In Suzhou, part of the Middle Chinese Shang tone characters has merged with the modern yin qu tone.