Chinese is spoken by about 1.3 billion people mainly in the People's Republic
of China, the Republic of China (a.k.a. Taiwan), Singapore and other parts of
Southeast Asia. There are also communities of Chinese speakers in many
other parts of the world.
Languages of dialects? |
Spoken Chinese |
Written Chinese |
Languages or dialects?
The different varieties of Chinese are known as 方言
(fāngyán), which is translated as
'regional languages', 'toplects', 'dialects' or 'varieties'. The
English term dialect normally refers to mutually intelligible varieties
of a single language, though the distinction between dialects and languages is
often for sociological and political reasons rather than linguistic ones.
Chinese people generally refer to Chinese as a single language with a number
of different dialects or varieties. As there is little mutual intelligiblity
between the different varieties of Chinese and as a result, some
non-Chinese linguists refer to them as separate languages.
A distinction is made in Chinese between spoken and written
language. In China the written form of Chinese, which is perceived
as being uniform throughout the country is referred to as 中文
(zhōngwén), while the terms 语 [語] (yǔ) or
话 [話] (huà) are used in the names of spoken varities of
Chinese, e.g. Mandarin Chinese is known as 汉语 [漢語]
(hànyǔ) = "Han language", or 普通话
[普通話] (pǔtōnghuà) = "common language"
in China. elsewhere it is refered to as 国语 [國語] (guóyǔ) =
"national language" or 华语 [華語] (huáyǔ) = "Chinese language".
The word 汉 [漢] (hàn) is used to refer to the Chinese people and
comes from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).
Chinese belongs to the Sinitic or Chinese branch
of Sino-Tibetan language family. The modern varieties of Chinese all descended
from Middle Chinese (中古汉语 [中古漢語]),
which was spoken in China during Southern and Northern Dynasties, and
the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties (c. 5th - 12th centuries AD), and which
developed from Old Chinese (上古汉语 [上古漢語]),
which was spoken during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties and the Warring
States Period (c. 1600-256 BC).
Varieties of spoken Chinese are traditional grouped into the following major
Guan / Mandarin (官话 [官話] guānhuà)
Wu (吴语 [吳語] ng1nyiu2)
Yue (粤语 [粵語] yuhtyúh)
Min (闽语 [閩語] bân-gú / mìng-ngṳ̄)
Hakka (客家话 [客家話] hak7ga1wa3)
Xiang (湘语 [湘語] xiāngyǔ)
Gan (赣语 [贛語] gànyǔ)
Written Chinese (中文)
The main written form of Chinese is based mainly on the Mandarin
spoken by educated people in Beijing.
Chinese is written with characters (汉字 [漢字] hànzì)
which represent both sound and meaning. Words in Chinese can be made up of one
of more syllables and each syllable is represented by a single character. There
are relatively few different types of syllable in spoken Chinese - about 1,700
in Mandairn, compared to languages like English with over 8,000 - yet there are
tens of thousands of characters. As a result there are multiple characters for
each syllable, each of which has a different meaning. This type of writing system
is known as semanto-phonetic, logophonetic, morphophonemic, logographic or logosyllabic.
More information about Written Chinese
Books about Chinese characters and calligraphy
Language learning materials for: Classical Chinese,
Mandarin, Shanghainese, Hokkien, Taiwanese and
of names and phrases
Easy and Simple Chinese with Serika
The huge Hanzi WallChart includes the 1500 characters you'll need to learn in order to grasp 95% of written Chinese.
Learn to speak Mandarin Chinese confidently and naturally with Rocket Chinese
Learn Chinese online with ChineseClass101
Omniglot Chinese - learn to read and write the hundred most commonly-used characters. Available for Android & iPhone
chinEASE is an eBook that helps language learners to successfully tackle the complexities of Chinese writing by showing them how to systematically break complicated characters down into simpler parts.
Learn Mandarin Chinese abroad
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