Today I received an email in which the writer tells me that Chinese should be called Putonghua and not Mandarin. Apparently, “People don’t know, and school teachers don’t care! obviously; leaving me to inform: The name ‘Mandarin’ has been obsolete 105 years now.” The name Mandarin was used for a ‘Manchurian high official’ who spoke 官話 (official speech). However since the fall of the Manchurian Qing monarchy in 1911, “Mandarins dead as dodos” and to use the name Mandarin is “an affront to the republican nation”.
This language in fact has a number of different names in different countries and regions:
– 普通话 [普通話] (pǔtōnghuà) – “common speech” – in China
– 國語 (guóyǔ) – “national language” – in Taiwan
– 华语 [華語] (huáyǔ) – “Chinese language” – in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and the other parts of Southeast Asia.
– 汉语 [漢語] (hànyǔ) – “Han language” – in the USA and among the Chinese diaspora
– 中文 (zhōngwén) – “Chinese language” – in Taiwan, mainly
– Chinese, Mandarin, Mandarin Chinese, Putonghua, etc. in English-speaking countries
– Other names in other countries and languages
During the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties, the language used by court officials became known as 官话 [官話] (guānhuà) – “official speech”. The word Mandarin comes from the the Sanskrit मन्त्रिन् (mantrin = counselor, minister) via the Portuguese mandarim. It was first used to refer to Chinese bureaucrats, and later it was used to refer to the language those officials spoke, which was used as a lingua franca of China from the 14th century.
What is Mandarin / Putonghua / Chinese known as in other languages?