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Encyclopedia > Spoken Chinese
Spoken Chinese
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Spoken Chinese

Spoken Chinese comprises many regional variants. Although the English word dialect is often used to translate the Chinese term fangyan (Chinese: 方言, lit. regional speech), the differences between the major spoken variations of Chinese are such that they are generally mutually unintelligible. Whether these variants should be identified as dialects or languages is a contentious issue. (See Identification of the varieties of Chinese for more details) Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (449x942, 48 KB) ShareAlike by en:user:Nishishei, from en:Image:Sinitic Languages0. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (449x942, 48 KB) ShareAlike by en:user:Nishishei, from en:Image:Sinitic Languages0. ... Spoken language is a language that people utter words of the language. ... A dialect (from the Greek word διάλεκτος, dialektos) is a variety of a language used by people from a particular geographic area. ... Mutually Unintelligible In linguistics, two or more languages or dialects are said to be mutually unintelligible when a knowledge or familiarity of one language does not preclude a knowledge or familiarity of the other(s). ... Chinese forms part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. ...

Contents

Classification

Chinese people make an impressional strong distinction between written language (文, Pinyin: wén) and spoken language (语/語 ). They tend to conceptualize the variations of Chinese as different spoken languages which use a common written standard and share a literary and cultural tradition. Within Chinese, there is a collective term for the Chinese written language (中文 zhōngwén), while there is no collective term that encompasses all of the variations of the spoken language. Terms used to describe spoken Chinese, such as 汉语/漢語 (hànyǔ) or 國語/国语 (guóyǔ) refer only to one specific variation of spoken Chinese, overwhelmingly Standard Chinese in modern usage. Various styles of Chinese calligraphy. ... Standard Mandarin refers to the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China on Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. ...


When forced to conceptualize these variations in terms of language and dialect common in the West, most Chinese do not think of these variations as separate languages because they use a standard written language and share a common literary and cultural tradition. However, the linguistic distance between different Chinese dialects is often much greater than forms of speech in other parts of the world, and thus are unquestionably considered distinct languages.


Linguists divide the variations in spoken Chinese language into seven to ten groups. However, the fact that two people are speaking dialects within the same category does not necessarily mean that they can completely understand each other. The converse is also true in that the two people speaking dialects in different groups can sometimes understand each other. The general situation is one of dialect continuum where one can understand perfectly people speaking the local dialect and that the intelligibility decreases as the speaker comes from more and more distant regions. This results in the common situation where A can understand B, B can understand C, but A cannot understand C. ... Chinese (written) language (pinyin: zhōngw n) written in Chinese characters The Chinese language (汉语/漢語, 华语/華語, or 中文; Pinyin: H nyǔ, Hu yǔ, or Zhōngw n) is a member of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. ... A dialect continuum is a range of dialects spoken across a large geographical area, differing only slightly between areas that are geographically close, and gradually decreasing in mutual intelligibility as the distances become greater. ...


The linguistic diversity is particularly pronounced in southern variations such as Min, in which two towns which are five kilometers from each other can have types of speech that are completely unintelligible with one another. By contrast, there are areas in northern China that are several hundred kilometers apart but have mutually intelligible forms of Mandarin. Min can be: 闽 Mǐn, an abbreviation for the Chinese province of Fujian Min, a category of spoken Chinese found in Fujian and elsewhere Min, a kingdom in modern-day Fujian during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period Min River (Fujian) 岷 Mín, a place name in the Chinese... Mandarin, or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方話; Pinyin: Běifānghuà; literally Northern Dialect(s)), or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Pinyin: Guānhuà; literally official speech) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ...


In addition, the categories that speakers use to self-classify the variety they are speaking may not correspond at all to a classification based strictly on linguistic features. For example, two speakers of Cantonese from different places (say Taishan and Hong Kong) tend to think of themselves as speaking the same dialect, whereas speakers of Wu from Hangzhou and one from Shanghai would tend to think of themselves as speaking different dialects. Furthermore, a person speaking Sichuanese or Hunanese will think of themselves as speaking a variety of Chinese that is distinct from the national standard Putonghua, notwithstanding the fact that linguists place these forms of Chinese in the same linguistic category. Taishan (台山; Mandarin: Táishān; Cantonese: Toisan; Hoisanese: Hoisan ) is a coastal county-level city in Guangdong Province, China. ...   (Chinese: ; pinyin: Hángzhōu; Postal map spelling: Hangchow) is a sub-provincial city in China and the capital of Zhejiang province. ... Shanghai (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Shanghainese: ), stuated on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta in East China, is the largest city of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Standard Mandarin refers to the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China on Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. ...


Groups of Spoken Chinese

The various forms of Spoken Chinese are usually classified into the following broad groups. (See List of Chinese dialects for a comprehensive listing of individual dialects.) The following is a list of major Chinese dialects. ...

  • Mandarin 北方話/北方话: (c. 850 million) This is the mother dialect of Chinese living in northern and southwestern China. It is the basis for Standard Mandarin, the official spoken language of China, and is also spoken widely in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and by the overseas Chinese community in other parts of the world.
One distinctive feature of Mandarin is the employment of four categories of tonal types during word creation. This stands as a partial loss of tones employed, in comparison to Middle Chinese and the other dialects, however. Another is the loss of consonants on the ends of syllables, so that while Middle Chinese had an inventory of "-p, -t, -k, -m, -n, ng", Mandarin only has "-n, -ng". (A few dialects, such as that of Nanjing, also have the glottal stop.) In addition, Mandarin underwent fewer tone splits than the other dialects. As a result, many words which sound different in dialects such as Cantonese are homophones in Mandarin. Mandarin has adjusted by developing compound words in order to make up for the development of homophones. The use of compounds is generally less frequent in other dialects.
  • Wu 吳語/吴语: (c. 87 million) spoken in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Wu includes Shanghai dialect. The Wu dialect is notable among Chinese dialects in having kept voiced initials, such as /b/, /d/, /g/, /z/, /v/, /dʑ/, /ʑ/ etc.
  • Hakka (Kejia) 客家話/客家话: (c. 30 million) spoken by the Hakka people in several provinces across southern China, in Taiwan, and in parts of Southeast Asia. The term "Hakka" itself translates as "guest families", and many Hakka people consider themselves to be descended from Song-era refugees from North China, although genetic and linguistic evidence suggests that the Hakka originated right around where they are today. Hakka has kept many features of northern Middle Chinese that have been lost in the North. It also has a full complement of nasal endings, -m -n -ŋ and occlusive endings -p -t -k, maintaining the four categories of tonal types, with splitting in the ping and ru tones, giving six tones. Some dialects of Hakka have seven tones, due to splitting in the qu tone. One of the distinguishing features of Hakka phonology is that Middle Chinese voiced initials are transformed into Hakka voiceless aspirated initials.
  • Min 閩語/闽语: (c. 68 million) spoken in Fujian, Taiwan, parts of Southeast Asia particularly in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, and amongst Overseas Chinese who trace their roots to Fujian and Taiwan. Min is the only group of Chinese dialects that cannot be directly derived from Middle Chinese. Due to its great internal disparity, Min can be divided into seven groups: Min Nan (which includes Hokkien, Teochew (Chaozhou), and Taiwanese), Min Dong, Min Bei, Min Zhong, Pu Xian, Qiong Wen, and Shao Jiang.
  • Cantonese (Yue) 粵語/粤语: (c. 66 million) spoken in Guangdong Province, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, parts of Southeast Asia and by Overseas Chinese with an ancestry tracing back to the Guangdong region. Used by linguistics, "Cantonese" covers all the Yue dialects, such as Toishanese, though the term is also used to refer to just the Standard Cantonese of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Some dialects of Yue have intricate sets of tone compared to other Chinese dialects—with varieties having up to nine or ten tones. Yue keeps a full complement of Middle Chinese word-final consonants (p, t, k, m, n, ng).
  • Xiang 湘語/湘语:(c. 36 million) spoken in Hunan Province. Xiang is usually divided into the "old" and "new" types, with the new type being significantly closer to Mandarin.
  • Gan 贛語/赣语: (c. 21 million) spoken in Jiangxi province. In the past, it was viewed as closely related to Hakka dialects, because of the way Middle Chinese voiced initials have become voiceless aspirated initials, as in Hakka, and were hence called by the umbrella term "Hakka-Gan dialects". This grouping has, however, now become obsolete.

(The following three dialect groups are not always classed separately.) Mandarin, or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方話; Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà; literally Northern Dialect(s)), or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Pinyin: Guānhuà; literally official speech) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore. ... Middle Chinese (Traditional Chinese: 中古漢語; Pinyin: zhōnggÇ” HànyÇ”), or Ancient Chinese as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties (6th century - 10th century). ...   (Chinese: 南京; Romanizations: NánjÄ«ng (Pinyin), Nan-ching (Wade-Giles), Nanking (Postal map spelling)) is the capital of Chinas Jiangsu Province and a city with a prominent place in Chinese history and culture. ... The glottal stop or voiceless glottal plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in many spoken languages. ... Wu (吳方言 pinyin wú fāng yán; 吳語 pinyin wú yÇ” lumazi wu niu(nyu)) is one of the major divisions of the Chinese language. ... Jiangsu (Simplified Chinese: 江苏; Traditional Chinese: 江蘇; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Chiang-su; Postal System Pinyin: Kiangsu) is a province of the Peoples Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. ... Zhejiang (Chinese: 浙江; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Che-chiang; Postal System Pinyin: Chehkiang or Chekiang) is an eastern coastal province of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Shanghainese (上海話; pinyin: Shànghǎihuà, Shanghainese in SAMPA: [ zA~ hE hE wo ]) is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in the city of Shanghai. ... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a Chinese dialect/language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ... The Hakka are Han Chinese people whose ancestors are said to have originated in the Henan and Shanxi provinces of northern China over 1,700 years ago. ... Location of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia. ... Min (閩方言 in pinyin: min3 fang1 yan2) is a general term for a group of dialects of the Chinese language spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong (around Chaozhou-Swatou, and Leizhou peninsula), Hainan, three counties in... (Chinese: 福建; Pinyin: Fújiàn; Wade-Giles: Fu-chien; Postal System Pinyin: Fukien, Foukien; local transliteration Hokkien from Min Nan Hok-kiàn) is one of the provinces on the southeast coast of China. ... Location of Southeast Asia Southeast Asia is a subregion of Asia. ... Mǐn N n (Chinese: 閩南語), also spelt as Minnan or Min-nan; native name B ; literally means Southern Min or Southern Fujian and refers to the local language/dialect of southern Fujian province, China. ... Mǐn Nán (Chinese: 閩南語), also spelt as Minnan or Min-nan; native name Bân-lâm-gú; literally means Southern Min or Southern Fujian and refers to the local language/dialect of southern Fujian province, China. ... The Teochew dialect (Diō-jiu-oē, Chinese:潮州话, Hanyu Pinyin: Cháozhōuhuà, Teochiu or Tiuchiu), is a Chinese language and dialect of Minnan spoken in a region of eastern Guangdong refered to as Chaoshan. ... See alternative meanings for other possible definitions. ... Min Dong Language (or Eastern Min Language, Chinese: 閩東語, SLC: Mỉng Tòyng ngỹ) is the language mainly spoken in the eastern part of Fujian Province (Chinese: 福建, SLC: Huk Kyŏng). ... Min Bei is a subcategory of Min, which is a Chinese language. ... Min Zhong (Simplified Chinese: 闽中; Traditional Chinese: 閩中; pinyin: Mǐnzhōng) is a subcategory of Min, which is a Chinese language. ... ... Chinese military rank of Shao Jiang Shao Jiang is a general officer rank within the Peoples Liberation Army. ... Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語; Simplified Chinese: 粤语]], Cantonese: Yuet6yue5; Mandarin pinyin: YuèyÇ”, lit. ... China, and should not be confused with the former Kwantung Leased Territory in north-eastern China. ... Guangxi (Zhuang: Gvangjsih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西; Traditional Chinese: 廣西; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ«; Wade-Giles: Kuang-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Kwangsi), full name Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (Zhuang: Gvangjsih Bouxcuengh Swcigih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西壮族自治区; Traditional Chinese: 廣西壯族自治區; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ« Zhuàngzú ZìzhìqÅ«) is a Zhuang autonomous region of... Hong Kong (香港; Cantonese IPA: ; Jyutping: hoeng1 gong2; Yale: heūng góng; pinyin: Xiānggǎng; Wade-Giles: Hsiang-kang) is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Motto: none Anthem: March of the Volunteers Macau uses the national anthem of the PRC Capital none Historically, the capital was Cidade do Nome de Deus de Macau (or Macau Peninsula, name abolished upon Reunification); government headquarters located in the St. ... Taishan (台山; Mandarin: Táishān; Cantonese: Toisan; Hoisanese: Hoisan ) is a coastal county-level city in Guangdong Province, China. ... Standard Cantonese is a variant, and is generally considered the prestige dialect of Cantonese Chinese. ... (Simplified Chinese: 广州; Traditional Chinese: 廣州; pinyin: GuÇŽngzhōu; Wade-Giles: Kuang-chou; Postal System Pinyin: Canton) is the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China. ... Xiang (湘語/湘语), also Hunan, Hunanese, or Hsiang, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ...   (Chinese: ; pinyin: Húnán) is a province of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning south of the lake). Hunan is sometimes called 湘 (pinyin: Xiāng) for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the... Gan (赣语) is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese, concentrated in and typical of Jiangxi Province. ... Jiangxi (Chinese: 江西; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Chiang-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Kiangsi) is a southern province of the Peoples Republic of China, spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south. ... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a Chinese dialect/language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ...

Some varieties remain unclassified. These include: The Hui (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Hui (回) ethnic group of China. ... Anhui (Chinese: 安徽; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: An-hui; Postal System Pinyin: Ngan-hui, Anhwei or An-hwei) is a province of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Jin (simplified: 晋语; traditional: 晉語; pinyin: jìnyǔ), or Jin-yu, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Shanxi (Chinese: 山西; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Shan-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Shansi) is a province in the northern part of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Shaanxi (Simplified Chinese: 陕西; Traditional Chinese: 陝西; Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Shan-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Shensi, pronounced like Shahn-shee) is a north-central province of the Peoples Republic of China, and includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River as well as the Qinling... Hebei (Chinese: 河北; pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Ho-pei; Postal System Pinyin: Hopeh) is a northern province of the Peoples Republic of China. ... Henan (Chinese: 河南; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Wade-Giles: Ho-nan), is a province of the Peoples Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. ... Inner Mongolia (Mongolian: ᠥᠪᠦᠷ ᠮᠣᠨᠺᠤᠯᠤᠨ ᠥᠪᠡᠷᠲᠡᠺᠡᠨ ᠵᠠᠰᠠᠬᠤ ᠣᠷᠤᠨ r Mongghul-un bertegen Jasaqu Orun; Chinese: 内蒙古自治区; Hanyu Pinyin: N... Pinghua (平話/平话), also Guangxi Nanning, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Guangxi (Zhuang: Gvangjsih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西; Traditional Chinese: 廣西; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ«; Wade-Giles: Kuang-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Kwangsi), full name Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (Zhuang: Gvangjsih Bouxcuengh Swcigih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西壮族自治区; Traditional Chinese: 廣西壯族自治區; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ« Zhuàngzú ZìzhìqÅ«) is a Zhuang autonomous region of...

  • Danzhou dialect 儋州話/儋州话: spoken in Danzhou, Hainan.
  • Xianghua 鄉話/乡话: spoken in a small strip of land in western Hunan, this is a group of dialects that have not been conclusively classified.
  • Shaozhou Tuhua 韶州土話/韶州土话: spoken at the border regions of Guangdong, Hunan, and Guangxi, this is an area of great linguistic diversity, and has not yet been conclusively described or classified.

In addition, the Dungan language (東干語/东干语) is a language spoken in Kyrgyzstan descended from Chinese, and is akin to northwestern dialects of Mandarin, therefore it is linguistically a Mandarin dialect. However, it is written in the Cyrillic alphabet as a result of Soviet rule, and may not be considered by all to be Chinese. Danzhouhua (hua = language) 儋州話 / 儋州话 is an unclassified Chinese dialect spoken in the area of Danzhou on the island Hainan. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... Chai Xianghua (柴 香華 Chai Shanghwa ) is a fictional character designed for the Soul Series of fighting games. ...   (Chinese: ; pinyin: Húnán) is a province of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning south of the lake). Hunan is sometimes called 湘 (pinyin: Xiāng) for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the... Shaozhou Tuhua ( 韶州土話 / 韶州土话 ) is an unclassified Chinese language spoken in the border region of the provinces Guangdong, Hunan and Guangxi. ... China, and should not be confused with the former Kwantung Leased Territory in north-eastern China. ...   (Chinese: ; pinyin: Húnán) is a province of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting (hence the name Hunan, meaning south of the lake). Hunan is sometimes called 湘 (pinyin: Xiāng) for short, after the Xiang River which runs through the... Guangxi (Zhuang: Gvangjsih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西; Traditional Chinese: 廣西; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ«; Wade-Giles: Kuang-hsi; Postal System Pinyin: Kwangsi), full name Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (Zhuang: Gvangjsih Bouxcuengh Swcigih; old orthography: ; Simplified Chinese: 广西壮族自治区; Traditional Chinese: 廣西壯族自治區; Pinyin: GuÇŽngxÄ« Zhuàngzú ZìzhìqÅ«) is a Zhuang autonomous region of... The Dungan language (autonym: Хуэйзў йүян [HuÄ—yzÅ­ yüyan]; 东干语 [東干語] in Chinese) is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by the 50,000 Dungan or (Hui) of Central Asia. ... Mandarin, or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方話; Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà; literally Northern Dialect(s)), or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Pinyin: Guānhuà; literally official speech) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... The Cyrillic alphabet (pronounced , also called azbuka, from the old name of the first two letters) is an alphabet used for several East and South Slavic languages—Belarusian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Rusyn, Serbian, and Ukrainian—and many other languages of the former Soviet Union, Asia and Eastern Europe. ...


Sociolinguistics of spoken variations of Chinese

In southern China where the difference between Standard Mandarin and the local dialect is particularly pronounced, well-educated Chinese are generally fluent in Standard Mandarin, and most people have at least a good passive knowledge of it, in addition to being native speakers of the local dialect. The choice of dialect varies based on the social situation. Standard Mandarin is usually considered more formal and is required when speaking to a person who does not understand the local dialect. The local dialect (be it nonstandard Mandarin or non-Mandarin altogether) is generally considered more intimate and is used among close family members and friends and in everyday conversation within the local area. Chinese speakers will frequently code switch between Standard Mandarin and the local dialect. Parents will generally speak to their children in dialect, and the relationship between dialect and Mandarin appears to be mostly stable. Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore. ... Code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to alternation between one or more languages, dialects, or language registers in the course of discourse between people who have more than one language in common. ...


Knowing the local dialect is of considerable social benefit and most Chinese who permanently move to a new area will attempt to pick up the local dialect. Learning a new dialect is usually done informally through a process of immersion and recognizing sound shifts. Typically, a speaker of one dialect of Chinese will need about a year of immersion to understand the local dialect and about three to five years to become fluent in speaking it. Because of the variety of dialects spoken, there are usually few formal methods for learning a local dialect.


Within the People's Republic of China there has been a consistent drive towards promoting the standard language; for instance, the education system is entirely Mandarin-medium from the second year onwards. However, usage of local dialect is tolerated, and in many informal situations socially preferred. Unlike in Hong Kong, where colloquial Cantonese characters are often used for formal occasions, within the PRC a character set closer to Mandarin tends to be used. At the national level, differences in dialect generally do not correspond to political divisions or categories, and this has for the most part prevented dialect from becoming the basis of identity politics. Historically, many of the people who promoted Chinese nationalism were from southern China and did not natively speak the national standard language, and even leaders from northern China rarely spoke with the standard accent. For example, Mao Zedong often emphasized his Hunan origins in speaking, rendering much of what he said incomprehensible to many Chinese. One consequence of this is that China does not have a well developed tradition of spoken political rhetoric, and most Chinese political works are intended primarily as written works rather than spoken works. Identity politics is the political activity of various social movements for self-determination. ... The May Fourth Movement in 1919 marked a turning point in the history of Chinese nationalism. ...   (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976) (also Mao Tse-Tung in Wade-Giles transliteration) was a Chinese Marxist military and political leader, who led the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to victory against the Kuomintang (KMT) in the Chinese Civil War, leading to the establishment of the People’s Republic of...


Another factor that limits the political implications of dialect is that it is very common within an extended family for different people to know and use different dialects. In addition, while speaking similar dialect provides very strong group identity at the level of a city or county, the high degree of linguistic diversity limits the amount of group solidarity at larger levels. Finally, the linguistic diversity of southern China makes it likely that in any large group of Chinese, Standard Mandarin will be the only form of speech that everyone understands.


On the other hand, in the Republic of China on Taiwan, the government had a policy until the mid-1980s of promoting Standard Mandarin as high-status and the local languages—Taiwanese and Hakka—as low-status, a situation which caused much resentment and resulted in considerable backlash in the 1990s, manifested in the Taiwanese localization movement. Motto: None Anthem(s): National Anthem of the Republic of China Capital Taipei City (de facto) Nanjing (de jure)1 Largest city Taipei City Official language(s) Mandarin (GuóyÇ”) Government Semi-presidential system  - President Chen Shui-bian  - Vice President Annette Lu  - Premier Su Tseng-chang Establishment Xinhai Revolution   - Declared... Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore. ... See alternative meanings for other possible definitions. ... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a Chinese dialect/language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ... Localization (本土化, POJ: pún-thó·-hòa, Pinyin: BÄ›ntÇ” huà) is a political term used by advocates of Taiwan independence to support their view of Taiwan as not part of China. ...


Examples of variations

The Min dialects are often regarded as being furthest removed linguistically from Standard Mandarin, in phonology, grammar, and vocabulary. To illustrate: in Taiwanese, a variety of Min, to express the idea that one is feeling a little ill ("I am not feeling well."), one might say (in Pe̍h-oē-jī ): Min (閩方言 in pinyin: min3 fang1 yan2) is a general term for a group of dialects of the Chinese language spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong (around Chaozhou-Swatou, and Leizhou peninsula), Hainan, three counties in... Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore. ... Template:Dablick Taiwanese (Traditional Chinese: 台語, 台灣話; Pinyin: TáiyÇ”, Táiwānhuà; Taiwanese Pe̍h-oÄ“-jÄ«: Tâi-gí or Tâi-oân-oÄ“) is a dialect of Min Nan spoken by about 70% of the Taiwanese population. ... Pe̍h-oÄ“-jÄ« (POJ) (Chinese: 白話字; pinyin: ) is an orthography in the Latin alphabet created and introduced to Taiwan by Presbyterian missionaries in the 19th century. ...

Goá kā-kī lâng ū tām-po̍h-á bô sóng-khoài. (我自己人有單薄仔不爽快)

which, when translated cognate-by-cognate into Mandarin would be spoken as an awkward or semantically unrecognizable sentence: This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... In general, semantics (from the Greek semantikos, or significant meaning, derived from sema, sign) is the study of meaning, in some sense of that term. ...

Wǒ jīajǐ [no cognate] yǒu dànbó [no cognate] wú shuǎngkuài.

Where as when spoken colloquially in Mandarin, one would either say:

Wǒ zìjǐ yǒu yīdiǎn bù shūfú. (我自己有一點不舒服)
or:
Wǒ yǒu yīdiǎn bù shūfú. (我有一點不舒服)

the latter omitting the reflexive pronoun (zìjǐ), not usually needed in Mandarin.


Some people, particularly in the north of China, would say:

Wǒ yǒu yīdiǎr bù shūfú. (我有一点ㄦ不舒服)

Phonology

For more specific information on phonology of Chinese see the respective main articles of each spoken variety.

The phonological structure of each syllable consists of a nucleus consisting of a vowel (which can be a monophthong, diphthong, or even a triphthong in certain varieties) with an optional onset or coda consonant as well as a tone. There are some instances where a vowel is not used as a nucleus. An example of this is in Cantonese, where the nasal sonorant consonants /m/ and /ŋ/ can stand alone as their own syllable. For information on how to read IPA transcriptions of English words see here. ... Phonetic (pho-NET-ic) is a nationwide voicemail-to-text messaging service available for most digital mobile phones in which a subscriber is provided a custom voice mailbox for the purpose of receiving all incoming voice messages as actual transcribed text for reading via short messaging (also known as SMS... Because of technical limitations, some web browsers may not display some special characters in this article. ... This is a concise version of the International Phonetic Alphabet for English sounds. ... Spoken Chinese The Chinese spoken language(s) comprise(s) many regional variants. ... The vowels of modern (Standard) Arabic and (Israeli) Hebrew from the phonological point of view. ... In phonetics and phonology, the nucleus is the central part of the syllable, mostly commonly a vowel. ... Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... A monophthong (in Greek μονόφθογγος = single note) is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation; compare diphthong. ... In phonetics, a diphthong (Greek δίφθογγος, diphthongos, literally with two sounds, or with two tones) is a vowel combination in a single syllable involving a quick but smooth movement from one vowel to another, often interpreted by listeners as a single vowel sound or phoneme. ... In phonetics, a triphthong is a monosyllabic vowel combination usually involving a quick, but smooth movement from one vowel to another that passes over a third one. ... In phonetics and phonology, a syllable onset is the part of a syllable that precedes the syllable nucleus. ... Note: This page contains phonetic information presented in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) using Unicode. ... In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by a closure or stricture of the vocal tract sufficient to cause audible turbulence. ... It has been suggested that Tonal language be merged into this article or section. ... Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語; Simplified Chinese: 粤语]], Cantonese: Yuet6yue5; Mandarin pinyin: YuèyÇ”, lit. ... A nasal consonant is produced when the velum—that fleshy part of the palate near the back—is lowered, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. ... In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a member of a class of speech sounds that are continuants produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract. ...


Across all the spoken varieties, most syllables tend to be open syllables, meaning they have no coda, but syllables that do have codas are restricted to /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /p/, /t/, /k/, or /ʔ/. Some varieties allow most of these codas, whereas others, such as Mandarin, are limited to only two, namely /n/ and /ŋ/. Consonant clusters do not generally occur in either the onset or coda. The onset may be an affricate or a consonant followed by a semivowel, but these are not generally considered consonant clusters. Mandarin, or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方話; Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà; literally Northern Dialect(s)), or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Pinyin: Guānhuà; literally official speech) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. ... Affricate consonants begin as stops (most often an alveolar, such as or ), but release as a fricative such as or (or, in a couple of languages, into a fricative trill) rather than directly into the following vowel. ... Semivowels (also called semiconsonants or glides) are vowels that function phonemically as consonants. ...


The number of sounds in the different spoken dialects varies, but in general there has been a tendency to a reduction in sounds from Middle Chinese. The Mandarin dialects in particular have experienced a dramatic decrease in sounds and so have far more multisyllabic words than most other spoken varieties. The total number of syllables in some varieties is therefore only about a thousand, including tonal variation. Middle Chinese (Traditional Chinese: 中古漢語; Pinyin: zhōnggǔ Hànyǔ), or Ancient Chinese as used by linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties (6th century - 10th century). ...


All varieties of spoken Chinese use tones. As few as three tones in the dialects of north China, while the dialects in south China have up to 6 or 10 tones depending on how it counts. One exception from this is Shanghainese which has reduced the set of tones to a two-toned pitch accent system much like modern Japanese. It has been suggested that Tonal language be merged into this article or section. ... Shanghainese (上海话; pinyin: Shànghǎihuà, lumazi: Zanheireiwo, Shanghainese in IPA: ), sometimes referred to as the Shanghai dialect, is a dialect of Wu Chinese spoken in the city of Shanghai. ... Pitch accent is a kind of accent system employed in many languages around the world. ...


A very common example used to illustrate the use of tones in Chinese are the four main tones of Standard Mandarin applied to the syllable ma. The tones correspond to these five characters: Standard Mandarin is the official Chinese spoken language used by the Peoples Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore. ...

  • /() “mother” — high level
  • () “hemp” — high rising
  • /() “horse” — low falling-rising
  • /() “scold” — high falling
  • /(ma) question particle — neutral
  • Listen to the tones ( file info) — play in browser (beta)
    • This is a recording of the four main tones. Fifth, or neutral, tone is not included.
    • Problems listening to the file? See media help.

Ruby characters are small, annotative characters that can be placed above or to the side of a character when writing logographic languages such as Chinese or Japanese to show the pronunciation. ... Mozilla is a computer term which has had many different uses, though all of them have been related to the now-defunct Netscape Communications Corporation and its related application software. ... Zh-pinyin tones with ma. ... Software development stages In computer programming, development stage terminology expresses how the development of a piece of software has progressed and how much further development it may require. ...

Morphology

Chinese morphology is strictly bound to a set number of syllables with a fairly rigid construction which are the morphemes, the smallest building blocks, of the language. Some of these single-syllable morphemes can stand alone as individual words, but contrary to what is often claimed, Chinese is not a monosyllabic language. Most words in the modern Chinese spoken varieties are in fact multisyllabic, consisting of more than one morpheme, usually two, but there can be three or more. Morphology is a subdiscipline of linguistics that studies word structure. ... A syllable (Ancient Greek: ) is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. ... In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest lingual unit that carries a semantic interpretation. ... A word is a unit of language that carries meaning and consists of one or more morphemes. ...


The confusion arises in how one thinks about the language. In the Chinese writing system, each individual single-syllable morpheme corresponds to a single character, referred to as a (). Most Chinese speakers think of words as being zì, but this view is not entirely accurate. Many words are multisyllabic, and are composed of more than one zì. This composition is what is known as a (/), and more closely resembles the traditional Western definition of a word. However, the concept of was historically a technical linguistic term that until only the past century, the average Chinese speaker was not aware of. Even today, most Chinese speakers think of words as being zì. This can be illustrated in the following Mandarin Chinese sentence (romanized using pinyin): In linguistics, romanization (or Latinization, also spelled romanisation or Latinisation) is the representation of a word or language with the Roman (Latin) alphabet, or a system for doing so, where the original word or language uses a different writing system. ... Pinyin is a system of romanization (phonemic notation and transcription to Roman script) for Standard Mandarin, where pin means spell and yin means sound. The most common variant of pinyin in use is called Hanyu Pinyin (Simplified Chinese: , Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: HànyÇ” PÄ«nyÄ«n), also known as scheme...

Jīguāng, zhè liǎng ge zì shì shénme yìsi?
激光, 這兩個字是甚麼意思?
激光, 这两个字是什么意思?

The sentence literally translates to, “ and guāng , these two , what do they mean?” However, the more natural English translation would probably be, “Laser, this word, what does it mean?” Even though jīguāng 激光 is a single word, speakers tend to think of its constituents as being separate (Ramsey, 1987).


Old Chinese and Middle Chinese had many more monosyllabic words due to greater variability in possible sounds. The modern Chinese varieties lost many of these sound distinctions, leading to homonyms in words that were once distinct. Multisyllabic words arose in order to compensate for this loss. Most natively derived multisyllabic words still feature these original monosyllabic morpheme roots. Many Chinese morphemes still have associated meaning, even though many of them no longer can stand alone as individual words - they are bound morphemes. This situation is analogous to the use of the English prefix pre-. Even though pre- can never stand alone by itself as an individual word, it is commonly understood by English speakers to mean “before”, such as in the words predawn, previous, and premonition. A homonym is one of a group of two or more words that have the same phonetic form (i. ... Bound morphemes can only occur when attached to root morphemes. ... In linguistics, a prefix is a type of affix that precedes the morphemes to which it can attach. ...


Taking the previous example, jīguāng, and guāng literally mean “stimulated light”, resulting in the meaning, “laser”. However, is never found as a single word by itself, because there are too many other morphemes that are also pronounced in the same way. For instance, the morphemes that correspond to the meanings “chicken” /, “machine” /, “basic” , “hit” /, “hunger” /, and “sum” / are also pronounced in Mandarin. It is only in the context of other morphemes that an exact meaning of a can be known. In certain ways, the logographic writing system helps to reinforce meaning in that are homophonous, since even though several morphemes may be pronounced the same way, they are written using different characters. Continuing with the example, we have: A Chinese logogram A logogram, or logograph, is a single written character which represents a word or a morpheme (a meaningful unit of language). ...

Pinyin Traditional Characters Simplified Characters Meaning
guāng laser (“stimulated light”)
to arouse (“stimulated rise”)
dàn chicken egg
gōng rooster (“male chicken”)
fēi aeroplane (“flying machine”)
qiāng machine gun

For this reason, it is very common for Mandarin speakers to put characters in context as a natural part of conversation. For example, when telling each other their names (which are often rare, or at least non-colloquial, combinations of zì), Mandarin speakers often state which words their names are found in. As a specific example, a speakers might say 名字叫嘉英,嘉陵江的嘉,英國的英 Míngzi jiào Jiāyīng, Jiālíngjiāng de jiā, Yīngguó de yīng “My name is Jiāyīng, the Jia of Jialing River and the Ying in England”.


The problem of homonyms also exists but is less severe in southern Chinese varieties like Cantonese and Taiwanese, which preserved more of the rimes of Middle Chinese. For instance, the previous examples of for “stimulated”, “chicken”, and “machine” have distinct pronunciations in Cantonese (romanized using jyutping): gik1, gai1, and gei1, respectively. For this reason, southern varieties tend to employ fewer multisyllabic words. In the study of phonology in linguistics, the rime or rhyme of a syllable consists of a nucleus and an optional coda. ... Jyutping (Traditional Chinese: 粵拼; Simplified Chinese: 粤拼; pinyin: yuèpÄ«n; Yale: yuhtpÄ«ng; Jyutping: jyut6ping3; sometimes spelled Jyutpin) is a romanization system for Standard Cantonese developed by the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong (LSHK) in 1993. ...


There are a few morphemes in Chinese, many of them loanwords, that consist of more than one syllable. These words cannot be further divided into single-syllable meaningful units, however in writing each syllable is still written as separate . One example is the word for “spider”, zhīzhū, which is written as 蜘蛛. Even in this case, Chinese tend to try to make some kind of meaning out of the constituent syllables. For this reason, the two characters and each have an associated meaning of “spider” when seen alone as individual characters. When spoken though, they can never occur apart.


See also

Demographics of China, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands. ... The population of Hong Kong increased steadily over the last decade of the 1990s, reaching about 7. ... Macaus population is 95% Chinese, primarily Cantonese and some Hakka, both from nearby Guangdong Province. ... Ethnic distribution chart. ... Map of Linguistic Groups (showing arees under effective control of the Peoples Republic of China (including Hong Kong and Macau) and Republic of China combined) Chinas many different ethnic groups speak many different languages, collectively called Zhōngguó YÇ”wén (中国语文), literally Speech and writing of China which... The following is a list of major Chinese dialects. ... In Mandarin: minxi (ethnic lineages) or zuqun (ethnic groups). ... Chinese (written) language (pinyin: zhōngwén) written in Chinese characters The Chinese language (汉语/漢語, 华语/華語, or 中文; Pinyin: Hànyǔ, Huáyǔ, or Zhōngwén) is a member of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. ...

References

  • DeFrancis, John. 1990. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1068-6
  • Hannas, William. C. 1997. Asia's Orthographic Dilemma. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1892-X (paperback); ISBN 0-8248-1842-3 (hardcover)

External links


It has been suggested that China Daily Hong Kong Edition be merged into this article or section. ... November 19 is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

[edit] Chinese: spoken varieties  
Categories:

Gan | Hakka | Hui | Jin | Mandarin | Min | Ping | Xiang | Wu | Cantonese
Danzhouhua | Shaozhou Tuhua Gan (赣语) is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese, concentrated in and typical of Jiangxi Province. ... Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 客家话, Traditional Chinese: 客家話, Hakka: Hak-ka-fa/-va, pinyin: Kèjiāhuà) is a Chinese dialect/language spoken predominantly in southern China by the Hakka ethnic group and descendants in diaspora throughout East and Southeast Asia and around the world. ... The Hui (徽) dialects are unrelated to the Hui (回) ethnic group of China. ... Jin (simplified: 晋语; traditional: 晉語; pinyin: jìnyǔ), or Jin-yu, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Mandarin, or Beifanghua (Chinese: 北方話; Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà; literally Northern Dialect(s)), or Guanhua (Traditional Chinese: 官話; Simplified Chinese: 官话; Pinyin: Guānhuà; literally official speech) is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. ... Min (閩方言 in pinyin: min3 fang1 yan2) is a general term for a group of dialects of the Chinese language spoken in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian as well as by migrants from this province in Guangdong (around Chaozhou-Swatou, and Leizhou peninsula), Hainan, three counties in... Pinghua (平話/平话), also Guangxi Nanning, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Xiang (湘語/湘语), also Hunan, Hunanese, or Hsiang, is a subdivision of spoken Chinese. ... Wu (吳方言 pinyin wú fāng yán; 吳語 pinyin wú yÇ” lumazi wu niu(nyu)) is one of the major divisions of the Chinese language. ... Cantonese (Traditional Chinese: 粵語; Simplified Chinese: 粤语]], Cantonese: Yuet6yue5; Mandarin pinyin: YuèyÇ”, lit. ... Danzhouhua (hua = language) 儋州話 / 儋州话 is an unclassified Chinese dialect spoken in the area of Danzhou on the island Hainan. ... Shaozhou Tuhua ( 韶州土話 / 韶州土话 ) is an unclassified Chinese language spoken in the border region of the provinces Guangdong, Hunan and Guangxi. ...

Subcategories of Min: Min Bei | Min Dong | Min Nan | Min Zhong | Puxian | Qiongwen | Shaojiang
Subcategories of Mandarin: Northeastern | Beijing | Ji-Lu | Jiao-Liao | Zhongyuan | Lan-Yin | Southwestern | Jianghuai | Dungan
Note: The above is only one classification scheme among many.
The categories in italics are not universally acknowledged to be independent categories.
Comprehensive list of Chinese dialects
Official spoken varieties: Standard Mandarin | Standard Cantonese
Historical phonology: Old Chinese | Middle Chinese | Proto-Min | Proto-Mandarin | Haner
Chinese: written varieties
Official written varieties: Classical Chinese | Vernacular Chinese
Other varieties: Written Vernacular Cantonese

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