Chinese Language

Most natural languages are actually pairs of closely corresponding written and spoken languages. The Chinese language group consists of a written language based on the Han logographic script, and several spoken languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, etc.

For political reasons, categorising Chinese as a group of languages causes some people to get upset. Nevertheless, the spoken languages cannot be accurately characterised simply as dialects, since they are not mutually intelligible.

The written language was subject to a series of orthographic reforms in the 1950s and 60s ( The result of these reforms, SimplifiedChinese?, is used in mainland China (PeoplesRepublicOfChina?), while the original language, TraditionalChinese?, is used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas.


''One of the great trick questions in linguistics. What we call Chinese "dialects" are actually separate languages. Two of the major languages are Mandarin, the official spoken language of China, and Cantonese, centered in the South, notably in Hong Kong. Some Chinese-Americans have learned one of the non-official languages (or "dialect") from their family and cannot speak or understand Mandarin at all.

On the flip side, some "languages", such as Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are actually dialects of each other, understandable by native speakers. Although there are regional differences, they are somewhat like the differences between American and British English (although some linguists argue that Scots English should be properly classified as a separate language!) Political situations such as the one in China and Scandinavia have led to the famous saying "A language is a dialect with an army."''

Also read although the mutual intelligibilty of Chinese writing is not as simple as the author makes out.

Having multiple languanges does not serve to fracture the identity of Chinese people as being Chinese people. Compare this to for example English/French speakers in Canada. That is why the distinction between language and dialect is unimportant with respect to languages/dialects spoken in China.

Chinese characters are beautiful. Anyone who has ever learned Chinese to a sufficient degree (say, speaking plus 1000-1500 characters) will agree. The 'simplification' of Chinese characters continues to be one of the Chinese communist party's worst legacies from the 'cultural revolution.' Please, it's much more than an orthographic reform.


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