Chinese language

After applying the linguistic comparative method to the database of comparative linguistic data developed by Laurent Sagart in 2019 to identify sound correspondences and establish cognates, phylogenetic methods are used to infer relationships among these languages and estimate the age of their origin and homeland.
The Tripitaka Koreana, a Korean collection of the Chinese Buddhist canon
Range of Chinese dialect groups in China Mainland and Taiwan according to the Language Atlas of China
"Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion" by Wang Xizhi, written in semi-cursive style
永 (meaning "forever") is often used to illustrate the eight basic types of strokes of Chinese characters.
"National language" (國語/国语; Guóyǔ) written in Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters, followed by various romanizations.
Yang Lingfu, former curator of the National Museum of China, giving Chinese language instruction at the Civil Affairs Staging Area in 1945.

Written in simplified/traditional/pinyin order.

- Chinese language

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Old Chinese

Shang dynasty oracle bone script on an ox scapula
Seal script on bamboo strips from the Warring States period

Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese.

Standard Chinese

Dialect of Mandarin Chinese that emerged as the lingua franca among speakers of Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese in the 20th century.

Zhongguo Guanhua, or Medii Regni Communis Loquela ("Middle Kingdom's Common Speech"), used on the frontispiece of an early Chinese grammar published by Étienne Fourmont (with Arcadio Huang) in 1742
Distribution of Mandarin subgroups in mainland China, as of 1987
Distribution of Chinese dialect groups, including Mandarin (light brown), as of 1987
A poster outside a high school in Yangzhou urges people to "Speak Putonghua to welcome guests from all around, use the language of the civilized (Putonghua) to give your sincere feelings".
Relative pitch contours of the four full tones

It is designated as the official language of mainland China and a major language in the United Nations, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Sino-Tibetan languages

Family of more than 400 languages, second only to Indo-European in number of native speakers.

Ancient Chinese text on bamboo strips
Old Tibetan text found at Turfan

It was cited together with the lack of reconstructable shared morphology, and evidence that much shared lexical material has been borrowed from Chinese into Tibeto-Burman, by Christopher Beckwith, one of the few scholars still arguing that Chinese is not related to Tibeto-Burman.

Varieties of Chinese

Traditional Chinese syllable structure
A school in Guangdong with writing "Please speak Standard Chinese. Please write standard characters" on the wall.

Chinese, also known as Sinitic, is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family consisting of hundreds of local varieties, many of which are not mutually intelligible.

Cantonese

Language within the Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages originating from the city of Guangzhou (historically known as Canton) and its surrounding area in Southeastern China.

Chinese dictionary from the Tang dynasty. Modern Cantonese pronunciation preserves almost all terminal consonants (-m, -n, -ng, -p, -t, -k) from Middle Chinese.
Distribution of Yue Chinese languages in Southeastern China. Standard Cantonese and closely related dialects are highlighted in pink.
Street in Chinatown, San Francisco. Cantonese has traditionally been the dominant Chinese variant among Chinese populations in the Western world.

The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English, as defined in the Hong Kong Basic Law.

Gan Chinese

Group of Sinitic languages spoken natively by many people in the Jiangxi province of China, as well as significant populations in surrounding regions such as Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, and Fujian.

The area coloured in light yellow shows the Gan-speaking region in the PRC.
The main areas of Gan languages in Mainland China.

Like all other varieties of Chinese, there is a large amount of mutual unintelligibility between Gan Chinese and other varieties.

Dialect

The term dialect (from Latin, , from the Ancient Greek word , 'discourse', from , 'through' and , 'I speak') can refer to either of two distinctly different types of linguistic phenomena:

Local varieties in the West Germanic dialect continuum are oriented towards either Standard Dutch or Standard German depending on which side of the border they are spoken.
Map of the Arabic Dialects located in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
The Books of Genesis of the Ukrainian Nation by Mykola Kostomarov
Map of the Arabic Dialects located in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula

An opposite example is Chinese, whose variations such as Mandarin and Cantonese are often called dialects and not languages in China, despite their mutual unintelligibility.

Han Chinese

East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China.

The eight main dialect areas of Mandarin in Mainland China
The main varieties of Chinese in mainland China and Taiwan
Lungshan Temple of Manka in Taipei
A female servant and male advisor dressed in silk robes, ceramic figurines from the Western Han era
Map of Tang China in 742, showing the major provinces of the empire
Han Chinese man wears a queue in compliance with Manchu custom during the Qing dynasty
Zhang Zeduan's painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival captures the daily life of people from the Song dynasty at the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng.
A Song dynasty Chinese painting Night Revels of Han Xizai showing scholars in scholar's robes and musicians dressed in a Hanfu variant, 12th-century remake of a 10th-century original by Gu Hongzhong.
A traditional representation of The Vinegar Tasters, an allegorical image representing Buddhists, Confucianists, and Taoists
Map showing the expansion of Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC.

They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population and consisting of various subgroups speaking distinctive varieties of the Chinese language.

Middle Chinese

The start of the first rhyme class of the Guangyun (東 dōng "east")
The first table of the Yunjing, covering the Guangyun rhyme classes 東 dōng, 董 dǒng, 送 sòng and 屋 wū (-k in Middle Chinese)
Bernhard Karlgren
Traditional Chinese syllable structure

Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese recorded in the Qieyun, a rime dictionary first published in 601 and followed by several revised and expanded editions.

Sinitic languages

The Sinitic languages (漢語族/汉语族), often synonymous with "Chinese languages", are a group of East Asian analytic languages that constitute the major branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.

L1 speakers of Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages according to the Ethnologue
After applying the linguistic comparative method to the database of comparative linguistic data developed by Laurent Sagart in 2019 to identify sound correspondences and establish cognates, phylogenetic methods are used to infer relationships among these languages and estimate the age of their origin and homeland.

The Bai languages, whose classification is difficult, may be an offshoot of Old Chinese and thus Sinitic; otherwise Sinitic is defined only by the many varieties of Chinese unified by a common writing system, and usage of the term "Sinitic" may reflect the linguistic view that Chinese constitutes a family of distinct languages, rather than variants of a single language.