Chinese language

Chinese (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語; pinyin: Hànyǔ; literally: 'Han language'; or especially though not exclusively for written Chinese: 中文; Zhōngwén; 'Chinese writing') is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people (around 16% of the world's population) speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

The varieties of Chinese are usually described by native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, but linguists note that they are as diverse as a language family.[b] The internal diversity of Chinese has been likened to that of the Romance languages, but may be even more varied. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken by far is Mandarin (about 960 million, e.g. Southwestern Mandarin), followed by Wu (80 million, e.g. Shanghainese), Min (70 million, e.g. Southern Min), Yue (60 million, e.g. Cantonese), etc. Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, and even dialect groups within Min Chinese may not be mutually intelligible. Some, however, like Xiang and certain Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and a certain degree of intelligibility. All varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic.

Standard Chinese (Pǔtōnghuà/Guóyǔ/Huáyǔ) is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. It is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The written form of the standard language (中文; Zhōngwén), based on the logograms known as Chinese characters (汉字/漢字; Hànzì), is shared by literate speakers of otherwise unintelligible dialects.

The earliest Chinese written records are Shang dynasty-era oracle inscriptions, which can be traced back to 1250 BCE. The phonetic categories of Archaic Chinese can be reconstructed from the rhymes of ancient poetry. During the Northern and Southern dynasties period, Middle Chinese went through several sound changes and split into several varieties following prolonged geographic and political separation. Qieyun, a rime dictionary, recorded a compromise between the pronunciations of different regions. The royal courts of the Ming and early Qing dynasties operated using a koiné language (Guanhua) based on Nanjing dialect of Lower Yangtze Mandarin. Standard Chinese was adopted in the 1930s, and is now the official language of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Chinese
汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ or 中文 Zhōngwén
Chineselanguage
Hànyǔ (Chinese) written in traditional (top), simplified (middle) characters and alternative name (bottom)
Native toPeople's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan)
EthnicityChinese (Han)
Native speakers
1.2 billion (2004)[1]
Early forms
Standard forms
Dialects
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese

Transcriptions:
Zhuyin
Pinyin (Latin)
Xiao'erjing (Arabic)
Dungan (Cyrillic)
Chinese Braille
'Phags-pa script (Historical)
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byNational Commission on Language and Script Work (Mainland China)[2]
National Languages Committee (Taiwan)
Civil Service Bureau (Hong Kong)
Promote Mandarin Council (Singapore)
Chinese Language Standardisation Council (Malaysia)
Language codes
ISO 639-1zh
ISO 639-2chi (B)
zho (T)
ISO 639-3zhoinclusive code
Individual codes:
cdo – Min Dong
cjy – Jinyu
cmn – Mandarin
cpx – Pu Xian
czh – Huizhou
czo – Min Zhong
gan – Gan
hak – Hakka
hsn – Xiang
mnp – Min Bei
nan – Min Nan
wuu – Wu
yue – Yue
och – Old Chinese
ltc – Late Middle Chinese
lzh – Classical Chinese
Glottologsini1245
Linguasphere79-AAA
New-Map-Sinophone World
Map of the Sinophone world

Legend:

  Countries where Chinese is a primary, administrative or native language
  Countries with more than 5,000,000 Chinese speakers
  Countries with more than 1,000,000 Chinese speakers
  Countries with more than 500,000 Chinese speakers
  Countries with more than 100,000 Chinese speakers
  Major Chinese-speaking settlements
Chinese language(s) (general/spoken)
Literal meaningHan language
Chinese language (written)
Literal meaningMiddle/Central/Chinese text

Classification

Most linguists classify all varieties of Chinese as part of the Sino-Tibetan language family, together with Burmese, Tibetan and many other languages spoken in the Himalayas and the Southeast Asian Massif.[4] Although the relationship was first proposed in the early 19th century and is now broadly accepted, reconstruction of Sino-Tibetan is much less developed than that of families such as Indo-European or Austroasiatic. Difficulties have included the great diversity of the languages, the lack of inflection in many of them, and the effects of language contact. In addition, many of the smaller languages are spoken in mountainous areas that are difficult to reach, and are often also sensitive border zones.[5] Without a secure reconstruction of proto-Sino-Tibetan, the higher-level structure of the family remains unclear.[6] A top-level branching into Chinese and Tibeto-Burman languages is often assumed, but has not been convincingly demonstrated.[7]

History

The first written records appeared over 3,000 years ago during the Shang dynasty. As the language evolved over this period, the various local varieties became mutually unintelligible. In reaction, central governments have repeatedly sought to promulgate a unified standard.[8]

Old and Middle Chinese

The earliest examples of Chinese are divinatory inscriptions on oracle bones from around 1250 BCE in the late Shang dynasty.[9] Old Chinese was the language of the Western Zhou period (1046–771 BCE), recorded in inscriptions on bronze artifacts, the Classic of Poetry and portions of the Book of Documents and I Ching.[10] Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese by comparing later varieties of Chinese with the rhyming practice of the Classic of Poetry and the phonetic elements found in the majority of Chinese characters.[11] Although many of the finer details remain unclear, most scholars agree that Old Chinese differs from Middle Chinese in lacking retroflex and palatal obstruents but having initial consonant clusters of some sort, and in having voiceless nasals and liquids.[12] Most recent reconstructions also describe an atonal language with consonant clusters at the end of the syllable, developing into tone distinctions in Middle Chinese.[13] Several derivational affixes have also been identified, but the language lacks inflection, and indicated grammatical relationships using word order and grammatical particles.[14]

Middle Chinese was the language used during Northern and Southern dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties (6th through 10th centuries CE). It can be divided into an early period, reflected by the Qieyun rime book (601 CE), and a late period in the 10th century, reflected by rhyme tables such as the Yunjing constructed by ancient Chinese philologists as a guide to the Qieyun system.[15] These works define phonological categories, but with little hint of what sounds they represent.[16] Linguists have identified these sounds by comparing the categories with pronunciations in modern varieties of Chinese, borrowed Chinese words in Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean, and transcription evidence.[17] The resulting system is very complex, with a large number of consonants and vowels, but they are probably not all distinguished in any single dialect. Most linguists now believe it represents a diasystem encompassing 6th-century northern and southern standards for reading the classics.[18]

Classical and literary forms

The relationship between spoken and written Chinese is rather complex. Its spoken varieties have evolved at different rates, while written Chinese itself has changed much less. Classical Chinese literature began in the Spring and Autumn period.

Rise of northern dialects

After the fall of the Northern Song dynasty, and during the reign of the Jin (Jurchen) and Yuan (Mongol) dynasties in northern China, a common speech (now called Old Mandarin) developed based on the dialects of the North China Plain around the capital.[19] The Zhongyuan Yinyun (1324) was a dictionary that codified the rhyming conventions of new sanqu verse form in this language.[20] Together with the slightly later Menggu Ziyun, this dictionary describes a language with many of the features characteristic of modern Mandarin dialects.[21]

Up to the early 20th century, most of the people in China spoke only their local variety.[22] As a practical measure, officials of the Ming and Qing dynasties carried out the administration of the empire using a common language based on Mandarin varieties, known as Guānhuà (官话/官話, literally "language of officials").[23] For most of this period, this language was a koiné based on dialects spoken in the Nanjing area, though not identical to any single dialect.[24] By the middle of the 19th century, the Beijing dialect had become dominant and was essential for any business with the imperial court.[25]

In the 1930s a standard national language Guóyǔ (国语/國語 "national language") was adopted. After much dispute between proponents of northern and southern dialects and an abortive attempt at an artificial pronunciation, the National Language Unification Commission finally settled on the Beijing dialect in 1932. The People's Republic founded in 1949 retained this standard, calling it pǔtōnghuà (普通话/普通話 "common speech").[26] The national language is now used in education, the media, and formal situations in both Mainland China and Taiwan.[27] In Hong Kong and Macau, because of their colonial and linguistic history, the language used in education, the media, formal speech, and everyday life remains the local Cantonese, although the standard language has become very influential and is being taught in schools.[28]

Influence

Tripitaka Koreana
The Tripitaka Koreana, a Korean collection of the Chinese Buddhist canon

The Chinese language has spread to neighbouring countries through a variety of means. Northern Vietnam was incorporated into the Han empire in 111 BCE, marking the beginning of a period of Chinese control that ran almost continuously for a millennium. The Four Commanderies were established in northern Korea in the first century BCE, but disintegrated in the following centuries.[29] Chinese Buddhism spread over East Asia between the 2nd and 5th centuries CE, and with it the study of scriptures and literature in Literary Chinese.[30] Later Korea, Japan, and Vietnam developed strong central governments modeled on Chinese institutions, with Literary Chinese as the language of administration and scholarship, a position it would retain until the late 19th century in Korea and (to a lesser extent) Japan, and the early 20th century in Vietnam.[31] Scholars from different lands could communicate, albeit only in writing, using Literary Chinese.[32]

Although they used Chinese solely for written communication, each country had its own tradition of reading texts aloud, the so-called Sino-Xenic pronunciations. Chinese words with these pronunciations were also extensively imported into the Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese languages, and today comprise over half of their vocabularies.[33] This massive influx led to changes in the phonological structure of the languages, contributing to the development of moraic structure in Japanese[34] and the disruption of vowel harmony in Korean.[35]

Borrowed Chinese morphemes have been used extensively in all these languages to coin compound words for new concepts, in a similar way to the use of Latin and Ancient Greek roots in European languages.[36] Many new compounds, or new meanings for old phrases, were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to name Western concepts and artifacts. These coinages, written in shared Chinese characters, have then been borrowed freely between languages. They have even been accepted into Chinese, a language usually resistant to loanwords, because their foreign origin was hidden by their written form. Often different compounds for the same concept were in circulation for some time before a winner emerged, and sometimes the final choice differed between countries.[37] The proportion of vocabulary of Chinese origin thus tends to be greater in technical, abstract, or formal language. For example, in Japan, Sino-Japanese words account for about 35% of the words in entertainment magazines, over half the words in newspapers, and 60% of the words in science magazines.[38]

Vietnam, Korea, and Japan each developed writing systems for their own languages, initially based on Chinese characters, but later replaced with the Hangul alphabet for Korean and supplemented with kana syllabaries for Japanese, while Vietnamese continued to be written with the complex Chữ nôm script. However, these were limited to popular literature until the late 19th century. Today Japanese is written with a composite script using both Chinese characters (Kanji) and kana. Korean is written exclusively with Hangul in North Korea, and supplementary Chinese characters (Hanja) are increasingly rarely used in South Korea. Vietnamese is written with a Latin-based alphabet.

Examples of loan words in English include "tea", from Hokkien (Min Nan) (), "dim sum", from Cantonese dim2 sam1 and "kumquat", from Cantonese gam1gwat1 (金橘).

Varieties

Map of sinitic languages full-en
Range of Chinese dialect groups according to the Language Atlas of China[39]

Jerry Norman estimated that there are hundreds of mutually unintelligible varieties of Chinese.[40] These varieties form a dialect continuum, in which differences in speech generally become more pronounced as distances increase, though the rate of change varies immensely.[41] Generally, mountainous South China exhibits more linguistic diversity than the North China Plain. In parts of South China, a major city's dialect may only be marginally intelligible to close neighbors. For instance, Wuzhou is about 120 miles (190 km) upstream from Guangzhou, but the Yue variety spoken there is more like that of Guangzhou than is that of Taishan, 60 miles (95 km) southwest of Guangzhou and separated from it by several rivers.[42] In parts of Fujian the speech of neighboring counties or even villages may be mutually unintelligible.[43]

Until the late 20th century, Chinese emigrants to Southeast Asia and North America came from southeast coastal areas, where Min, Hakka, and Yue dialects are spoken.[44] The vast majority of Chinese immigrants to North America spoke the Taishan dialect, from a small coastal area southwest of Guangzhou.[45]

Grouping

Proportions of first-language speakers[1]

  Mandarin (66.2%)
  Min (6.2%)
  Wu (6.1%)
  Jin (5.2%)
  Yue (4.9%)
  Gan (4.0%)
  Hakka (3.5%)
  Xiang (3.0%)
  Huizhou (0.3%)
  Pinghua, others (0.6%)

Local varieties of Chinese are conventionally classified into seven dialect groups, largely on the basis of the different evolution of Middle Chinese voiced initials:[46][47]

The classification of Li Rong, which is used in the Language Atlas of China (1987), distinguishes three further groups:[39][48]

  • Jin, previously included in Mandarin.
  • Huizhou, previously included in Wu.
  • Pinghua, previously included in Yue.

Some varieties remain unclassified, including Danzhou dialect (spoken in Danzhou, on Hainan Island), Waxianghua (spoken in western Hunan) and Shaozhou Tuhua (spoken in northern Guangdong).[49]

Standard Chinese

Standard Chinese, often called Mandarin, is the official standard language of China and Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore (where it is called "Huáyŭ" 华语 or simply Chinese). Standard Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect, the dialect of Mandarin as spoken in Beijing. The governments of both China and Taiwan intend for speakers of all Chinese speech varieties to use it as a common language of communication. Therefore, it is used in government agencies, in the media, and as a language of instruction in schools.

In mainland China and Taiwan, diglossia has been a common feature. For example, in addition to Standard Chinese, a resident of Shanghai might speak Shanghainese; and, if he or she grew up elsewhere, then he or she is also likely to be fluent in the particular dialect of that local area. A native of Guangzhou may speak both Cantonese and Standard Chinese. In addition to Mandarin, most Taiwanese also speak Minnan, Hakka, or an Austronesian language.[50] A Taiwanese may commonly mix pronunciations, phrases, and words from Mandarin and other Taiwanese languages, and this mixture is considered normal in daily or informal speech.[51]

Nomenclature

The official Chinese designation for the major branches of Chinese is fāngyán (方言, literally "regional speech"), whereas the more closely related varieties within these are called dìdiǎn fāngyán (地点方言/地點方言 "local speech").[52] Conventional English-language usage in Chinese linguistics is to use dialect for the speech of a particular place (regardless of status) and dialect group for a regional grouping such as Mandarin or Wu.[40] Because varieties from different groups are not mutually intelligible, some scholars prefer to describe Wu and others as separate languages.[53] Jerry Norman called this practice misleading, pointing out that Wu, which itself contains many mutually unintelligible varieties, could not be properly called a single language under the same criterion, and that the same is true for each of the other groups.[40]

Mutual intelligibility is considered by some linguists to be the main criterion for determining whether varieties are separate languages or dialects of a single language,[54] although others do not regard it as decisive,[55][56][57][58][59] particularly when cultural factors interfere as they do with Chinese.[60] As Campbell (2008) explains, linguists often ignore mutual intelligibility when varieties share intelligibility with a central variety (i.e. prestige variety, such as Standard Mandarin), as the issue requires some careful handling when mutual intelligibility is inconsistent with language identity.[61] John DeFrancis argues that it is inappropriate to refer to Mandarin, Wu and so on as "dialects" because the mutual unintelligibility between them is too great. On the other hand, he also objects to considering them as separate languages, as it incorrectly implies a set of disruptive "religious, economic, political, and other differences" between speakers that exist, for example, between French Catholics and English Protestants in Canada, but not between speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin in China, owing to China's near-uninterrupted history of centralized government.[62]

Because of the difficulties involved in determining the difference between language and dialect, other terms have been proposed: ISO 639-3 follows Ethnologue in assigning individual language codes to the 13 main subdivisions, while Chinese as a whole is classified as a 'macrolanguage'.[63] Other options include vernacular,[64] lect [65] regionalect,[52] topolect,[66] and variety.[67]

Most Chinese people consider the spoken varieties as one single language because speakers share a common culture and history, as well as a shared national identity and a common written form.[68] To Chinese nationalists, the idea of Chinese as a language family may suggest that the Chinese identity is much more fragmented and disunified than it actually is and as such is often looked upon as culturally and politically provocative. Additionally, in Taiwan it is closely associated with Taiwanese independence, some of whose supporters promote the local Taiwanese Hokkien variety.

Phonology

The phonological structure of each syllable consists of a nucleus that has a vowel (which can be a monophthong, diphthong, or even a triphthong in certain varieties), preceded by an onset (a single consonant, or consonant+glide; zero onset is also possible), and followed (optionally) by a coda consonant; a syllable also carries 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.

In Mandarin much more than in other spoken varieties, most syllables tend to be open syllables, meaning they have no coda (assuming that a final glide is not analyzed as a coda), but syllables that do have codas are restricted to nasals /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, the retroflex approximant /ɻ /, and voiceless stops /p/, /t/, /k/, or /ʔ/. Some varieties allow most of these codas, whereas others, such as Standard Chinese, are limited to only /n/, /ŋ/ and /ɻ /.

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, which is only about an eighth as many as English.[c]

Tones

All varieties of spoken Chinese use tones to distinguish words.[69][d] A few dialects of north China may have as few as three tones, while some dialects in south China have up to 6 or 12 tones, depending on how one 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.

A very common example used to illustrate the use of tones in Chinese is the application of the four tones of Standard Chinese (along with the neutral tone) to the syllable ma. The tones are exemplified by the following five Chinese words:

The four main tones of Standard Mandarin, pronounced with the syllable ma.

First tone (Mandarin)
Third tone (Mandarin)
Example of Standard Mandarin tones
Characters Pinyin Pitch contour Meaning
/ high level "mother"
high rising "hemp"
/ low falling-rising "horse"
/ high falling "scold"
/ ma neutral question particle

Standard Cantonese, in contrast, has six tones in open syllables and three tones in syllables ending with stops:[71]

Example of Standard Cantonese tones
Characters Jyutping Pitch contour Meaning
/ si1 high level, high falling "poem"
si2 high rising "history"
si3 mid level "to assassinate"
/ si4 low falling "time"
si5 low rising "market"
si6 low level "yes"
sik1 high level (stopped) "color"
/ sik3 mid level (stopped) "tin"
sik6 low level (stopped) "to eat"

Grammar

Chinese is often described as a "monosyllabic" language. However, this is only partially correct. It is largely accurate when describing Classical Chinese and Middle Chinese; in Classical Chinese, for example, perhaps 90% of words correspond to a single syllable and a single character. In the modern varieties, it is usually the case that a morpheme (unit of meaning) is a single syllable; In contrast, English has plenty of multi-syllable morphemes, both bound and free, such as "seven", "elephant", "para-" and "-able".

Some of the conservative southern varieties of modern Chinese have largely monosyllabic words, especially among the more basic vocabulary. In modern Mandarin, however, most nouns, adjectives and verbs are largely disyllabic. A significant cause of this is phonological attrition. Sound change over time has steadily reduced the number of possible syllables. In modern Mandarin, there are now only about 1,200 possible syllables, including tonal distinctions, compared with about 5,000 in Vietnamese (still largely monosyllabic) and over 8,000 in English.[c]

This phonological collapse has led to a corresponding increase in the number of homophones. As an example, the small Langenscheidt Pocket Chinese Dictionary[72] lists six words that are commonly pronounced as shí (tone 2): "ten"; / "real, actual"; / "know (a person), recognize"; "stone"; / "time"; "food, eat". These were all pronounced differently in Early Middle Chinese; in William H. Baxter's transcription they were dzyip, zyit, syik, dzyek, dzyi and zyik respectively. They are still pronounced differently in today's Cantonese; in Jyutping they are sap9, sat9, sik7, sek9, si4, sik9. In modern spoken Mandarin, however, tremendous ambiguity would result if all of these words could be used as-is; Yuen Ren Chao's modern poem Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den exploits this, consisting of 92 characters all pronounced shi. As such, most of these words have been replaced (in speech, if not in writing) with a longer, less-ambiguous compound. Only the first one, "ten", normally appears as such when spoken; the rest are normally replaced with, respectively, shíjì 实际/實際 (lit. "actual-connection"); rènshi 认识/認識 (lit. "recognize-know"); shítou 石头/石頭 (lit. "stone-head"); shíjiān 时间/時間 (lit. "time-interval"); shíwù 食物 (lit. "food-thing"). In each case, the homophone was disambiguated by adding another morpheme, typically either a synonym or a generic word of some sort (for example, "head", "thing"), the purpose of which is simply to indicate which of the possible meanings of the other, homophonic syllable should be selected.

However, when one of the above words forms part of a compound, the disambiguating syllable is generally dropped and the resulting word is still disyllabic. For example, shí alone, not shítou 石头/石頭, appears in compounds meaning "stone-", for example, shígāo 石膏 "plaster" (lit. "stone cream"), shíhuī 石灰 "lime" (lit. "stone dust"), shíkū 石窟 "grotto" (lit. "stone cave"), shíyīng 石英 "quartz" (lit. "stone flower"), shíyóu 石油 "petroleum" (lit. "stone oil").

Most modern varieties of Chinese have the tendency to form new words through disyllabic, trisyllabic and tetra-character compounds. In some cases, monosyllabic words have become disyllabic without compounding, as in kūlong 窟窿 from kǒng 孔; this is especially common in Jin.

Chinese morphology is strictly bound to a set number of syllables with a fairly rigid construction. Although many of these single-syllable morphemes (, ) can stand alone as individual words, they more often than not form multi-syllabic compounds, known as (/), which more closely resembles the traditional Western notion of a word. A Chinese ("word") can consist of more than one character-morpheme, usually two, but there can be three or more.

For example:

  • yún / – "cloud"
  • hànbǎobāo, hànbǎo 汉堡包/漢堡包, 汉堡/漢堡 – "hamburger"
  • – "I, me"
  • rén – "people, human, mankind"
  • dìqiú 地球 – "The Earth"
  • shǎndiàn 闪电/閃電 – "lightning"
  • mèng / – "dream"

All varieties of modern Chinese are analytic languages, in that they depend on syntax (word order and sentence structure) rather than morphology—i.e., changes in form of a word—to indicate the word's function in a sentence.[73] In other words, Chinese has very few grammatical inflections—it possesses no tenses, no voices, no numbers (singular, plural; though there are plural markers, for example for personal pronouns), and only a few articles (i.e., equivalents to "the, a, an" in English).[e]

They make heavy use of grammatical particles to indicate aspect and mood. In Mandarin Chinese, this involves the use of particles like le (perfective), hái / ("still"), yǐjīng 已经/已經 ("already"), and so on.

Chinese has a subject–verb–object word order, and like many other languages of East Asia, makes frequent use of the topic–comment construction to form sentences. Chinese also has an extensive system of classifiers and measure words, another trait shared with neighboring languages like Japanese and Korean. Other notable grammatical features common to all the spoken varieties of Chinese include the use of serial verb construction, pronoun dropping and the related subject dropping.

Although the grammars of the spoken varieties share many traits, they do possess differences.

Vocabulary

The entire Chinese character corpus since antiquity comprises well over 20,000 characters, of which only roughly 10,000 are now commonly in use. However Chinese characters should not be confused with Chinese words. Because most Chinese words are made up of two or more characters, there are many more Chinese words than characters. A more accurate equivalent for a Chinese character is the morpheme, as characters represent the smallest grammatical units with individual meanings in the Chinese language.

Estimates of the total number of Chinese words and lexicalized phrases vary greatly. The Hanyu Da Zidian, a compendium of Chinese characters, includes 54,678 head entries for characters, including bone oracle versions. The Zhonghua Zihai (1994) contains 85,568 head entries for character definitions, and is the largest reference work based purely on character and its literary variants. The CC-CEDICT project (2010) contains 97,404 contemporary entries including idioms, technology terms and names of political figures, businesses and products. The 2009 version of the Webster's Digital Chinese Dictionary (WDCD),[74] based on CC-CEDICT, contains over 84,000 entries.

The most comprehensive pure linguistic Chinese-language dictionary, the 12-volume Hanyu Da Cidian, records more than 23,000 head Chinese characters and gives over 370,000 definitions. The 1999 revised Cihai, a multi-volume encyclopedic dictionary reference work, gives 122,836 vocabulary entry definitions under 19,485 Chinese characters, including proper names, phrases and common zoological, geographical, sociological, scientific and technical terms.

The 7th (2016) edition of Xiandai Hanyu Cidian, an authoritative one-volume dictionary on modern standard Chinese language as used in mainland China, has 13,000 head characters and defines 70,000 words.

Loanwords

Like any other language, Chinese has absorbed a sizable number of loanwords from other cultures. Most Chinese words are formed out of native Chinese morphemes, including words describing imported objects and ideas. However, direct phonetic borrowing of foreign words has gone on since ancient times.

Some early Indo-European loanwords in Chinese have been proposed, notably "honey", / shī "lion," and perhaps also / "horse", / zhū "pig", quǎn "dog", and / é "goose".[f] Ancient words borrowed from along the Silk Road since Old Chinese include 葡萄 pútáo "grape", 石榴 shíliu/shíliú "pomegranate" and 狮子/獅子 shīzi "lion". Some words were borrowed from Buddhist scriptures, including "Buddha" and 菩萨/菩薩 Púsà "bodhisattva." Other words came from nomadic peoples to the north, such as 胡同 hútòng "hutong". Words borrowed from the peoples along the Silk Road, such as 葡萄 "grape," generally have Persian etymologies. Buddhist terminology is generally derived from Sanskrit or Pāli, the liturgical languages of North India. Words borrowed from the nomadic tribes of the Gobi, Mongolian or northeast regions generally have Altaic etymologies, such as 琵琶 pípá, the Chinese lute, or lào/luò "cheese" or "yoghurt", but from exactly which source is not always clear.[75]

Modern borrowings

Modern neologisms are primarily translated into Chinese in one of three ways: free translation (calque, or by meaning), phonetic translation (by sound), or a combination of the two. Today, it is much more common to use existing Chinese morphemes to coin new words in order to represent imported concepts, such as technical expressions and international scientific vocabulary. Any Latin or Greek etymologies are dropped and converted into the corresponding Chinese characters (for example, anti- typically becomes "", literally opposite), making them more comprehensible for Chinese but introducing more difficulties in understanding foreign texts. For example, the word telephone was loaned phonetically as 德律风/德律風 (Shanghainese: télífon [təlɪfoŋ], Mandarin: délǜfēng) during the 1920s and widely used in Shanghai, but later 电话/電話 diànhuà (lit. "electric speech"), built out of native Chinese morphemes, became prevalent (電話 is in fact from the Japanese 電話 denwa; see below for more Japanese loans). Other examples include 电视/電視 diànshì (lit. "electric vision") for television, 电脑/電腦 diànnǎo (lit. "electric brain") for computer; 手机/手機 shǒujī (lit. "hand machine") for mobile phone, 蓝牙/藍牙 lányá (lit. "blue tooth") for Bluetooth, and 网志/網誌 wǎngzhì (lit. "internet logbook") for blog in Hong Kong and Macau Cantonese. Occasionally half-transliteration, half-translation compromises are accepted, such as 汉堡包/漢堡包 hànbǎobāo (漢堡 hànbǎo "Hamburg" + bāo "bun") for "hamburger". Sometimes translations are designed so that they sound like the original while incorporating Chinese morphemes (phono-semantic matching), such as 拖拉机/拖拉機 tuōlājī "tractor" (lit. "dragging-pulling machine"), or 马利奥/馬利奧 Mǎlì'ào for the video game character Mario. This is often done for commercial purposes, for example 奔腾/奔騰 bēnténg (lit. "dashing-leaping") for Pentium and 赛百味/賽百味 Sàibǎiwèi (lit. "better-than hundred tastes") for Subway restaurants.

Foreign words, mainly proper nouns, continue to enter the Chinese language by transcription according to their pronunciations. This is done by employing Chinese characters with similar pronunciations. For example, "Israel" becomes 以色列 Yǐsèliè, "Paris" becomes 巴黎 Bālí. A rather small number of direct transliterations have survived as common words, including 沙发/沙發 shāfā "sofa", 马达/馬達 mǎdá "motor", 幽默 yōumò "humor", 逻辑/邏輯 luóji/luójí "logic", 时髦/時髦 shímáo "smart, fashionable", and 歇斯底里 xiēsīdǐlǐ "hysterics". The bulk of these words were originally coined in the Shanghai dialect during the early 20th century and were later loaned into Mandarin, hence their pronunciations in Mandarin may be quite off from the English. For example, 沙发/沙發 "sofa" and 马达/馬達 "motor" in Shanghainese sound more like their English counterparts. Cantonese differs from Mandarin with some transliterations, such as 梳化 so1 faa3*2 "sofa" and 摩打 mo1 daa2 "motor".

Western foreign words representing Western concepts have influenced Chinese since the 20th century through transcription. From French came 芭蕾 bālěi "ballet" and 香槟 xiāngbīn, "champagne"; from Italian, 咖啡 kāfēi "caffè". English influence is particularly pronounced. From early 20th century Shanghainese, many English words are borrowed, such as 高尔夫/高爾夫 gāoěrfū "golf" and the above-mentioned 沙发/沙發 shāfā "sofa". Later, the United States soft influences gave rise to 迪斯科 dísikē/dísīkē "disco", 可乐/可樂 kělè "cola", and 迷你 mínǐ "mini [skirt]". Contemporary colloquial Cantonese has distinct loanwords from English, such as 卡通 kaa1 tung1 "cartoon", 基佬 gei1 lou2 "gay people", 的士 dik1 si6*2 "taxi", and 巴士 baa1 si6*2 "bus". With the rising popularity of the Internet, there is a current vogue in China for coining English transliterations, for example, 粉丝/粉絲 fěnsī "fans", 黑客 hēikè "hacker" (lit. "black guest"), and 博客 bókè "blog". In Taiwan, some of these transliterations are different, such as 駭客 hàikè for "hacker" and 部落格 bùluògé for "blog" (lit. "interconnected tribes").

Another result of the English influence on Chinese is the appearance in Modern Chinese texts of so-called 字母词/字母詞 zìmǔcí (lit. "lettered words") spelled with letters from the English alphabet. This has appeared in magazines, newspapers, on web sites, and on TV: 三G手机/三G手機 "3rd generation cell phones" ( sān "three" + G "generation" + 手机/手機 shǒujī "mobile phones"), IT界 "IT circles" (IT "information technology" + jiè "industry"), HSK (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì, 汉语水平考试/漢語水平考試), GB (Guóbiāo, 国标/國標), CIF价/CIF價 (CIF "Cost, Insurance, Freight" + / jià "price"), e家庭 "e-home" (e "electronic" + 家庭 jiātíng "home"), Chinese: W时代/Chinese: W時代 "wireless era" (W "wireless" + 时代/時代 shídài "era"), TV族 "TV watchers" (TV "television" + "social group; clan"), 后РС时代/後PC時代 "post-PC era" (/ hòu "after/post-" + PC "personal computer" + 时代/時代), and so on.

Since the 20th century, another source of words has been Japanese using existing kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese). Japanese re-molded European concepts and inventions into wasei-kango (和製漢語, lit. "Japanese-made Chinese"), and many of these words have been re-loaned into modern Chinese. Other terms were coined by the Japanese by giving new senses to existing Chinese terms or by referring to expressions used in classical Chinese literature. For example, jīngjì (经济/經濟; 経済 keizai in Japanese), which in the original Chinese meant "the workings of the state", was narrowed to "economy" in Japanese; this narrowed definition was then re-imported into Chinese. As a result, these terms are virtually indistinguishable from native Chinese words: indeed, there is some dispute over some of these terms as to whether the Japanese or Chinese coined them first. As a result of this loaning, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese share a corpus of linguistic terms describing modern terminology, paralleling the similar corpus of terms built from Greco-Latin and shared among European languages.

Writing system

The Chinese orthography centers on Chinese characters, which are written within imaginary square blocks, traditionally arranged in vertical columns, read from top to bottom down a column, and right to left across columns. Chinese characters denote morphemes independent of phonetic change. Thus the character ("one") is uttered in Standard Chinese, yat1 in Cantonese and it in Hokkien (form of Min). Vocabularies from different major Chinese variants have diverged, and colloquial nonstandard written Chinese often makes use of unique "dialectal characters", such as and for Cantonese and Hakka, which are considered archaic or unused in standard written Chinese.

Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in online chat rooms and instant messaging amongst Hong-Kongers and Cantonese-speakers elsewhere. It is considered highly informal, and does not extend to many formal occasions.

The Chinese had no uniform phonetic transcription system until the mid-20th century, although enunciation patterns were recorded in early rime books and dictionaries. Early Indian translators, working in Sanskrit and Pali, were the first to attempt to describe the sounds and enunciation patterns of Chinese in a foreign language. After the 15th century, the efforts of Jesuits and Western court missionaries resulted in some rudimentary Latin transcription systems, based on the Nanjing Mandarin dialect.

In Hunan, women in certain areas write their local language in Nü Shu, a syllabary derived from Chinese characters. The Dungan language, considered by many a dialect of Mandarin, is nowadays written in Cyrillic, and was previously written in the Arabic script. The Dungan people are primarily Muslim and live mainly in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia; some of the related Hui people also speak the language and live mainly in China.

Chinese characters

Each Chinese character represents a monosyllabic Chinese word or morpheme. In 100 CE, the famed Han dynasty scholar Xu Shen classified characters into six categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters. Of these, only 4% were categorized as pictographs, including many of the simplest characters, such as rén (human), (sun), shān (mountain; hill), shuǐ (water). Between 80% and 90% were classified as phonetic compounds such as chōng (pour), combining a phonetic component zhōng (middle) with a semantic radical (water). Almost all characters created since have been made using this format. The 18th-century Kangxi Dictionary recognized 214 radicals.

Modern characters are styled after the regular script. Various other written styles are also used in Chinese calligraphy, including seal script, cursive script and clerical script. Calligraphy artists can write in traditional and simplified characters, but they tend to use traditional characters for traditional art.

There are currently two systems for Chinese characters. The traditional system, used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Chinese speaking communities (except Singapore and Malaysia) outside mainland China, takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty. The Simplified Chinese character system, introduced by the People's Republic of China in 1954 to promote mass literacy, simplifies most complex traditional glyphs to fewer strokes, many to common cursive shorthand variants.

Singapore, which has a large Chinese community, was the second nation to officially adopt simplified characters, although it has also become the de facto standard for younger ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. The Internet provides the platform to practice reading these alternative systems, be it traditional or simplified.

A well-educated Chinese reader today recognizes approximately 4,000 to 6,000 characters; approximately 3,000 characters are required to read a Mainland newspaper. The PRC government defines literacy amongst workers as a knowledge of 2,000 characters, though this would be only functional literacy. School-children typically learn around 2,000 characters whereas scholars may memorize up to 10,000.[76] A large unabridged dictionary, like the Kangxi Dictionary, contains over 40,000 characters, including obscure, variant, rare, and archaic characters; fewer than a quarter of these characters are now commonly used.

Romanization

Gwoyu
"National language" (國語/国语; Guóyǔ) written in Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters, followed by various romanizations.

Romanization is the process of transcribing a language into the Latin script. There are many systems of romanization for the Chinese varieties, due to the lack of a native phonetic transcription until modern times. Chinese is first known to have been written in Latin characters by Western Christian missionaries in the 16th century.

Today the most common romanization standard for Standard Chinese is Hanyu Pinyin, often known simply as pinyin, introduced in 1956 by the People's Republic of China, and later adopted by Singapore and Taiwan. Pinyin is almost universally employed now for teaching standard spoken Chinese in schools and universities across America, Australia and Europe. Chinese parents also use Pinyin to teach their children the sounds and tones of new words. In school books that teach Chinese, the Pinyin romanization is often shown below a picture of the thing the word represents, with the Chinese character alongside.

The second-most common romanization system, the Wade–Giles, was invented by Thomas Wade in 1859 and modified by Herbert Giles in 1892. As this system approximates the phonology of Mandarin Chinese into English consonants and vowels, i.e. it is an Anglicization, it may be particularly helpful for beginner Chinese speakers of an English-speaking background. Wade–Giles was found in academic use in the United States, particularly before the 1980s, and until 2009 was widely used in Taiwan.

When used within European texts, the tone transcriptions in both pinyin and Wade–Giles are often left out for simplicity; Wade–Giles' extensive use of apostrophes is also usually omitted. Thus, most Western readers will be much more familiar with Beijing than they will be with Běijīng (pinyin), and with Taipei than T'ai²-pei³ (Wade–Giles). This simplification presents syllables as homophones which really are none, and therefore exaggerates the number of homophones almost by a factor of four.

Here are a few examples of Hanyu Pinyin and Wade–Giles, for comparison:

Mandarin Romanization Comparison
Characters Wade–Giles Hanyu Pinyin Meaning/Notes
中国/中國 Chung¹-kuo² Zhōngguó China
台湾/臺灣 T'ai²-wan¹ Táiwān Taiwan
北京 Pei³-ching¹ Běijīng Beijing
台北/臺北 T'ai²-pei³ Táiběi Taipei
毛泽东/毛澤東 Mao² Tse²-tung¹ Máo Zédōng Former Communist Chinese leader
蒋介石/蔣介石 Chiang³ Chieh⁴-shih² Jiǎng Jièshí Former Nationalist Chinese leader (better known to English speakers as Chiang Kai-shek, with Cantonese pronunciation)
孔子 K'ung³ Tsu³ Kǒngzǐ Confucius

Other systems of romanization for Chinese include Gwoyeu Romatzyh, the French EFEO, the Yale system (invented during WWII for U.S. troops), as well as separate systems for Cantonese, Min Nan, Hakka, and other Chinese varieties.

Other phonetic transcriptions

Chinese varieties have been phonetically transcribed into many other writing systems over the centuries. The 'Phags-pa script, for example, has been very helpful in reconstructing the pronunciations of premodern forms of Chinese.

Zhuyin (colloquially bopomofo), a semi-syllabary is still widely used in Taiwan's elementary schools to aid standard pronunciation. Although zhuyin characters are reminiscent of katakana script, there is no source to substantiate the claim that Katakana was the basis for the zhuyin system. A comparison table of zhuyin to pinyin exists in the zhuyin article. Syllables based on pinyin and zhuyin can also be compared by looking at the following articles:

There are also at least two systems of cyrillization for Chinese. The most widespread is the Palladius system.

As a foreign language

Chinese Language Training at CASA
Yang Lingfu, former curator of the National Museum of China, giving Chinese language instruction at the Civil Affairs Staging Area in 1945.

With the growing importance and influence of China's economy globally, Mandarin instruction is gaining popularity in schools in the United States, and has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK.[77]

In 1991 there were 2,000 foreign learners taking China's official Chinese Proficiency Test (also known as HSK, comparable to the English Cambridge Certificate), while in 2005, the number of candidates had risen sharply to 117,660.[78] By 2010, 750,000 people had taken the Chinese Proficiency Test. By 2017, 6.5 million candidates had taken the Chinese Proficiency Test of various kinds.

According to the Modern Language Association, there were 550 elementary, junior high and senior high schools providing Chinese programs in the United States in 2015, which represented a 100% increase in two years. At the same time, enrollment in Chinese language classes at college level had an increase of 51% from 2002 to 2015. On the other hand, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages also had figures suggesting that 30,000 – 50,000 students were studying Chinese in 2015.[79]

In 2016, more than half a million Chinese students pursued post-secondary education overseas, whereas 400,000 international students came to China for higher education. Tsinghua University hosted 35,000 students from 116 countries in the same year.[80]

With the increase in demand for Chinese as a second language, there are 330 institutions teaching Chinese language globally according to the Chinese Ministry of Education. The establishment of Confucius Institutes, which are the public institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Education of China, aims at promoting Chinese language and culture as well as supporting Chinese teaching overseas. There were more than 480 Confucius Institutes worldwide as of 2014.[79]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ No specific variety of Chinese is official in Hong Kong and Macau. Residents predominantly speak Cantonese and use traditional Chinese characters, the de facto regional standard. Standard Mandarin and simplified Chinese characters as the national standard are also used in some official and educational settings. The HK SAR Government promotes 两文三語 [Bi-literacy (Chinese, English) and Tri-lingualism (Cantonese, Mandarin, English)], while the Macau SAR Government promotes 三文四語 [Tri-literacy (Chinese, Portuguese, English) and Quad-lingualism (Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese, English)], especially in public education.
  2. ^ Various examples include:
    • David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 312. "The mutual unintelligibility of the varieties is the main ground for referring to them as separate languages."
    • Charles N. Li, Sandra A. Thompson. Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (1989), p. 2. "The Chinese language family is genetically classified as an independent branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family."
    • Norman (1988), p. 1. "[...] the modern Chinese dialects are really more like a family of languages [...]"
    • DeFrancis (1984), p. 56. "To call Chinese a single language composed of dialects with varying degrees of difference is to mislead by minimizing disparities that according to Chao are as great as those between English and Dutch. To call Chinese a family of languages is to suggest extralinguistic differences that in fact do not exist and to overlook the unique linguistic situation that exists in China."
    Linguists in China often use a formulation introduced by Fu Maoji in the Encyclopedia of China: “汉语在语言系属分类中相当于一个语族的地位。” ("In language classification, Chinese has a status equivalent to a language family.")[3]
  3. ^ a b DeFrancis (1984), p. 42 counts Chinese as having 1,277 tonal syllables, and about 398 to 418 if tones are disregarded; he cites Jespersen, Otto (1928) Monosyllabism in English; London, p. 15 for a count of over 8000 syllables for English.
  4. ^ A word pronounced in a wrong tone or inaccurate tone sounds as puzzling as if one said bud in English, meaning 'not good' or 'the thing one sleeps in.'"[70]
  5. ^ A distinction is made between as "he" and as "she" in writing, but this is a 20th-century introduction, and both characters are pronounced in exactly the same way.
  6. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica s.v. "Chinese languages": "Old Chinese vocabulary already contained many words not generally occurring in the other Sino-Tibetan languages. The words for 'honey' and 'lion', and probably also 'horse', 'dog', and 'goose', are connected with Indo-European and were acquired through trade and early contacts. (The nearest known Indo-European languages were Tocharian and Sogdian, a middle Iranian language.) A number of words have Austroasiatic cognates and point to early contacts with the ancestral language of Muong–Vietnamese and Mon–Khmer."; Jan Ulenbrook, Einige Übereinstimmungen zwischen dem Chinesischen und dem Indogermanischen (1967) proposes 57 items; see also Tsung-tung Chang, 1988 Indo-European Vocabulary in Old Chinese.

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012), p. 3.
  2. ^ china-language.gov.cn (in Chinese)
  3. ^ Mair (1991), pp. 10, 21.
  4. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 12–13.
  5. ^ Handel (2008), pp. 422, 434–436.
  6. ^ Handel (2008), p. 426.
  7. ^ Handel (2008), p. 431.
  8. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 183–185.
  9. ^ Schuessler (2007), p. 1.
  10. ^ Baxter (1992), pp. 2–3.
  11. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 42–45.
  12. ^ Baxter (1992), p. 177.
  13. ^ Baxter (1992), pp. 181–183.
  14. ^ Schuessler (2007), p. 12.
  15. ^ Baxter (1992), pp. 14–15.
  16. ^ Ramsey (1987), p. 125.
  17. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 34–42.
  18. ^ Norman (1988), p. 24.
  19. ^ Norman (1988), p. 48.
  20. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 48–49.
  21. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 49–51.
  22. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 133, 247.
  23. ^ Norman (1988), p. 136.
  24. ^ Coblin (2000), pp. 549–550.
  25. ^ Coblin (2000), pp. 540–541.
  26. ^ Ramsey (1987), pp. 3–15.
  27. ^ Norman (1988), p. 133.
  28. ^ Zhang & Yang (2004).
  29. ^ Sohn & Lee (2003), p. 23.
  30. ^ Miller (1967), pp. 29–30.
  31. ^ Kornicki (2011), pp. 75–77.
  32. ^ Kornicki (2011), p. 67.
  33. ^ Miyake (2004), pp. 98–99.
  34. ^ Shibatani (1990), pp. 120–121.
  35. ^ Sohn (2001), p. 89.
  36. ^ Shibatani (1990), p. 146.
  37. ^ Wilkinson (2000), p. 43.
  38. ^ Shibatani (1990), p. 143.
  39. ^ a b Wurm et al. (1987).
  40. ^ a b c Norman (2003), p. 72.
  41. ^ Norman (1988), pp. 189–190.
  42. ^ Ramsey (1987), p. 23.
  43. ^ Norman (1988), p. 188.
  44. ^ Norman (1988), p. 191.
  45. ^ Ramsey (1987), p. 98.
  46. ^ Norman (1988), p. 181.
  47. ^ Kurpaska (2010), pp. 53–55.
  48. ^ Kurpaska (2010), pp. 55–56.
  49. ^ Kurpaska (2010), pp. 72–73.
  50. ^ Klöter, Henning (2004). "Language Policy in the KMT and DPP eras". China Perspectives. 56. ISSN 1996-4617. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  51. ^ Kuo, Yun-Hsuan (2005). New dialect formation : the case of Taiwanese Mandarin (PhD). University of Essex. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  52. ^ a b DeFrancis (1984), p. 57.
  53. ^ Thomason (1988), pp. 27–28.
  54. ^ Mair (1991), p. 17.
  55. ^ DeFrancis (1984), p. 54.
  56. ^ Romaine (2000), pp. 13, 23.
  57. ^ Wardaugh & Fuller (2014), pp. 28–32.
  58. ^ Liang (2014), pp. 11–14.
  59. ^ Hymes (1971), p. 64.
  60. ^ Thomason (1988), p. 27.
  61. ^ Campbell (2008), p. 637.
  62. ^ DeFrancis (1984), pp. 55–57.
  63. ^ Lewis, Simons & Fennig (2015).
  64. ^ Haugen (1966), p. 927.
  65. ^ Bailey (1973:11), cited in Groves (2008:1)
  66. ^ Mair (1991), p. 7.
  67. ^ Hudson (1996), p. 22.
  68. ^ Baxter (1992), p. 7–8.
  69. ^ Norman (1988), p. 52.
  70. ^ Chao (1948), p. 24.
  71. ^ Matthews & Yip (1994), pp. 20–22.
  72. ^ Terrell, Peter, ed. (2005). Langenscheidt Pocket Chinese Dictionary. Berlin and Munich: Langenscheidt KG. ISBN 978-1-58573-057-5.
  73. ^ Norman (1988), p. 10.
  74. ^ Dr. Timothy Uy and Jim Hsia, Editors, Webster's Digital Chinese Dictionary – Advanced Reference Edition, July 2009
  75. ^ Kane (2006), p. 161.
  76. ^ Zimmermann, Basile (2010). "Redesigning Culture: Chinese Characters in Alphabet-Encoded Networks". Design and Culture. 2 (1).
  77. ^ "How hard is it to learn Chinese?". BBC News. January 17, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
  78. ^ (in Chinese) "汉语水平考试中心:2005年外国考生总人数近12万",Gov.cn Xinhua News Agency, January 16, 2006.
  79. ^ a b "Chinese as a second language growing in popularity". CGTN America. 2015-03-03. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  80. ^ "China is third most popular destination for international students". CGTN America. 2017-03-18. Retrieved 2017-07-29.

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Further reading

External links

Calligraphy

Calligraphy (from Greek: καλλιγραφία) is a visual art related to writing. It is the design and execution of lettering with a broad tip instrument, brush, or other writing instruments. A contemporary calligraphic practice can be defined as "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner".Modern calligraphy ranges from functional inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces where the letters may or may not be readable. Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may practice both.Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding invitations and event invitations, font design and typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, announcements, graphic design and commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions, and memorial documents. It is also used for props and moving images for film and television, and also for testimonials, birth and death certificates, maps, and other written works.

Cantonese

Cantonese is a variety of Chinese spoken in the city of Guangzhou (also known as Canton) and its surrounding area in Southeastern China. It is the traditional prestige variety and standard form of Yue Chinese, one of the major subgroups of Chinese.

In mainland China, it is the lingua franca of the province of Guangdong (being the majority language of the Pearl River Delta) and neighbouring areas such as Guangxi. It is the dominant and regional language of Hong Kong and Macau. Cantonese is also widely spoken amongst Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia (most notably in Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and Cambodia to a lesser extent) and throughout the Western world.

While the term Cantonese specifically refers to the prestige variety, it is often used in a broader sense for the entire Yue subgroup of Chinese, including related but largely mutually unintelligible languages and dialects such as Taishanese. When Cantonese and the closely related Yuehai dialects are classified together, there are about 80 million total speakers. Cantonese is viewed as a vital and inseparable part of the cultural identity for its native speakers across large swaths of Southeastern China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as in overseas communities.

Although Cantonese shares a lot of vocabulary with Mandarin, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon. Sentence structure, in particular the placement of verbs, sometimes differs between the two varieties. A notable difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is how the spoken word is written; both can be recorded verbatim, but very few Cantonese speakers are knowledgeable in the full Cantonese written vocabulary, so a non-verbatim formalized written form is adopted, which is more akin to the Mandarin written form. This results in the situation in which a Cantonese and a Mandarin text may look similar but are pronounced differently.

Chinese Wikipedia

The Chinese Wikipedia (traditional Chinese: 中文維基百科; simplified Chinese: 中文维基百科; pinyin: Zhōngwén Wéijī Bǎikē) is the Standard Chinese language edition of Wikipedia. It is run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Started on 11 May 2001, the Chinese Wikipedia currently has about 1,051,000 articles and about 2,717,000 registered users, of which 81 have administrative privileges. The Chinese Wikipedia has been blocked in Mainland China since May 2015.The Chinese Wikipedia is the fourth largest online Chinese encyclopedia after Hudong Baike (互动百科), Baidu Baike (百度百科) and Soso Baike (搜搜百科).

Chinese calendar

The traditional China calendar (officially known as the Rural Calendar [農曆; 农历; Nónglì; 'farming calendar']), or Former Calendar (舊曆; 旧历; Jiùlì), Traditional Calendar (老曆; 老历; Lǎolì) or Lunar Calendar (陰曆; 阴历; Yīnlì; 'yin calendar'), is a lunisolar calendar which reckons years, months and days according to astronomical phenomena. It is defined by GB/T 33661-2017, "Calculation and promulgation of the Chinese calendar", issued by the Standardisation Administration of China on 12 May 2017.

Although modern day China uses the Gregorian calendar, the traditional Chinese calendar governs holidays (such as the Chinese New Year) in China and in overseas Chinese communities. It lists the dates of traditional Chinese holidays and guides people in selecting auspicious days for weddings, funerals, moving, or starting a business.

Like Chinese characters, variants of this calendar are used in different parts of the Chinese cultural sphere. Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu Islands adopted the calendar, and it evolved into Korean, Vietnamese, and Ryukyuan calendars. The main difference from the traditional Chinese calendar is the use of different meridians, which leads to some astronomical events—and calendar events based on them—falling on different dates. The traditional Japanese calendar also derived from the Chinese calendar (based on a Japanese meridian), but its official use in Japan was abolished in 1873 as part of reforms after the Meiji Restoration. Calendars in Mongolia and Tibet have absorbed elements of the traditional Chinese calendar, but are not direct descendants of it.Days begin and end at midnight, and months begin on the day of the new moon. Years begin on the second (or third) new moon after the winter solstice. Solar terms govern the beginning and end of each month. Written versions in ancient China included stems and branches of the year and the names of each month, including leap months as needed. Characters indicated whether a month was long (大, 30 days) or short (小, 29 days); stem branches for the first, eleventh, and 21st days, and the date, stem branch and time of the solar terms.

Chinese people

Chinese people are the various individuals or ethnic groups associated with China, usually through ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship or other affiliation. Han Chinese, the largest ethnic group in China, at about 92% of the population, are often referred to as "Chinese" or "ethnic Chinese" in English, however there are dozens of other related and unrelated ethnic groups in China.

Chinese surname

Chinese surnames are used by Han Chinese and Sinicized ethnic groups in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames existed, namely xing (Chinese: 姓; pinyin: xìng) or clan names, and shi (Chinese: 氏; pinyin: shì) or lineage names.

Chinese family names are patrilineal, passed from father to children (in adoption, the adoptee usually also takes the same surname). Women do not normally change their surnames upon marriage, except in places with more Western influences such as Hong Kong. Traditionally Chinese surnames have been exogamous.The colloquial expressions laobaixing (老百姓; lit. "old hundred surnames") and bǎixìng (百 姓, lit. "hundred surnames") are used in Chinese to mean "ordinary folks", "the people", or "commoners".

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China refers to a series of fortifications generally built across the historical northern borders of China to protect and consolidate territories of Chinese states and empires against various nomadic groups of the steppe and their polities. Several walls were being built from as early as the 7th century BC; these were later joined together and made bigger by Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BC), the first Emperor of China. Little of that wall remains. Later on, many successive dynasties have repaired, maintained, and newly built multiple stretches of border walls. The most well-known of the walls were built during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

Apart from defense, other purposes of the Great Wall have included border controls, allowing the imposition of duties on goods transported along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. Furthermore, the defensive characteristics of the Great Wall were enhanced by the construction of watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, signaling capabilities through the means of smoke or fire, and the fact that the path of the Great Wall also served as a transportation corridor.

The frontier walls built by different dynasties have multiple courses. Collectively, they stretch from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west, from present-day Sino-Russian border in the north to Qinghai in the south; along an arc that roughly delineates the edge of Mongolian steppe. A comprehensive archaeological survey, using advanced technologies, has concluded that the walls built by the Ming dynasty measure 8,850 km (5,500 mi). This is made up of 6,259 km (3,889 mi) sections of actual wall, 359 km (223 mi) of trenches and 2,232 km (1,387 mi) of natural defensive barriers such as hills and rivers. Another archaeological survey found that the entire wall with all of its branches measures out to be 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Today, the defensive system of Great Wall is generally recognized as one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.

Mainland China

Mainland China, also known as the Chinese mainland, is the geopolitical as well as geographical area under the direct jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It includes Hainan island and strictly speaking, politically, does not include the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, even though both are partially on the geographic mainland (continental landmass).

There are two terms in Chinese for "mainland":

Dàlù (大陆; 大陸), which means "the continent", and

Nèidì (内地; 內地), literally "inland" or "inner land".In the PRC, the usage of the two terms are strictly speaking not interchangeable. To emphasize "equal footing" in Cross-Strait relations, the term must be used in official contexts with reference to Taiwan, with the PRC referring to itself as "the mainland side" (as opposed to "the Taiwan side"). But in its relations with Hong Kong and Macau, the PRC government refers to itself as "the Central People's Government", and Mainland China excluding Hong Kong and Macau is referred as Nèidì.

"Mainland area" is the opposing term to "free area of the Republic of China" used in the ROC Constitution.

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin ( (listen); simplified Chinese: 官话; traditional Chinese: 官話; pinyin: Guānhuà; literally: 'speech of officials') is a group of related varieties of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of Standard Mandarin or Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin originated in North China and most Mandarin dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as the Northern dialects (北方话; běifānghuà). Many local Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible. Nevertheless, Mandarin is often placed first in lists of languages by number of native speakers (with nearly a billion).

Mandarin is by far the largest of the seven or ten Chinese dialect groups, spoken by 70 percent of all Chinese speakers over a large geographical area, stretching from Yunnan in the southwest to Xinjiang in the northwest and Heilongjiang in the northeast. This is generally attributed to the greater ease of travel and communication in the North China Plain compared to the more mountainous south, combined with the relatively recent spread of Mandarin to frontier areas.

Most Mandarin varieties have four tones. The final stops of Middle Chinese have disappeared in most of these varieties, but some have merged them as a final glottal stop. Many Mandarin varieties, including the Beijing dialect, retain retroflex initial consonants, which have been lost in southern dialect groups.

The capital has been within the Mandarin area for most of the last millennium, making these dialects very influential. Some form of Mandarin has served as a national lingua franca since the 14th century. In the early 20th century, a standard form based on the Beijing dialect, with elements from other Mandarin dialects, was adopted as the national language. Standard Chinese is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan and one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is used as one of the working languages of the United Nations. It is also one of the most frequently used varieties of Chinese among Chinese diaspora communities internationally.

Metropolitan area

A metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as a metro area or commuter belt, is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing.

A metro area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, cities, towns, exurbs, suburbs, counties, districts, states, and even nations like the eurodistricts. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions. Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socioeconomically tied to the urban core, typically measured by commuting patterns. In the United States, the concept of the metropolitan statistical area has gained prominence.

Metropolitan areas may themselves be part of larger megalopolises.

For urban centres outside metropolitan areas, that generate a similar attraction at smaller scale for their region, the concept of the regiopolis and respectively regiopolitan area or regio was introduced by German professors in 2006. In the United States, the term micropolitan statistical area is used.

Pinyin

Hanyu Pinyin (simplified Chinese: 汉语拼音; traditional Chinese: 漢語拼音), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by many linguists, including Zhou Youguang, based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese. It was published by the Chinese government in 1958 and revised several times. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted pinyin as an international standard in 1982, and was followed by the United Nations in 1986. The system was adopted as the official standard in Taiwan in 2009, where it is used for international events rather than for educational or computer-input purposes. But "some cities, businesses, and organizations, notably in the south of Taiwan, did not accept this", so it remains one of several rival romanization systems in use.The word Hànyǔ (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語) means 'the spoken language of the Han people', while Pīnyīn (拼音) literally means 'spelled sounds'.

Provinces of China

Provincial-level administrative divisions (Chinese: 省级行政区; pinyin: shěng-jí xíngzhèngqū), or first-level administrative divisions (一级行政区; yī-jí xíngzhèngqū), are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisions, classified as 23 provinces (Chinese: 省; pinyin: shěng), four municipalities, five autonomous regions, and two Special Administrative Regions. All but Taiwan Province and a small fraction of Fujian Province (currently administered by the Republic of China) are controlled by the People's Republic of China.

Note that every province (except Hong Kong and Macau, the two special administrative regions) has a Communist Party of China provincial committee (Chinese: 省委; pinyin: shěngwěi), headed by a secretary (Chinese: 书记; pinyin: shūjì). The committee secretary is effectively in charge of the province, rather than the nominal governor of the provincial government.

Simplified Chinese characters

Simplified Chinese characters (简化字; jiǎnhuàzì) are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Republic of China (Taiwan). While traditional characters can still be read and understood by many mainland Chinese and the Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore, these groups generally retain their use of simplified characters. Overseas Chinese communities generally tend to use traditional characters.Simplified Chinese characters may be referred to by their official name above or colloquially (简体字; jiǎntǐzì). The latter refers to simplifications of character "structure" or "body", character forms that have existed for thousands of years alongside regular, more complicated forms. On the other hand, the official name refers to the modern systematically simplified character set, which (as stated by then-Chairman Mao Zedong in 1952) includes not only structural simplification but also substantial reduction in the total number of standardized Chinese characters.Simplified character forms were created by reducing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of Chinese characters. Some simplifications were based on popular cursive forms embodying graphic or phonetic simplifications of the traditional forms. Some characters were simplified by applying regular rules, for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simplified version of the component. Variant characters with the same pronunciation and identical meaning were reduced to a single standardized character, usually the simplest amongst all variants in form. Finally, many characters were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified Chinese orthographies.

Some simplified characters are very dissimilar to and unpredictably different from traditional characters, especially in those where a component is replaced by a simple symbol. This has led some opponents of simplification to complain that the 'overall process' of character simplification is arbitrary. Proponents counter that the system of simplification is straightforward and internally consistent. Proponents have also emphasized a some particular simplified characters as innovative and useful improvements, although many of these have existed for centuries as longstanding and widespread variants.A second round of simplifications was promulgated in 1977, but was later retracted in 1986 for a variety of reasons, largely due to the confusion caused and the unpopularity of the second round simplifications. However, the Chinese government never officially dropped its goal of further simplification in the future.In August 2009, the PRC began collecting public comments for a modified list of simplified characters. The new Table of General Standard Chinese Characters consisting of 8,105 (simplified and unchanged) characters was officially implemented for use by the State Council of the People's Republic of China on June 5, 2013.

Standard Chinese

Standard Chinese, also known as Modern Standard Mandarin, Standard Mandarin, Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese (MSMC), or simply Mandarin, is a standard variety of Chinese that is the sole official language of China, the de facto official language of Taiwan and also one of the four official languages of Singapore. Its pronunciation is based on the Beijing dialect, its vocabulary on the Mandarin dialects, and its grammar is based on written vernacular Chinese.

Like other varieties of Chinese, Standard Chinese is a tonal language with topic-prominent organization and subject–verb–object word order. It has more initial consonants but fewer vowels, final consonants and tones than southern varieties. Standard Chinese is an analytic language, though with many compound words.

There are two standardised forms of the language, namely Putonghua in Mainland China and Guoyu in Taiwan. Aside from a number of differences in pronunciation and vocabulary, Putonghua is written using simplified Chinese characters (plus Hanyu Pinyin romanization for teaching), and Guoyu is written using traditional Chinese characters (plus Zhuyin for teaching). Many characters are identical between the two systems.

TikTok

TikTok, also known as Douyin (Chinese: 抖音; pinyin: Dǒuyīn; literally: 'vibrating sound') in China, is an iOS and Android media app for creating and sharing short videos. The application allows users to create short music videos of 3–15 seconds and short looping videos of 3–60 seconds. It is a leading short video platform in Asia, United States, and other parts of the world.

Owned by ByteDance, the app was launched as Douyin in China in September 2016 and introduced to the overseas market as TikTok one year later. In 2018, the application gained popularity and became the most downloaded app in the U.S. in October 2018.

As of 2018, it is available in over 150 markets, and in 75 languages. In July 2018, the app had more than 500 million users globally.

Time in China

The time in China follows a single standard time offset of UTC+08:00 (eight hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time), despite China spanning five geographical time zones. The official national standard time is called Beijing Time (Chinese: 北京时间) domestically and China Standard Time (CST) internationally. Daylight saving time has not been observed since 1991.The special administrative regions (SARs) maintain their own time authorities, with standards called Hong Kong Time (香港時間) and Macau Standard Time (澳門標準時間). These have been equivalent to Beijing time since 1992.

In addition, it has been proposed during 2005's NPC & CPPCC of China that provinces in the west (such as Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Chongqing) should use the time offset of UTC+07:00. However, this proposal has not been voted upon yet.

Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters (traditional Chinese: 正體字/繁體字; simplified Chinese: 正体字/繁体字; Pinyin: Zhèngtǐzì/Fántǐzì) are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties).

The retronym "traditional Chinese" is used to contrast traditional characters with Simplified Chinese characters, a standardized character set introduced by the government of the People's Republic of China on Mainland China in the 1950s.

Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau; as well as in Overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia. In contrast, Simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia in official publications. However, several countries – such as Australia, the US and Canada – are increasing their number of printed materials in Simplified Chinese, to better accommodate citizens from mainland China.

The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities. Currently, a large number of overseas Chinese online newspapers allow users to switch between both character sets.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi Corporation (; Chinese: 小米 [ɕjǎu.mì] (listen)) is a Chinese electronics company headquartered in Beijing. Xiaomi makes and invests in smartphones, mobile apps, laptops, and related consumer electronics.Xiaomi released its first smartphone in August 2011 and rapidly gained market share in China to become the country's largest smartphone company in 2014. At the start of second quarter of 2018, Xiaomi was the world's fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer, leading in both the largest market, China, and the second-largest market, India. Xiaomi later developed a wider range of consumer electronics, including a smart home (IoT) device ecosystem.Xiaomi has 15,000 employees in China, India, Malaysia, Singapore and is expanding to other countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Africa. According to Forbes magazine, Lei Jun, the founder and CEO, has an estimated net worth of US$12.5 billion. He is China's 11th richest person and 118th in the world. Xiaomi is the world's 4th most valuable technology start-up after receiving US$1.1 billion funding from investors, making Xiaomi's valuation more than US$46 billion.

Yue Chinese

Yue or Yueh (English: or ; Cantonese pronunciation: [jyːt̚˧˥]) is one of the primary branches of Chinese spoken in southern China, particularly the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, collectively known as Liangguang.

The name Cantonese is often used for the whole branch, but linguists prefer to reserve that name for the variety of Guangzhou (Canton), Hong Kong and Macau, which is the prestige dialect. Taishanese, from the coastal area of Jiangmen located southwest of Guangzhou, was the language of most of the 19th-century emigrants from Guangdong to Southeast Asia and North America. Most later migrants have been speakers of Cantonese.

Yue varieties are not mutually intelligible with other varieties of Chinese. They are among the most conservative varieties with regard to the final consonants and tonal categories of Middle Chinese, but have lost several distinctions in the initial and medial consonants that other Chinese varieties have retained.

Transcriptions
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinHànyǔ
Wade–GilesHan4-yu3
Tongyong PinyinHàn-yǔ
Yale RomanizationHàn-yǔ
IPA[xân.ỳ]
Wu
Romanizationhoe3 nyiu2
Hakka
RomanizationHon Ngi
Yue: Cantonese
Yale Romanizationhon yúh
IPACantonese pronunciation: [hɔ̄ːn.jy̬ː]
JyutpingHon3 jyu5
Canton Romanizationhon35
Southern Min
Hokkien POJHàn-gí, Hàn-gú
Eastern Min
Fuzhou BUCHáng-ngṳ̄
Transcriptions
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinZhōngwén
Wade–GilesChung1-wên2
Tongyong Pinyinjhong-wún
Yale Romanizationjūng-wén
IPA[ʈʂʊ́ŋ.wə̌n]
Wu
Romanizationtson1 ven1
Hakka
RomanizationChung-Vun
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationJūng mán
JyutpingZung1 man4*2
Canton RomanizationZung1 men4*2
Southern Min
Hokkien POJTiong-bûn
Eastern Min
Fuzhou BUCDṳng-ùng
Chinese language
Major
subdivisions
Standardised
forms
Phonology
Grammar
Set phrase
Input method
History
Literary
forms
Scripts

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