Mandarin (/ˈmændərɪn/ (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.
|官话; 官話; Guānhuà|
written in Chinese characters
(simplified Chinese on the left, traditional Chinese on the right)
|Region||Most of northern and southwestern China (see also Standard Chinese)|
|910 million (2015)|
200 million L2 (no date)
Mandarin area in mainland China and Taiwan, with Jin (sometimes treated as a separate group) in light green
|Literal meaning||officials' speech|
|Literal meaning||Northern speech|
The English word "mandarin" (from Portuguese mandarim, from Malay menteri, from Sanskrit mantrin, meaning "minister or counsellor") originally meant an official of the Ming and Qing empires.[a] Since their native varieties were often mutually unintelligible, these officials communicated using a Koiné language based on various northern varieties. When Jesuit missionaries learned this standard language in the 16th century, they called it "Mandarin", from its Chinese name Guānhuà (官话/官話), or "language of the officials".
In everyday English, "Mandarin" refers to Standard Chinese, which is often called simply "Chinese". Standard Chinese is based on the particular Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing, with some lexical and syntactic influence from other Mandarin dialects. It is the official spoken language of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the de facto official language of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan), and one of the four official languages of the Republic of Singapore. It also functions as the language of instruction in Mainland China and in Taiwan. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, under the name "Chinese". Chinese speakers refer to the modern standard language as
but not as Guānhuà.
Linguists use the term "Mandarin" to refer to the diverse group of dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China, which Chinese linguists call Guānhuà. The alternative term Běifānghuà (北方话/北方話), or "Northern dialects", is used less and less among Chinese linguists. By extension, the term "Old Mandarin" or "Early Mandarin" is used by linguists to refer to the northern dialects recorded in materials from the Yuan dynasty.
Native speakers who are not academic linguists may not recognize that the variants they speak are classified in linguistics as members of "Mandarin" (or so-called "Northern dialects") in a broader sense. Within Chinese social or cultural discourse, there is not a common "Mandarin" identity based on language; rather, there are strong regional identities centred on individual dialects because of the wide geographical distribution and cultural diversity of their speakers. Speakers of forms of Mandarin other than the standard typically refer to the variety they speak by a geographic name—for example Sichuan dialect, Hebei dialect or Northeastern dialect, all being regarded as distinct from the standard language.
The hundreds of modern local varieties of Chinese developed from regional variants of Old Chinese and Middle Chinese. Traditionally, seven major groups of dialects have been recognized. Aside from Mandarin, the other six are Wu, Gan, and Xiang in central China, and Min, Hakka, and Yue on the southeast coast. The Language Atlas of China (1987) distinguishes three further groups: Jin (split from Mandarin), Huizhou in the Huizhou region of Anhui and Zhejiang, and Pinghua in Guangxi and Yunnan.
After the fall of the Northern Song (959–1126) and during the reign of the Jin (1115–1234) and Yuan (Mongol) dynasties in northern China, a common speech developed based on the dialects of the North China Plain around the capital, a language referred to as Old Mandarin. New genres of vernacular literature were based on this language, including verse, drama and story forms, such as the qu and sanqu poetry.
The rhyming conventions of the new verse were codified in a rime dictionary called the Zhongyuan Yinyun (1324). A radical departure from the rime table tradition that had evolved over the previous centuries, this dictionary contains a wealth of information on the phonology of Old Mandarin. Further sources are the 'Phags-pa script based on the Tibetan alphabet, which was used to write several of the languages of the Mongol empire, including Chinese, and the Menggu Ziyun, a rime dictionary based on 'Phags-pa. The rime books differ in some details, but overall show many of the features characteristic of modern Mandarin dialects, such as the reduction and disappearance of final plosives and the reorganization of the Middle Chinese tones.
In Middle Chinese, initial stops and affricates showed a three-way contrast between tenuis, voiceless aspirated and voiced consonants. There were four tones, with the fourth, or "entering tone", a checked tone comprising syllables ending in plosives (-p, -t or -k). Syllables with voiced initials tended to be pronounced with a lower pitch, and by the late Tang dynasty, each of the tones had split into two registers conditioned by the initials. When voicing was lost in all languages except the Wu subfamily, this distinction became phonemic and the system of initials and tones was rearranged differently in each of the major groups.
The Zhongyuan Yinyun shows the typical Mandarin four-tone system resulting from a split of the "even" tone and loss of the entering tone, with its syllables distributed across the other tones (though their different origin is marked in the dictionary). Similarly, voiced plosives and affricates have become voiceless aspirates in the "even" tone and voiceless non-aspirates in others, another distinctive Mandarin development. However, the language still retained a final -m, which has merged with -n in modern dialects, and initial voiced fricatives. It also retained the distinction between velars and alveolar sibilants in palatal environments, which later merged in most Mandarin dialects to yield a palatal series (rendered j-, q- and x- in pinyin).
The flourishing vernacular literature of the period also shows distinctively Mandarin vocabulary and syntax, though some, such as the third-person pronoun tā (他), can be traced back to the Tang dynasty.
Until the early 20th century, formal writing and even much poetry and fiction was done in Literary Chinese, which was modeled on the classics of the Warring States period and the Han dynasty. Over time, the various spoken varieties diverged greatly from Literary Chinese, which was learned and composed as a special language. Preserved from the sound changes that affected the various spoken varieties, its economy of expression was greatly valued. For example, 翼 (yì, "wing") is unambiguous in written Chinese, but has over 75 homophones in Standard Chinese.
The literary language was less appropriate for recording materials that were meant to be reproduced in oral presentations, materials such as plays and grist for the professional story-teller's mill. From at least the Yuan dynasty, plays that recounted the subversive tales of China's Robin Hoods to the Ming dynasty novels such as Water Margin, on down to the Qing dynasty novel Dream of the Red Chamber and beyond, there developed a literature in written vernacular Chinese (白话/白話 báihuà). In many cases, this written language reflected Mandarin varieties, and since pronunciation differences were not conveyed in this written form, this tradition had a unifying force across all the Mandarin-speaking regions and beyond.
Hu Shih, a pivotal figure of the first half of the twentieth century, wrote an influential and perceptive study of this literary tradition, entitled Báihuà Wénxuéshǐ ("A History of Vernacular Literature").
The Chinese have different languages in different provinces, to such an extent that they cannot understand each other.... [They] also have another language which is like a universal and common language; this is the official language of the mandarins and of the court; it is among them like Latin among ourselves.... Two of our fathers [Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci] have been learning this mandarin language... — Alessandro Valignano, Historia del principio y progresso de la Compañía de Jesús en las Indias Orientales (1542–1564)
Until the mid-20th century, most Chinese people living in many parts of South China spoke only their local variety. 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. Knowledge of this language was thus essential for an official career, but it was never formally defined.
Officials varied widely in their pronunciation; in 1728, the Yongzheng Emperor, unable to understand the accents of officials from Guangdong and Fujian, issued a decree requiring the governors of those provinces to provide for the teaching of proper pronunciation. Although the resulting Academies for Correct Pronunciation (正音書院, Zhèngyīn Shūyuàn) were short-lived, the decree did spawn a number of textbooks that give some insight into the ideal pronunciation. Common features included:
As the last two of these features indicate, this language was a koiné based on dialects spoken in the Nanjing area, though not identical to any single dialect. This form remained prestigious long after the capital moved to Beijing in 1421, though the speech of the new capital emerged as a rival standard. As late as 1815, Robert Morrison based the first English–Chinese dictionary on this koiné as the standard of the time, though he conceded that the Beijing dialect was gaining in influence. By the middle of the 19th century, the Beijing dialect had become dominant and was essential for any business with the imperial court.
In the early years of the Republic of China, intellectuals of the New Culture Movement, such as Hu Shih and Chen Duxiu, successfully campaigned for the replacement of Literary Chinese as the written standard by written vernacular Chinese, which was based on northern dialects. A parallel priority was the definition of a standard national language (simplified Chinese: 国语; traditional Chinese: 國語; pinyin: Guóyǔ; Wade–Giles: Kuo²-yü³). 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 (simplified Chinese: 普通话; traditional Chinese: 普通話; literally: 'common speech'). Some 54% of speakers of Mandarin varieties could understand the standard language in the early 1950s, rising to 91% in 1984. Nationally, the proportion understanding the standard rose from 41% to 90% over the same period.
The national language is now used in education, the media and formal occasions in both the PRC and the ROC but not in Hong Kong and Macau. This standard can now be spoken intelligibly by most younger people in Mainland China and Taiwan with various regional accents. In Hong Kong and Macau, because of their colonial and linguistic history, the sole language of education, the media, formal speech and everyday life remains the local Cantonese. Mandarin is now common and taught in many schools but still has yet to gain traction with the local population. In Mandarin-speaking areas such as Sichuan and Chongqing, the local dialect is the native tongue of most of the population. The era of mass education in Standard Chinese has not erased these regional differences, and people may be either diglossic or speak the standard language with a notable accent.
From an official point of view, the PRC and ROC governments maintain their own forms of the standard under different names. Technically, both Pǔtōnghuà and Guóyǔ base their phonology on the Beijing accent, though Pǔtōnghuà also takes some elements from other sources. Comparison of dictionaries produced in the two areas will show that there are few substantial differences. However, both versions of "school-standard" Chinese are often quite different from the Mandarin varieties that are spoken in accordance with regional habits, and neither is wholly identical to the Beijing dialect. Pǔtōnghuà and Guóyǔ also have some differences from the Beijing dialect in vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatics.
The written forms of Standard Chinese are also essentially equivalent, although simplified characters are used in China, Singapore and Malaysia, while people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan generally use traditional characters.
Most Han Chinese living in northern and southwestern China are native speakers of a dialect of Mandarin. The North China Plain provided few barriers to migration, leading to relative linguistic homogeneity over a wide area in northern China. In contrast, the mountains and rivers of southern China have spawned the other six major groups of Chinese varieties, with great internal diversity, particularly in Fujian.
However, the varieties of Mandarin cover a huge area containing nearly a billion people. As a result, there are pronounced regional variations in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar, and many Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible.[b]
Most of northeastern China, except for Liaoning, did not receive significant settlements by Han Chinese until the 18th century, and as a result the Northeastern Mandarin dialects spoken there differ little from the Beijing dialect. The Manchu people of the area now speak these dialects exclusively; their native language is only maintained in northwestern Xinjiang, where Xibe, a modern dialect, is spoken.
The frontier areas of Northwest China were colonized by speakers of Mandarin dialects at the same time, and the dialects in those areas similarly closely resemble their relatives in the core Mandarin area. The Southwest was settled early, but the population fell dramatically for obscure reasons in the 13th century, and did not recover until the 17th century. The dialects in this area are now relatively uniform. However, long-established cities even very close to Beijing, such as Tianjin, Baoding, Shenyang, and Dalian, have markedly different dialects.
Unlike their compatriots on the southeast coast, few Mandarin speakers engaged in overseas emigration until the late 20th century, but there are now significant communities of them in cities across the world.
The classification of Chinese dialects evolved during the 20th century, and many points remain unsettled. Early classifications tended to follow provincial boundaries or major geographical features. In 1936, Wang Li produced the first classification based on phonetic criteria, principally the evolution of Middle Chinese voiced initials. His Mandarin group included dialects of northern and southwestern China, as well as those of Hunan and northern Jiangxi. Li Fang-Kuei's classification of 1937 distinguished the latter two groups as Xiang and Gan, while splitting the remaining Mandarin dialects between Northern, Lower Yangtze and Southwestern Mandarin groups. The widely accepted seven-group classification of Yuan Jiahua in 1960 kept Xiang and Gan separate, with Mandarin divided into Northern, Northwestern, Southwestern and Jiang–Huai (Lower Yangtze) subgroups.
Of Yuan's four Mandarin subgroups, the Northwestern dialects are the most diverse, particularly in the province of Shanxi. The linguist Li Rong proposed that the northwestern dialects of Shanxi and neighbouring areas that retain a final glottal stop in the Middle Chinese entering tone (plosive-final) category should constitute a separate top-level group called Jin. He used this classification in the Language Atlas of China (1987). Many other linguists continue to include these dialects in the Mandarin group, pointing out that the Lower Yangtze dialects also retain the glottal stop.
The southern boundary of the Mandarin area, with the central Wu, Gan and Xiang groups, is weakly defined due to centuries of diffusion of northern features. Many border varieties have a mixture of features that make them difficult to classify. The boundary between Southwestern Mandarin and Xiang is particularly weak, and in many early classifications the two were not separated. Zhou Zhenhe and You Rujie include the New Xiang dialects within Southwestern Mandarin, treating only the more conservative Old Xiang dialects as a separate group. The Huizhou dialects have features of both Mandarin and Wu, and have been assigned to one or other of these groups or treated as separate by various authors. Li Rong and the Language Atlas of China treated it as a separate top-level group, but this remains controversial.
The Language Atlas of China calls the remainder of Mandarin a "supergroup", divided into eight dialect groups distinguished by their treatment of the Middle Chinese entering tone (see Tones below):
The Atlas also includes several unclassified Mandarin dialects spoken in scattered pockets across southeastern China, such as Nanping in Fujian and Dongfang on Hainan. Another Mandarin variety of uncertain classification is apparently Gyami, recorded in the 19th century in the Tibetan foothills, who the Chinese apparently did not recognize as Chinese.
Syllables consist maximally of an initial consonant, a glide, a vowel, a final, and tone. Not every syllable that is possible according to this rule actually exists in Mandarin, as there are rules prohibiting certain phonemes from appearing with others, and in practice there are only a few hundred distinct syllables.
Phonological features that are generally shared by the Mandarin dialects include:
The maximal inventory of initials of a Mandarin dialect is as follows, with bracketed pinyin spellings given for those present in the standard language:
|Stops||/p/ ⟨b⟩||/t/ ⟨d⟩||/k/ ⟨g⟩|
|/pʰ/ ⟨p⟩||/tʰ/ ⟨t⟩||/kʰ/ ⟨k⟩|
|Nasals||/m/ ⟨m⟩||/n/ ⟨n⟩||/ŋ/|
|Affricates||/t͡s/ ⟨z⟩||/ʈ͡ʂ/ ⟨zh⟩||/t͡ɕ/ ⟨j⟩|
|/t͡sʰ/ ⟨c⟩||/ʈ͡ʂʰ/ ⟨ch⟩||/t͡ɕʰ/ ⟨q⟩|
|Fricatives||/f/ ⟨f⟩||/s/ ⟨s⟩||/ʂ/ ⟨sh⟩||/ɕ/ ⟨x⟩||/x/ ⟨h⟩|
|Sonorants||/w/||/l/ ⟨l⟩||/ɻ ~ ʐ/ ⟨r⟩||/j/|
Most Mandarin dialects have three medial glides, /j/, /w/ and /ɥ/ (spelled i, u and ü in pinyin), though their incidence varies. The medial /w/, is lost after apical initials in several areas. Thus Southwestern Mandarin has /tei/ "correct" where the standard language has dui /twei/. Southwestern Mandarin also has /kai kʰai xai/ in some words where the standard has jie qie xie /tɕjɛ tɕʰjɛ ɕjɛ/. This is a stereotypical feature of southwestern Mandarin, since it is so easily noticeable. E.g. hai "shoe" for standard xie, gai "street" for standard jie.
Mandarin dialects typically have relatively few vowels. Syllabic fricatives, as in standard zi and zhi, are common in Mandarin dialects, though they also occur elsewhere. The Middle Chinese off-glides /j/ and /w/ are generally preserved in Mandarin dialects, yielding several diphthongs and triphthongs in contrast to the larger sets of monophthongs common in other dialect groups (and some widely scattered Mandarin dialects).
The Middle Chinese coda /m/ was still present in Old Mandarin, but has merged with /n/ in the modern dialects. In some areas (especially the southwest) final /ŋ/ has also merged with /n/. This is especially prevalent in the rhyme pairs -en/-eng /ən əŋ/ and -in/-ing /in iŋ/. As a result, jīn "gold" and jīng "capital" merge in those dialects.
The Middle Chinese final stops have undergone a variety of developments in different Mandarin dialects (see Tones below). In Lower Yangtze dialects and some north-western dialects they have merged as a final glottal stop. In other dialects they have been lost, with varying effects on the vowel. As a result, Beijing Mandarin and Northeastern Mandarin underwent more vowel mergers than many other varieties of Mandarin. For example:
R-coloring, a characteristic feature of Mandarin, works quite differently in the southwest. Whereas Beijing dialect generally removes only a final /j/ or /n/ when adding the rhotic final -r /ɻ/, in the southwest the -r replaces nearly the entire rhyme.
In general, no two Mandarin-speaking areas have exactly the same set of tone values, but most Mandarin-speaking areas have very similar tone distribution. For example, the dialects of Jinan, Chengdu, Xi'an and so on all have four tones that correspond quite well to the Beijing dialect tones of [˥] (55), [˧˥] (35), [˨˩˦] (214), and [˥˩] (51). The exception to this rule lies in the distribution of syllables formerly ending in a stop consonant, which are treated differently in different dialects of Mandarin.
Middle Chinese stops and affricates had a three-way distinction between tenuis, voiceless aspirate and voiced (or breathy voiced) consonants. In Mandarin dialects the voicing is generally lost, yielding voiceless aspirates in syllables with a Middle Chinese level tone and non-aspirates in other syllables. Of the four tones of Middle Chinese, the level, rising and departing tones have also developed into four modern tones in a uniform way across Mandarin dialects; the Middle Chinese level tone has split into two registers, conditioned on voicing of the Middle Chinese initial, while rising tone syllables with voiced obstruent initials have shifted to the departing tone. The following examples from the standard language illustrate the regular development common to Mandarin dialects (recall that pinyin d denotes a non-aspirate /t/, while t denotes an aspirate /tʰ/):
|Middle Chinese tone||"level tone"
|Modern Mandarin tone||1 (yīn píng)||2 (yáng píng)||3 (shǎng)||4 (qù)|
In traditional Chinese phonology, syllables that ended in a stop in Middle Chinese (i.e. /p/, /t/ or /k/) were considered to belong to a special category known as the "entering tone". These final stops have disappeared in most Mandarin dialects, with the syllables distributed over the other four modern tones in different ways in the various Mandarin subgroups.
In the Beijing dialect that underlies the standard language, syllables beginning with original voiceless consonants were redistributed across the four tones in a completely random pattern. For example, the three characters 积脊迹, all tsjek in Middle Chinese (William H. Baxter's transcription), are now pronounced jī, jǐ and jì respectively. Older dictionaries such as Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary mark characters whose pronunciation formerly ended with a stop with a superscript 5; however, this tone number is more commonly used for syllables that always have a neutral tone (see below).
In Lower Yangtze dialects, a minority of Southwestern dialects (e.g. Minjiang) and Jin Chinese (sometimes considered non-Mandarin), former final stops were not deleted entirely, but were reduced to a glottal stop /ʔ/. (This includes the dialect of Nanjing on which the Postal Romanization was based; it transcribes the glottal stop as a trailing h.) This development is shared with Wu Chinese and is thought to represent the pronunciation of Old Mandarin. In line with traditional Chinese phonology, dialects such as Lower Yangtze and Minjiang are thus said to have five tones instead of four. However, modern linguistics considers these syllables as having no phonemic tone at all.
|subgroup||Middle Chinese initial|
|voiceless||voiced sonorant||voiced obstruent|
|Lower Yangtze||marked with final glottal stop (rù)|
|Tone name||1 (yīn píng)||2 (yáng píng)||3 (shǎng)||4 (qù)||marked with|
glottal stop (rù)
|Beijing||Beijing||˥ (55)||˧˥ (35)||˨˩˦ (214)||˥˩ (51)|
|Northeastern||Harbin||˦ (44)||˨˦ (24)||˨˩˧ (213)||˥˨ (52)|
|Jiao–Liao||Yantai||˧˩ (31)||(˥ (55))||˨˩˦ (214)||˥ (55)|
|Ji–Lu||Tianjin||˨˩ (21)||˧˥ (35)||˩˩˧ (113)||˥˧ (53)|
|Shijiazhuang||˨˧ (23)||˥˧ (53)||˥ (55)||˧˩ (31)|
|Central Plains||Zhengzhou||˨˦ (24)||˦˨ (42)||˥˧ (53)||˧˩˨ (312)|
|Luoyang||˧˦ (34)||˦˨ (42)||˥˦ (54)||˧˩ (31)|
|Xi'an||˨˩ (21)||˨˦ (24)||˥˧ (53)||˦ (44)|
|Tianshui||˩˧ (13)||˥˧ (53)||˨˦ (24)|
|Lan–Yin||Lanzhou||˧˩ (31)||˥˧ (53)||˧ (33)||˨˦ (24)|
|Yinchuan||˦ (44)||˥˧ (53)||˩˧ (13)|
|Southwestern||Chengdu||˦ (44)||˨˩ (21)||˥˧ (53)||˨˩˧ (213)|
|Xichang||˧ (33)||˥˨ (52)||˦˥ (45)||˨˩˧ (213)||˧˩ʔ (31)|
|Kunming||˦ (44)||˧˩ (31)||˥˧ (53)||˨˩˨ (212)|
|Wuhan||˥ (55)||˨˩˧ (213)||˦˨ (42)||˧˥ (35)|
|Liuzhou||˦ (44)||˧˩ (31)||˥˧ (53)||˨˦ (24)|
|Lower Yangtze||Yangzhou||˧˩ (31)||˧˥ (35)||˦˨ (42)||˥ (55)||˥ʔ (5)|
|Nantong||˨˩ (21)||˧˥ (35)||˥ (55)||˦˨ (42), ˨˩˧ (213)*||˦ʔ (4), ˥ʔ (5)*|
* Dialects in and around the Nantong area typically have many more than 4 tones, due to influence from the neighbouring Wu dialects.
Mandarin dialects frequently employ neutral tones in the second syllables of words, creating syllables whose tone contour is so short and light that it is difficult or impossible to discriminate. These atonal syllables also occur in non-Mandarin dialects, but in many southern dialects the tones of all syllables are made clear.
There are more polysyllabic words in Mandarin than in all other major varieties of Chinese except Shanghainese. This is partly because Mandarin has undergone many more sound changes than have southern varieties of Chinese, and has needed to deal with many more homophones. New words have been formed by adding affixes such as lao- (老), -zi (子), -(e)r (儿/兒), and -tou (头/頭), or by compounding, e.g. by combining two words of similar meaning as in cōngmáng (匆忙), made from elements meaning "hurried" and "busy". A distinctive feature of southwestern Mandarin is its frequent use of noun reduplication, which is hardly used in Beijing. In Sichuan, one hears bāobāo (包包) "handbag" where Beijing uses bāo'r (包儿). There are also a small number of words that have been polysyllabic since Old Chinese, such as húdié (蝴蝶) "butterfly".
The singular pronouns in Mandarin are wǒ (我) "I", nǐ (你 or 妳) "you", nín (您) "you (formal)", and tā (他, 她 or 它) "he/she/it", with -men (们們) added for the plural. Further, there is a distinction between the plural first-person pronoun zánmen (咱们/咱們), which is inclusive of the listener, and wǒmen (我们/我們), which may be exclusive of the listener. Dialects of Mandarin agree with each other quite consistently on these pronouns. While the first and second person singular pronouns are cognate with forms in other varieties of Chinese, the rest of the pronominal system is a Mandarin innovation (e.g., Shanghainese has non 侬/儂 "you" and yi 伊 "he/she").
Because of contact with Mongolian and Manchurian peoples, Mandarin (especially the Northeastern varieties) has some loanwords from these languages not present in other varieties of Chinese, such as hútòng (胡同) "alley". Southern Chinese varieties have borrowed from Tai, Austroasiatic, and Austronesian languages.
There are also many Chinese words came from foreign languages such as gāo'ěrfū (高尔夫) from golf; bǐjīní (比基尼) from bikini; hànbǎo bāo (汉堡包) from hamburger.
In general, the greatest variation occurs in slang, in kinship terms, in names for common crops and domesticated animals, for common verbs and adjectives, and other such everyday terms. The least variation occurs in "formal" vocabulary—terms dealing with science, law, or government.
Chinese varieties of all periods have traditionally been considered prime examples of analytic languages, relying on word order and particles instead of inflection or affixes to provide grammatical information such as person, number, tense, mood, or case. Although modern varieties, including the Mandarin dialects, use a small number of particles in a similar fashion to suffixes, they are still strongly analytic.
The basic word order of subject–verb–object is common across Chinese dialects, but there are variations in the order of the two objects of ditransitive sentences. In northern dialects the indirect object precedes the direct object (as in English), for example in the Standard Chinese sentence:
我 给 你 一本 书 。 wǒ gěi nǐ yìběn shū. I give you a (one) book.
Most varieties of Chinese use post-verbal particles to indicate aspect, but the particles used vary. Most Mandarin dialects use the particle -le (了) to indicate the perfective aspect and -zhe (着/著) for the progressive aspect. Other Chinese varieties tend to use different particles, e.g. Cantonese zo2 咗 and gan2 紧/緊 respectively. The experiential aspect particle -guo (过/過) is used more widely, except in Southern Min.
The subordinative particle de (的) is characteristic of Mandarin dialects. Some southern dialects, and a few Lower Yangtze dialects, preserve an older pattern of subordination without a marking particle, while in others a classifier fulfils the role of the Mandarin particle.
Especially in conversational Chinese, sentence-final particles alter the inherent meaning of a sentence. Like much vocabulary, particles can vary a great deal with regards to the locale. For example, the particle ma (嘛), which is used in most northern dialects to denote obviousness or contention, is replaced by yo (哟) in southern usage.
Some characters in Mandarin can be combined with others to indicate a particular meaning just like prefix and suffix in English. For example, the suffix -er which means the person who is doing the action, e.g. teacher, person who teaches. In Mandarin the character 師 functions the same thing, it is combined with 教, which means teach, to form the word teacher.
List of several common Chinese prefixes and suffixes:
|Affix||Pronunciation||Meaning||Example||Meaning of Example|
|-們[们]||men||plural, same as -s, -es||學生們 [学生们]、朋友們 [朋友们]||students, friends|
|可-||kě||same as -able||可信、可笑、可靠||trusty, laughable, reliable|
|重-||chóng||same as re-(again)||重做、重建、重新||redo, rebuild, renew|
|第-||dì||same as -th, -st, -nd||第二、第一||second, first|
|老-||lǎo||old, or show respect to a certain type of person||老头；老板、老师||old man; boss, teacher|
|-化||huà||same as -ize, -en||公式化、制度化、強化||officialize, systemize, strengthen|
|-家||jiā||same as -er or expert||作家、科學家[科学家]、藝術家[艺术家]||writer, scientist, artist|
|-性||xìng||same as -ness,_ -ability||可靠性、實用性[实用性]、可理解性||reliability, usability, understandability|
|-鬼||guǐ||usually used in a disparaging way similar to –aholic||煙鬼、酒鬼、胆小鬼||smoker, alcoholic, coward|
|-匠||jiàng||a technician in a certain field||花匠、油漆匠、木匠||gardener, painter, carpenter|
|-迷||mí||an enthusiast||戲迷[戏迷]、球迷、歌迷||theater fan, sports fan, groupie of a musician|
|-師 [师]||shī||suffix for occupations||教師[教师]、厨師[厨师]、律師[律师]||teacher, cook/chef, lawyer|
For purposes of this Law, the standard spoken and written Chinese language means Putonghua (a common speech with pronunciation based on the Beijing dialect) and the standardized Chinese characters.
Central Plains Mandarin, or Zhongyuan Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 中原官话; traditional Chinese: 中原官話; pinyin: zhōngyuán guānhuà), is a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in the central and southern parts of Shaanxi, Henan, southwestern part of Shanxi, southern part of Gansu, far southern part of Hebei, northern Anhui, northern parts of Jiangsu, southern Xinjiang and southern Shandong.The archaic dialect in Peking opera is a form of Zhongyuan Mandarin.
Among Hui people, Zhongyuan Mandarin is sometimes written with the Arabic alphabet, called Xiao'erjing ("Children's script").Dao language (China)
The Dao language (Chinese: 倒话; Daohua) is a Chinese–Tibetan mixed language or creolized language of Yajiang County, Sichuan, China. Word order is SOV as in Tibetan (Yeshes Vodgsal Atshogs 2004:6), while the lexicon consists of words derived from both Chinese and Tibetan.Dongping dialect
Dongping dialect (simplified Chinese: 东平话; traditional Chinese: 東平話; pinyin: Dōngpíng Huà) is a Mandarin Chinese dialect spoken in Dongping County in Shandong province.Jinan dialect
Jinan dialect (simplified Chinese: 济南话; traditional Chinese: 濟南話; pinyin: jǐnánhuà) is a Mandarin Chinese dialect spoken in Jinan in Shandong province.KMRB
KMRB (1430 AM) is a radio station in Pasadena, California, United States (licensed to and transmitted from San Gabriel, California) that broadcasts completely in Cantonese 24 hours a day. It is the sister station to KAZN, which broadcasts in Mandarin. It is owned and operated by Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, Inc..Kunming dialect
The Kunming dialect (simplified Chinese: 昆明话; traditional Chinese: 昆明話; pinyin: Kūnmíng Huà) is a dialect of Southwestern Mandarin Chinese. Luo Changpei describes it as having "simple phonemes, elegant vocabulary, and clear grammar. "Liu
劉 / 刘 (Liu, Lao, Lau, Low, Lauv, Lieh, Lieu, Liew, Loo, Lew, Liou or Yu) is a Chinese surname. The Liu () as transcribed in English can represent several different surnames written in different Chinese characters:
劉 (traditional) / 刘 (simplified), pinyin: Liú in Mandarin Chinese, Lau: Cantonese. A surname, as it was the family name of Han dynasty emperors.
柳 pinyin: Liǔ in Mandarin Chinese, Lau: Cantonese
留 pinyin: Liú in Mandarin Chinese, Lau: Cantonese
六 pinyin: Liù in Mandarin Chinese, Luk: Cantonese
廖 pinyin: Liu6 in Cantonese, Liào: Mandarin Chinese
侶 pinyin: Lǚ in Mandarin Chinese, Leoi5: Cantonese used in “情侣”In Cantonese transliteration, 刘/劉 (Liú) is Lau, Lao is also transliteration of 刘/劉 in Southern Min and Taiwanese Hokkien, while Liu is a different surname, 廖, pinyin: Liào.
In Shanghainese, 刘/劉 is romanized as Lieu and rarely Lieh; 柳 is similarly romanized; whereas 廖 is transliterated as Lioh
In Teochew, 刘/劉 is usually romanized as Lau, Low or Lao; 柳 is written as Lew; and 廖 is romanized as Leow or Liau.
In Hakka, 刘/劉 is most commonly transliterated as Liew while 廖 is written as Liau or Liaw. The other variants of the romanised surname Liu, i.e. 柳, 留 and 六, are uncommon among speakers of Hakka.
In Gan, 刘/劉 is most commonly transliterated as Liew or Lieu, 廖 is written as Lieo or Liau.
In Hokkien, 刘/劉 is most commonly pronounced as Lau
The Indonesian-Chinese descent Latinise it according to Dutch pronunciation as Lauw.
In Vietnamese, the name can either take the form Liễu (in northern regions), or Lưu (in central or southern regions), or Lục. A few having Vietnamese-Chinese descent use the family name Lao.Malaysian Mandarin
Malaysian Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 马来西亚华语; traditional Chinese: 馬來西亞華語; pinyin: Mǎláixīyà Huáyǔ) is a variety of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Malaysia by ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese tend to perceive the Mandarin Chinese is a variation of Standard Mandarin (Putonghua); however, it is a Mandarin dialect in its own right. Its closest linguistic cousin is not Standard Mandarin, rather it is Singaporean Mandarin, the variety widely used in films like Tiger Woohoo 大日子(2010), Namewee's Nasi Lemak 2.0 and movies created by Singaporean movie director Jack Neo.
Malaysian Mandarin speakers seldom translate local terms or names to Mandarin when they speak. They would prefer to verbally use Malay place names in their original Malay pronunciation: for instance, even though the street name "Jalan Bukit Kepong" is written as "惹兰武吉甲洞" (rělán wǔjí jiǎdòng) in local Chinese printed media, the local Chinese almost never use rělán wǔjí jiǎdòng in daily conversations. There are exceptions, for example Taiping, since this name is derived from the Chinese language, when people mention this place when speaking local Mandarin, they always use its Mandarin pronunciation, "Tàipíng", instead of using its Malay pronunciation, which is closer to "Taipeng". Another examples is when a place's Chinese translation varied vastly with its native Malay name, for example: for Teluk Intan, Seremban and Kota Kinabalu, they are preferably referred respectively as Ānsùn (安順) (which refers to "Teluk Anson", Teluk Intan's former colonial name), Fúróng (芙蓉) and Yàbì (亞庇).Mandarin Chinese profanity
Profanity in Mandarin Chinese most commonly involves sexual references and scorn of the object's ancestors, especially their mother. Other Mandarin insults accuse people of not being human. Compared to English, scatological and blasphemous references are less often used.
In this article, unless otherwise noted, the Traditional character will follow its Simplified form if it is different.Mandarin Immersion Magnet School
The Mandarin Immersion Magnet School (MIMS), formerly the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion Magnet School (MCLIMS) is a magnet primary school located in Houston, Texas. It is a part of the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The school's current campus in the St. George Place area of Houston opened in August 2016; it was previously located in the former Maud Gordon Elementary School in Bellaire, Texas.Most of the students who were enrolled had no prior experience learning Mandarin. Some students had not yet mastered English, and/or were learning Mandarin as a third language.Philippine Mandarin
Philippine Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 菲律宾华语; traditional Chinese: 菲律賓華語; pinyin: Fēilǜbīn Huáyǔ) is a variety of Standard Mandarin Chinese widely spoken by Chinese Filipinos. It is based on the phonology of the Beijing dialect and the grammar of Vernacular Chinese, and is identical to the standard of Mandarin used in the Republic of China, Taiwan that is called "Guoyu" (國語). In terms of phonology, vocabulary and grammar, Standard Philippine Mandarin is similar to "Guoyu" (Standard Chinese in the Republic of China (Taiwan)) because almost all use dictionaries and books from Taiwan. Many Chinese Filipino schools use bopomofo (zhuyin fuhao) to teach the language. Philippine Mandarin uses the Traditional Chinese characters in writing and it is seen in the newspapers. Philippine Mandarin can be classified into two distinct Mandarin dialects: Standard Mandarin and Colloquial Mandarin. These two dialects are easily distinguishable to a person proficient in Mandarin. Standard Mandarin is like the standard language of Taiwan, while Colloquial Mandarin tends to combine Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 华语; traditional Chinese: 華語) and Min Nan Yu (閩南語) or Southern Hokkien features.Romanization of Chinese
The romanization of Chinese is the use of the Latin alphabet to write Chinese. Chinese uses a logographic script, and its characters do not represent phonemes directly. There have been many systems using Roman characters to represent Chinese throughout history. Linguist Daniel Kane recalls, "It used to be said that sinologists had to be like musicians, who might compose in one key and readily transcribe into other keys." The dominant international standard for Putonghua since about 1982 has been Hanyu Pinyin. Other well-known systems include Wade-Giles (Mandarin) and Yale Romanization (Mandarin and Cantonese).
There are many uses for Chinese Romanization. Most broadly, it is used to provide a useful way for foreigners who are not skilled at recognizing Chinese script to read and recognize Chinese. It can also be helpful for clarifying pronunciation among Chinese speakers who speak mutually unintelligible Chinese dialects. Romanization facilitates entering characters on standard keyboards such as QWERTY. Chinese dictionaries have complex and competing sorting rules for characters, and romanization systems simplify the problem by listing characters in their Latin form alphabetically.Sichuanese dialects
Sichuanese or Szechwanese (simplified Chinese: 四川话; traditional Chinese: 四川話; Sichuanese Pinyin: Si4cuan1hua4; pinyin: Sìchuānhuà; Wade–Giles: Szŭ4-ch'uan1-hua4), also called Sichuanese/Szechwanese Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 四川官话; traditional Chinese: 四川官話; pinyin: Sìchuān Guānhuà) is a branch of Southwestern Mandarin spoken mainly in Sichuan and Chongqing, which was part of Sichuan Province until 1997, and the adjacent regions of their neighboring provinces, such as Hubei, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan and Shaanxi. Although "Sichuanese" is often synonymous with the Chengdu-Chongqing dialect, there is still a great amount of diversity among the Sichuanese dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible with each other. In addition, because Sichuanese is the lingua franca in Sichuan, Chongqing and part of Tibet, it is also used by many Tibetan, Yi, Qiang and other ethnic minority groups as a second language.Sichuanese is more similar to Standard Chinese than southeastern Chinese varieties but is still quite divergent in phonology, vocabulary, and even grammar. The Minjiang dialect is especially difficult for speakers of other Mandarin dialects to understand. Sichuanese can be further divided into a number of dialects, Chengdu–Chongqing dialect, Minjiang dialect, Renshou–Fushun dialect, and Ya'an–Shimian dialect. The dialect of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and an important central city is the most representative dialect of Southwestern Mandarin and is used widely in Sichuan opera and other art forms of the region.
Modern Sichuanese evolved due to a great wave of immigration during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644): many immigrants, mainly from Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Guangdong flooded into Sichuan bringing their languages with them. The influence of Sichuanese has resulted in a distinct form of Standard Chinese that is often confused with "real" Sichuanese. Sichuanese, spoken by about 120 million people, would rank 10th among languages by number of speakers (just behind Japanese) if counted as a separate language.Southwestern Mandarin
Southwestern Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 西南官话; traditional Chinese: 西南官話; pinyin: Xīnán Guānhuà), also known as Upper Yangtze Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 上江官话; traditional Chinese: 上江官話; pinyin: Shàngjiāng Guānhuà), is a primary branch of Mandarin Chinese spoken in much of central and southwestern China, including in Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Guizhou, most parts of Hubei, the northwestern part of Hunan, the northern part of Guangxi, and some southern parts of Shaanxi and Gansu. Some forms of Southwest Mandarin are not entirely mutually intelligible with Standard Chinese or other forms of Mandarin.Varieties of Southwestern Mandarin are spoken by roughly 260 million people. If considered a language distinct from Mandarin, it would have the eighth-most native speakers in the world, behind Mandarin itself, Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Arabic and Bengali.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.Taiwanese Mandarin
Taiwanese Mandarin (Chinese: 臺灣華語; pinyin: Táiwān Huáyǔ) or national language of the Republic of China (Chinese: 中華民國國語; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó guóyǔ), is a variety of Mandarin Chinese and the lingua franca of Taiwan. It is based on the phonology of the Beijing dialect together with the grammar of vernacular Chinese.Standard Taiwanese Mandarin is almost identical to the official language of mainland China, called Standard Chinese (Pǔtōnghuà), with the exception of their writing systems. However, Mandarin as spoken informally in Taiwan has some notable differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation with Standard Mandarin, differences which have arisen mainly under influence from the languages of Taiwan, namely: Taiwanese Hokkien (the native variety of about 70% of the population of Taiwan), other mother tongues of Taiwan like Taiwanese Hakka (spoken natively by about 15% of Taiwanese) and Formosan languages, as well as English and Japanese from the prior Japanese period.Tangwang language
The Tangwang language (Chinese: 唐汪话 Tángwàng huà) is a variety of Mandarin Chinese heavily influenced by the Mongolic Santa language (Dongxiang). It is spoken in a dozen or so villages in Dongxiang Autonomous County, Gansu Province, China. The linguist Mei W. Lee-Smith calls this creole language the "Tangwang language" (Chinese: 唐汪话), based on the names of the two largest villages (Tangjia 唐家 and Wangjia 汪家, parts of Tangwang town) where it is spoken.Voiceless glottal affricate
The voiceless glottal affricate is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represent this sound are ⟨ʔ͡h⟩ and ⟨ʔ͜h⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is ?_h. The tie bar may be omitted, yielding ⟨ʔh⟩ in the IPA and ?h in X-SAMPA.