Language Families in China
- Sino-Tibetan Language Family: e.g. Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, Mao, Yak
- Altaic Language Family: e.g. Mongolian, Turkic, Tungusic Manchu, Korean
- Austroasiatic: e.g. Mon-khmer, Vietnamese, Tai
- Indo-European (Iranian, Slavic)
- Others: e.g. Blang (in Yunnan Province)
Chinese Dialect Groups
(Percentage break-down based on 1955-58 survey conducted in China, using a corpus of 387 million speakers of Chinese, out of a total of 540 million):
- Mandarin 70.0%;
- River Dialects.
- Wu (e.g. Shanghai) 8.4%;
- Hsiang (spoken in Hunan Province) 5.0%;
- Kan (spoken in Chianghsi Province) 2.4%;
- Hakka 4.0%;
- Cantonese 5.0%;
- Min (Fukienese, including Taiwanese) 4.2%.
Mutual intelligibility among Mandarin groups, but not among Mandarin and the other dialects (hence, question of dialects versus languages).
It is called Mandarin in English
- language spoken by government officials.
- the speech form of the capital usually became the Standard Chinese at a particular period of time in the Chinese history.
- Beijing has been the capital of dynasties since the 13th century, therefore the speech form based on Pekinese becomes the standard Chinese nowadays.
- Kuo-yü 'national speech' in Taiwan.
- Putonghua 'common language' in Mainland.
- four tones (55, 35, 214, 51)
- monosyllabic words created many homophones
- phonetic alphabet
- pinyin (PRC)
- national phonetic alphabet (ROC)
- others (Wade-Giles, Yale)
- non-inflectional (no conjugations or declensions to indicate tense, mood, number, gender, and the like);
- monosyllabic morpheme;
- no form change in part of speech, especially in Classical Chinese;
- use of word order and auxiliary words to indicate grammatical relations;
- topic-comment rather than subject-predicate;
- average literate person recognizes 3-4,000 characters;
- Chinese government tried to get rid of characters but failed;
- perfectly suited to the nature of the Chinese language
- too many homophones;
- dialects problem;
- basic structure of Chinese characters;
- pictographic: to draw a picture of what was to be represented;
- ideographic: to symbolize notions or things;
- logographic: to combine a semantic element with a phonetic element