China, also known as the Middle Kingdom, the Sleeping Giant, and the Red Dragon, is one of the formidable economies of today. The culture of China is diverse, and the scope for international business is one of the important tenets for gaining insights into the Chinese language. Many of us know that Mandarin is the only language in China, isn’t it? However, Mandarin does not solely define the Chinese language.
The term “Chinese language” denotes the group of languages that are used by the people in China and Chinese people all over the world. The primary reason for a wide variety of languages in China is the presence of around 56 ethnic groups that made critical contributions to the development of various languages. According to linguists, China presently has 297 living languages. So, let us reflect on the different types of languages in China alongside their origins.
Dialects in the Chinese language
Mandarin, as we know, is the most widely spoken language in the world, with almost 1.5 billion speakers. However, there are eight spoken dialects in mainland China and are mutually unintelligible. The vast terrain of China has different regions that are separated by large distances, as well as topographical features such as mountain ranges. In addition, China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
However, even if the people in different regions of China speak regional dialects, they tend to use the same written language. For example, Taiwan and Hong Kong share Traditional Chinese characters in their written language. On the other hand, the major language spoken in Taiwan is Mandarin, while in Hong Kong is Cantonese. The prominent dialects in the Chinese language are Mandarin, Standard Chinese, Gan, Min, Hakka, Xiang, Wu, and Cantonese.
Types of Written Chinese Language
The two notable scripts used for writing the Chinese language are Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. Traditional Chinese is the pre-reform system of Chinese writing, while Simplified Chinese started gaining recognition in the early 1950s. The origins of Simplified Chinese are based on the system of Communist reforms intended for improving the literacy of the massive population of mainland China. The prominent differences of Simplified Chinese from Traditional Chinese are evident in the reduced strokes, character selection, and reduction in the number of characters.
Evolution of Written Chinese language
However, the reforms in the 1950s were just the beginning. The major developments in Simplified Chinese emerged in the late 19th century and continue till today with regular updates in the list of standardized characters. This does not mean that there is only one version of Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.
On the contrary, there are four major versions of written Chinese language, which are used according to the region. For example, Simplified Mandarin or Simplified Chinese is the written script in Mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, and overseas. It is important to note that written Simplified Mandarin in Singapore differs in terms of vocabulary and style. Therefore, translations aimed at mainland China could be understood in Singapore. The reforms of the 1950s did not influence Taiwan, and Traditional Chinese is the written script there. The long period of British rule in Hong Kong implies that it uses Cantonese as the spoken and written dialect.
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