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Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...

China
. The group includes the
Beijing dialect The Beijing dialect (), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, the official language in the China, People's Repub ...
, the basis of the phonology of
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of C ...
. Because Mandarin originated in
North China North China, or Huabei ( ) is a List of regions of China, geographical region of China, consisting of the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. Part of the larger region of Northern China (''Beifang''), it lies north ...

North China
and most Mandarin dialects are found in the north, the group is sometimes referred to as Northern Chinese (). Many varieties of Mandarin, such as those of the
Southwest The points of the compass are the vectors by which planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant that is massive enough to be Hydrostatic equilibrium, rounded by its own gravity ...
(including Sichuanese) and the Lower Yangtze, are not
mutually intelligible In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
or are only partially intelligible with the standard language. 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 Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Ku ...

Yunnan
in the southwest to
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
in the northwest and
Heilongjiang Heilongjiang, formerly romanized as Heilungkiang, is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and a ...

Heilongjiang
in the northeast. This is generally attributed to the greater ease of travel and communication in the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
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 Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
have disappeared in most of these varieties, but some have merged them as a final
glottal stop
glottal stop
. Many Mandarin varieties, including the Beijing dialect, retain
retroflex A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminal () consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral c ...

retroflex
initial consonants, which have been lost in southern varieties of Chinese. The
Chinese capital This is a list of historical capitals of China. Four Great Ancient Capitals There are traditionally four major historical capitals of China referred to as the "Four Great Ancient Capitals of China" (). The four are Beijing Beijing ( ; ; ), ...
has been within the Mandarin-speaking area for most of the last millennium, making these dialects very influential. Some form of Mandarin has served as a
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
for government officials and the courts since the 14th century. By the early 20th century, a standard form based on the Beijing dialect, with elements from other Mandarin dialects, was adopted as the
national language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system composed o ...
. Standard Mandarin Chinese is the
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
of the
People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
and
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
, as well as one of the four official
languages of Singapore A multitude of languages are used in Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator ...
. It is also used as one of the official languages of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as ''member states''), or of other organizations through formal ...

United Nations
. Recent increased migration from Mandarin-speaking regions of China and Taiwan has now resulted in the language being one of the more frequently used varieties of Chinese among
Chinese diaspora Overseas Chinese () are people of ethnic Chinese birth who reside outside the territories of the People's Republic of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and ...
communities. It is also the most commonly taught Chinese variety.


Name

The English word "mandarin" (from
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
''mandarim'', from
Malay Malay may refer to: Languages * Malay language or Bahasa Melayu, a major Austronesian language spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore ** History of the Malay language#Old Malay, the Malay language from the 4th to the 14th century ** ...
''menteri'', from
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
''mantrī'', ''mantrin'', meaning 'minister or counsellor') originally meant an
official An official is someone who holds an office (function or , regardless whether it carries an actual with it) in an or government and participates in the exercise of , (either their own or that of their superior and/or employer, public or legally ...
of the
Ming The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an eth ...

Ming
and
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last imperial dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n.''" Oxford University Press Oxford Univers ...
empires. Since their native varieties were often mutually unintelligible, these officials communicated using a
Koiné language In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
based on various northern varieties. When
Jesuit , image = Ihs-logo.svg , caption = Christogram A Christogram (Latin ') is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a Christian symbolism, ...
missionaries learned this standard language in the 16th century, they called it "Mandarin", from its Chinese name ''Guānhuà'' () or 'language of the officials'. In everyday English, "Mandarin" refers to
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of C ...
, which is often (but erroneously) called simply "Chinese". Standard Mandarin Chinese is based on the particular dialect spoken in
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
, with some lexical and syntactic influence from other Mandarin dialects. It is the official spoken language of the
People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
(PRC) and
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
(Republic of China, ROC), as well as one of the four official languages of
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
. It also functions as the language of instruction in Mainland China and Taiwan. It is one of the six official languages of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as ''member states''), or of other organizations through formal ...

United Nations
, under the name "Chinese". Chinese speakers refer to the modern standard language as * ''Pǔtōnghuà'' (, literally 'common speech') in Mainland China, * ''Guóyǔ'' (, literally 'national language') in Taiwan or * ''Huáyǔ'' (, literally ' Hua (Chinese) language') in Malaysia and Singapore, 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'' () 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 the Sichuan dialect and the Hebei dialect or Northeastern dialect, all being regarded as distinct from the standard language.


History

The hundreds of modern local
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, w ...
developed from regional variants of
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
and
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
. Traditionally, seven major groups of dialects have been recognized. Aside from Mandarin, the other six are Wu,
Gan Gallium nitride () is a binary III/ V direct bandgap semiconductor A semiconductor material has an Electrical resistivity and conductivity, electrical conductivity value falling between that of a Electrical conductor, conductor, such as metal ...
, and Xiang in central China and Min,
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
, and Yue on the southeast coast. The ''
Language Atlas of China The ''Language Atlas of China'' (), published in two parts in 1987 and 1989, maps the distribution of both the varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are the centr ...
'' (1987) distinguishes three further groups: Jin (split from Mandarin),
Huizhou Huizhou ( zh, c= ) is a city in central-east Guangdong Province, China, forty three miles north of Hong Kong. Huizhou borders the provincial capital of Guangzhou to the west, Shenzhen and Dongguan to the southwest, Shaoguan to the north, Heyuan ...
in the Huizhou region of
Anhui Anhui (; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Anhwei) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, part of the East China region. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is l ...

Anhui
and
Zhejiang Zhejiang (, ; , Chinese postal romanization, also romanized as Chekiang) is an East China, eastern, coastal Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Hangzhou. Zhejiang is bordered ...

Zhejiang
, and
Pinghua Pinghua (; : ''Pìhng Wá''; sometimes disambiguated as /) is a pair of spoken mainly in parts of the , with some speakers in province. Pinghua is a in some areas of Guangxi, where it is spoken as a second language by speakers of . Some spea ...
in
Guangxi Guangxi (; alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; ; za, Gvangjsih), officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), is an autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, uni ...

Guangxi
and
Yunnan Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Ku ...

Yunnan
.


Old Mandarin

After the fall of the
Northern Song The Northern Song (北宋; 4 February 960 – 20 March 1127) is an era during the Song dynasty, Song Dynasty. It came to an end when its capital city, the city of Kaifeng, was conquered by enemies from the north. Later, the provisional capital of ...
(959–1126) and during the reign of the Jin (1115–1234) and Yuan (Mongol) dynasties in northern China, a common form of 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 ''Sanqu'' () is a fixed-rhythm form of Classical Chinese poetry Classical Chinese poetry is traditional Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literatu ...
'' poetry. The rhyming conventions of the new verse were codified in a
rime dictionary A rime dictionary, rhyme dictionary, or rime book () is an ancient type of Chinese dictionary Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dy ...
called the '' Zhongyuan Yinyun'' (1324). A radical departure from the
rime tableA rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to ...
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 An affricate is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pr ...
showed a three-way contrast between tenuis, voiceless aspirated and voiced consonants. There were
four tones This article summarizes the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular lan ...
, with the fourth or "entering tone", a
checked tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
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 The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
, 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 ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

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.


Vernacular literature

Until the early 20th century, formal writing and even much poetry and fiction was done in
Literary Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
, which was modeled on the
classics Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centred ...
of the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period i ...
and the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

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, (''yì'', "wing") is unambiguous in written Chinese, but has over 75
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct p ...
s in
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of C ...
. 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 ''Water Margin'' is one of the earliest Chinese novels written in vernacular Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government b ...
'', on down to the Qing dynasty novel ''
Dream of the Red Chamber ''Dream of the Red Chamber'' (''Honglou Meng'') or ''The Story of the Stone'' (''Shitou Ji'') is a classic Chinese novel composed by Cao Xueqin Cáo Xuěqín (; ); (1715 or 17241763 or 1764)Briggs, Asa (ed.) (1989) ''The Longman Encyclop ...
'' and beyond, there developed a literature in
written vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese Written Chinese () comprises Chinese characters used to represent the Chinese language. Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabar ...
(白話/白话, ''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 Hu Shih (; 17 December 1891 – 24 February 1962), also known as Hu Suh in early references, was a Chinese diplomat, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, and politician. Hu is widely recognized today as a key contributor to Chinese liberal ...

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").


Koiné of the Late Empire

Until the mid-20th century, most Chinese people living in many parts of
South China South China () is a geographical and cultural region that covers the southernmost part of China. Its precise meaning varies with context. A notable feature of South China in comparison to the rest of China is that most of its citizens are not ...
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 The Yongzheng Emperor (Yinzhen; 13 December 1678 – 8 October 1735) was the fourth List of emperors of the Qing dynasty, Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the third Qing emperor to rule over China proper. He reigned from 1722 to 1735. A hard-wor ...
, unable to understand the accents of officials from
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...

Guangdong
and
Fujian Fujian (; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnat ...

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 () were short-lived, the decree did spawn a number of textbooks that give some insight into the ideal pronunciation. Common features included: * loss of the Middle Chinese voiced initials except for ''v-'' * merger of ''-m'' finals with ''-n'' * the characteristic Mandarin four-tone system in open syllables, but retaining a final glottal stop in "entering tone" syllables * retention of the distinction between palatalized velars and dental affricates, the source of the spellings "Peking" and "Tientsin" for modern "Beijing" and "Tianjin". As the last two of these features indicate, this language was a koiné based on dialects spoken in the
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

Nanjing
area, though not identical to any single dialect. This form remained prestigious long after the capital moved to
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
in 1421, though the speech of the new capital emerged as a rival standard. As late as 1815,
Robert MorrisonRobert, Bob, Bobby or Rob Morrison may refer to: Academics * Robert Hall Morrison (1798–1889), president of Davidson College * Robert J. H. Morrison (born 1961), Canadian academic * Rob Morrison (scientist) (born 1942), Australian zoological rese ...
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.


Standard Mandarin Chinese

The variant of Mandarin as spoken by educated classes in
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
was made the official language of China by the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
in the early 1900s and the successive Republican government. In the early years of the
Republic of China Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia. It shares Maritime boundary, maritime borders with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the sout ...
, intellectuals of the
New Culture Movement The New Culture Movement () was a movement in China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a popul ...
, such as
Hu Shih Hu Shih (; 17 December 1891 – 24 February 1962), also known as Hu Suh in early references, was a Chinese diplomat, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, and politician. Hu is widely recognized today as a key contributor to Chinese liberal ...

Hu Shih
and
Chen Duxiu Chen Duxiu ( zh, t=陳獨秀, w=Ch'en Tu-hsiu; 8 October 1879 – 27 May 1942) was a Chinese revolutionary socialist, educator, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of gen ...

Chen Duxiu
, successfully campaigned for the replacement of
Literary Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text"), is the language of the classic literature from the end ...
as the written standard by
written vernacular Chinese Written vernacular Chinese (), also known as Baihua, is the forms of written Chinese Written Chinese () comprises Chinese characters used to represent the Chinese language. Chinese characters do not constitute an alphabet or a compact syllabar ...
, which was based on northern dialects. A parallel priority was the definition of a standard national language (). 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'' (). 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. This standard language is now used in education, the media, and formal occasions in both
Mainland China The term "mainland China" refers to the area directly governed by the People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies ...

Mainland China
and
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
, as well as among the Chinese community of Singapore. However in other parts of the
Chinese-speaking world Sinophone means " Chinese-speaking", typically referring to a person who speaks at least one variety of Chinese. Academic writers use the term Sinophone in two ambiguous meanings: either specifically "Chinese-speaking populations where it is a ...
, namely
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...

Hong Kong
and
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), (RAEM) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. Lond ...

Macau
, the standard form of Chinese used in education, the media, formal speech, and everyday life remains the local
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
because of their colonial and linguistic history. While Standard Mandarin is now the medium of instruction in schools throughout China, it still has yet to gain traction as a common language among the local population in areas where Mandarin dialects are not native. In these regions, people may be either diglossic or speak the standard language with a notable accent. However since the 21st century, there has been an effort of mass education in Standard Mandarin Chinese and discouragement of local language usage by the Chinese government in order to erase these regional differences. From an official point of view, the mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese governments maintain their own forms of the standard under different names. Technically, both ''Pǔtōnghuà'' and ''Guóyǔ'' base their
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

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 The Beijing dialect (), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, the official language in the China, People's Repub ...
. ''Pǔtōnghuà'' and ''Guóyǔ'' also have some differences from the Beijing dialect in vocabulary, grammar, and
pragmatics In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the m ...
. The written forms of Standard Chinese are also essentially equivalent, although simplified characters are used in mainland China and Singapore, while
traditional characters Traditional Chinese characters are one type of standard Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural lan ...
remain in use in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Overseas communities also tend to use traditional Chinese characters, although younger generations in Malaysia increasingly use simplified characters due to influence from Singapore and mainland China.


Geographic distribution


Mainland China

Most Han Chinese living in northern and southwestern China are native speakers of a dialect of Mandarin. The
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
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 Fujian (; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnat ...

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 Pronunciation is the way in which a word or a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful d ...
,
vocabulary A vocabulary is a set of familiar words In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), m ...
, and
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...
, and many Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible. Most of northeastern China, except for
Liaoning Liaoning (), is a coastal province in Northeast China Northeast China, is a geographical region of China. It usually corresponds specifically to the three province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country ...
, did not receive significant settlements by Han Chinese until the 18th century, and as a result the
Northeastern Mandarin Northeastern Mandarin ( or / ''Dōngběiguānhuà'' "Northeast Mandarin") is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula. The classification of Northeastern Mandarin as a separate dial ...
dialects spoken there differ little from the
Beijing dialect The Beijing dialect (), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, the official language in the China, People's Repub ...
. The
Manchu people The Manchu (; ) are an officially recognized ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym for a historical and geographic region of Russia and China in Northeast Asia (mostly in N ...
of the area now speak these dialects exclusively; their native language is only maintained in northwestern
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

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 Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
, such as
Tianjin Tianjin (; ; Mandarin: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Tientsin, is a Direct-administered municipalities of China, municipality and a coastal metropolis in North China, Northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea. It is ...

Tianjin
,
Baoding Baoding (), formerly known as Baozhou and Qingyuan, is a prefecture-level city Image:Yangxin-renmin-huanyin-ni-0022.jpg, A road sign shows distance to the "Huangshi urban area" () rather than simply "Huangshi" (). This is a useful distinction, ...
,
Shenyang Shenyang (, ; ; Mandarin pronunciation: ), formerly known as Fengtian () or by its Manchu name Mukden, is a major Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a ...

Shenyang
, and
Dalian Dalian is a major in , , and is Liaoning's second largest city (after the ) and the fourth-most populous city of . Located on the southern tip of , it is the southernmost city in both Liaoning and the entire Northeast. Dalian borders t ...

Dalian
, have markedly different dialects. While
Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bri ...
was adopted as China's official language in the early 1900s, local languages continued to be dominant in their respective regions until the establishment of the
People's Republic#REDIRECT People's republic People's republic is an official title used by some currently or formerly communist or left-wing states. It is mainly associated with soviet republics, socialist states following people's democracy, sovereign state ...

People's Republic
in 1949 and its promotion of this standard variant. Starting in the
Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), co ...
and intensifying afterwards, the
Chinese Communist Party The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), officially the Communist Party of China (CPC), is the founding and One-party state, sole ruling party of the China, People's Republic of China (PRC). The CCP leads List of political parties in China, eight other ...
(CCP) has adopted a language policy that pushes for the usage of Standard Mandarin at the expense of other Chinese varieties, including the prohibition of their use in most public settings. As a result, Mandarin is now widespread throughout the country, including in regions where the language is not native. This language policy has proven to be largely successful, with over 80% of the Chinese population being able to speak Standard Mandarin as of 2020. Nevertheless, despite active discouragement by the CCP, local Chinese and other ethnic languages continue to be the primary medium of communication in daily life in a handful of regions, most notably
Guangdong Guangdong (, ), alternately romanized as Canton Province or Kwangtung, is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admin ...

Guangdong
(where
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
predominates) and
Tibet Tibet (; ; ) is a region in East Asia covering much of the Tibetan Plateau spanning about . It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpa people, Monpa, Tamang people, Tamang, Qia ...
. Elsewhere in China, Standard Mandarin has heavily influenced local languages through
diglossia In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
or in some cases, replaced them entirely (especially among younger generations in urban areas). The Chinese government's current goal is to have 85% of China speak Standard Mandarin by 2025 and for virtually the entire country to speak the language by 2035. Unlike their compatriots on the southeast coast, few Mandarin speakers engaged in
overseas emigration
overseas emigration
until the late 20th century, but there are now significant communities of them in cities across the world.


Taiwan

Standard Mandarin is the official language of
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
. The Taiwanese standard of Mandarin differs very little from that of mainland China, with differences largely in some technical vocabulary developed from the 1950s onwards. Mandarin started to become widely spoken in Taiwan following the
Kuomintang The Kuomintang (KMT) () is a major political party in Taiwan which originated as a revolutionary political party during the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republican Era on the Chinese mainland, where it is sometimes referred to as the Ch ...
's relocation and influx of refugees from the mainland at the end of the
Chinese Civil War The Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led Nationalist government, government of the Republic of China (1912–1949), Republic of China (ROC) and forces of the Communist Party of China (CPC) lastin ...
in 1949. At the time
Taiwanese Hokkien Taiwanese, also known as Taigi, Taiwanese Hokkien (), Taiwanese Minnan, Hoklo and Holo, is a variety of the Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bure ...
, and to a lesser extent
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
, were the Chinese languages used among the local Han Chinese population, while the
Formosan languages The Formosan languages are the languages of the indigenous peoples of Taiwan, all of which are Austronesian. The Taiwanese indigenous peoples recognized by the government are about 2.3% of the island's population. However, only 35% speak their ...

Formosan languages
were natively spoken by many Aboriginal populations. These languages were heavily discouraged from use throughout the martial law period from 1949 to 1987, resulting in Mandarin replacing Taiwanese as the lingua franca. Starting in the 2000s, the Taiwanese government has made efforts to recognize these local languages and they are now present in public spheres such as media and education, although Mandarin remains the common language. While the spoken standard of Taiwanese Mandarin is nearly identical to that of mainland China, the colloquial form has been heavily influenced by other local languages, especially Taiwanese. Notable differences include: the merger of
retroflex A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminal () consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral c ...

retroflex
sounds (zh, ch, sh, r) with the
alveolar Alveolus (pl. alveoli, adj. alveolar) is a general anatomical term for a concave cavity or pit. Alveolus may refer to: In anatomy and zoology in general * Pulmonary alveolus A pulmonary alveolus (plural: alveoli, from Latin ''alveolus'', "littl ...

alveolar
series (z, c, s), frequent mergers of the "neutral tone" with a word's original tone, and absence of
erhua Erhua ( ); also called erization or rhotacization of syllable finals) refers to a phonological process that adds r-coloring or the "er" (注音:, common words: 、、) sound (transcribed in IPA as ) to syllables in spoken Mandarin Chinese M ...
.
Code-switching In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
between Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien is common, as the majority of the population continues to also speak the latter as a native language.


Southeast Asia


Singapore

Mandarin is one of the four official languages of
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
along with
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
,
Malay Malay may refer to: Languages * Malay language or Bahasa Melayu, a major Austronesian language spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore ** History of the Malay language#Old Malay, the Malay language from the 4th to the 14th century ** ...
, and
Tamil Tamil may refer to: * Tamils, an ethnic group native to India, Sri Lanka and some other parts of Asia **Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamil people native to Sri Lanka **Tamil Malaysians, Tamil people native to Malaysia * Tamil language, a Dravidian languages, ...

Tamil
. Historically, it was seldom used by the Chinese Singaporean community, which primarily spoke the Southern Chinese languages of
Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucr ...
, Teochew,
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
, or
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
. The launch of the
Speak Mandarin Campaign The Speak Mandarin Campaign (SMC; ) is an initiative by the government of Singapore The Government of the Republic of Singapore is defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to mean the Executive branch of government, which ...
in 1979 by the government prioritized the language over traditional vernaculars in an attempt to create a common ethnic language and foster closer connections to China. This has led to a significant increase and presence of Mandarin usage in the country, coupled with a strong decline in usage of other Chinese variants. Standard Singaporean Mandarin is nearly identical to the standards of China and Taiwan, with minor vocabulary differences. It is the Mandarin variant used in education, media, and official settings. Meanwhile, a colloquial form called Singdarin is used in informal daily life and is heavily influenced in terms of both grammar and vocabulary by local languages such as Cantonese, Hokkien, and Malay. Instances of code-switching with English, Hokkien, Cantonese, Malay, or a combination of any of these is also common.


Malaysia

In Malaysia, Mandarin has been adopted by local Chinese-language schools as the medium of instruction with the standard based on that of Singapore. However, it is not as widespread in daily life among the Malaysian Chinese community, as
Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucr ...
speakers continue to form a plurality among the ethnic Chinese population and
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
serves as the common language (especially in commerce and local media). An exception is in the state of Johor, where Mandarin is increasingly used alongside Cantonese as a lingua franca in part due to Singaporean influence. As in Singapore, the local colloquial variant of Mandarin exhibits influences from Cantonese and Malay.


Myanmar

In northern Myanmar, a Southwestern Mandarin variant close to the Yunnanese dialect is spoken by local Chinese and other ethnic groups. In some List of insurgent groups in Myanmar, rebel group-controlled regions, Mandarin also serves as the lingua franca.


Subgroups

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 (linguist), Wang Li produced the first classification based on phonetic criteria, principally the evolution of
Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
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 Gallium nitride () is a binary III/ V direct bandgap semiconductor A semiconductor material has an Electrical resistivity and conductivity, electrical conductivity value falling between that of a Electrical conductor, conductor, such as metal ...
, 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 (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 The ''Language Atlas of China'' (), published in two parts in 1987 and 1989, maps the distribution of both the varieties of Chinese Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety Algebraic varieties are the centr ...
'' (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 Huizhou ( zh, c= ) is a city in central-east Guangdong Province, China, forty three miles north of Hong Kong. Huizhou borders the provincial capital of Guangzhou to the west, Shenzhen and Dongguan to the southwest, Shaoguan to the north, Heyuan ...
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, Tones below): *
Northeastern Mandarin Northeastern Mandarin ( or / ''Dōngběiguānhuà'' "Northeast Mandarin") is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula. The classification of Northeastern Mandarin as a separate dial ...
(98 million), spoken in Manchuria except the Liaodong Peninsula. This dialect is closely related to Standard Chinese, with little variation in lexicon and very few tonal differences. * Beijing Mandarin (division of Mandarin), Beijing Mandarin (27 million), spoken in Beijing and environs such as Chengde and northern Hebei, as well as some areas of recent large-scale immigration, such as northern
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
. The Beijing dialect forms the basis of Standard Chinese. This classification is controversial, as a number of researchers view Beijing and Northeastern Mandarin as a single dialect group. * Jilu Mandarin (89 million), spoken in Hebei ("Ji") and Shandong ("Lu") provinces except the Shandong Peninsula, as well as in few counties of 
Heilongjiang Heilongjiang, formerly romanized as Heilungkiang, is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and a ...

Heilongjiang
, due to migration. Includes Tianjin dialect. Tones and vocabulary are markedly different. In general, there is substantial intelligibility with Beijing Mandarin. * Jiaoliao Mandarin (35 million), spoken in Shandong Peninsula, Shandong (Jiaodong) and Liaodong Peninsulas, as well as in few counties of 
Heilongjiang Heilongjiang, formerly romanized as Heilungkiang, is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and a ...

Heilongjiang
, due to migration. Very noticeable tonal changes, different in "flavour" from Ji–Lu Mandarin, but with more variance. There is moderate intelligibility with Beijing. * Central Plains Mandarin (186 million), spoken in Henan province, the central parts of Shaanxi in the Yellow River valley, eastern Gansu, as well as southern
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
, due to recent migration. There are significant phonological differences, with partial intelligibility with Beijing. The Dungan language spoken in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan belongs to this group. Dungan speakers such as the poet Iasyr Shivaza have reported being understood by speakers of the Beijing dialect, but not vice versa. * Lanyin Mandarin (17 million), spoken in central and western Gansu province (with capital Lanzhou) and Ningxia autonomous region (with capital Yinchuan), as well as northern
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
. * Lower Yangtze Mandarin (or Jiang–Huai, 86 million), spoken in the parts of Jiangsu and
Anhui Anhui (; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Anhwei) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, part of the East China region. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is l ...

Anhui
on the north bank of the Yangtze, as well as some areas on the south bank, such as
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

Nanjing
in Jiangsu, Jiujiang in Jiangxi, etc. There are significant phonological and lexical changes to varying degrees, and intelligibility with Beijing is limited. Lower Yangtze Mandarin has been significantly influenced by Wu Chinese. * Southwestern Mandarin (260 million), spoken in the provinces of Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou,
Yunnan Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Ku ...

Yunnan
, and the Mandarin-speaking areas of Hunan,
Guangxi Guangxi (; alternately romanized as Kwanghsi; ; za, Gvangjsih), officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GZAR), is an autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, uni ...

Guangxi
and southern Shaanxi. There are sharp phonological, lexical, and tonal changes, and intelligibility with Beijing is limited to varying degrees. The ''Atlas'' also includes several unclassified Mandarin dialects spoken in scattered pockets across southeastern China, such as Nanping in
Fujian Fujian (; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnat ...

Fujian
and Dongfang, Hainan, 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.


Phonology

A syllable consists maximally of an initial consonant, a medial semivowel, glide, a vowel, a coda, and tone (linguistics), tone. In the traditional analysis, the medial, vowel and coda are combined as a ''final''. Not all combinations occur. For example, Standard Chinese (based on the Beijing dialect) has about 1,200 distinct syllables. Phonological features that are generally shared by the Mandarin dialects include: * the palatalization (sound change), palatalization of velar consonants and voiceless alveolar fricative, alveolar sibilants when they occur before palatal approximant, palatal glides; * one syllable contains maximum four phonemes (maximum three vowels and no consonant cluster) * the disappearance of final stop consonants and /-m/ (although in many Lower Yangtze Mandarin and Jin Chinese dialects, an echo of the final stops is preserved as a
glottal stop
glottal stop
); * the presence of retroflex consonants (although these are absent in many Southwestern Mandarin, Southwestern and
Northeastern Mandarin Northeastern Mandarin ( or / ''Dōngběiguānhuà'' "Northeast Mandarin") is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula. The classification of Northeastern Mandarin as a separate dial ...
dialects); * the historical consonant voicing and devoicing, devoicing of stops and sibilants (also common to most non-Mandarin varieties).


Initials

The maximal inventory of initials of a Mandarin dialect is as follows, with bracketed pinyin spellings given for those present in the standard language: * Most Mandarin-speaking areas distinguish between the retroflex initials from the apical sibilants , though they often have a different distribution than in the standard language. In most dialects of the southeast and southwest the retroflex initials have merged with the alveolar sibilants, so that ''zhi'' becomes ''zi'', ''chi'' becomes ''ci'', and ''shi'' becomes ''si''. * The alveolo-palatal sibilants are the result of merger between the historical palatalized velars and palatalized alveolar sibilants . In about 20% of dialects, the alveolar sibilants did not palatalize, remaining separate from the alveolo-palatal initials. (The unique pronunciation used in Peking opera falls into this category.) On the other side, in some dialects of eastern Shandong, the velar initials did not undergo palatalization. * Many southwestern Mandarin dialects mix and , substituting one for the other in some or all cases. For example, ''fei'' "to fly" and ''hui'' "grey" may be merged in these areas. * In some dialects, initial and are not distinguished. In Southwestern Mandarin, these sounds usually merge to ; in Lower Yangtze Mandarin, they usually merge to . * People in many Mandarin-speaking areas may use different initial sounds where Beijing uses initial ''r-'' . Common variants include , , and . * Some dialects have initial corresponding to the zero initial of the standard language. This initial is the result of a merger of the Middle Chinese zero initial with and . * Many dialects of Northwestern and Central Plains Mandarin have where Beijing has . Examples include "pig" for standard ''zhū'' , "water" for standard ''shuǐ'' , "soft" for standard ''ruǎn'' .


Finals

Most Mandarin dialects have three medial glides, , and (spelled ''i'', ''u'' and ''ü'' in pinyin), though their incidence varies. The medial , is lost after apical initials in several areas. Thus Southwestern Mandarin has "correct" where the standard language has ''dui'' . Southwestern Mandarin also has in some words where the standard has ''jie qie xie'' . 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 and 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 was still present in Old Mandarin, but has merged with in the modern dialects. In some areas (especially the southwest) final has also merged with . This is especially prevalent in the rhyme pairs ''-en/-eng'' and ''-in/-ing'' . 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, Tones below). In Lower Yangtze Mandarin, Lower Yangtze dialects and some north-western dialects they have merged as a final
glottal stop
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-colored vowel, R-coloring, a characteristic feature of Mandarin, works quite differently in the southwest. Whereas Beijing dialect generally removes only a final or when adding the rhotic final ''-r'' , in the southwest the ''-r'' replaces nearly the entire rhyme.


Tones

In general, no two Mandarin-speaking areas have exactly the same set of tone (linguistics), 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 The Beijing dialect (), also known as Pekingese, is the prestige dialect of Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin spoken in the urban area of Beijing, China. It is the phonological basis of Standard Chinese, the official language in the China, People's Repub ...
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 Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country ...
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 , while ''t'' denotes an aspirate ): 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 , all ''tsjek'' in Middle Chinese (Baxter's transcription for 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 dialect, Minjiang) and Jin Chinese (sometimes considered non-Mandarin), former final stops were not deleted entirely, but were reduced to a
glottal stop
glottal stop
. (This includes the dialect of
Nanjing Nanjing (; , Mandarin pronunciation: ), Postal Map Romanization, alternately romanized as Nanking, is the capital of Jiangsu Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the List ...

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. Although the system of tones is common across Mandarin dialects, their realization as tone contours varies widely: * Dialects in and around the Nantong area typically have many more than 4 tones, due to influence from the neighbouring Wu Chinese, 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.


Vocabulary

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
homophone A homophone () is a word that is pronouncedPronunciation is the way in which a word or a language is spoken. This may refer to generally agreed-upon sequences of sounds used in speaking a given word or language in a specific dialect ("correct p ...
s. New words have been formed by adding affixes such as ''lao-'' (), ''-zi'' (), ''-(e)r'' (/), and ''-tou'' (/), or by compounding, e.g. by combining two words of similar meaning as in ''cōngmáng'' (), 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'' () "handbag" where Beijing uses ''bāo'r'' (). There are also a small number of words that have been polysyllabic since Old Chinese, such as () "butterfly". The singular pronouns in Mandarin are () "I", ( or ) "you", () "you (formal)", and (, or /) "he/she/it", with - (/) added for the plural. Further, there is a distinction between the plural first-person pronoun (/), which is inclusive of the listener, and (/), 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'' / "you" and ''yi'' "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 () "alley". List of Chinese dialects, Southern Chinese varieties have borrowed from Tai languages, Tai, Austroasiatic languages, Austroasiatic, and Austronesian languages. There are also many Chinese words which come from foreign languages such as () from golf; () from bikini; () 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.


Grammar

Chinese varieties of all periods are considered prime examples of analytic languages, relying on word order and particles instead of inflection or affixes to provide grammatical information such as Grammatical person, person, Grammatical number, number, Grammatical tense, tense, Grammatical mood, mood, or Grammatical case, 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: In southern dialects, as well as many southwestern and Lower Yangtze dialects, the objects occur in the reverse order. Most varieties of Chinese use post-verbal particles to indicate grammatical aspect, 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 (linguistics), classifier fulfils the role of the Mandarin particle. Especially in conversational Chinese, sentence-final particle (grammar), 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 has the same function, it is combined with 教, which means teach, to form the word teacher. List of several common Chinese prefixes and suffixes:


See also

* Chinese dictionary * Transcription into Chinese characters * Written Chinese * Languages of China * List of varieties of Chinese * ''Linguistic Atlas of Chinese Dialects'' * List of languages by number of native speakers


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

; Works cited * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * *


Historical Western language texts

* * * * * * * *


External links


Tones in Mandarin Dialects :
Comprehensive tone comparison charts for 523 Mandarin dialects. (Compiled by James Campbell) – Internet Archive mirror {{Authority control Mandarin Chinese, Articles containing video clips Languages of China Languages of Taiwan Languages of Singapore Languages of Malaysia Chinese languages in Singapore Subject–verb–object languages Vertical vowel systems