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 Chinese Language
Language family: Sino-Tibetan
Spoken in: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and other regions with Chinese communities
Region: (majorities): East Asia
(minorities): Southeast Asia, and other regions with Chinese communities
Total speakers: approx 1.176 billion
Official dialet: Mandarin
Writting system: Chinese characters
Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with at least six thousand years of history. Chinese character inscriptions have been found in turtle shells dating back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1123 BC) proving the written language has existed for more than 3,000 years.
Besides, China covers a very broad area of land with more than 70 million people belonging to 55 different national minorities. Each minority has its own spoken language. However the Chinese language usually refers to the standard language (Mandarin) and its dialects used by the Hans which make up 93.3% of the total population.
Since China's economic and political rise in recent years, standard Chinese has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western and many other parts of world.
A special characteristic of Chinese language lies in that there is little direct link between the spoken Chinese and the written Chinese; accordingly, all the Chinese-learners have to follow their respective learning ways: the first step in many Chinese classes is to teach students how to use pinyin (how to read and pronounce it); next, simplified Chinese characters need good memory to learn; and then, Chinese grammar, considerably easier than that of many other languages in compensation, is up to you.
Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, though all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between six and twelve main regional groups of Chinese, of which the most populous) is Mandarin, followed by Wu, Min, Xiang, Gan, Cantonese and Hakka. Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, though some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility.
The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin (Putonghua/ Guoyu), based on the Beijing dialect. It is the official language of the People's Republic of China, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong and of Macau. Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan and in Southeast Asia.
All varieties of spoken Chinese use tones. Generally, the standard Mandarin has four tones and it has experienced a dramatic decrease in sounds as well as has far more multi-syllabic words accordingly. The phonological structure of each syllable consists of a nucleus including a vowel (which can be a monophthong, diphthong, or even a triphthong in certain varieties) with an optional onset or codaconsonant as well as a tone.
In an attempt to make the Chinese language more understandable to the western world, China developed the "pinyin" (pin-yin) system. The pinyin system uses the western alphabet and spelling to pronounce Chinese words. Chinese languages have been transliterated into the pinyin system since 1892.
Although many Chinese dialects exist, the written language is a common form of communication.
Written Chinese employs Chinese characters, which are logograms: each symbol represents a semanteme or morpheme (a meaningful unit of language), as well as one syllable; the written language can thus be termed a morpheme-syllabic script.
Chinese characters evolved over time from earliest forms of hieroglyphs. The idea that all Chinese characters are either pictographs or ideographs is an erroneous one: most characters contain phonetic parts, and are composites of phonetic components and semantic Radicals. Only the simplest characters, such as 人 (human), 日 (sun), 山 (mountain), 水 (water), may be wholly pictorial in origin. In 100 AD, the famed scholar Xu Shen in the Han Dynasty classified characters into 6 categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters. Of these, only 4% as pictographs, and 80-90% as phonetic complexes consisting of a semantic element that indicates meaning, and a phonetic element that arguably once indicated the pronunciation. There are about 214 radicals recognized in the Kangxi Dictionary, which indicate what the character is about semantically.
There are currently two systems for Chinese characters. The traditional system, still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Chinese speaking communities (except Singapore and Malaysia) outside mainland China, takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty. The Simplified Chinese character system, developed by the PRC (Mainland China) in 1954 to promote mass literacy, simplifies most complex traditional glyphs to fewer strokes, many to common caoshu (cursive script) shorthand variants. The simplified characters are commonly used and learned while calligraphy artists tend to use traditional characters for traditional art.
The vast majority of characters are written versions of spoken sounds that have meaning. A large dictionary usually contains 40,000 characters. One must be able to recognize 2,000 to 3,000 characters to read a newspaper.
Grammatically speaking, English and Chinese are very different languages. There is no rule that verbs, nouns, and adjectives must agree with one another in Chinese writing. There is no such thing as singular or plural in the Chinese language. Often a number or word will be added to the sentence to account for plurality. There are no verb tenses in the Chinese writing. Additional words are used to clarify the past and future tenses. These words are usually placed at the beginning of the phase to help indicate time.
All varieties of modern Chinese are analytic languages, in that they depend on syntax (word order and sentence structure) rather than morphology, changing in form of a word, to indicate changes in meaning. In other words, Chinese has next to no grammatical inflections – it possesses no tenses, no voices, no numbers, only a few articles (ie. equivalents to "the, a, an" in English), and no gender.
Chinese features Subject Verb Object word order, and like many other languages in East Asia, makes frequent use of the topic-comment construction to form sentences. Chinese also has an extensive system of measure words, another trait shared with neighbouring languages like Japanese and Korean. See Chinese measure words for an extensive coverage of this subject. Other notable grammatical features common to all the spoken varieties of Chinese include the use of serial verb construction, pronoun dropping, the related subject dropping and so on.


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