Chinese languages, also called Sinitic languages, Chinese Han, principal language group of eastern Asia, belonging to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese exists in a number of varieties that are popularly called dialects but that are usually classified as separate languages by scholars. More people speak a variety of Chinese as a native language than any other language in the world, and Modern Standard Chinese is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
In the early 1900s a program for the unification of the national language, which is based on Mandarin, was launched; this resulted in Modern Standard Chinese. In 1956 a new system of romanization called Pinyin, based on the pronunciation of the characters in the Beijing dialect, was adopted as an educational instrument to help in the spread of the modern standard language. Modified in 1958, the system was formally prescribed (1979) for use in all diplomatic documents and foreign-language publications in English-speaking countries.
Some scholars divide the history of the Chinese languages into Proto-Sinitic (Proto-Chinese; until 500 bc), Archaic (Old) Chinese (8th to 3rd century bc), Ancient (Middle) Chinese (through ad 907), and Modern Chinese (from c. the 10th century to modern times). The Proto-Sinitic period is the period of the most ancient inscriptions and poetry; most loanwords in Chinese were borrowed after that period. The works of Confucius and Mencius mark the beginning of the Archaic Chinese period. Modern knowledge of the sounds of Chinese during the Ancient Chinese period is derived from a pronouncing dictionary of the language of the Ancient period published in ad 601 by the scholar Lu Fayan and also from the works of the scholar-official Sima Guang, published in the 11th century.
The Chinese writing system is non-alphabetic. It applies a specific character to write each meaningful syllable or each nonmeaningful syllabic that is part of a polysyllabic word.
Varieties of spoken Chinese
There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme)
- Guan / Mandarin
Number of speakers
It has about 1.2 billion speakers in the world.
People's Republic of China, Republic of China (Taiwan), Singapore, Wa State(alongside the Wa language), Brunei, United Nations. Recognized as minority language in United States, Malaysia, Philippines.
In the PRC: National Commission on Language and Script Work In the ROC: National Languages Committee In Singapore: Promote Mandarin Council/Speak Mandarin Campaign.
Chinese language on websites
Chinese language ranks on 6th on its content available on net and its content available on net and it is 4.5% in terms of percentage.
Characters & requirements for being a literate
A well-educated Chinese reader today recognizes approximately 5,000–7,000 characters; approximately 3,000 characters are required to read a Mainland newspaper. The PRC government defines literacy amongst workers as a knowledge of 2,000 characters, though this would be only functional literacy. A large unabridged dictionary, like the Kangxi Dictionary, contains over 40,000 characters, including obscure, variant, rare, and archaic characters; fewer than a quarter of these characters are now commonly used.
With the growing importance and influence of China's economy globally, Mandarin instruction is gaining popularity in schools in the USA, and has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK.
In 1991 there were 2,000 foreign learners taking China's official Chinese Proficiency Test(comparable to the English Cambridge Certificate), while in 2005, the number of candidates had risen sharply to 117,660.