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An Introduction of the Chinese Language

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world. Approximately 1.3 billion people in the world speak Chinese. Substantial numbers are to be found all over the world, like in south-east Asia, especially in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Communities are especially found in Europe, North and South America, and the Hawaiian Islands. Chinese has been an official language of the United Nations since the founding of the organisation in 1945.

Mandarin is based on the pronunciation of Beijing. Two third of the Chinese population speak Mandarin. But there are some major dialects in China.

  1. Wu, 50 million people, Shanghai and Zhejian province to the south
  2. Cantonese, 45 million, southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi (also spoken in Hong Kong and parts of Taiwan)
  3. Fukienese/Min, 45 million, northern Fujian and southern Fukinese
  4. Amoy, 30 million, southern Fujian, Amoy Island and Taiwan
  5. Hakka, 20 million, north-eastern Guangdong and southern Jiangxi
  6. Xiang, 15 million, Hunan Province

Nearly all Chinese in the United States speak Cantonese.

Chinese is a tonal language. There are four different tones

  1. flat tone
  2. rising tone
  3. low rising tone
  4. down tone

One word can be pronounced in each of the four tones, each yielding with a different meaning.

All together there are 40-50000 characters known. But needed for daily live are much fewer. To read a newspaper it takes a knowledge of 3000 to 4000 characters. A character can include up to 36 strokes.

The Chinese language developed out of pictographs. At the beginning materials were pictured. That was the basis for the development to the present language. Today the language has nonpictorial ideographs.

It is common that two characters form a third. But the appearance of the character is always the same.

There were some attempts to simplify the Chinese language. In 1955 a plan was initiated to simplify the writing of 1700 characters. In 1958, a new Chinese alphabet based on the Roman script was designed. It is of little avail.


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