The Mandarin Chinese language is thousands of years old. We always believe it is interesting to know something about the origins and usage of the new language you are about to or have started studying:
Background to and Usage of Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese (漢語) comprises seven main dialects, Mandarin (官話), Cantonese (廣州話, 廣府話), Hakka (客家話), Wu (吳語), Min (閩語), Xiang (湘語), and Gan (贛語) (see Fig. 1). The variety of Mandarin based on the speech in the capital Beijing is the official national language of mainland China and is termed Pŭtōnghuà, and Mandarin is very much shaped and based on the Beijing dialect and on other dialects spoken in the northern areas of China.
In fact, Chinese had very great influence on the languages and characters used in other countries, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
Usage and Alternatives
Notwithstanding the above, the de facto common language in Hong Kong and in overseas Chinese communities is Cantonese, really more of a dialect.
Most Chinese dialects are not mutually intelligible but are termed dialects from sociological and political points of view. Most of the dialects are themselves composed of a number of non-mutually-intelligible sub-varieties. Six of the seven main dialects are in the southeast of Chinese, south of the Yangtze River.
Han Chinese represent about 92 percent of the total Chinese population and about two-thirds of the Han population speaks a variant of Mandarin as their native tongue. A significant part of the Han population is therefore bilingual.
Under these circumstances the Common language is used as a second language for formal communication in government, media, and education whilst the primary mother tongue is used for remaining occasions such as conversation at home, between friends and relatives, in entertainment situations, etc.
Tones and intonations of the Mandarin Chinese language
All varieties of Chinese belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Members of the Sinitic family are typically tonal, meaning that different tones, or intonations, distinguish words that otherwise are pronounced identically.
The Chinese language by origin is monosyllabic. The vocabulary of dialects more recent in the linguistic tree such are Mandarin tend to become more polysyllabic (compound words) as an adjustment to the loss of a number of sounds compared to ancient Chinese.
Despite the diversity of speech the Han Chinese share one common script making written communication possible between people speaking mutually unintelligible dialects.
Useful key phrases
Here are links to some useful key phrases, written in both pinyin and traditional Chinese characters for ease of reference:
So, now you know all about Mandarin Chinese and its origins, time to get learning and practicing… happy studying time!