Chinese or the Sinitic language(s) (汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ; 华语/華語 Huáyǔ; 中文 Zhōngwén) is a language family consisting of languages which are mostly mutually unintelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one billion people, speaks some variety of Chinese as their native language. Internal divisions of Chinese are usually perceived by their native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, rather than separate languages, although this identification is considered inappropriate by some linguists and Sinologists.
Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (Yue) (70 million) and Min (50 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility.
Standard Mandarin (Putonghua / Guoyu / Huayu) is a standardized form of spoken Chinese, based on the Beijing dialect, which is part of a larger group of North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, often taken as a separate language. The Mandarin Chinese language is referred to as 官话/官話 Guānhuà or 北方话/北方話 Běifānghuà in Chinese. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan), as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong (together with English) and of Macau (together with Portuguese). Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (known as Hokkien in Singapore and Malaysia).
Traditional Chinese characters refers to Chinese characters in any character set which does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. It most commonly refers to characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong, or in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century (during the Southern and Northern Dynasties.) The retronym "traditional Chinese" is used to contrast traditional characters with Simplified Chinese characters, a standardized character set introduced by the government of the People's Republic of China on Mainland China in the 1950s.
Traditional Chinese characters are currently used in Taiwan (Republic of China), Hong Kong and Macau. They were also used in mainland China before the People's Republic of China simplified them in the 1950s and 1960s. In overseas Chinese communities other than Singapore and Malaysia, traditional characters are most commonly used, although the number of printed materials in simplified characters is growing in Australia, USA and Canada, targeting or created by new arrivals from mainland China. A large number of overseas Chinese online newspapers allow users to switch between both sets. In contrast, simplified Chinese characters are used in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia in official publications. The debate on traditional and simplified Chinese characters has been a long-running issue among Chinese communities.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_language
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