Encyclopedia > Languages of China

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Languages of China

Not to be confused with the Chinese languages, which are just a few of the languages of China.


The Chinese ethnic groups speak a great variety of languages, spanning across six linguistics families, that are called the Zhongguo Yuwen (中国语文), meaning "languages of China". Most of them are dissimilar morphologically and phonetically.

Most of the languages of China have historically influenced each other. During most dynasties, it was the Chinese languages that Sinicize the other ethnic groups. (See Ethnic groups in Chinese history.) But during the Mongol Dynasty, it was the Mongolian language that dominated. And during the last dynasty, the Qing, the Manchu language also had a strong influence, although some of the later Manchu royalty themselves voluntarily adopted the Chinese language as well.

As a result of the influence, there can be certain amount of common vocabulary found across languages of China. However, the pronunciation usually differ dramatically to a point of unintelligibility.

Not all Chinese nationalities have developed a separate language. For example, the Hui Chinese and the Han Chinese speak the same language, the Chinese language.

However, the term Zhongguo Yuwen is sometimes used to be synomous as "Chinese language". To clarify, one can use Zhongguo de Yuwen (中国的语文), which has an unambiguous meaning as "China's languages".

The following are the spoken and written languages (they are not one-to-one match) used by the modern Chinese.

Spoken

The languages of modern Chinese nationalities are dispersed in between six families:

See also: Chinese language

Written

The following languages have traditionally had non-Han written languages:

Ten nationalities who never had a written system have, under PRC's encouragement, developed phonetic alphabets.



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