What Do You Know About Chinese Dialects?

What is Chinese? When most people think of the Chinese language, they often think of it as a single language that is the same everywhere. Chinese is Chinese, right? This couldn’t be further from the truth.

China is a diverse country that houses 56 different ethnic groups and hundreds of villages along with colossal cities, each with their own unique spin on the Chinese language. Each version of the Chinese language is referred to as a dialect.

Dialects emerge due to a difference in the background of the people creating and speaking them. Mainland Chinese dialects and the Chinese dialects spoken on islands like Hong Kong and Taiwan are spoken by people with drastically different heritages. Dialects are not unique to the Chinese language. For example, the disparities between American English, British English, and Australian English make each a dialect of English. These dialects were created by different people living in different places who created their own unique version of English.

Hundreds of Chinese dialects exist, but the seven major groups in descending popularity are:

Name of Dialect Spoken In Spoken By

(% of Han Population)

Mandarin

普通话

Northern and Southwest China 679,250,000 People

(71.5%)

Wu (Shanghainese)

吴语

Area Around Shanghai and Zhejiang 80,750,000 People

(8.5%)

Yue (Cantonese)

粤语 (广东话)

Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hong Kong 47,500,000 People

(5.0%)

Xiang (Hunanese)

湘语 (湖南话)

Hunan 45,600,000 People

(4.8%)

Min (Taiwanese)

闽语 (台湾话)

Fujian, Taiwan 38,950,000 People

(4.1%)

Hakka

客家话

Area from Sichuan to Taiwan 35,130,000 People

(3.7%)

Gan

江西话

Jiangxi 22,800,000 People

(2.4%)

 

Although Chinese dialects use the same characters, the pronunciation of each character differs among the dialects. While two people who speak different dialects of Chinese can gather the same meaning from the same characters, verbal communication between these speakers may be difficult.

Although each dialect is still considered Chinese in a general sense, some argue that each Chinese dialect is closer to being its own language than to one another. One’s language is a huge part of one’s cultural identity, and the true diversity of China is exemplified by each variant of the common language, Chinese!

 

Source:

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~yu25s/classweb/worldpolitics/Site/Dialects_in_China.html

There are 6 comments

  1. Juliann L

    The map you included was very helpful in proving your point about different ethnic groups in China. I like how you included the most popular dialects, where the dialect is spoken, and approximately what percentage of the Chinese population speak the dialect. Great article!

  2. Maggie Guo

    I really liked your chart for the different dialects in China. I think it is very helpful to see the diversity of dialects in China, and also the regions that speak those dialects. Thank you for the great article!

  3. Ashley K

    I love the diverse dialects that are spoken in China. I wonder why Mandarin became to be the most common dialect. Very interesting article!

  4. Daryn N

    It is so cool to learn about dialects in China. I know that America has many different dialects and it is interesting to see the ones that exist in China too.

  5. Derek Zhang

    It is so cool to learn about dialects in China. I love the diverse dialects that are spoken in China. Overall it is a great article.

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