Chinese exists in a number of
varieties that are usually classified as separate
languages by scholars.
Standard Chinese is one of the five official languages of the United
languages include Mandarinin the northern, central, and western parts of
China; Wu, Northern and Southern Min, Kan, Hakka, and Hsiang; and Cantonese
(Yüeh) in the southeastern part of the country.
it is common for speakers of Chinese to be able to speak several variations
of the language. Typically in southern China, a person will be able to speak
the official Putonghua, the local dialect, and occasionally either speak or
understand another regional dialect, such as Cantonese. Such polyglots will
frequently code switch between Putonghua and the local dialect, depending on
situation. Sometimes, the various dialects are mixed from other dialects,
depending on geographical influence. A person living in Taiwan, for example,
will commonly mix pronunciations, phrases, and words from Mandarin and
Minnan, and this mixture is considered socially appropriate under many
Chinese languages share a
common literary language (wen-yen) which is written
in characters and based on a common body of literature, but
has no single standard of pronunciation.
belongs to the family of Sino-Tibetan languages.
more people speak Chinese than any other language in the world.
spoken by more than 1 billion people in China and large emigrant
as those in Southeast Asia, North and South America, and
the Hawaiian Islands.
one major difference between Chinese concepts of language and Western
concepts is that Chinese makes a sharp distinction between written
language (wen) and spoken language (yu). This distinction extends to the
distinction between written word (zi) and spoken word (hua). The concept
of a distinct and unified combination of both written and spoken forms of
language is much less strong in Chinese than in the West. There are a
variety of spoken Chinese, the most prominent of which is Mandarin. There
is however only one uniform written script.
spoken Chinese is a tonal language related to
Tibetan and Burmese, but
genetically unrelated to other neighbouring languages, such as
Japanese. However, these languages were strongly
influenced by Chinese in the course of history, linguistically and also extralinguistically.
Japanese both have writing systems
employing Chinese characters, which are called Hanja and Kanji,
respectively. In North Korea, Hanja has been completely discontinued and
Hangul is the sole way to express their language, while in South Korea,
Hanja is used as a form of bold face. Along with those two languages,
Vietnamese also contains many Chinese loanwords and formerly used Chinese
the Chinese written language employs the Han
characters (漢字 pinyin hànzì), which are named after the Han culture to
which it is largely attributed. Chinese characters appear to have
originated in the Shang dynasty as pictograms depicting concrete objects.
The first examples we have of Chinese characters are inscriptions on
oracle bones, which are occasionally sheep scapula but mostly turtle
plastrons (lower shells) used for divination purposes. Over the course of
the Zhou and Han dynasties, the characters became more and more stylized.
Also, additional components were added so that many characters contain one
element that gives (or at least once gave) a fairly good indication of the
pronunciation, and another component (the so-called "radical") gives an
indication of the general category of meaning to which the character
belongs. In the modern Chinese languages, the majority of characters are
phonetically based rather than logographically based. An example would be
the character for the word 按 àn that means "to press down." It contains 安
ān (peace), which serves as its phonetic component, and 手 shǒu (hand),
that indicates that the action is frequently one that is done using one's
in Japan and Korea, Han
characters were adopted and integrated into their languages and became
Kanji and Hanja, respectively. Japan still uses Kanji as an integral part
of its writing system; however, Korea's use of Hanja has diminished
(indeed, it is not used at all in North Korea).
there are currently two standards for printed Chinese characters. One is
the Traditional system, used in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Mainland
China and Singapore use the Simplified system (developed by the PRC
government in the 1950s), which uses simplified forms for many of the more
complicated characters. Most simplified versions were derived from
established, though obscure, historically-established simplifications. In
Taiwan, many simplifications are used when characters are handwritten, but
in printing traditional characters are the norm. In addition, most Chinese
use some personal simplifications.
The "HTML Bible" download contains the entire Bible with
each chapter as a web page in a single Zipped file. These are plain
ASCII text .htm files, suitable for almost any platform. To use, you
must save and unzip the .zip file using PKUNZIP or Winzip, which you can
get an evaluation copy from
The "SpeedBible" download contains a single file that does
not have to be unzipped, but requires that you save the file and open
with Internet Explorer 4.0 or better to use. It is in the Microsoft
"HTML Help" format, as used on MSDN. The "SpeedBible" has a
search engine, Index, Table of Contents, and is good for a standalone
- Chinese Language and Culture Forum
- A community
of people interested in learning about Chinese and Chinese culture.
Forum topics include history, non-Mandarin Chinese, grammar and
- Chinese Online Reading Assistant
Vocabulary-annotated Chinese articles for advanced students, designed
to expand a student's vocabulary. Requires a Chinese-language system
that will show Chinese characters.
Chinese Text Sampler
- Intended for
student reading practice, this graded collection of 50 short Chinese
texts includes well-known stories, poems, songs, essays, and
- Chinese Tools
- Tools to
help learn and process Chinese online, including dictionaries,
flashcards, and translators.
So you want to learn Chinese...?
Includes FAQ, hints and tips for learning
the language, book reviews and basic learning methods, plus
information on viewing and writing Chinese for users of UNIX and