Chinese: 中文 (zhōngwén); 华语 or 華語 (huáyǔ); 汉语 or 漢語 (hànyǔ) Mandarin dialect group: 官话 or 官話 (guānhuà); 北方话 or 北方話 (běifānghuà) Standard Mandarin variety: 普通话 (pǔtōnghuà - ‘general pronunciation’), 國語 (guóyǔ - ‘national language’)

Sino-Tibetan > Sinitic > Chinese

Spoken by: 846 millions according to, 2000

Official in: As ‘Chinese’ in China, Taiwan, Singapore

Spoken primarily in: China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, USA, Canada

When we say ‘Chinese’, we normally refer to the biggest Chinese language, also known as Mandarin. Whereas most Chinese consider all Chinese languages dialects of one language - where (the Beijing variety of) Mandarin Chinese is considered the standard one, many linguists prefer to divide Chinese into several languages, like Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Min Nan etc. Mandarin also forms the pattern for the Chinese written language which is used also by speakers of other different languages. Mandarin is one of the most phonologically simplified varieties of Chinese. This is mirrored by the fact that Mandarin has more polysyllabic than most other varieties (Shanghainese has more). Like all Sinitic languages, Mandarin is a tonal languages and has four tones, illustrated by the accents on the vowels in the pinyin transcription below.