Chinese Dialects

The Chinese language is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. The spoken Chinese language is comprised of many dialects. Scholars usually classify these dialects into seven main divisions: Northern dialect, Wu , Min, Xiang, Gan, Yue and Hakka.

Northern diatect serves as the basis for Putonghua. It is spoken by about three quarters of the Chinese population living on three quarters of China’s land, extending from the borderland in the northeast to the large cities and trading ports in the southwest.

The other six dialects are spoken in the southeast of China, the most densely populated area of the country. The Wu dialect is spoken in southern Jiangsu, Shanghai and most of Zhejiang; Min, in Fujian, Taiwan and eastern Guangdong; Xiang and Gan in Hunan and Jiangxi respectively; Hakka in northern Guangdong and southern Jiangxi; and Yue in the middle part of Guangdong and Guangxi. Yue, Min and Hakka are also spoken by overseas Chinese.

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People speaking different dialects sometimes are unable to communicate with each other, but the written form (Chinese characters) they are using is exactly the same.

Dialects are important parts of the Chinese language. Many words used in dialects have become national vocabularies. For example, 巴士(bus), 打的(hail a taxi), “买单” (pay a restaurant bill) , and “生猛海鲜”(live and fresh seafood) from the Yue dialect are very popular in northern China now.

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Foreigners may get to know Chinese dialect from the names of Chinese food, such as 杂碎 (chopsuey), and 馄饨 (wonton) from the Yue dialect. Chinese tea spread a broad by sea and land. If it is transported to a country by land, the pronunciation of tea in the country is similar to “cha” in the northern dialect; if by sea, the pronunciation is similar to “ti” in the Min dialect. Land transport Russian chai Arabic shai Persian chay Romanian ceai Turkish bay Sea transport English tea Dutch three French the German tee

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