language was spoken by most Chinese people. But it has
different dialects. Among them Putonghua or Mandarin is the most
popular. Mandarin is China’s official language, which is based on
the Beijing dialect. The people living in the north part and east
part of China mainly speak Mandarin. In China 70% of the population
speaks Mandarin. In Canton area people mostly speak Cantonese. Fortunately
Chinese dialects share the same written system and grammar although
the pronunciations of some words are different. So the communications
between the people from different places are not so hard. This really
helps the consistent development of Chinese culture and also helps
the unifying of Chinese nation. Actually this should attribute to
Emperor Qinshihuang (259BC-210BC) who unified China in 221BC and
he also standardized the written language. He also made an effort
to popularize a common oral Chinese language.
Chinese characters and script
Chinese characters are “block characters”. According to the compositions
of Chinese characters, they can be divided into 6 groups. Pictograph
which means the character is like the picture of what it represents.
For example, “月” (moon), “日”(sun), “山” (mountain), “火”(fire) and
so on are this kind. The second group is the ideogram representing
the object in an abstract form. For example, “中” (middle), the vertical
line cuts through the center of a rectangle. The third group is
the compound ideogram. This is a combination of two or more ideograms
to denote an idea of object. Fox example, “森” (forest), which has
three “木” (wood). The fourth group is phonogram, which is a combination
of a meaning element and a phonetic element. It is the most common
kind of Chinese characters. Around 90% Chinese characters belong
to this kind. For example, “骑” (ride), “马” represents the meaning
part, “奇” represents the phonetic part. The other two groups are
the phonetic loan and derivative characters. But they are very few
and less important.
Chinese characters are one of the oldest characters in the world.
Pictograph characters appeared more 6,000 years ago. Three thousand
years ago Chinese people carved the characters on the oracle bones.
Later the script changed from complicated forms to the simplified
forms. But even today they are still much more complicated than
the letter characters of western language. Chinese characters have
many strokes, which make them like pictures. Three thousand years
ago there were about 5,000 Chinese characters inscribed on the tortoise
shells. With the language developing, in the Qing Dynasty (1644AD-1911AD),
the Kangxi Dictionary collected around 47,000 Chinese characters.
Currently, it is estimated that there are around 60,000 Chinese
characters existed but 3000- 4000 of them are widely used in the
daily life. These Chinese monosyllabic characters can combine different
words. For example the word of “看不起” (kan bu qi), which has three
Chinese characters :“看” (kan means look), “不” (bu means no) and
“ 起” (qi means up). Altogether it means “look down upon”. Another
example, the Chacater of “危” (wei means danger) and “机” (ji means
opportunity), when they combine a new word “危机”(we ji) is created.
It means “crisis”. So you can realize that Chinese language is rich
of content and strong to express things and it is a beautiful language.
After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, China
initiated to simplify the Chinese characters in order to promote
universal literacy. In 1954, a committee of reforming Chinese characters
was set up. Latter on 2,238 Chinese characters have been simplified
on a systematic basis, which proved to be successful. However in
Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan they still use the old written characters.
Some foreign countries such as Singapore and Malaysia also simplified
some old Chinese characters.
In 1958 china adopted a system known as pinyin as a method of writing
Chinese. Pinyin consists of Roman alphabets. Chinese always use
Roman alphabets to mark the pronunciation of Chinese characters.
That is very efficient and easier. Many different Chinese characters
share very similar pronunciation but totally with different meanings.
But the phonetic sound has four pitched tones such as high and level
(1st), rising (second), falling-rising (third) and falling (fourth).
Most Chinese characters are one syllable characters. That is why
the homophonic characters and words are very common in Chinese language.
But Chinese use the four pitch tones to differentiate them. Of course
in a sentence it is very easy to know which characters referred
according to the context. For one example, 妈妈(mother)骑(ride)马(horse),马(horse)吃(eat)麻(hemp),
妈妈(mother)骂(scold)马(horse). (Mā ma qi mǎ, mǎ chi má , mā ma mà mǎ),
which mother rides a horse, horse eats hemp, mother scolds the horse.
How to type Chinese characters on the computers?
Chinese characters could be input the computer around 20 years ago.
Now there are many ways to input Chinese characters. The key board
of computers used in china is the same with that in western countries.
But the soft ware can help to input very complicated Chinese characters.
People can use the Pinyin of Chinese characters to type. Pinyin
is marked by Roman alphabets. For this method you need know the
pronunciation of the character. After typing the letters there will
be different characters for you to choose on the screen. Another
way is wubi, which categorizes the characters into strokes (such
as left-falling, right-falling, horizontal, vertical, hook) and
radicals (basic structural parts of Chinese characters); each key
on the computer represents a certain stroke and radical. To input
any character, simply press the keys corresponding to the first
four strokes or radicals of a character. If this character has more
than four parts, you just type the first three in sequence and then
the last stroke. For characters have less than four strokes or radicals,
press the space bar after the last stroke or radical. For this typing
method you should be familiar with how to split a character into
different strokes and radicals. But it is very precise and efficient
after you master it. One experienced typist can type 160 Chinese
characters per minute.
Some people who aren't comfortable with typing might be more inclined
to use an electronic writing tablet instead. The precise strokes
of Chinese characters make them relatively easy for a computer to
Now there are some other different type writings of Chinese characters
appeared. More or less the principle is similar.
The Grammar of Chinese language
Chinese grammar is far simpler than the western language. Chinese
language has no tenses, no plurals, no definite articles and indefinite
articles. Chinese language is a subject- verb – object language.
For example, “I (subject) love (verb) you (object).” Which in Chinese
is “我爱你.” “我”(Wo means I) , “爱” (Ai means love), “你” (Ni means you)
Actually the grammar in this sentence is exact the same with that
Chinese language is a beautiful language with vitality. More than
20% people on the earth speak this language. Westerners have realized
Chinese language is really important in the world. That is why Chinese
becomes a popular foreign language in a lot of universities in western
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