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Before Mandarin[edit]

Since ancient history, the Chinese language has always consisted of a wide variety of dialects; hence prestige dialects and linguae francae have always been needed. Confucius, for example, used yyn (), or "elegant speech", rather than colloquial regional dialects; text during the Han Dynasty also referred to tngy ( ), or "common language". Rime books, which were written since the Southern and Northern Dynasties, may also have reflected one or more systems of standard pronunciation during those times. However, all of these standard dialects were probably unknown outside the educated elite; even among the elite, pronunciations may have been very different, as the unifying factor of all Chinese dialects, Classical Chinese, was a written standard, not a spoken one.

Adoption of Mandarin[edit]
The Ming Dynasty (13681644) and the Qing Dynasty (16441912) began to use the term gunhu (), or "official speech", to refer to the speech used at the courts. It seems that during the early part of this period, the standard was based on the Nanjing dialect, but later the Beijing dialect became increasingly influential, despite the mix of officials and commoners speaking various dialects in the capital, Beijing. The existence of Guanhua became known to Europeans already by the time of Matteo Ricci (who worked in China in 1582-1610), who wrote of "a spoken language common to the whole Empire, known as the Quonhua, [1] an official language for civil and forensic use".[2] In the 17th century, the Empire had set up Orthoepy Academies (, Zhngyn Shyun) in an attempt to make pronunciation conform to the Beijing standard. But these attempts had little success. As late as the 19th century the emperor had difficulty understanding some of his own ministers in court, who did not always try to follow any standard pronunciation. As late as the early 20th century, the position of Nanjing Mandarin was considered higher than that of Beijing by some and the Chinese Postal Map Romanization standards set in 1906 included spellings with elements of Nanjing pronunciation.[3] Nevertheless, by 1909, the dying Qing Dynasty had established the Beijing dialect as guy (/), or the "national language". After the Republic of China was established in 1912, there was more success in promoting a common national language. A Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation was convened with delegates from the entire country, who were chosen based as often on political considerations as often as on linguistic expertise. The conference deadlocked between promoters of northern and southern

pronunciation standards and as a result, a compromise was produced. The Dictionary of National Pronunciation () was published, which was based on the Beijing dialect, but with added features, such as a fifth tone, believed to be more faithful to historical Chinese pronunciation. Meanwhile colloquial literature continued to develop apace vernacular Chinese, despite the lack of a standardized pronunciation. Gradually, the members of the National Language Commission came to settle upon the Beijing dialect became the major source of standard national pronunciation, due to the status of that dialect as a prestigious dialect. In 1932, the commission published the Vocabulary of National Pronunciation for Everyday Use (. ), with little fanfare or official pronunciation. This dictionary was similar to the previous published one except that it normalized the pronunciations for all characters into the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect. Despite efforts by some factions to recognize and promote southern Chinese varieties as well, the Kuomintang strongly promoted Guoyu as the one national language and censored and arrested opponents of this movement, continuing this through the wartime years. Elements from other dialects continue to exist in the standard language, but as exceptions rather than the rule.[4] The government of the People's Republic of China, established in 1949, continued the effort. In 1955, guy was renamed ptnghu (), or "common speech". (The name change was not recognized by the Republic of China which has governed only Taiwan and some surrounding islands since 1949.) Since then, the standards used in mainland China and Taiwan have diverged somewhat, though they continue to remain essentially identical. After the handovers of Hong Kong and Macau, the term Putonghua is used in those Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China. And the pinyin system is widely used for teaching of Putonghua. In both mainland China and Taiwan, the use of Mandarin as the medium of instruction in the educational system and in the media has contributed to the spread of Mandarin. As a result, Mandarin is now spoken fluently by most people in mainland China and in Taiwan. However in Hong Kong and Macau, due to historical and linguistic reasons, the language of education and both formal and informal speech remains the local Cantonese, but Mandarin is becoming increasingly influential.

Modern Mandarin vs. historical Mandarin[edit]

Historically, and properly speaking, the word "Mandarin" () refers to the language spoken in the 19th century by the upper classes of Beijing as well as by

the higher civil servants and military officers of the imperial regime serving in Beijing or in the provinces. This Mandarin language is quite close to modern-day Mandarin ( / / ), but there exist some differences. The Mandarin language used many polite and humble words which have almost entirely disappeared in daily conversation in modern-day Mandarin, such as jin ( "my humble"), gu ( "your honorable"), b ( "my humble"), etc. The grammar of the Mandarin language was almost identical to the grammar of modern-day Mandarin, with sometimes very slight differences in the choice of grammatical words or the positioning of words in the sentence. The vocabulary of the Mandarin language was also largely the same as the vocabulary of modern-day Mandarin, although some vocabulary items have now disappeared. In order to allow comparisons, here are four dialogues in the Mandarin language with their equivalent below in modern-day Mandarin. These are authentic dialogues extracted from the Compass of the Mandarin language (), a phrasebook published by the Japanese legation in Beijing in the 1880s and translated into several western languages.


History of Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese, also known as Huayu (language of the Chinese), Guoyu ( national language), or Putonghua (common language), is the official language of mainland China (since 1982) and ROC Taiwan (since 1932). Mandarin is also one of the four official languages of Singapore, and one of the eight official languages of the United Nations. From the time China became a nation state in 221 B.C. until the end of Chinas last imperial dynasty in 1912, China did not have a single national language. Rather, the Chinese spoke many different languages and dialects that developed organically over the course of several millennia. By the early years of the 20th Century, most Chinese agreed that China needed a common language in order to facilitate national communication and to combat widespread illiteracy. In February 1913, the newly established Republic of China () convened a Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation () in Beijing in order to develop a phonetic system and national language for China. The Commission included linguists and educators from each province of China, Tibet, Mongolia, and from overseas Chinese communities.

The Commissions first task was to create a simple, easy to learn, phonetic system to help people learn the common Chinese language. Many different phonetic systems were proposed and tried, including a fixed set of Chinese characters, newly created symbols, and the Roman alphabet. After years of extensive research and debate, the Commission adopted the Zhuyin alphabet as Chinas official alphabet in 1918, deeming it to be the most effective method of teaching Chinese pronunciation. The Commission then turned to the task of standardizing the language that the new Zhuyin alphabet would represent. In 1920, the Commission published a Dictionary of National Pronunciation () that adopted a modification of Beijings phonology. Mandarin was not modeled after the actual speech of the majority of real early 20th century Beijing residents, but rather the way a hypothetical educated Beijing person would speak, as imagined by Mandarin's creators. The difference in China between Mandarin and common Beijing pronunciation is analogous to the difference in England between Received Pronunciation and Cockney. In 1932 the Republic of China () officially adopted the Commissions product, known as Guoyu or Mandarin, as the national language of China and the first definitive dictionary of the Mandarin language was published in that year. After 1949, the newly installed Peoples Republic of China () began to promote Mandarin in earnest beginning in about 1958. In 1955, they changed the Chinese name of Mandarin from Guoyu to Putonghua. Guoyu, Putongua, and Huayu are simply different names for the identical language. In 1982, the Peoples Republic of China () amended their constitution making Mandarin the official language of China. The earlier 1932 law by the Republic of China () making Mandarin China's official language, while effective today in Taiwan, has no current legal effect in mainland China. When Mandarin was first officially adopted in 1932, its proponents' goal was that in a century's time, all Chinese would be able to speak proper Mandarin. Today, 78 years later, approximately 70% of Chinese people speak Mandarin fluently.


History of Chinese Mandarin

Quick Reference

Official Language China Common 2nd language of Taiwan and South East Asia Number of Speakers An estimated one billion Origin Origin unclear because it is so ancient Alphabet & Scripts Written Chinese is in characters called ideographs which bear no relation to the sound of a word. There are 40-50,000 characters in a Chinese dictionary.

Over 3,000 years old and the mother tongue of approximately one billion people, Chinese unites more human beings than any other language in the world. The ancient empires of China rose originally from the great river valleys of the north-west centred on Ch'angan or modern Sian. Traces of an early Chinese script dating from around 1,500BC were discovered inscribed on bone and research has since shown that this script was originally recorded during the Shang dynasty. Of the 2,000 ideographs recorded at the time, 1,300 have been identified as early forms of characters used in the Chinese language today. The language of the classical period at the time of Confucius (550-480 BC) is called Archaic Chinese, and this form developed into Ancient Chinese which was the precursor of Modern Chinese. Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan group of languages. Like other languages, spoken Chinese diverged more and more from the written language until at last the language developed a unique literary style that became known as Wenyan, which was used for writing only. Wenyan differs from common speech in both grammar and vocabulary. It is also studded with literary, mythical and historical allusions and really requires well-educated readers. From the 6th Century AD onwards, Wenyan was a powerful medium and in theory mastery of Wenyan ensured a successful career. Wenyan enjoyed an important linguistic position for many years until young Chinese intellectuals in the early 20th Century began to argue for modernisation. When Mao Tse-tung came to power as leader of the Communists, language reform was an integral part of his transformation of China. He wanted to make Chinese more accessible to the ordinary person and as a result advocated the simplification of characters and Romanization. Simplification essentially means reducing the number of strokes in a character (there can be as

many as 33!). This process started in China in 1956 and has largely been completed today. The Linguaphone text is printed in simplified characters. The Roman alphabet was also adopted in the 1950's and this Romanized version is known as Pinyin. After January 1979, Pinyin completely replaced all other systems of Romanizations. The Linguaphone course also uses Pinyin. The language reformers then wanted all of China to speak the same dialect; the natural choice for a universal dialect was the pure Peking (Beijing) dialect known in the west as Mandarin but called Putonghua (common speech) on the mainland today.