Difference between Mandarin and Chinese

Posted by Mollan Mo on 18/02/2016 1:02 AM 312

What's the difference between Mandarin and Chinese?
I'm trying to organise lessons on the net, but there are courses in both. Which one would allow me to converse all over the country.

You know what? Chinese is a general term that refers to the common language spoken in China. Mandarin is just one of seven major groups of dialects in China! Traditionally, besides Mandarin, the other six are Wu, Gan and Xiang in central China, and Min, Hakka and Yue on the southeast coast. All these dialects derived from Old Chinese. Here are three factors that making Mandarin as the official language in China, that it historical reasons, political influence and geographical environment. In short, Mandarin is a dialect based on northern dialect while Chinese consists of seven different dialects.

Generally speaking, Han people are native speakers of a dialect of Mandarin. During the history, the North China Plain provided few barriers to migration, leading to relative linguistic homogeneity over a wide area in northern China, that is why Mandarin doesn’t change much. Mandarin is based on Beijing dialect which is used among northern China. In contrast, the mountains and rivers of southern China have spawned the other six major groups of Chinese varieties in southern China.

The differences between Mandarin and other dialects are huge, some examples following will help us understand this phenomenon well. It is easy for us to find that there are more polysyllabic words in Mandarin than in all other major varieties of Chinese. Experts say this is partly because Mandarin has undergone many more sound changes than southern varieties of Chinese, so it needed to deal with many more homophones. New words have been formed by adding affixes such as lao- , -zi , -(e)r, and -tou, or by compounding. For example, by combining two words of similar meaning as in cōngmáng , made of two elements meaning "hurried" and "busy”. However, a distinctive feature of southwestern Mandarin is its frequent use of noun reduplication, which is hardly used in Beijing. one may hear baobao in southern China which means "handbag", northern people say”bao'r” .Another interesting difference is the use of singular pronouns in Mandarin, wǒ "I", nǐ "you", nín "you (formal)", and tā"he/she/it", with -men added for the plural. Further, we may find that there is a distinction between the plural first-person pronoun zánmen (咱们), which is inclusive of the listener, and wǒmen (我们), which may be exclusive of the listener.

As a Chinese beginner, learning Mandarin is enough to live in China and communicate with Chinese friends. Despite the differences between northern Chinese and southern Chinese, it must be an interesting challenge for a senior learner to acknowledge a new dialect such as Cantonese.

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About The Author

Mollan Mo

Mollan holds a bachelor’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Experienced and skilled, she utilizes a variety of activities and methods to keep her classes lively. She loves her job and her passion to share her language and culture with others drives her to help her students succeed. Learn Chinese online with Mollan Mo >>