Language versus Dialect
(2,518 words)

Though she may have studied “Chinese” in her hometown classroom, the foreign student traveling in China will not need long to discover that this term is of little use in application to the linguistic panoply she encounters there: by the locals in Běijīng, Shànghǎi, and Guǎngdōng, for instance, she’ll be called [t’a˥], [ɦi˩˧], and [k’øy˩˧] (all ‘he, she, it’) respectively, words utterly different as regards both sound and etymological origin. Nevertheless, native words that look just as amorphous as English “Chinese” – like Mandarin Zhōngwén 中文 or Hànyǔ 漢語 (both ‘Chinese language’; Name…

Cite this page
Jonathan SMITH, “Language versus Dialect”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 22 May 2017 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000123>
First published online: 2015



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