Continuing our quest to find out the origins of various languages, our language for today is Chinese. We’re excited to share what we know about the origins of the Chinese language. The language, certain traditions, and foods are known throughout the world and are growing in popularity by the day.
Learning about a language tells a story about people, their culture, beliefs, and history. The Chinese language is a fascinating language and we’re sure you’ll enjoy learning about its origins. Let’s begin!
The History of the Chinese Language
The Chinese language is the world’s oldest written language, dating back at least six thousand years. Inscriptions of Chinese characters going back to the Shang era (1766-1123 BC) have been discovered in turtle shells, showing that the written language has existed for over 3,000 years.
One of the two world languages with over a billion speakers is Chinese. It is the world’s most widely spoken mother tongue, with over 900 million native speakers and millions more studying it as a second language.
Culture Influencing the Origins of the Chinese Language
With such a long history, Chinese culture has undoubtedly endured numerous changes and effects as a result of wars and cultural upheavals. Most linguists consider all forms of spoken Chinese to be members of the Sino-Tibetan family and think that there was an initial language, akin to Proto-Indo-European, from which the Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman languages developed.
Old Chinese, often known as “Archaic Chinese,” was the predominant language throughout the early and middle Zhou Dynasties (11th to 7th century B.C. ). The contents of Archaic Chinese include inscriptions on bronze artifacts, Shijing poetry, and Shujing history and parts of the Yijing.
Based on Biblical tales, some people believe that the Chinese people are the fated “lost nation of Israel.” While the critiques are many, the study does give an intriguing perspective.
The Spoken Language
All current Chinese dialects are descended from Middle Chinese which was spoken in China throughout the Southern and Northern Dynasties, as well as the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties.
Mandarin / Guan, Wu, Hakka, Xiang, Yue, Gan, and Min are some of the primary spoken varieties of the Chinese language.
Chinese people commonly refer to Chinese as a single language with a variety of dialects or variants. However, because there is limited mutual intelligibility between the many variants of Chinese, some non-Chinese linguists refer to them as separate languages.
Chinese was declared an official United Nations language in 1946, although it was not utilized at the UN General Assembly until 1973. The United Nations has six official languages: Chinese, English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish.
Written Chinese and Chinese Characters
The primarily written form of Chinese is based mostly on the Mandarin spoken by the educated in Beijing. Chinese characters are used in written Chinese as well as in Japanese writing. In fact, much of the Japanese writing system was adopted from the original Chinese writing system and simplified Chinese characters.
Chinese is written with characters that express both sound and meaning. In Chinese, words can have one or more syllables, and each syllable is represented by a single character. In spoken Chinese, there are only roughly 1,700 different sorts of syllables, compared to languages like English, which has over 8,000.
The Chinese writing system is extremely complicated, and it is the most challenging aspect of learning Mandarin. To learn the written language, hundreds of characters must be remembered and practiced.
Chinese writing is logographic, which means that each sign represents a word or a minimum unit of meaning. During the Shang Dynasty, divination was used to develop ancient Chinese
writing. According to some interpretations, figures and marking on ceramic shards discovered in Ban Po Village is proof of an early writing system.
How Mandarin Chinese Became China’s Official Language
During the later part of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Mandarin Chinese became the language of the ruling class. China’s capital was changed from Nanjing to Beijing and stayed in Beijing during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). Because Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, it became the court’s official language.
Despite this, several Chinese dialects were still spoken at the Chinese court. Mandarin Chinese did not become China’s national language until 1909. It is also important to note that there are various regional Mandarin dialects found throughout China. But these native language dialects are all mutually intelligible.
To Wrap Up
We’ve covered so much about the Chinese language, its history, dialects and so much more. What was your favorite part and why did it stand out to you? Let us know in the comments below.
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