The Chinese Language


A brief introduction to the Chinese Language


Writing


Chinese script developed from pictograms. Early pictograms were in use about 3,500 years ago. Originally these were something like the pictograms we are familiar with from the ancient Egyptians. Over the years these gradually changed from depictional to be increasingly abstract although in some cases the similarity of original pictogram and modern character can still be seen.


Many characters are composed of two or more simpler characters. Some words are composed of two or more characters. The meaning of such words of more than one character may be based on the combined meanings or the combined sounds.


To be reasonably proficient one would need to know about 2,000 characters although there are many many more. On the mainland of China, the characters exist in a 'simplified' form, though perhaps do not look so to the western eye!


The order that the strokes of a character are written is important. One starts at the top and then left to right as one works one's way down. When writing with speed, cursive styles are possible. Historically, this behaviour will have contributed to the evolution of characters. Cursive styles are also sometimes used in Chinese calligraphy, which is an important art-form in Chinese culture.


What we call Chinese script is not the only script still used, but is the official common language (along with Mandarin for spoken Chinese). There are also Tibetan, Manchurian and Mongolian scripts. The Tibetan script, because of geographic location, resembles Indian and Arabic scripts.


Pin-Yin, an alphabet-based phonetic rendition of spoken Chinese is learned by young schoolchildren as an aid to pronunciation, just as it is for the foreigner learning Chinese. Pin-Yin enables non Chinese speakers to get a rough idea of the sound of Chinese and also allows words to be more easily recognised and remembered by westerners. Hence, place names are usually marked in Pin-Yin as well as traditional Chinese script.


Note that older Chinese people cannot read Pin-Yin.


Spoken Chinese


The official spoken language of China is called Mandarin and is based on the dialect native to Beijing.


Mandarin is a tonal language with four tones: flat, rising, falling and falling then rising. Ideally, Pin-Yin would be written with accents to indicate the tones but seldom is. For example, the sound 'ba' means 'eight' if said with a flat tone but 'father' if spoken with a rising tone.

Related Videos

Featured Videos

Movie time – Yesterday Once More 谁的青春不迷茫
It's better to be late than never ... Set in high school, a story of love and friendship. And, above all, honesty; especially being true, to oneself, and others. An awesome movie - don't miss it ! Really a lot in this film, no matter if you're way past school days. A film about education, music, honesty, astronomy, divorce, cheating, friendship, class, imprisonment, growing up, love, bullying, finance, heartbreak, flight, bikers, radio, Romeo and Juliet, comedy, and more.
A bite of China – Chinese food !
The CCTV food series featuring food production, food culture, cooking and dishes. English narration. 1 Gifts of nature 2 The story of staple foods 3 Inspiration for change 4 The taste of time 5 Secrets of the kitchen 6 A perfect blend of five flavors 7 Our farm
A day in XiTang 喜糖, ZheJiang Province – video
XiTang lies not far from ShangHai. It is a water town that through which nine rivers flow. In the ancient part of the town, the houses sit alongside the banks of beautiful canals ...
Discover the natural beauty and tea culture of FuJian 福建 province …
FúJiàn province, east China
ChongQing 重庆 : light rail, urban planning, food and tourism
The last Kung Fu masters
A short documentary - an extended preview of Chris Crudelli's film on the martial arts in China today.
An introduction to the city of NingBo 宁波 …
ZheJiang province, east China, south of ShangHai. Every Chinese city has its unique flavor, but in many ways, this is the New China AnyTown ...
A day at Tiger Leaping Gorge 虎跳峡
Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 / HǔTiào Xiá) is a beautiful canyon on the JinSha River, a primary tributary of the upper YangTse River. It lies about 60 kilometers (38 miles) north of LiJiang in YunNan province, south west China and is part of the 'Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan' UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tiger Leaping Gorge is around 15 kilometers (9 miles) in length and passes between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Snow Mountain in a series of rapids below towering 2,000 meter (6,600 feet) cliffs.
HuangShan 黄山 hiking
Explore the beautiful Yellow Mountain in AnHui province ...
ShangHai 上海 scenes, day and night
Beautifully filmed by Niezwykly Swiat ... Let's also sneak in a little night time dance action ...
Beautiful XiaMen 厦门 …
XiàMén is a coastal city in FuJian province, east / south east China.
The musical fountain at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’An 西安
ShaanXi province Filmed by stellaxhyu

A selection of popular videos

Keyword / tag search :