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  • Chinese languages - also called Sinitic languages - are a principal language group of eastern Asia which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family.

  • It exists in a number of varieties that are usually classified as separate languages by scholars.

  • The spoken varieties of Chinese are mutually unintelligible to their respective speakers. They differ from each other to about the same extent as the modern Romance languages.

  • Modern Standard Chinese is one of the five official languages of the United Nations.

  • Chinese languages include Mandarinin the northern, central, and western parts of China; Wu, Northern and Southern Min, Kan, Hakka, and Hsiang; and Cantonese (Yüeh) in the southeastern part of the country.

  • It is common for speakers of Chinese to be able to speak several variations of the language. Typically in southern China, a person will be able to speak the official Putonghua, the local dialect, and occasionally either speak or understand another regional dialect, such as Cantonese. Such polyglots will frequently code switch between Putonghua and the local dialect, depending on situation. Sometimes, the various dialects are mixed from other dialects, depending on geographical influence. A person living in Taiwan, for example, will commonly mix pronunciations, phrases, and words from Mandarin and Minnan, and this mixture is considered socially appropriate under many circumstances.

  • Chinese languages share a common literary language (wen-yen) which is written in characters and based on a common body of literature, but has no single standard of pronunciation.

  • Chinese languages are spoken by more than 1 billion people in China and large emigrant communities, such as those in Southeast Asia, North and South America, and the Hawaiian Islands.

  • One major difference between Chinese concepts of language and Western concepts is that Chinese makes a sharp distinction between written language (wen) and spoken language (yu). This distinction extends to the distinction between written word (zi) and spoken word (hua). The concept of a distinct and unified combination of both written and spoken forms of language is much less strong in Chinese than in the West. There is a variety of spoken Chinese, the most prominent of which is Mandarin. There is however only one uniform written script.

  • Spoken Chinese is a tonal language related to Tibetan and Burmese, but genetically unrelated to other neighbouring languages, such as Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Japanese. However, these languages were strongly influenced by Chinese in the course of history, linguistically and also extralinguistically. Korean and Japanese both have writing systems employing Chinese characters, which are called Hanja and Kanji, respectively. In North Korea, Hanja has been completely discontinued and Hangul is the sole way to express their language, while in South Korea, Hanja is used as a form of bold face. Along with those two languages, Vietnamese also contains many Chinese loanwords and formerly used Chinese characters.

  • Chinese written language employs the Han characters which are named after the Han culture to which it is largely attributed. Chinese characters appear to have originated in the Shang dynasty as pictograms depicting concrete objects. The first examples of Chinese characters are inscriptions on oracle bones, which are occasionally sheep scapula but mostly turtle plastrons (lower shells) used for divination purposes. Over the course of the Zhou and Han dynasties, the characters became more and more stylized. Also, additional components were added so that many characters contain one element that gives (or at least once gave) a fairly good indication of the pronunciation, and another component (the so-called "radical") gives an indication of the general category of meaning to which the character belongs. In the modern Chinese languages, the majority of characters are phonetically based rather than logographically based.

  • There is currently two standards for printed Chinese characters. One is the Traditional system, used in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Mainland China and Singapore use the Simplified system (developed by the PRC government in the 1950s), which uses simplified forms for many of the more complicated characters. Most simplified versions were derived from established, though obscure, historically-established simplifications. In Taiwan, many simplifications are used when characters are handwritten, but in printing traditional characters are the norm. In addition, most Chinese use some personal simplifications.

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The "HTML Bible" download contains the entire Bible with each chapter as a web page in a single Zipped file. These are plain ASCII text .htm files, suitable for almost any platform. To use, you must save and unzip the .zip file using PKUNZIP or Winzip, which you can get an evaluation copy from


The "SpeedBible" download contains a single file that does not have to be unzipped, but requires that you save the file and open with Internet Explorer 4.0 or better to use. It is in the Microsoft "HTML Help" format, as used on MSDN. The "SpeedBible" has a search engine, Index, Table of Contents, and is good for a standalone PC.

  • Chinese Language and Culture Forum - A community of people interested in learning about Chinese and Chinese culture. Forum topics include history, non-Mandarin Chinese, grammar and vocabulary.
  • Chinese Text Sampler - Intended for student reading practice, this graded collection of 50 short Chinese texts includes well-known stories, poems, songs, essays, and historical documents.
  • Chinese Tools - Tools to help learn and process Chinese online, including dictionaries, flashcards, and translators.
  • Conversation Exchange - Practice another language by speaking to a native speaker.
  • Jim Becker's Chinese Page - Probably one of the most exhaustive resources on the Internet about the Chinese languages and China.
  • So you want to learn Chinese...? - Includes FAQ, hints and tips for learning the language, book reviews and basic learning methods, plus information on viewing and writing Chinese for users of UNIX and Linux.



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