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Chinesische Sprachen

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Unless otherwise specified, Chinese texts in this article are written in format. In cases where Simplified and Traditional Chinese scripts are identical, the Chinese term is written once.

The Chinese language ("汉语"/"漢語" Hànyǔ; "华语"/"華語" Huáyǔ; "中文" Zhōngwén) is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one billion people, speaks some variety of Chinese as their native language. Internal divisions of Chinese are usually perceived by their native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, rather than separate languages, although this identification is considered inappropriate by some linguists and Sinologists.

Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese , of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin , followed by Wu , Cantonese and Min . Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility.

Standard Chinese is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese, referred to as "官话"/"官話" Guānhuà or "北方话"/"北方話" Běifānghuà in Chinese. Standard Chinese is the official language of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China , as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties of Chinese, Cantonese is influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong and of Macau . Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan and in Southeast Asia . There are also sizeable Hakka and Shanghainese diaspora, for example in Taiwan, where most Hakka communities maintain diglossia by being conversant in Taiwanese and Standard Chinese.

  Biography  

Most linguists classify all varieties of modern spoken Chinese as part of the Sino-Tibetan language family and believe that there was an original language, termed Proto-Sino-Tibetan, from which the Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman languages descended. The relation between Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages is an area of active research, as is the attempt to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan. The main difficulty in this effort is that, while there is enough documentation to allow one to reconstruct the ancient Chinese sounds, there is no written documentation that records the division between Proto-Sino-Tibetan and ancient Chinese. In addition, many of the older languages that would allow us to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan are very poorly understood and many of the techniques developed for analysis of the descent of the Indo-European languages from PIE do not apply to Chinese, an isolating language because of "morphological paucity" especially after Old Chinese.

Categorization of the development of Chinese is a subject of scholarly debate. One of the first systems was devised by the Swedish linguist Bernhard Karlgren in the early 1900s; most present systems rely heavily on Karlgren's insights and methods.

Old Chinese, sometimes known as "Archaic Chinese", was the language common during the early and middle Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE–256 BCE), texts of which include inscriptions on bronze artifacts, the poetry of the Shījīng, the history of the Shūjīng, and portions of the Yìjīng . The phonetic elements found in the majority of Chinese characters provide hints to their Old Chinese pronunciations. The pronunciation of the borrowed Chinese characters in Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean also provide valuable insights. Old Chinese was not wholly uninflected. It possessed a rich sound system in which aspiration or rough breathing differentiated the consonants, but probably was still without tones. Work on reconstructing Old Chinese started with Qīng dynasty philologists.
Some early Indo-European loan-words in Chinese have been proposed, notably "honey", shī "lion," and perhaps also "horse", zhū "pig", quǎn "dog", and é "goose". The source says the reconstructions of old Chinese are tentative, and not definitive so no conclusions should be drawn. The reconstruction of Old Chinese can not be perfect so this hypothesis may be called into question. The source also notes that southern dialects of Chinese have more monosyllabic words than the Mandarin Chinese dialects.

Middle Chinese was the language used during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Suí, Táng, and Sòng dynasties . It can be divided into an early period, reflected by the "Qiēyùn" rime book , and a late period in the 10th century, reflected by the "Guǎngyùn" rime book. Linguists are more confident of having reconstructed how Middle Chinese sounded. The evidence for the pronunciation of Middle Chinese comes from several sources: modern dialect variations, rhyming dictionaries, foreign transliterations, "rhyming tables" constructed by ancient Chinese philologists to summarize the phonetic system, and Chinese phonetic translations of foreign words. However, all reconstructions are tentative; some scholars have argued that trying to reconstruct, say, modern Cantonese from modern Cantopop rhymes would give a fairly inaccurate picture of the present-day spoken language.

The development of the spoken Chinese languages from early historical times to the present has been complex. Most Chinese people, in Sìchuān and in a broad arc from the north-east to the south-west , use various Mandarin dialects as their home language. The prevalence of Mandarin throughout northern China is largely due to north China's plains. By contrast, the mountains and rivers of middle and southern China promoted linguistic diversity.

Until the mid-20th century, most southern Chinese only spoke their native local variety of Chinese. As Nanjing was the capital during the early Ming Dynasty, Nanjing Mandarin became dominant at least until the later years of the Qing Dynasty. Since the 17th century, the Qing Dynasty had set up orthoepy academies (正音书院/正音書院; Zhèngyīn Shūyuàn) to make pronunciation conform to the standard of the capital Beijing. For the general population, however, this had limited effect. The non-Mandarin speakers in southern China also continued to use their various languages for every aspect of life. The Beijing Mandarin court standard was used solely by officials and civil servants and was thus fairly limited.

This situation did not change until the mid-20th century with the creation of a compulsory educational system committed to teaching Mandarin. As a result, Mandarin is now spoken by virtually all young and middle-aged citizens of mainland China and on Taiwan. Cantonese, not Mandarin, was used in Hong Kong during the time of its British colonial period and remains today its official language of education, formal speech, and daily life, but Mandarin is becoming increasingly influential after the 1997 handover.

Classical Chinese was once the lingua franca in neighbouring East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam for centuries, before the rise of European influences in the 19th century.
In Korea and Vietnam official documents were written in Chinese until the colonial period.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Китайский язык", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.