For the most part, all dialects of Chinese Language are analytic and tonal. However, a high level of internal diversity also distinguishes Chinese from many other languages. There are hundreds of local dialects in China which makes it near impossible for two individuals with different dialects to understand each other. This language differential is somewhat comparable to that between the different Romance languages and their subsets. The Chinese language is also the only major writing system in the world that still continues to use pictographs as its major tool of writing.
Several other Asian languages are derived from the Chinese written language, such as Korean and Japanese. If you have ever viewed a Chinese character, you may find it hard to understand the meaning or what the character is trying to represent. The writing system for almost all the varieties of Chinese is based on a set of written symbols that has been passed down with little change for more than two thousand years. The following section will teach you the basics of the Chinese written language and help you understand the history and learn how to understand the meaning of some characters.
Because the Chinese language is pictorial rather than phonetic every word is represented by one character, which means that there are several thousand Chinese characters; over 50,000! Depending on how one classifies the regions in China, there are between six and twelve main regional groups. The majority of Chinese speak Mandarin (800 million speakers), followed by Wu (90 million speakers), and Cantonese (80 million speakers). Till now, the identification of the varieties of Chinese as either "dialects" or purely "languages" remains a heated debate.
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