In addition to the languages and dialects listed below, it is customary to speak informally of dialects of each province, e.g. Sichuan dialect, Hainan dialect. These designations do not generally correspond to classifications used by linguists, but each nevertheless has characteristics of its own.
The question of whether the various varieties of Chinese should be called dialects or languages in their own right is contentious. There are two principal uses of the word dialect. If varieties are considered dialects of a single language when they are mutually intelligible, and separate languages otherwise, then the principal branches of Chinese, and even some of the subbranches, are distinct languages. If, on the other hand, 'dialect' is used in its other meaning of a variety that is socially subordinate to a standardized or otherwise prestigious variety, perhaps one that shares a common written language and literature with the prestige form, then they are all dialects of a single Chinese language, though Cantonese and to a lesser extent Shanghainese and Taiwanese are local prestige forms with use in the media and a nascent literature.
Dialect map of Hunan. New Xiang is orange, Old Xiang yellow, and Chen-Xu Xiang red.
Non-Xiang languages are (clockwise from top right) Gan (purple), Kejia (pink along the right), Hunan Tuhua (dark green), Southwestern Mandarin (dark green, light blue, medium blue, light green on the left), and Waxianghua (dark blue)
In addition to the varieties within the Sinitic branch of Sino-Tibetan, a number of mixed languages also exist that comprise elements of one or more Chinese languages and dialects, plus other languages.