Talk:Varieties of Chinese

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merge & move[edit]

This is the article once at "Spoken Chinese". It was partially merged with the old "Varieties of Chinese", which covered the same topic but was more recent and was tagged for 'multiple issues'. The remnants of that article (its salvageable content) as well as its edit history is preserved at Talk:Varieties of Chinese/content fork.

The talk pages were archived, and linked above. — kwami (talk) 02:34, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Standard Chinese or Mandarin?[edit]

IMO Mandarin is anachronistic - more suited to Qing officials and ducks. Can we edit the article to refer to 'standard Chinese'? After all the English speak English (not Anglo-saxon). The Italians speak Italian (not Tuscan). The Spanish speak Spanish (not Castilian), etc etc. Thanks. --Kleinzach 06:21, 8 February 2011 (UTC)

We already do. Where are you talking about? — kwami (talk) 07:11, 8 February 2011 (UTC)
Lost? Per section title: 'Mandarin'.--Kleinzach 01:32, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
There is no section titled 'Mandarin'. There is 'bilingualism in Mandarin', which I agree should be changed, as both lects of the 'bilingual' may be Mandarin. — kwami (talk) 01:54, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
Hmm. Let me assume good faith here. This section title (above) is entitled 'Standard Chinese or Mandarin?'. My first post contained a question. that question read "Can we edit the article to refer to 'standard Chinese'?" The rest of the short message explained the background to my suggestion. Is that clear now? --Kleinzach 02:16, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
No. Since you are presumably not actually referring to this section, it's irrelevant. Give me an idea of where in the article, not where on this talk page. — kwami (talk) 02:24, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
By Standard Chinese you mean Putonghua? Dylanwhs (talk) 03:17, 9 February 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. (If you click on Putonghua that's actually where you arrive.) Thank you. --Kleinzach 03:25, 9 February 2011 (UTC)

the dialect thing- its not political[edit]

as early as 1848, this english language publication (written and published by non chinese englishmen), refers to varieties of Chinese as "dialects", and acknowledges that the "Dialect" term is used differently than what a dialect in the west would be described like. It acknowledges that chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, but calls them dialects, and says that the "Written character" is what unites them.

Therefore, the conspiracy theory thats been flying around, claiming that the term "dialec", was falsely applied to chinese languages by the communist party to deliberately misinform people that Chinese isn't a united language, is wrong.

There is no "playing politics", or lies on the part of the Chinese government regarding dialects- I didn't know that the communist party existed in 1848 and managed to magically take control of an English printing press and publishing company to print "propaganda".ΔΥΝΓΑΝΕ (talk) 01:25, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

It most certainly is political, just as it was political when Japanese speakers claimed that the languages in the Ryukyu islands were dialects. "We call them dialects in <insert language>" is not a valid excuse, nor are the claims of a misinformed linguist from the year 1848. Linguists, today, consider the many languages of China to be separate languages and refer to them as such. What China refers to them as is irrelevant, as they are not linguists. What Chinese linguists refer to them as in Mandarin is also irrelevant, as this is an English wikipedia article. 97.81.69.177 (talk) 11:04, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
"dialect" means regional speech, typically mutually intelligible with each other. "Fangyan" in chinese, means "regional speech", the speech/ langauge of a specific region, regardless of mutual intelligibility. There is no equivalent word in English. "Dialect", was originally chosen by englishmen who chose that word to define Fangyan, not Chinese people. the author of that 1848 publication himself acknowledged that the "Dialects", were not mutually intelligible, but he used that word to describe them for lack of a better term. back then, hardly any chinese knew english- the westerners were the first to call chinese languages "dialects".ΔΥΝΓΑΝΕ (talk) 19:34, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
Actually, there are German dialects that people who only speak standard German cannot understand; same with Italian dialects. Linguists sometimes likewise call Spanish and Italian "dialects" or "idioms" of Modern Vulgar Latin. Hence, fangyan as "dialect" does make sense. It only seems not to sometimes because English does not have this kind of wide variation in dialects. For English-speakers, we would have to listen to other Germanic languages to get an idea of what, say, Cantonese would sound like to somebody who only spoke Mandarin (For example, here's a sample of Norwegian: [1] ) BGManofID (talk) 03:24, 9 December 2012 (UTC)
Are you referring to language varieties that are close enough to standard High German to be viewed as variants of it -- which would exclude Plattdeutsch, Alemannisch, English, Frisian, and Dutch -- or are you referring to all of the languages called Germanic, including also Swedish, Gothic and so forth? In this case, English speakers already have a pretty good understanding of what a wide range of languages is being considered. Your comparison Norwegian:English::Cantonese:Mandarin is an interesting one, but if it is accurate, it tends to argue against considering the Chinese languages as dialects of the German language but rather as a language group about the size and breadth of the Germanic language group.
Incidentally, you can look at that article (the one on the Germanic languages) for some indications on how the word dialect is generally used in modern descriptive linguistics -- namely for smaller differences and nonstandard or nonwritten variants. I do appreciate your evocation of dialects in the sense of daughter languages (even thousands of years later), but I suspect that this is either an older term, or one coming from historical linguistics. It's not a bad usage, just a bit arcane for the present discussion.
I would be very interested to know if the Chinese languages : Germanic languages comparison is a good one. 89.217.3.108 (talk) 09:35, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Wot common Chinese people refer to the language(s) as, yes, is irrelavant, you're right. But how Chinese linguists refers to them can't be simply dismissed as such, can it? Do we not have any linguists, may I ask? I personally think that you are removing them from the discussion-----"wot do you Chinese know? This is English wikipedia!" Please, state the facts and argue the ideas, but save the patronising.110.174.12.47 (talk) 12:42, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
The term "dialects" in English for the Chinese languages comes from an earlier period when Chinese linguistics (and linguistics in general) was not as well understood by linguists and other observers who were communicating in English. It was exacerbated by the very interesting Chinese phenomenon of several spoken languages with one written language -- certainly quite unique and not invented by the current government of China. But the continued defence of this misleading term is partly due to ignorance on the part of everyday speakers of Chinese about the definitions of linguistic terms describing the languages they use every day (such folk notions are not restricted to Chinese speakers), together with a deliberate conflation of various languages under the general term of Chinese, which is then identified with Mandarin, on the part of the current Chinese government. So yes, while the origin is complex, the continuation is definitely political -- and it mars this article to the point where you have to read linguistics from other sources than Wikipedia to really understand what is going on. 89.217.3.108 (talk) 08:50, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

Top-level grouping is presented as misleadingly definite and discrete[edit]

According to Gan Chinese, Gan and Xiang were only carved out of the Mandarin region in 1937. Jin Chinese was carved out in 1985 by a single linguist, Li Rong, on the basis of a single feature, retention of the final glottal stop, even though it is retained in other areas such as Southwestern Mandarin, which apparently no prominent linguist has championed promoting to a top-level group, even though Chinese people perceive Sichuanese to be as distinctive as Xiang or Gan.

Actually Sichuan, Hunan, and Jiangxi all show stratification between more Mandarinized dialects in their northern plains and more conservative, divergent dialects farther southwest in and near the hills. Here the English Wikipedia articles are behind the Chinese Wikipedia articles in incorporating newer and more detailed evidence. These patterns are actually a good fit for the wave model which is nowhere mentioned in this article, which only talks about tree structure.

Varieties_of_Chinese#Quantitative_similarity apparently remains the only actual citation (at least in English Wikipedia) of quantitative study of distance between major Chinese dialects, as opposed to particular linguists' edicts on top-level grouping presented without supporting reasoning. Apparently the presentation of a single definite tree in this article follows the standard English-language survey textbooks like Norman and Ramsey, which are now about 25 years old, and based on Chinese sources older than that.

Various linguists' positions on top-level grouping are indeed facts we should document, but Wikipedia should not strongly endorse or reify one particular position, e.g. by providing a very prominent map, tree, or outline for one grouping, and little to nothing for others, when the situation is so indefinite. Contrast Afroasiatic_languages#Distribution_and_branches which instead prominently presents the variation and conflict between linguists' views on top-level grouping of Afroasiatic. --JWB (talk) 07:01, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Sichuanese-en.png

I'm rereading Norman, and he does talk about the wave model; his primary division of Chinese dialects is into Northern, Southern, and a transitional Central zone, which includes Wu, and has received multiple waves of Northern influence. Interestingly his discussion (Chapter 8) is based on 12 cities as major data points, including Kunming, but none in Sichuan. The Yunnan dialect area originated with a Northern Chinese population colonizing a previously non-Chinese-speaking areas, bypassing influence from southern Chinese dialects, and Kunming is still noted for its intelligibility with Beijing. On the other hand, Sichuan has more conservative, less Mandarinized dialects in southwestern Sichuan. Norman has almost no mention of Sichuan; it appears only once in the index. Taking this into account, the situation in Sichuan looks similar to those in Hunan and Jiangxi, but has been glossed over in favor of a contiguous Southwestern Mandarin area because of the obscurity of southwestern Sichuan. --JWB (talk) 23:20, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Here is machine translation of a table from zh:官话#.E5.88.86.E5.8C.BA.E5.8F.B2:

Partitioning method for a variety of Mandarin, the following is a brief history of the partition:

Mandarin partition history
Years Partitioning Note
1934 North Mandarin , Hua Nanguan if two independent large dialect "Mandarin" is the first time for Chinese district; contains the current language Jin , Xiang language , Gan
1937 - 1948 Northern Mandarin , Mandarin on the river (ie, Southwest Mandarin ), Xiajiang Mandarin (the JAC Mandarin ) for the three separate major dialect Hunan and Jiangxi language area is set aside, the scope and Mandarin area has been and now Mandarin and Shanxi very close to the range of language areas.
1955 - 1981 Mandarin was first merged into a large dialect area. Internal partitions in different ways, a more popular way will be divided into North Mandarin , Northwest Mandarin , Mandarin JAC and the Southwest Mandarin Mandarin Chinese has since become a major dialect
1987 Atlas of Chinese language Mandarin dialect for a large area, the internal into the Northeast Mandarin , Beijing Mandarin , Jiao-Liao Mandarin , Ji Luguan words , Zhongyuan Mandarin , Lan silver Mandarin , Mandarin JAC and the Southwest Mandarin Jin Mandarin language was first set aside; 8 Zone to become the most popular Chinese dialect classification of academic

--JWB (talk) 23:50, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

"Examples of variations"---is it really valid?[edit]

FIrst of all, I am not a linguist, but I am Chinese and I received education in China up to year 9, so I assume that it is appropriate for me to state some of my views. I don't think the comparison offered in this section is the most valid one. The "cognate to cognate" translation from Hokkien to Mandarin, in a way, isn't really a valid translation, and I personally think that the translator has the purpose of creating an awkward sentence in mind when doing the translation. If "我家己人"("I myself" in Hokkien) can be translated as "My family's own person", then "我自己个儿“("I myself" in Beijing Mandarin) may as well mean "myself-single-son"! As you can see, a sentence in Mandarin can also be subject to such manipulation and become unrecognisable. It is clear that any such word to word interpretation should not be valid. A passage written fully in British slang would produce some comic effect when interpreted with the algorithm for Standard English. Also, "我家己人 有淡薄 无爽快“isn't really meaningless to a Mandarin speaker. "我家己人” clearly contains elements of "I"(我) and "self"(己人) in it, while the meaning of “淡薄”(weak;slight) can be easily extended to serve as a qualification for the degree of something. "无" is also commonly used in Mandarin to indicate negativity, and “爽快” does not merely mean mentally "refreshed"; it can mean physically refreshed, i.e. free of desease. In this way the meaning can be easily formed.110.174.12.47 (talk) 13:15, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

I agree with this statement as a Southern Chinese who also speaks Mandarin. I can tell you that 家己人 means exactly the same thing as 自己 in putonghua but that the way they pronounce things in Hokkien makes use of the 家 in this case just like Wu would say 自家 to mean the same thing as 自己. In the same way 淡薄 is only an archaic way of saying something is in a slight degree which in putonghua is 一点. 无 is a synonym of 不. So the two phrases
"我家己人 有淡薄 无爽快" and
"我自己有一点不舒服" can be paired like this. 我家己人/我自己 有淡薄/有一点 无/不 爽快/舒服.
So for any Chinese person to read this it might look awkward at first but you'll be able to figure it out in no time. I'll add the Wu to extend the point. 我家己人/我自己/我自家 有淡薄/有一点/有些 无/不/勿 爽快/舒服/舍意.
This is not to say there isn't something nonsensical to Mandarin in Hokkien but that this wasn't it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 207.38.213.212 (talk) 20:15, 6 July 2012 (UTC)

Chinese switch on zh wiki[edit]

Sorry if this is the wrong place to ask this question, but what's the switch called on the Chinese wiki that allows you to view different variants of Chinese? 188.29.118.236 (talk) 14:57, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

If you mean different regional dialects, they appear as separate languages here on Wikipedia, so check under the tab "其他语言" in the left. There's one for Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka. On the Mandarin page, you switch between traditional and simplified scripts by clicking on the button on the upper left next to "Article" and "Talk".202.171.163.7 (talk) 11:26, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Political and cultural-centric POV - CHANGE TITLE[edit]

I move that this article be retitled either: "Chinese Dialects", or "Chinese Languages", both phrases actually meaning the same thing. I prefer the latter as it does no carry the implication either of any subordinate status or of any superordinate reality ie it does not align with a nationalist/political framework but with a linguistic one. The phrase "Varieties of Chinese" I find derogatory. It is simply a political POV and therefroe not something that Wiki should tolerate. There is no hard difference between dialects and languages as many article on wiki testify, and "Chinese" is no exception to this fact. LookingGlass (talk) 10:29, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

It's actually the opposite: the current title is neural, and the two you suggest are not. And BTW, they do not mean the same thing, but opposite things. — kwami (talk) 04:44, 23 February 2013 (UTC)
Please would you provide some substance to your opinion Kwamikagami? Why do you think that "Chinese languages" is not neutral but "Varieties of Chinese" is? To me "Varieties of Chinese" sounds colonialistic. "Varieties" are variations on a dominant theme. However in some case these langauges/dialects are quite distict things. In any even the term "varieties" is not one that is recognised as far as I am aware in linguistics. LookingGlass (talk) 12:54, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
Kwami is correct. See Variety (linguistics). Keahapana (talk) 23:34, 25 February 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for the reference Keahapana. However there remains a problem in my opinion. Wikipedia is a general purpose encyclopedia, not a specialist one. Especially the titles of articles should therefore use everyday English rather than technical jargon, especially where such jargon is unreferenced outside of the specialist area concerned. Here, for instance, neither Merriam Webster online nor Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus list the meaning "lect" for the word: "variety", so while the term may be technically correct in linguistic circles (contrary to my initial understanding), it is obfuscatory and misleading as nobody outside of that sphere has access to the knowledge of its usse by the discipline (and in a title it cannot be cross-referenced) Using the techincal term seems seems to serves no purpose than the promotion of a POV. This point is seen in the section on classification where it is stated "The difference between Mandarin and other Chinese "dialects" is easily comparable to that between English and its Germanic cousin languages (German, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, etc.)". Again, in a non-technical article, it would be absurd to suggest that English, German, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, etc. were "varieties" of a macro language. I notice now that the article seems to be based almost entirely upon a 19C work by Samuel Wells Williams, an active US missionary and diplomat. The title seems to me neither to further the development of a non-POV article (ie one that separates it from or makes clear its political and cultural aspect) nor to assist the general reader in quickly understanding the subject of the article. The whole promotes a the political aspect of language classification. LookingGlass (talk) 19:46, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

I agree that it is politically motivated. "Varieties" is not wrong, if you read the Wikipedia article on the term, but it is imprecise because it equivocates between language and dialect. "Languages" is the more commonly understandable term, and it is more precise because it makes it clear that we are really talking about a language group. People are sticking to "varieties" because "languages" offends some people's world view. But it should not; Chinese is a language family like any other, it should be describable using normal linguistic terms without people getting bothered about it.
Incidentally the discussion does draw our attention to one feature of modern linguistics that sometimes troubles me: modern linguistics gives primacy to spoken language as the "real" language. But that is a whole other discussion. 89.217.3.108 (talk) 09:56, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I basically agree with LookingGlass. Some people say it is "neutral" to use this title. But the purpose of such a "neutral" term is to satisfy some people's political view of language diversity. Just one simple question: do we use "varieties of Romance" for the article on the Romance languages? NO, even though, as pointed out in the first sentence of the Classification section, the Romance languages are actually less varied than the Han (Chinese) languages. I'm sure there are also some people out there that think the Romance languages are somewhat dialects of a macro language because of the level of mutual intelligibility. Why do we have to use "varieties" in the title only for the Han languages? Is the political view of some people really so important that we need, in a linguistic article, to conceal the fact that they are languages, not dialects? Lysimachi (talk) 00:32, 21 December 2014 (UTC)

Varieties seems to be used quite often in the scholarly literature. It covers both languages and dialects, as this article does. Having two articles called Chinese language and Chinese languages would be a bit confusing, and merging the two would probably result in an article that was too big (though it's a possibility). W. P. Uzer (talk) 10:55, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
In fact, the two probably should be merged. They are dealing with the same topic, and we shouldn't really be having two articles on the same topic just on the grounds that there are different points of view as to whether it's a single language or not. There are anyway separate articles on Written Chinese and Standard Chinese. I would call the merged article Chinese languages - I think the idea that they are separate languages is well enough known and accepted at least sufficiently as not to surprise anyone. W. P. Uzer (talk) 21:27, 23 December 2014 (UTC)
The Chinese language article covers a broader topic, roughly matching the whole of the Cambridge Language Surveys Chinese volume, in which chapters or pairs of chapters correspond to sub-articles here:
Chapter Wiki article(s)
1. Introduction
2. The historical phonology of Chinese Historical Chinese phonology
3. The Chinese script Chinese characters, Written Chinese
4. The classical and literary languages Classical Chinese
5. The rise development of the written vernacular Written vernacular Chinese
6. The modern standard language I Standard Chinese
7. The modern standard language II
8. Dialectal variation in North and Central China Varieties of Chinese, Sinitic languages
9. The dialects of the Southeast
10. Language and society bits in several articles
There are a couple of forks here, but the overall article isn't one of them. Kanguole 01:29, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
So would you say that this article and Sinitic languages is an unnecessary fork? W. P. Uzer (talk) 07:47, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
Probably, though Sinitic languages is an incomplete list without content or context. Also, the groups it calls "languages" are themselves composed of multiple non-mutually-intelligible varieties. Kanguole 11:32, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

??[edit]

"In addition, while speaking similar dialect provides very strong group identity at the level of a city or county, the high degree of linguistic diversity limits the amount of group solidarity at larger levels. Finally, the linguistic diversity of southern China makes it likely that in any large group of Chinese, Mandarin will be the only form of speech that everyone understands." I don't really understand this segment at all. This belongs to the "Political issues" section. First, it says "while speaking similar dialect provides very strong group identity at the level of a city or county." I interpret that as speaking similar dialect is a good thing then the next clause is about linguistic diversity is bad. While something is good, something else is bad. I have no idea why the 2 totally different ideas are connected with a comma in the same sentence? Plus the "while" conjunction is not even being used correctly. The sentence simply doesn't make any sense. Second, "Finally, the linguistic diversity of southern China makes it likely that in any large group of Chinese, Mandarin will be the only form of speech that everyone understands," how is that a political issue? The second sentence shows the benefits of knowing Mandarin (I believe the Mandarin in this context means the same as "Standard Chinese" language) so why is it in the "Political issues" section? Come on, Wikipedia is only this good??75.168.140.124 (talk) 08:12, 7 December 2013 (UTC)

citation needed[edit]

I highlight a part of a sentence in the intro that needs a reliable citation. It goes "Because they share a common written form,[1] most Chinese speakers and Chinese linguists perceive them to be variations of a single Chinese language". Can anyone, especially the one who wrote this sentence, show us a study that surveyed a significant number of "Chinese speakers" and a significant number of "Chinese linguists", of which more than half say they perceive "the varieties of Chinese" to be "variations of a single Chinese language" because "they share a common written form"? If there is no such study, I don't think such statement should be there. Wikipedia is based on reliable sources, not personal views.Lysimachi (talk) 17:23, 18 December 2014 (UTC)

I changed this sentence and gave sources for what I wrote in its place. W. P. Uzer (talk) 21:29, 23 December 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for adding the referfence, W. P. Uzer. However, there still seems to be two problems.
First, in the book, it was not indicated at all why the varieties of Chinese (Han languages) are popularly perceived as a single language, but in the present version of the article, the reasons are given. What is the reference that the reasons are the "common written form" and "that they are spoken chiefly within a single politically unified country"? I'm especially curious how you came to the "common written form" being the reason. Would Germans and Italians think German and Italian are the same language because they both use the Latin script? OK, some people may say the Han characters are written the same for different varieties of Chinese, but the words are spelled differently for different European languages. However, the different Han languages also use different characters and some characters are used in some but rarely in others (e.g., English: They are eating a baozi right now.; Mandarin:現在他們在吃包子; Yue: 佢哋而家食緊包). Also it is more common for some Han languages to use Latin script (please take a look at the 客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî version of the article), because there are many spoken syllables without unambiguous written characters that correspond.
Second, per WP:V, the cited sources should be reliable, preferably those with "fact-checking and accuracy" or "academic and peer-reviewed publications". Is the book you cited a peer-reviewed one? The part of the book cited does not include any reference to support the notion that the Han languages popularly perceived to be variants of the same language, nor did it do any study to support that. In this regard, that notion seems merely to be the author's own perception. In addition, in the same sentence where the "popular perception" is mentioned, the author also said that "There is as yet no agreed Romanisation system for other [i.e., non-Mandarin] spoken varieties of Chinese ... it seems unlikely that efforts will be made to design such systems". For this book published in 1994, both of those suggestions seem to be wrong, as there had already been effort to design such systems (e.g. Church Romanization for Southern Min or Cantonese Pinyin for Yue). Also, the author seemed to suggest that there is an agreed system for Mandarin romanization, but it was not true because, at least at that time, the Taiwanese used system(s) other than Pinyin for Mandarin. Such ignorance of Han languages makes me concerned about the reliability of this book. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lysimachi (talkcontribs) 00:31, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
Certainly this needs some more work, preferably with some expansion in the rest of the article. Others may know of better and more detailed sources about this matter. However, I can find plenty of sources that express similar sentiments to the two books I cited, it's not just the view of that one author. W. P. Uzer (talk) 10:04, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
If it is personal view or "sentiments", it should be pointed out in the article it is the view of a particular author who thinks it is "popularly perceived" that way (per WP:POV). Also please note, as mentioned above, not all Han languages use the same written form. It is therefore misleading to say "because the varieties share a common written form". Lysimachi (talk) 00:16, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

This question seems to have re-arisen. Is it really not possible to find a source for the statement that "Chinese linguists often consider them to all be dialects of a single language"? And if not, then perhaps it's time for Wikipedia itself to abandon its apparent position that there is one single Chinese language (as reflected in the title of the main article, Chinese language, and various statements that imply that it is only certain linguists who consider Chinese to be more than one language)? W. P. Uzer (talk) 06:44, 24 April 2015 (UTC)

People who want a particular statement to be in article text should indeed come forward with a source. What source is that? -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 04:15, 20 July 2015 (UTC)

Sinitic languages, Varieties of Chinese, Chinese languages, Spoken Chinese, and other titles[edit]

The good work that other editors have put into this article has included a merger of this article with a former article titled Spoken Chinese language. I see that this article, as displayed to a user who looks it up directly by its current title, Varieties of Chinese, includes a redirect notice at the top of the page saying "Chinese languages" redirects here. For other languages spoken in China, see Languages of China." I also see that our encyclopedia includes an article Sinitic languages. As a speaker of Chinese/Sinitic languages, it occurs to me that I should discuss with all of you a treatment of this article's topic that is consistent with the published reliable sources and consistent with the Wikipedia neutral point of view policy. I have been speaking one variety of Chinese since 1975, and at least two since 1976. I am conversant in (I'll omit wikilinks here, although we should consult the relevant articles as needed) the speech variety commonplace in Beijing (and first learned it from a native of Beijing) often known to English speakers as "Mandarin" and to linguists both inside and outside China as "Modern Standard Chinese" (現代標準漢語), which of course has several variant names in everyday speech in Chinese. I have worked for many years as an interpreter of that language into and out of English. I can also converse in (in descending order of proficiency) the Minnan speech of Taiwan ("Taiwanese"), the Yue speech of Hong Kong ("Cantonese") and the Hakka speech of Taiwan ("Hakka"). I took a formal graduate-level course in Chinese dialectology the first time I lived in Taiwan. I would like to initiate discussion here among the various editors who have devoted so much work to improvement of this article and related articles about how to link the subtopics included in Sinitic languages with the subtopics included here (by merger?) and how to discuss the points of view expressed by the use of titles as disparate as Sinitic languages and Spoken Chinese language for articles on many of the same real-world phenomena. Below I will list some sources to get this discussion started, and of course I welcome suggestions of reliable sources from other editors who join the discussion. Various articles from the Encyclopedia of language & linguistics are one way to start a search for sources, as most of the articles cite other publications.

Blake, B.J. (2006). "Classification of Languages". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 446–457. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/05162-2. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). The Sino-Tibetan languages include the Sinitic family and Tibeto-Burman. Sinitic can be equated with Chinese, but Chinese is popularly understood to be a single language, whereas in fact it is more like a family of languages, one of which, Mandarin Chinese, is the standard, based largely on the Beijing dialect.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

Bradley, D. (2006). "China: Language Situation". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 319–323. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/01685-0. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). Outsider linguists often say that the Han Chinese speak seven distinct, mutually unintelligible languages ... Fangyan is usually translated as ‘dialect’ and yuyan as ‘language’, but their meanings are broader.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

DeChicchis, J. (2006). "Taiwan: Language Situation". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 482–484. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/01703-X. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). An important lingua franca, Min Nan is the second most common language in terrestrial television broadcasts, and the Amoy Bible is popular among certain Christians. On the other hand, Hakka Chinese is strictly an emblematic language of the Hakka ethnic group that is used in their villages on Formosa. Many ethnic Hakka (by some estimates, about half) have lost the ability to speak Hakka, especially in urban areas, but a Hakka language revival is currently underway, and Hakka-language radio programs enjoy increasing popularity. In contrast, Mandarin Chinese (locally Guoyu or Kuoyü 國語 but also known as Huayu 华语 or Putonghua 普通话), which is historically the third Sinitic language of Taiwan, became a language of significant immigration in 1949, when the ROC made Taipei its government seat.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

Goodman, K.S.; Goodman, Y.M. (2006). "Mother Tongue Education: Standard Language". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 345–348. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/00648-9. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). All languages are actually families of dialects that are, more or less, mutually comprehensible. When dialects are not mutually comprehensible, they are considered separate languages. For example in Spain, Catalonia has its own language that is not a dialect of Spanish and is now the language of instruction in some communities. What the Chinese refer to as dialects are actually related languages since a speaker of Shanghai dialect cannot understand a speaker of Cantonese.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

Hutton, C.M. (2006). "Nationalism and Linguistics". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 485–488. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/01363-8. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). To Western linguists applying the mother tongue model of European identity politics, the Chinese regional varieties were akin to the national languages of Europe (Dyer Ball, 1907). Within the national and nationalist framework of modern Chinese linguistics, there is, however, no question but that these varieties are the dialects of a single language, Chinese. But the rise of vernacular dialect/language politics in contemporary Taiwan points to the evidently political nature of these categorizations.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

LaPolla, R.J. (2006). "Sino-Tibetan Languages". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 393–396. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/02501-3. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). The Sino-Tibetan (ST) language family includes the Sinitic languages (what for political reasons are known as Chinese ‘dialects’) and the 200 to 300 Tibeto-Burman (TB) languages.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

Ross, M. (2006). "Language Families and Linguistic Diversity". In Brown, Keith. Encyclopedia of language & linguistics. Elsevier. pp. 499–507. doi:10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/01524-8. ISBN 978-0-08-044299-0. Retrieved 20 July 2015. Lay summary (6 February 2015). The Sinitic network has conventionally been described as the Chinese language, comprising the Chinese dialects, but the Chinese language is comparable in diversity to the West Germanic family. This terminological situation has arisen because the Chinese language has long been coterminous with the political and social entity of China. The Chinese dialects and Chinese language are now sometimes called the Sinitic languages and the Sinitic family, leaving the term ‘Chinese language’ to denote the standard language.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)

As for the application of neutral point of view policy to this article, plainly there is a point of view represented in the literature that "Chinese" is one language and all varieties of cognate speech are "dialects" of that one language. Another point of view represented in the literature is that "Chinese" can be taken to be the designation of a branch (or two) of cognate languages, which more formally can be designated "Sinitic languages," with the current governing authorities of China, Taiwan, and Singapore agreeing on a standard modern Chinese language to be promoted in schooling and broadcasting (given a different name in each of those places, but called by linguists "現代標準漢語"). The lived experience of people living in China, as multiple sources make very clear, is that many individuals from the broad Chinese Sprachraum cannot understand one another at all if each speaks a home native language without adaptation to common speech varieties that take some other local speech variety as a standard. The writings of the late Yuen Ren Chao are very informative on several of these issues. Let's discuss. Feel free to bring more sources to bear on the discussion. Thanks for your past work on this and other articles. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 14:27, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for bringing forth those sources. My own research had more-or-less run dry. In particular (to make it easy on ourselves), the thing we want to find in RS's is meta-statements, that is, claims about what linguists tend to do in regards to the dialectal variation within Chinese. Unfortunately, the quotes you've provided from EL&L aren't as helpful as we'd like because they are vague and even contradictory.
First, we have Blake, who says that the one-language perspective is a "popular" choice (implying the lay public disagrees with linguistic conventions), and Goodman, LaPolla, and Ross seem to echo that the lay public in China take this view, though this is something implied. We similarly have to read between the lines to see what these authors say about what position linguists tend to hold. Goodman says "Chinese", which might include Chinese linguists, but we can't be sure. LaPolla uses the passive voice and therefore doesn't clarify who knows these varieties as dialects. Ross uses the term "conventionally" which could mean anything. Similarly, the Hutton quote is too vague to be of any help; they are clearly taking about past usage in applying the "mother tongue model" but who is and is not applying the national/nationalist model?
Goodman seems to imply that linguists themselves prefer to categorize the varieties as languages on the grounds of mutual intelligibility, but I know from other sources that not only do linguists often make an exception with Chinese, but that authors have even made this very same general statement about using mutual intelligibility only to later on in the same work outline why Chinese is an exception to this general practice. Moreover, if mutual intelligibility were to be used for Chinese, there would be hundreds of languages, not just seven.
Finally, while some of this contradicts some of the sourcing I have found (outlined at Talk:Chinese language, Bradley is self-contradictory, saying that fangyan is translated as 'dialect' but that linguists outside of China refer to the seven major dialect groupings as languages (incidentally, while I had not encountered the term yuyan before, a quick search shows that it is present in the Chinese Wikipedia's article on English and not on Cantonese). If we are to take Bradley's claim about linguistic conventions at face value, then there is a clear contradiction with Norman (2003) who is cited at Chinese language#Nomenclature.
With the three perspectives you point to (one-language, language family, and mutually unintelligible), what sorts of changes would you like to see in this and other articles relating to Chinese? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 17:14, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
"Sinitic languages" and "Varieties of Chinese" should ideally be the same article, to my mind. The "Sinitic" term comes from Victor Mair, and he continues to be its chief proponent. It's still unsettled as to whether "the Sinitic languages" or "the Chinese languages" is preferred, as Zev Handel notes in the Oxford Handbook of Chinese Linguistics (p. 34) from earlier this year. He chose "Sinitic" for his chapter, but there's no clear winner yet. I have no preference one way or the other at the moment, though I think "Sinitic" will probably win out eventually.  White Whirlwind  咨  18:52, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Whatever we call them, it is useful IMO to distinguish the Chinese languages proper from broader conceptions of Sinitic including the Bai languages, Caijia, and the like -- unless we are going to advocate the view that Bai is a variety of Chinese, a POV that I suspect would fail in a review of the lit.
Also, if we call the article "Chinese languages" (or even "Sinitic languages" but restrict it to Chinese), then readers will reasonably expect a list of these languages, just as we have for practically all other family articles. But, we can't do that, because no-one knows what the Chinese languages are, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. — kwami (talk) 20:22, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
My impression is that there's little interest in expanded conceptions of Sinitic these days. Across Sino-Tibetan there seems to be an acknowledgement that mid-level groupings are poorly justified, and there's a need to build from the bottom up without too many prior assumptions about the higher-level structure.
The point about "languages" titles leading readers to expect a list of languages is a good one. Everyone agrees that geographically separated varieties are mutually unintelligible, and there is considerable interest in classifying the varieties, but little in identifying discrete "languages". Kanguole 20:55, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
Yes, and while the varieties of Chengdu and Beijing are MI, several varieties of SW Mandarin are not MI with Chengdu. Having Mandarin and then listing branches of Mandarin does not correspond to listing the member languages of other families, which are largely based on MI.
As for expanded Sinitic, we do have sourced info, even if people aren't doing much with it these days. If we want to use that name, I don't know if we'd want to move the current content, or merge it to a section on broader classification. — kwami (talk) 21:43, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I'm no expert of Sino-Tibetan languages, but reading this discussion I found that the information contained in it is extremely interesting and it should somehow be put in the article if it's not already there. Especially the problem of listing languages: if you clearly state in the article that a list is not (directly possible), people who expect it will be happy to be told that's not possible, more than not discussing the problem at all. I also think the point of the NPOV is to inform of each and every opinion on the subject, so I don't see any immediate problem in stating what the sources given above state. Or at least the proposed grouping should be backed up with a proper source, independently of the fact that that specific grouping is widely shared or not. --SynConlanger (talk) 12:24, 18 August 2015 (UTC)

I have reverted some recent changes to the lead. The practice of describing the dialect groups as discrete languages has been explicitly criticized by Norman (2003), p. 72, so we should not present it baldly as the consensus view. (BTW, Handel said "at least a dozen distinct languages and perhaps more than twenty", not between 12 and 20.) The changes also delete text that summarized the article body. Kanguole 10:08, 16 October 2015 (UTC)

@Kanguole: Fine, but that revert also brings back your preexisting problems of poor prose and structuring, as well as some Manual of Style issues, such as the link in the "boldface reiteration of the title", which is also missing (see WP:LINKSTYLE). I'll try again.  White Whirlwind  咨  20:17, 16 October 2015 (UTC)

Varieties commonly taught in formal courses[edit]

Regarding this revert, there was indeed a source, but it was a newspaper article from 2001 saying that UHawaii had a Hokkien course and Harvard was introducing one, wich hardly justifies "commonly taught". Moreover, it seems that Harvard and Hawaii no longer offer Hokkien (or Cantonese). Regarding Cantonese, my impression is that there's been a reduction in courses, particularly in the US, but it still seems to be offered in enough places to justify retaining the statement cited to Norman (1988). Kanguole 18:25, 27 March 2016 (UTC)

There are courses offered in Taiwan, for sure. And the same Minnan Sinitic language was spoken by more people in Singapore than Mandarin just a generation ago, and the United States Foreign Service had a course for acquiring that language. But I suppose "commonly taught" is the definitional problem here, so I'll let the latest edit stand. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (Watch my talk, How I edit) 22:01, 27 March 2016 (UTC)
@WeijiBaikeBianji: I believe you, but do you have a source that mentions this? I did a bit of searching for "United States Foreign Service" "hokkien" and found no evidence it ever existed.--Prisencolin (talk) 01:25, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

IPA correction[edit]

The "Vocabulary" section lists several Mandarin words with χ, the voiceless uvular fricative. As far as I know, Mandarin phonology does not include χ, even as an allophone of x, the voiceless velar fricative. Unless someone has a citation showing that the words in question are in fact pronounced with χ, I am going to change them all to x. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.30.27.84 (talk) 23:27, 9 May 2016 (UTC)


Requested move 1 June 2016[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Not moved as consensus to keep the article at it's current name has been established. (non-admin closure) Music1201 talk 21:58, 6 June 2016 (UTC)



Varieties of ChineseDialects of Chinese – the term "dialects" is the WP:COMMONNAME, and more WP:RECOGNIZABLE than the current title. Although it is POV, the term is used by many linguists in regards to Chinese as well as the vast majority of the general public. In contrast, "varieties" is exclusively used by linguists and experts and is virtually non-existent elsewhere. Web searches for books and news seems to support the prevalence of "dialects" or "varieties". Per WP:NPOVNAME: "When the subject of an article is referred to mainly by a single common name, as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources, Wikipedia generally follows the sources and uses that name as its article title (subject to the other naming criteria)." Prisencolin (talk) 03:45, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

  • Oppose on the grounds that the Chinese "dialects" are not mutually intelligible, they differ to such a degree that each of the 10 major groupings could be classified as languages on their own right. In China today they are classified as "dialects" for political reasons, the term "varieties" doesn't carry any political weight to it, and thus seems to be more neutral for this topic. — Abrahamic Faiths (talk) 16:29, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose (edit conflict) This is a predominantly linguistic article. So yes, using the term most used by linguists is probably the way to go as opposed to the imprecise or POV usage of non-linguistic sources. I recommend you look at WP:NAMINGCRITERIA since following that I find the current title vastly preferable. Dialects of Chinese redirects here so the recognizable and naturalness argument doesn't really hold water since people looking for that title will get here regardless. This title is arguably more precise because delineating dialect, accent, and language is almost impossible and some of these might not be dialects but their own languages or maybe not. That's still being argued and so "varieties" seems like the way to go. Further, the issue of "language" vs "dialect" and the connotations of "dialect" and the nationalist implications of "language" are so contentious that we shouldn't be taking any side in this which is why "varieties" is used in the first place. Notice that WP:NPOVNAME says "generally", not "always" so this is likely one of those exceptions. It further says the common name should be rejected in the case of "Colloquialisms where far more encyclopedic alternatives are obvious". Dialect is being used colloquially here, not linguistically, and the more encyclopedic term would be varieties. Finally, this title is consistent with other similar articles on large (linguistically and geographically) language families. See:
Varieties of Arabic
Varieties of American Sign Language
Varieties of English
Varieties of French
Varieties of Modern Greek
So I really don't see this move as being a good one. Wugapodes [thɔk] [kantʃɻɪbz] 16:45, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
From what I've seen "dialects" seems to be used by linguistists instead of variety to describe Sinitic/Chinese. I am well aware of the diversity within the Chinese group, but do note that Wikipedia is not a WP:SOAPBOX for promoting certain types of terminology not in prevalent usage, so that's why I think it's important to use the WP:COMMONNAME in this instance. The current title appears to be WP:UNDUEWEIGHT.--Prisencolin (talk) 20:13, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
The term variety is prevalent in linguistic literature. Even if it isn't as common in Chinese linguistics as dialect or language, choosing one or the other would be taking a side on an issue we have no business taking a side on. In a context like Chinese linguistics, where dialect and language are both in high enough usage, variety would be the neutral term, even if it is not used as often in the relevant literature. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 20:38, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
I think you're misrepresenting WP:NPOV a bit when you say that we shouldn't take a side on this issue. The first paragraph of the page says (emphasis mine): "All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.". Using a term in the title that isn't very commonly used is still taking a side, and in my opinion adding a bit of editorial bias, and giving WP:UNDUE weight on minority opinions. And because the term dialect is specifically avoided, you're not giving enough weight to terminology is more commonly used.--Prisencolin (talk) 19:23, 2 June 2016 (UTC)
Okay, but the clear consensus here from people (a lot of them trained in linguistics and anthropology) is that you're wrong in that opinion and that the current naming scheme is the most neutral. You've yet to make any claims about the WP:NAMINGCRITERIA beyond "common name" and even that isn't gaining traction. You keep citing things that are about article content, not titles. How do we give due weight in the title? Should propose a move to Dialects, languages, and/or varieties of the Sinitic language family because of NPOV and UNDUE? That would be absurd. We have to choose a title and both "dialect" and "language" are fraught with POV and nationalistic issues as numerous people have stated below. So editors, over multiple pages, have opted for the least POV term that is used extensively in reference to this language family and in linguistics in general. Wugapodes [thɔk] [kantʃɻɪbz] 19:46, 2 June 2016 (UTC)
@Prisencolin: You're misinterpreting that line. NPOV does not mean 'just choose the words that are most commonly used by the layman', or even 'just choose the most commonly used words'. There are some who consider Chinese a single language and some a language family and neither is a fringe view. NPOV is about finding a balance between these. "Varieties" is perfect here, because it implies neither view and so can be used regardless of view. --JorisvS (talk) 20:47, 2 June 2016 (UTC)
@JorisvS: Varieties is probably the best-fitting neutral and generally accepted term. Note however that the maybe non yet generally accepted term topolects — on en.WP a redirect to "Varieties of Chinese" — might be preferable for what this article is currently about, because despite its title Varieties of Chinese does not treat certain varieties such as sociolects or chronolects. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 12:46, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. The varieties of Chinese are distinct languages by any linguistic criterion. The differences are more significant than within the Romance languages. The only thing that has caused them to also be called

"dialects" is because of the common ethnicity, a non-linguistic reason. --JorisvS (talk) 17:57, 1 June 2016 (UTC)

  • Strong oppose. The reasons given by the editors who have already commented uphold Wikipedia policy of neutral point of view. There would, of course, need to be a redirect for users who don't know the linguistics terminology, but there already is a redirect (I just tried the search), so we have no problem here regarding the other "common name" rationales. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (Watch my talk, How I edit) 18:38, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
Goodness, would anywhere here just use some WP:COMMONSENSE one of these days...--Prisencolin (talk) 19:38, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
We are. It's just not your common sense. I am strongly opposed to this move because of the linguistic reality of the situation, not WP policy per se. --JorisvS (talk) 19:45, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. Referring to varieties of Chinese dialect is a much disputed term. Wikipedia should remain neutral and use uncontroversial terminology. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 20:19, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose. It might be helpful to look at a similar move request at Talk:Chinese language made last year. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 20:38, 1 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Opoose. "Varieties" is used here to cover everything called "Chinese langugage", without reference to whether any particular one is "really" a separate language or "really" a dialect. That is a far better approach for an umbrella article to take than other courses would be. 64.105.98.115 (talk) 15:21, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose. "Dialects" is a very contested term when it comes to Chinese. I will admit that I'm not a fan of "Varieties of Chinese", either. Something like "Chinese languages", or "Sinitic languages, if Prof. Mair has his way, would probably be more consistent with the rest of such articles here on WP.  White Whirlwind  咨  18:40, 3 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Almost no one notices what WP:COMMONNAMES says: Ambiguous or inaccurate names for the article subject, as determined in reliable sources, are often avoided even though they may be more frequently used by reliable sources. In other words, the proposed name may be inaccurate. If "dialect" is accurate, so must be "varieties". "Dialect" is less neutral than "varieties" per WP:NPOVTITLE for many reasons, including sparse usage of non-Mandarin Chinese languages worldwide, low resources of Chinese languages in Western secondary and higher education, systemic bias probably, etc. George Ho (talk) 23:45, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Could we add a section on historical varieties?[edit]

This is article is very helpful in describing modern varieties, that is, "hundreds of local language varieties," but only mentions the historical varieties in passing (but not "Classical Chinese") and you have to skim through to find Written vernacular Chinese.

Could some of you Chinese languages gurus work up a short section giving an overview? I see Kanguole and Kwamikagami as major contributors to this article who could do such a section without new research. Presumably it would just give a one or two sentence description of the biggies, with links and "See also"s.

Maybe there is such an overview in another article, but I can't find it. Written vernacular Chinese is helpful, and it links to Mandarin Chinese, among others, but again, no overview starting from describing classical written Chinese, vernacular written Chinese, and vernacular spoken Chinese. Chinese language and History of the Chinese language have much of the relevant information, but not in summary form. Languages of China doesn't concern itself with the history.

Among other uses, this section would help editors like me to use appropriate Wikipedia terms.

Many thanks!ch (talk) 16:12, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

I think the focus on forms of modern speech is appropriate for this article. There's certainly plenty of room for expansion in the History of the Chinese language article. Kanguole 16:38, 21 July 2016 (UTC)