Chinese Spoken Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.
Also see Chinese Written Language: Simplified Chinese vs. Traditional Chinese
Chinese Spoken Languages: Areas Spoken

Mandarin: Mainland China (Official Language), Singapore (Official Language), Taiwan (Official Language), Overseas Chinese Communities such as Los Angeles

Cantonese: Hong Kong (Official Language), Macau (Official Language), Overseas Chinese Communities such as San Francisco

Chinese Spoken Languages - General Information

Spoken Chinese comprises many regional varieties, the primary ones being Mandarin, Wu (Shanghaiese), Yue (Cantonese), and Min (Taiwanese). These are not mutually intelligible, but for sociological and political reasons are considered a single Chinese language.

The varieties of Chinese classified into the following groups:

* Mandarin (c. 836 million speakers) This is the group of dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China, and makes up the largest spoken language in China. Standard Mandarin, called Putonghua or Guoyu in Chinese, which is often also translated as "Mandarin" or simply "Chinese", belongs to this group. It is the official spoken language of the People's Republic of China, and Singapore. Mandarin Chinese is also the official language of the Republic of China, currently governing Taiwan, although there are minor differences in this standard from the form standardized in the PRC.

Mandarin is characterized by four tones, compared to eight in Cantonese, and the loss of final consonants, so that while Middle Chinese had an inventory of -p, -t, -k, -m, -n, ng, Standard Mandarin only has -n, -ng. Mandarin has adjusted to the high number of homonyms created by these losses through word compounding. The use of compounds is generally less frequent in other dialects.

* Wu (Shanghaiese) (c. 77 million) spoken in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and the municipality of Shanghai. Wu includes Shanghai dialect, sometimes taken as the representative of all Wu dialects. Wu's subgroups are extremely diverse, especially in the mountainous regions of Zhejiang and eastern Anhui. The group possibly comprises hundreds of distinct spoken forms which are not mutually intelligible amongst each other.

* The Min languages (i.e. Taiwanese) (c. 60 million) spoken in Fujian, Taiwan, parts of Southeast Asia particularly in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, and amongst Overseas Chinese who trace their roots to Fujian and Taiwan. The largest Min language is Hokkien, which is spoken in Southern Fujian, Taiwan, and by many Chinese in Southeast Asia and includes the Taiwanese, and Amoy dialects amongst others. Min is the only branch of Chinese that cannot be directly derived from Middle Chinese. It is also the most diverse, divided into seven subgroups defined on the basis of relative mutual intelligibility: Min Nan (which includes Hokkien and Teochew), Min Dong (which includes the Fuzhou dialect), Min Bei, Min Zhong, Pu Xian, Qiong Wen, and Shao Jiang.

* Cantonese (Yue) (c. 71 million) spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Macau, parts of Southeast Asia and by Overseas Chinese with an ancestry tracing back to the Guangdong region. Used by linguistics, "Cantonese" covers all the Yue dialects, such as Taishanese, though the term is also used to refer specifically to the Standard Cantonese of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Similar to Wu and Min, not all subgroups of Cantonese are mutually intelligible. Some dialects of Yue have intricate sets of tone compared to other Chinese dialects, with up to seven or eight tones.

* Xiang (Hunanese) :(c. 36 million) spoken in Hunan. Xiang is usually divided into the "old" and "new" dialects, with the new dialects being significantly influenced by Mandarin.

* Hakka : (c. 34 million) spoken by the Hakka people, a cultural group of the Han Chinese, in several provinces across southern China, in Taiwan, and in parts of Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Singapore. The term "Hakka" itself translates as "guest families", and many Hakka people consider themselves to be descended from Song-era refugees from North China, although genetic and linguistic evidence suggests that the Hakka originated right around where they are today. Hakka has kept many features of northern Middle Chinese that have been lost in the North.

* Gan (c. 31 million) spoken in Jiangxi. In the past, it was viewed as closely related to Hakka dialects, because of the way Middle Chinese voiced initials have become voiceless aspirated initials, as in Hakka, and were hence called by the umbrella term "Hakka-Gan dialects". This term has, however, now become obsolete.