Origins of the Mandarin Language

Mandarin script is not an alphabetic language. In fact, Mandarin characters as referred to as ‘squared characters'. Although it may seem very complicated, and hard to learn, Mandarin is one of the most beautiful languages.

The origin of Mandarin characters can be traced back to about 4,500 years. The Mandarin language has several dialects. There are quite a few variations between these dialects. However, Mandarin, which is based on the pronunciation of people in Beijing, is considered as the standard. This is spoken by about two-thirds of the population.

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Some of the other dialects of the Mandarin language are (1) Wu, which is spoken by people in the Shanghai area, (2) Cantonese, spoken by people from the extreme southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, and (3) Xiang, which is popular with people hailing from the Hunan Province. Besides this, there are few other dialects such as Fukienese and Hakka which are spoken by people from different areas.

In the United States, most of the Mandarin speak the Cantonese dialect, whereas in Malaysia and Singapore, the Fukienese dialect is more commonly used.

Mandarin language is a tonal language which implies that in order to discern words that are pronounced in a similar manner, different tones are used. The majority of Mandarin characters are made up of two elements: a signific and a phonetic. While the signific signifies the meaning of the word, the phonetic, provides the sound.

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The Mandarin script consists of thousands of distinctive characters. A large Mandarin dictionary will consist of anywhere between 40,000 – 50,000 characters. These characters are referred to as ideographs. Ideographs have no relation to the sound of a word.

A certain type of Mandarin typewriter consists of a whooping 5,400 characters whereas a certain Mandarin character may require somewhere as up to 36 strokes.

Mandarin language has evolved from the olden days. The earlier Mandarin script was made up of pictographs. For example, the sun was represented by a circle with a dot in the center. This then gave way to non-pictorial ideographs. Non-pictorial ideographs made use of tangible objects along with abstract concepts. Today, two similar or dissimilar characters are used in conjunction to represent a third character. Thus a forest can be represented by two “tree” characters side by side.

Over time, several attempts have been made to simplify the Mandarin script. The Mandarin People's Republic, a few years back, came up with a plan to simplify more than 1,700 characters. But for Mandarin to become a language that is easily readable, the only hope is for it to appear in alphabetic script.

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