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Rhodes > English Language and Linguistics > Latest News

A visitor from China

Date Released: Mon, 13 October 2014 12:06 +0200

During China Week at Rhodes University, the Department of English Language and Linguistics hosted a talk by Prof. Jun Zhang, a linguist from Jinan University in China.

Prof. Zhang gave the department a basic overview of the different ethnic groups in China and their languages.  China has an unexpectedly diverse ethnic and linguistic make-up, with 56 officially-recognized ethnic groups, 129 spoken languages and 27 different writing systems in use. 

The largest ethnic group is the Han, who make up 92% of China’s population and speak Hanyu, the language known across the world as Chinese.  There are between seven and ten regional groups of Chinese dialects, of which Mandarin is the most spoken (with about 960 million speakers), followed by Wu (which includes the dialect spoken in Shanghai) and Yue (which includes Cantonese, as spoken in Hong Kong).  Most of these groups of dialects are mutually unintelligible, and yet they are considered the same language.  Standard Chinese, also known as Putonghua, is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. 

Prof. Zhang also briefly introduced us to the Zhuan, Hui, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongol and Tujia ethnic groups and their languages.  

Source:Ian Siebörger