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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Gina Anne Tam
Affiliation:
Trinity University, Texas
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Summary

What language represents the Chinese nation? Seemingly a straightforward question, the simplest answer would be what in English we call “Mandarin.” Known as Putonghua (普通话), or the common tongue in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is the nation’s official language. Putonghua is the language PRC children learn in schools. It is the language that broadcasts on the nation’s television and radio, that blares in shopping centers, and announces subway stops. It is also the titular Chinese language abroad. Today it is taught in millions of “Chinese” language classes across the world. At the United Nations, translators asked to render speeches delivered in Russian or Arabic into “Chinese” would recite them in Putonghua’s four tones.

But on a day-to-day basis, remarkably few people within the PRC’s borders speak this language exclusively. Nearly 80 percent of PRC citizens grew up speaking one or several fangyan (方言): local Chinese languages that are often mutually unintelligible with spoken Putonghua.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Introduction
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.001
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  • Introduction
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.001
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.001
Available formats
×