Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chinese pronouns

There are seven basic pronouns''' in Mandarin Chinese:

Originally, Chinese had no distinction for gender in the second- and third-person pronouns, and no distinction for animacy in the third-person either. In fact, in the spoken language, they remain undifferentiated. These characters were created in response to contact with the West and its gender- and animacy-indicating pronouns.

The difference between 你 and 妳 is not always maintained in writing, but the distinction between 他 and 她 is. 牠 is supposed to be used for nouns referring to animals and 它 for inanimate objects, but this distinction is sometimes blurred. In Simplified Chinese, 妳 and 牠 are both antiquated.

The collective pronouns are formed by simply adding 们 / 們 ''mén'' to the end of each pronoun; thus, 你们, 我们, 咱们, 他/她/牠/它们 or 你們, 我們, 他/她/牠/它們 would mean "you ", "we" and "they" respectively.

The pronoun 您 ''nín'' is used as a formal version of the second person pronoun, but does not have a feminine variant, and is not used in the plural.

The pronouns 俺 and 偶 are often used in Mandarin to mean "I". They are of dialectal origins, once spoken by the stereotypical country-side commoner. However, their usage is gaining popularity among the young, most notably in online communications.

There exist many more pronouns in Classical Chinese and in literary works, including 汝 or 爾 for "you", and 吾 for "I" . The pronouns listed above are the most common in colloquial speech.

The possessive pronoun

To indicate possession 的 is appended to the pronoun. In literature or in some daily phrases this is often omitted, e.g. 我妈/我媽 ; is a synonym for 我的妈妈/我的媽媽 . For old generations, 令 is the equivalent modern form 您的 , as in 令尊 "Your father." In literary style, 其 is sometimes used for "his" or "her"; e.g., 其父 means "his father" or "her father".

The reflexive pronoun

The singular personal pronouns may be made reflexive by appending 自己 ''zìjǐ'', "self".

Pronouns in imperial times and self-deprecatory

:''See also Chinese honorifics.''

In imperial times, the pronoun for "I" was commonly omitted when speaking politely or to someone with higher social status. "I" was usually replaced with special pronouns to address specific situations. Examples include 寡人 ''guǎrén'' during and 朕 ''zhèn'' after the Qin dynasty when the is speaking to his subjects. When the subjects speak to the Emperor, they address themselves as 臣, or "your official". It is extremely impolite and taboo to address the Emperor as "you" or to address oneself as "I".

In modern times, the practice of self-deprecatory terms is still used. In résumés, the term 贵/貴 is used for "you" and "your"; e.g., 贵公司/貴公司 refers to "your company". 本人 is used to refer to oneself.

Inclusive and exclusive first-person plural

In Chinese, for the first-person plural there are usually two forms, the inclusive and exclusive we:
*咱们 / 咱們 ''zánmen'' — the inclusive
*我们 / 我們 ''wǒmen'' — the exclusive .
This distinction is not rigorously maintained by many speakers outside of the Beijing region, the tendency being to generalize the use of 我们 / 我們.

Chinese phonology

Chinese phonology refers to the study of spoken Chinese. Specifically, it may refer to:
*Historical Chinese phonology
*The phonology of standard spoken Chinese:

For the phonology of other varieties of spoken Chinese, see the respective articles of .

Chinese particles

In classical philology, words are divided into two classes: the ''shízì'' and the ''xūzì'' . The former include what modern linguists call verbs, nouns, and adjectives, while the latter includes what modern linguists call s. Opinions differ as to which category pronouns and adverbs belong to. Chinese particles are also known as ''yǔzhù'' , ''zhùzì'' , ''zhùcí'' , ''yǔcí'' or simply ''cí'' .


The function of a Chinese particle depends on its position in the sentence, and the context. The character for a Chinese particle is only , thus the same particle can be written with different characters. For example, qí/jī , a common particle in classical Chinese have, among others, the following meanings:

In modern Chinese, an important function of particles is to show s. The particle le is used to indicate a completed action, for example, Tā z?u le ; and the particle zhe 着 is used to indicate a continuing action, for example, Tā shuìzhejiào shí yǒurén qiāomén .


The first book devoted to the studies of the Chinese particles is ''Speech Helpers'' by Lu Yiwei of the Yuan Dynasty. More important works concerning the particles followed, including ''Some Notes on the Helping Words'' by Liu Qi and ''Explanations of the Articles Found in the Classics'' by Wang Yinzhi , both published during the Qing Dynasty. These works focus on the particles found in the Confucius classics, paying little attentions to the particles used in the vernacular literature. The ''Compilation and Explanations of the Colloquial Terms Found in Classical Poetry and Operas'' by Zhang Xiang , published posthumously in 1953, was the first work covering the particles found in the vernacular literature.

Parts of speech

*Chinese pronouns
*Chinese adjectives
*Chinese verbs
*Chinese grammar

Chinese numerals

Chinese numerals are characters for writing numbers in . Today, speakers of Chinese use three numeral systems:
the ubiquitous system of , along with two ancient Chinese numeral systems.

One such system is the Suzhou numerals or ''huama'' system. It has gradually been supplanted by the Arabic system in writing numbers. It is the only surviving variation of the system, was once popular in use only in Chinese markets, such as those in Hong Kong before the 1990s.

The other Chinese numeral system is the . It is still in use when writing numbers in long form, such as on cheques to hinder forgery. This character system is roughly analogous to spelling out a number in English text. The Chinese character system can be classified as part of the language, but it still counts as a number system. Most people in China now use the Arabic system for convenience.

Individual Chinese characters in this article link to their dictionary entries.

Written numbers

The Chinese character numeral system consists of the Chinese characters used by the Chinese written language to write spoken numerals. Similarly to spelled-out numbers in English , it is not an independent system ''per se''. And since it reflects spoken language, it does not use the positional system as is done in Arabic numerals, in the same way that spelling out numbers in English does not.

Characters used to represent numbers

Standard numbers

There are characters representing the numbers zero through nine, and other characters representing larger numbers such as tens, hundreds, thousands and so on. There are two sets of characters for Chinese numerals: one for everyday writing and one for use in commercial or financial contexts known as dàxiě . The latter arose because the characters used for writing numerals are geometrically simple, so simply using those numerals cannot prevent forgeries in the same way spelling numbers out in English would. A forger could easily change everyday characters to by adding just a few strokes. That would not be possible when writing using the financial characters and .

S denotes Simplified, T denotes Traditional

Characters with regional usage

Large numbers

Similar to the long and short scales in the west, for numeral characters greater than , there have been four systems in ancient and modern usage:

In modern Chinese, only the second system is used in expressing numbers. Although there is some dispute on the value of 兆 zhào, the usage is still consistent through Chinese communities, as well as , . However, most people do not recognize numerals beyond 亿 yì and dictionary definitions on the words of larger number may not be consistent

Numbers from Buddhism

The numerals beyond 载 zài come from Buddhist texts in Sanskrit, but these "Buddhist numerals" have become "ancient usage".

Small numbers

The following are characters used to denote small order of magnitude in Chinese historically. With the introduction of SI units, some of them have been incorporated as SI prefixes, while the rest has fallen into disuse.

SI prefixes

The translations for the SI prefixes in earlier days were different from those used today. The larger , and smaller Chinese numerals were defined as translations for the SI prefixes. For instance, 京 jīng was defined as ''giga'', and 纤 xiān was defined as ''nano''. This resulted in the creation of more values for each numeral.

By the time of "early translation", a dispute had arisen over the value of 兆 . The government of the PRC used ''a part'' of this translation, and defined zhào as the translation for the SI prefix ''mega'' . Because of this, the translation has caused much confusion.

In addition, Taiwanese defined 百万 as the translation for ''mega''. This translation is widely used in official documents, academic communities, informational industries, etc. However, the civil broadcasting industries sometimes use to represent "megahertz".

Today, both the governments of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China use phonetic transliterations for the SI prefixes. However, the governments have each chosen different Chinese characters for certain prefixes. The following table lists the two different standards together with the early translation.

Reading and transcribing numbers

Whole numbers

Multiple-digit numbers are constructed using a multiplicative principle; first the digit itself , then the place ; then the next digit.

In Mandarin, the multiplier is used rather than for all numbers greater than 200 with the "2" numeral. Use of both 两 or 二 are acceptable for the number 200. When writing in the Cantonese dialect, 二 is used to represent the "2" numeral for all numbers. In the southern Min dialect of Chaozhou , 两 is used to represent the "2" numeral in all numbers from 200 onwards. Thus:

For the numbers 11 through 19, the leading "one" is usually omitted. In some dialects, like Shanghainese, when there are only two significant digits in the number, the leading "one" and the trailing zeroes are omitted. Sometimes, the one before "ten" in the middle of a number, such as 213, is omitted. Thus:

# Nothing is ever omitted in large and more complicated numbers such as this.

In certain older texts like the Protestant Bible or in poetic usage, numbers such as 114 may be ''written'' as .

For numbers larger than a myriad, the same grouping system used in English applies, except in groups of four places rather than in groups of three . Hence it is more convenient to think of numbers here as in groups of four, thus 1,234,567,890 is regrouped here as 12,3456,7890. Larger than a myriad, each number is therefore four zeroes longer than the one before it, thus 10000 × wàn = yì . If one of the numbers is between 10 and 19, the leading "one" is omitted as per the above point. Hence :

Interior zeroes before the unit position must be spelt explicitly. The reason for this is that trailing zeroes are often omitted as shorthand, so ambiguity occurs. One zero is sufficient to resolve the ambiguity. Where the zero is before a digit other than the units digit, the explicit zero is not ambiguous and is therefore optional, but preferred. Thus:

Fractional values

To construct a fraction, the denominator is written first, followed by and then the numerator. This is the opposite of how fractions are read in English, which is numerator first. Each half of the fraction is written the same as a whole number. are written with the whole-number part first, followed by , then the fractional part.

Percentages are constructed similarly, using 百 as the denominator. The 一 before 百 is omitted.

Decimal numbers are constructed by first writing the whole number part, then inserting or , and finally the decimal expression. The decimal expression is written using only the digits for 0 to 9, without multiplicative words.

Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers are formed by adding before the number.

Negative numbers

Negative numbers are formed by adding before the number.

Suzhou numerals

In the same way that Roman numerals were standard in ancient and medieval Europe for mathematics and commerce, the Chinese formerly used the , which is a positional system. The Suzhou or ''huāmǎ'' system is a variation of the rod numerals. Nowadays, the ''huāmǎ'' system is only used for displaying prices in Chinese markets or on traditional handwritten invoices.

Hand gestures

There is a common method of using of one hand to signify the numbers one to ten. While the five digits on one hand can express the numbers one to five, six to ten have special signs that can be used in commerce or day-to-day communication.

Cultural influences

During and dynasties , some Chinese mathematicians used Chinese numeral characters as positional system digits. After Qing dynasty, both the Chinese numeral characters and the Suzhou numerals were replaced by Arabic numerals in mathematical writings.

Traditional Chinese numeric characters are also used in Japan and Korea. In vertical text , using characters for numbers is the norm, while in horizontal text, Arabic numerals are most common. Chinese numeric characters are also used in much the same formal or decorative fashion that Roman numerals are in Western cultures. Chinese numerals may appear together with Arabic numbers on the same sign or document.

Chinese number gestures

number gestures are a method of using one hand to signify the natural numbers one through ten. This method may have been developed to bridge the many dialects in spoken Chinese-- for example, the numbers 4 and 10 are hard to distinguish in some dialects. Some suggest that it was also used by business people during bargaining when they wish for more privacy in a public place.


While the five digits on one hand can easily express the numbers one through five, six through ten have special signs that can be used in commerce or day-to-day communication. The gestures are rough representations of the they represent. The system varies in practice, especially for the representation of "7" to "10". Two of the systems are listed below:

* Six
**The little finger and thumb are extended, other fingers closed, sometimes with the palm facing the signer.
* Seven
**The fingertips are all touching, pointed upwards; or just the fingertips of the thumb and first two fingers ; another method is similar to the eight described immediately below, except that the little finger is also extended.
**The index finger points down with the thumb extended, mimicking the shape of a "7".
* Eight
**The thumb and index finger make an "L", other fingers closed, with the palm facing the observer.
**The thumb, index finger, and middle finger are extended.
* Nine
**The index finger makes a hook, other fingers closed, sometimes with the palm facing the signer.
* Ten
**The fist is closed with the palm facing the signer; or the middle finger crosses an extended index finger, facing the observer.
**The index fingers of both hands are crossed in an "X" with the palms facing in opposite directions.

Use of the signs corresponds to the use of numbers in the Chinese language. For instance, the sign for five just as easily means fifty. A two followed by a six, using a single hand only, could mean 260 or 2600 etc. besides twenty-six. These signs also commonly refer to days of the week, starting from Monday, as well as months of the year, whose names in Chinese are enumerations.

In different regions signs for numbers varie significantly. As shown above, one may interpret a sign as "7" while the others as "8". The "index finger-hook" symbol for 9, also described as such in Lonely Planet, actually means "death".

The numbers zero through five are more trivial. For completeness:

* Zero
**The fist is closed.
* One
**The index finger is extended.
* Two
**The index and middle fingers are extended.
* Three
**With the index finger and thumb closed, the last three fingers are extended.
**The thumb holds the little finger in palm with the middle three fingers extended.
* Four
**The thumb is held in palm with the four fingers extended.
* Five
** All five digits are extended.

Counting with fingers is often different from expressing a specific number with a finger gesture. When counting, the palm can be either facing its owner or the audience, depending on the purpose. Before counting, all fingers are closed; counting starts by extending the thumb as ''the first'', then the first finger as ''the second'', till all fingers are extended as ''the fifth''; then counting can be continued by folding fingers with the same sequence, from thumb through the little finger, for counting from ''the sixth'' through ''the tenth''. Repeating the same method for counting larger numbers. One can also starts counting with all fingers extended. Some believe that for formal scenario such as giving speech or presentation, counting with the palm facing the audience and starting with all fingers extended is more polite, since the gesture of folding of fingers representing bowing.

When playing the ''drinking finger game'', slightly different sets of finger gestures of numbers is used. One of them is:

* Zero
**The fist is closed.
* One
**The thumb is extended with all other fingers folded toward the palm.
* Two
**The thumb and index finger make an "L", other fingers closed.
* Three
**With the last two fingers closed and the rest fingers extended, or
**With the index finger and thumb closed, the last three fingers are extended.
* Four
**The thumb is held in palm with the four fingers extended.
* Five
** All five digits are extended.


Chinese measure word

In the modern Chinese languages, measure words or classifiers are used along with numerals to define the quantity of a given object or objects, or with "this"/"that" to identify specific objects.

In Chinese, a simple numeral cannot quantify a noun by itself; instead, the language relies on what are known as measure words or, to a lesser extent, s. There are two types of such classifiers, and , with the latter being used in quantifying verbs and the amount of time which they take precedence. also has its share of classifiers, however these are generally understood to be extraneous and ultimately construe the object in question with greater detail. As an example, in the English phrase "a stretch of sand", the word "stretch" is needed to disambiguate whether the sand is actually one grain or an entire beach's worth. Therefore, "stretch" serves to further specify the quantity of sand. We can also speak of "a bucketful of sand", "a grain of sand" or "a ton of sand". Other examples are the word "slice" as in "a slice of bread" and "glass" as in "a glass of water". Contrast these phrases with "a sand", "a bread", and "a water".

It should be noted that the usage of measure words in Chinese is strictly ''mandatory'', that is, they must be used so long as a quantifying numeral or a pronoun is present . In contrast with the English language wherein "a flock of birds" is roughly equivalent to "some birds", in Chinese only "" is possible. Likewise, "a bird" should be translated into "" ; it is as though English speakers were forced to say "a specimen of a bird".

Usage also depends on personal preference and dialects. For example, some people use ; and others use to mean three cars. Still others use or in Cantonese , with all of these measure words serving the same purpose.

Some measure words are true units, which all languages must have in order to measure things, e.g. kilometres. These are displayed first, then other nominal classifiers, and finally verbal classifiers.

In the following tables, the first column contains the traditional version of the classifier's character, the second contains the simplified version where it differs, the third contains the pronunciation given in Hanyu Pinyin, the fourth contains the pronunciation given in Cantonese romanization , and the fifth explains the word's principal uses. Quotation marks surround the literal meaning of the measure word.

Nominal Classifiers

True units

Column key:
*Trad. is Traditional
*Simp. shows changes made for the simplified variant

More idiomatic

Column key: Trad. is Traditional, Simp. shows changes made for the simplified variant .

|| || tí || tai4
| classifier for questions
| || || tiáo || tiu4
| long, narrow, flexible objects
| || || tóu || tau4
| "head" — domesticated animals , hair
| || || tuán || tyun4
| "ball" — rotund and wound objects
| || || wèi || wai2
| polite classifier for people
| || || xiàng || hong6
| projects
| || || yàng || yeung6
| general items of differing attributes
| || || zhā || ja1
| In Cantonese usage, this is used in lieu of shù , e.g. a bundle of flowers
"jar", "jug" — drinks such as beer, soda, juice, etc.
| || || zhǎn || jaan2
| light fixtures , pot of tea etc.
| || || zhāng || jeung1
| "sheet" — flat objects , faces, bows, paintings, tickets, constellations
| || || zhèn || jan6
| "gust", "burst" — events with short durations
| || || zhī || ji1
| fairly long, stick-like objects
| || || zhī || jek3
| one of a pair ; animals
| || || zhī || ji1
| alternative form of 支 : can be used for rifles and flowers
| || || zhǒng || jung2
| types or kinds of objects
| || || zǔ || jou2
| sets, rows, series, batteries
| || || chuàn ||
| sets of numbers; or something that comes in a string
| || || zuò || jo6
| large structures/buildings, mountains

Verbal Classifiers

Column key: Trad. is Traditional, Simp. shows changes made for the simplified variant .

Informal Classifiers

In modern colloquial speech of certain Chinese dialects, is sometimes used instead of , thereby assuming the identity of a measure word meaning "two of ". The same holds true for , three .


;Colour-coding: measure words are in green and nouns are in purple.
:Last year, I rode a horse.
:This television set broke after one viewing.
:I've reserved these two buses.
:Only after this rain passes will I climb that mountain.
:A hair, a strand of hair.
:Five minutes.
:Ten days.
:A hundred oxen, a hundred head of cattle.
:An apple
:A pound of apples.

Special characters

Chinese language

Chinese or the Sinitic language can be considered a language or language family. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the two branches of of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one people, speak some form of Chinese as their native language. The identification of the varieties of Chinese as "languages" or "dialects" is controversial.

Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, though all spoken varieties of Chinese are and . There are between six and twelve main regional groups of Chinese , of which the most populous is , followed by , and Cantonese . Most of these groups are , though some, like and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue.

The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin '''', based on the Beijing dialect. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China , as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—''de facto'', Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong and of Macau . Min Nan, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan and in Southeast Asia .

According to news reports in March 2007, 86 percent of people in the People's Republic of China speak a variant of spoken Chinese. As a language family, the number of Chinese speakers is 1.136 billion. The same news report indicate 53 percent of the population, or 700 million speakers, can effectively communicate in Putonghua.

Spoken Chinese

The map below depicts the linguistic subdivisions within China itself. The traditionally-recognized seven main groups, in order of population size are:
* 北方话/北方話 or 官話/官话, ,
* 吳/吴 , which includes Shanghainese, ,
*Cantonese 粵/粤, ,
* 閩/闽, which includes Taiwanese, ,
* 湘, ,
* 客家 or 客, ,
* 贛/赣,

Chinese linguists have recently distinguished:
* 晉/晋 from Mandarin
* 徽 from Wu
* 平話/平话 partly from Cantonese

There are also many smaller groups that are not yet classified, such as: Danzhou dialect, spoken in Danzhou, on Hainan Island; Xianghua , not to be confused with Xiang , spoken in western Hunan; and Shaozhou Tuhua, spoken in northern Guangdong. The Dungan language, spoken in Central Asia, is very closely related to Mandarin. However, it is not generally considered "Chinese" since it is written in Cyrillic and spoken by Dungan people outside China who are not considered ethnic . See List of Chinese dialects for a comprehensive listing of individual dialects within these large, broad groupings.

In general, the above language-dialect groups do not have sharp boundaries, though Mandarin is the pre-dominant Sinitic language in the North and the Southwest, and the rest are mostly spoken in Central or Southeastern China. Frequently, as in the case of the Guangdong province, native speakers of major variants overlapped. As with many areas that were linguistically diverse for a long time, it is not always clear how the speeches of various parts of China should be classified. The Ethnologue lists a total of , but the number varies between seven and seventeen depending on the classification scheme followed. For instance, the Min variety is often divided into Northern Min and Southern Min ; linguists have not determined whether their mutual intelligibility is large enough to sort them as separate languages.

In general, mountainous South China displays more linguistic diversity than the flat North China. In parts of South China, a major city's dialect may only be marginally intelligible to close neighbours. For instance, Wuzhou is about 120 miles upstream from Guangzhou, but its dialect is more like Standard Cantonese spoken in Guangzhou, than is that of Taishan, 60 miles southwest of Guangzhou and separated by several rivers from it .

Standard Mandarin and diglossia

, often called "Mandarin", is the official standard language used by the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China, and Singapore . It is based on the Beijing dialect, which is the dialect of as spoken in Beijing. The governments intend for speakers of all Chinese speech varieties to use it as a common language of communication. Therefore it is used in government agencies, in the media, and as a language of instruction in schools.

In both mainland China and Taiwan, diglossia has been a common feature: it is common for a Chinese to be able to speak two or even three varieties of the Sinitic languages together with Standard Mandarin. For example, in addition to ''putonghua'' a resident of Shanghai might speak Shanghainese and, if they did not grow up there, his or her local dialect as well. A native of Guangzhou may speak Standard Cantonese and ''putonghua'', a resident of Taiwan, both Taiwanese and ''putonghua/guoyu''. A person living in Taiwan may commonly mix pronunciations, phrases, and words from Standard Mandarin and Taiwanese, and this mixture is considered socially appropriate under many circumstances. In Hong Kong, standard Mandarin is beginning to take its place beside English and Standard Cantonese, the official languages.


Linguists often view Chinese as a language family, though owing to China's socio-political and cultural situation, and the fact that all spoken varieties use one common written system, it is customary to refer to these generally mutually unintelligible variants as “the Chinese language”. The diversity of Sinitic variants is comparable to the Romance languages.

From a purely point of view, "languages" and "dialects" are simply arbitrary groups of similar idiolects, and the distinction is irrelevant to linguists who are only concerned with describing regional speeches technically. However, the idea of a single language has major overtones in politics and cultural self-identity, and explains the amount of emotion over this issue. Most Chinese and Chinese linguists refer to Chinese as a single language and its subdivisions dialects, while others call Chinese a language family.

Chinese itself has a term for its unified writing system, ''zhongwen'' , while the closest equivalent used to describe its spoken variants would be ''Hanyu'' – this term could be translated to either “language” or “languages” since Chinese possesses no grammatical numbers. In the Chinese language, there is much less need for a uniform speech-and-writing continuum, as indicated by two separate character morphemes 语 ''yu'' and 文 ''wen''. Ethnic Chinese often consider these spoken variations as one single language for reasons of nationality and as they inherit one common cultural and linguistic heritage in Classical Chinese. Han native speakers of Wu, Min, Hakka, and Cantonese, for instance, may consider their own linguistic varieties as separate spoken languages, but the Han Chinese race as one – albeit internally very diverse – ethnicity. To Chinese nationalists, the idea of Chinese as a language family may suggest that the Chinese identity is much more fragmentary and disunified than it actually is and as such is often looked upon as culturally and politically provocative. Additionally, in Taiwan, it is closely associated with Taiwanese independence, where some supporters of Taiwanese independence promote the local Taiwanese Minnan-based spoken language.

Within the People’s Republic of China and Singapore, it is common for the government to refer to all divisions of the Sinitic language beside standard Mandarin as ''fangyan'' . Modern-day Chinese speakers of all kinds communicate using , although this modern written standard is modeled after Mandarin, generally the modern Beijing substandard.

Language and nationality

The term sinophone, coined in analogy to anglophone and francophone, refers to those who speak the Chinese language natively, or prefer it as a medium of communication. The term is derived from Sinae, the Latin word for ancient China.

Written Chinese

:''See also'': ''Classical Chinese'' and ''Vernacular Chinese''

The relationship among the Chinese spoken and written languages is a complex one. Its spoken variations evolved at different rates, while written Chinese itself has changed much less. Classical Chinese literature began in the Spring and Autumn period, although written records have been discovered as far back as the 14th to 11th centuries BCE Shang dynasty oracle bones using the oracle bone scripts.

The Chinese orthography centers around Chinese characters, ''hanzi'', which are written within imaginary rectangular blocks, traditionally arranged in vertical columns, read from top to bottom down a column, and right to left across columns. Chinese characters are morphemes independent of phonetic change. Thus the number "one", ''yi'' in , ''yat'' in Cantonese and ''chi?t'' in , all share an identical character . Vocabularies from different major Chinese variants have diverged, and colloquial non-standard written Chinese often makes use of unique "dialectal characters", such as 冇 and 係 for Cantonese and Hakka, which are considered archaic or unused in standard written Chinese.

Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in online chat rooms and instant messaging amongst Hong-Kongers and Cantonese-speakers elsewhere. Use of it is considered highly informal, and does not extend to any formal occasion.

Also, in Hunan, some women write their local language in Nü Shu, a syllabary derived from Chinese characters. The Dungan language, considered by some a dialect of Mandarin, is also nowadays written in Cyrillic, and was formerly written in the Arabic alphabet, although the Dungan people live outside China.

Chinese characters

Chinese characters evolved over time from earliest forms of hieroglyphs. The idea that all Chinese characters are either pictographs or ideographs is an erroneous one: most characters contain phonetic parts, and are composites of phonetic components and semantic s. Only the simplest characters, such as ''ren'' 人 , ''ri'' 日 , ''shan'' 山 , ''shui'' 水 , may be wholly pictorial in origin. In 100 CE, the famed scholar in the classified characters into 6 categories, namely pictographs, simple ideographs, compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters. Of these, only 4% were categorized as pictographs, and 80-90% as phonetic complexes consisting of a ''semantic'' element that indicates meaning, and a ''phonetic'' element that arguably once indicated the pronunciation. There are about 214 radicals recognized in the Kangxi Dictionary, which indicate what the character is about semantically.

Modern characters are styled after the . Various other written styles are also used in East Asian calligraphy, including seal script , cursive script and clerical script . Calligraphy artists can write in traditional and simplified characters, but tend to use traditional characters for traditional art.

There are currently two systems for Chinese characters. The , still used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Chinese speaking communities outside mainland China, takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty. The Simplified Chinese character system, developed by the People's Republic of China in 1954 to promote mass literacy, simplifies most complex traditional glyphs to fewer strokes, many to common ''caoshu'' shorthand variants.

Singapore, which has two large Chinese communities, is the first – and at present the only – foreign nation to officially adopt simplified characters, although it has also become the ''de facto'' standard for younger ethnic Chinese in Malaysia. The Internet provides the platform to practice reading the alternative system, be it traditional or simplified.

A well-educated Chinese today recognizes approximately 6,000-7,000 characters; some 3,000 characters are required to read a Mainland newspaper. The PRC government defines literacy amongst workers as a knowledge of 2,000 characters, though this would be only functional literacy. A large unabridged dictionary, like the Kangxi Dictionary, contains over 40,000 characters, including obscure, variant and archaic characters; less than a quarter of these characters are now commonly used.''

History and evolution

Most linguists classify all varieties of modern spoken Chinese as part of the Sino-Tibetan language family and believe that there was an original language, termed Proto-Sino-Tibetan, from which the Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman languages descended. The relation between Chinese and other Sino-Tibetan languages is an area of active research, as is the attempt to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan. The main difficulty in this effort is that, while there is enough documentation to allow one to reconstruct the ancient Chinese sounds, there is no written documentation that records the division between proto-Sino-Tibetan and ancient Chinese. In addition, many of the older languages that would allow us to reconstruct Proto-Sino-Tibetan are very poorly understood and many of the techniques developed for analysis of the descent of the Indo-European languages from don't apply to Chinese because of "morphological paucity" especially after Old Chinese .

Categorization of the development of Chinese is a subject of scholarly debate. One of the first systems was devised by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren in the early 1900s; most present systems rely heavily on Karlgren's insights and methods.

Old Chinese , sometimes known as "Archaic Chinese", was the language common during the early and middle , texts of which include inscriptions on bronze artifacts, the poetry of the '','' the history of the '','' and portions of the '''' . The phonetic elements found in the majority of Chinese characters provide hints to their Old Chinese pronunciations. The pronunciation of the borrowed Chinese characters in Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean also provide valuable insights. Old Chinese was not wholly uninflected. It possessed a rich sound system in which aspiration or rough breathing differentiated the consonants, but probably was still without tones. Work on reconstructing Old Chinese started with philologists.
Some early Indo-European loanwords in Chinese have been proposed, notably ''mì'' "honey", ''shī'' "lion," and perhaps also ''mǎ'' "horse", ''quǎn'' "dog", and ''é'' "goose".

Middle Chinese was the language used during the , , and dynasties . It can be divided into an early period, reflected by the 切韻 "" , and a late period in the 10th century, reflected by the 廣韻 "" . Linguists are more confident of having reconstructed how Middle Chinese sounded. The evidence for the pronunciation of Middle Chinese comes from several sources: modern dialect variations, rhyming dictionaries, foreign transliterations, "rhyming tables" constructed by ancient Chinese philologists to summarize the phonetic system, and Chinese phonetic translations of foreign words. However, all reconstructions are tentative; some scholars have argued that trying to reconstruct, say, modern Cantonese from modern Cantopop rhymes would give a fairly inaccurate picture of the present-day spoken language.

The development of the spoken Chinese languages from early historical times to the present has been complex. Most Chinese people, in and in a broad arc from the northeast to the southwest , use various Mandarin dialects as their home language. The prevalence of Mandarin throughout northern China is largely due to north China's plains. By contrast, the mountains and rivers of middle and southern China promoted linguistic diversity.

Until the mid-20th century, most southern Chinese only spoke their native local variety of Chinese. As Nanjing was the capital during the early Ming dynasty, Nanjing Mandarin became dominant at least until the later years of the officially Manchu-speaking Qing Empire. Since the 17th century, the Empire had set up orthoepy academies to make pronunciation conform to the Qing capital Beijing's standard, but had little success. During the Qing's last 50 years in the late 19th century, the Beijing Mandarin finally replaced Nanjing Mandarin in the imperial court. For the general population, though, a single standard of Mandarin did not exist. The non-Mandarin speakers in southern China also continued to use their various languages for every aspect of life. The new Beijing Mandarin court standard was used solely by officials and civil servants and was thus fairly limited.

This situation did not change until the mid-20th century with the creation of a compulsory educational system committed to teaching Standard Mandarin. As a result, Mandarin is now spoken by virtually all young and middle-aged citizens of mainland China and on Taiwan. Standard Cantonese, not Mandarin, was used in Hong Kong during its the time of its British colonial period and remains today its official language of education, formal speech, and daily life, but Mandarin is becoming increasingly influential after the .

Chinese was once the Lingua franca for East Asia countries for centuries, before the rise of European influences in 19th century.

Influences on other languages

Throughout history Chinese culture and politics has had a great influence on unrelated languages such as and . Korean and Japanese both have writing systems employing Chinese characters , which are called Hanja and Kanji, respectively.

The Vietnamese term for Chinese writing is Hán t?. It was the only available method for writing Vietnamese until the 14th century, used almost exclusively by Chinese-educated Vietnamese élites. From the 14th to the late 19th century, Vietnamese was written with Ch? n?m, a modified Chinese script incorporating sounds and syllables for native Vietnamese speakers. Ch? n?m was completely replaced by a modified Latin script created by the Jesuit missionary priest Alexander de Rhodes, which incorporates a system of diacritical marks to indicate tones, as well as modified consonants. The Vietnamese language exhibits multiple elements similar to Cantonese in regard to the specific intonations and sharp consonant endings. There is also a slight influence from Mandarin, including the sharper vowels and "kh" sound missing from other Asiatic languages.

In South Korea, the Hangul alphabet is generally used, but Hanja is used as a sort of boldface. In North Korea, Hanja has been discontinued. Since the modernization of Japan in the late 19th century, there has been debate about abandoning the use of Chinese characters, but the practical benefits of a radically new script have so far not been considered sufficient.

In Guangxi the Zhuang also had used derived Chinese characters or Zhuang logograms to write songs, even though Zhuang is not a Chinese dialect. Since the 1950s, the Zhuang language has been written in a modified Latin alphabet.

Languages within the influence of Chinese culture also have a very large number of loanwords from Chinese. Fifty percent or more of Korean vocabulary is of Chinese origin and the influence on Japanese and Vietnamese has been considerable. Ten percent of Philippine language vocabularies are of Chinese origin. Chinese also shares a great many grammatical features with these and neighboring languages, notably the lack of and the use of .

Loan words from Chinese also exist in European languages such as English. Examples of such words are "tea" from the Minnan pronunciation of 茶 , "ketchup" from the Cantonese pronunciation of 茄汁 , and "kumquat" from the Cantonese pronunciation of 金橘 .


:''For more specific information on phonology of Chinese see the respective main articles of each .''

The structure of each syllable consists of a consisting of a vowel with an optional or consonant as well as a . There are some instances where a vowel is not used as a nucleus. An example of this is in Cantonese, where the sonorant consonants and can stand alone as their own syllable.

Across all the spoken varieties, most syllables tend to be open syllables, meaning they have no coda, but syllables that do have codas are restricted to , , , , , , or . Some varieties allow most of these codas, whereas others, such as , are limited to only two, namely and . Consonant clusters do not generally occur in either the onset or coda. The onset may be an or a consonant followed by a semivowel, but these are not generally considered consonant clusters.

The number of sounds in the different spoken dialects varies, but in general there has been a tendency to a reduction in sounds from Middle Chinese. The Mandarin dialects in particular have experienced a dramatic decrease in sounds and so have far more multisyllabic words than most other spoken varieties. The total number of syllables in some varieties is therefore only about a thousand, including tonal variation, which is only about an eighth as many as English.

All varieties of spoken Chinese use . A few dialects of north China may have as few as three tones, while some dialects in south China have up to 6 or 10 tones, depending on how one counts. One exception from this is Shanghainese which has reduced the set of tones to a two-toned pitch accent system much like modern Japanese.

A very common example used to illustrate the use of tones in Chinese are the four main tones of Standard Mandarin applied to the syllable "ma." The tones correspond to these five :

* "mother" — high level
* "hemp" or "torpid" — high rising
* "horse" — low falling-rising
* "scold" — high falling
* "question particle" — neutral

Phonetic transcriptions

The Chinese had no uniform phonetic transcription system until the mid-20th century, although enunciation patterns were recorded in early rime books and dictionaries. Early Sanskrit and Pali Indian translators were the first to attempt describing the sounds and enunciation patterns of the language in a foreign language. After 15th century CE Jesuits and Western court missionaries’ efforts result in some rudimentary Latin transcription systems, based on the Nanjing Mandarin dialect.


Romanization is the process of transcribing a language in the Latin alphabet. There are many systems of romanization for the Chinese languages due to the Chinese's own lack of phonetic transcription until modern times. Chinese is first known to have been written in Latin characters by Western in the 16th century.

Today the most common romanization standard for Standard Mandarin is ''Hanyu Pinyin'' , often known simply as pinyin, introduced in 1956 by the People's Republic of China, later adopted by Singapore . Pinyin is almost universally employed now for teaching standard spoken Chinese in schools and universities across , Australia and Europe. Chinese parents also use Pinyin to teach their children the sounds and tones for words with which the child is unfamiliar. The Pinyin is usually shown below a picture of the thing the word represents, and alongside the Pinyin is the Chinese symbol.

The second-most common romanization system, the Wade-Giles, was invented by Thomas Wade in 1859, later modified by Herbert Giles in 1892. As it approximates the phonology of Mandarin Chinese into English consonants and vowels , it may be particularly helpful for beginner speakers of native English background. Wade-Giles is found in academic use in the United States, particularly before the 1980s, and until recently was widely used in Taiwan .

When used within European texts, the transcriptions in both pinyin and Wade-Giles are often left out for simplicity; Wade-Giles' extensive use of apostrophes is also usually omitted. Thus, most Western readers will be much more familiar with ‘Beijing’ than they will be with ‘Běijīng’ , and with ‘Taipei’ than ‘T'ai?-pei?’ .

Here are a few examples of ''Hanyu Pinyin'' and Wade-Giles, for comparison:

Other systems of romanization for Chinese include the ?cole fran?aise d'Extrême-Orient, the Yale , as well as separate systems for Cantonese, Minnan, Hakka, and other Chinese languages or dialects.

Other phonetic transcriptions

Chinese languages have been phonetically transcribed into many other writing systems over the centuries. The , for example, has been very helpful in reconstructing the pronunciations of pre-modern forms of Chinese.

Zhuyin , a katakana-inspired syllabary is still widely used in Taiwan's elementary schools to aid standard pronunciation. Although bopomofo characters are reminiscent of katakana script, there is no source to substantiate the claim that Katakana was the basis for the zhuyin system. A comparison table of zhuyin to pinyin exists in the . Syllables based on pinyin and zhuyin can also be compared by looking at the following articles:
*Pinyin table
*Zhuyin table

There are also at least two systems of cyrillization for Chinese. The most widespread is the .

Grammar and morphology

Modern Chinese has often been erroneously classed as a "monosyllabic" language. While most of the morphemes are single syllable, modern Chinese today is much less a monosyllabic language in that nouns, adjectives and verbs are largely di-syllabic. The tendency to create disyllabic words in the modern Chinese languages, particularly in Mandarin, has been particularly pronounced when compared to Classical Chinese. Classical Chinese is a highly isolating language, with each idea generally corresponding to a single syllable and a single character; Modern Chinese though, has the tendency to form new words through disyllabic, trisyllabic and tetra-character agglutination. In fact, some linguists argue that classifying modern Chinese as an isolating language is misleading, for this reason alone.

Chinese is strictly bound to a set number of syllables with a fairly rigid construction which are the morphemes, the smallest blocks of the language. While many of these single-syllable morphemes can stand alone as individual , they more often than not form multi-syllabic compounds, known as ''cí'' , which more closely resembles the traditional Western notion of a word. A Chinese ''cí'' can consist of more than one character-morpheme, usually two, but there can be three or more.

For example:

*''Yun'' 云 -“cloud”
*''Hanbaobao'' 汉堡包 –“hamburger”
*''Wo'' 我 –“I, me”
*''Renmin'' 人民 –“people”
*''Diqiu'' 地球 –“earth”
*''Shandian'' 闪电 –“lightning”
*''Meng'' 梦 –“dream”

All varieties of modern Chinese are analytic languages, in that they depend on syntax rather than — i.e., changes in form of a word — to indicate changes in meaning. In other words, Chinese has next to no grammatical inflections – it possesses no tenses, no s, no numbers , only a few s , and no gender.

They make heavy use of grammatical particles to indicate and . In Mandarin Chinese, this involves the use of particles like le 了, hai 还, yijing 已经, etc.

Chinese features Subject Verb Object word order, and like many other languages in East Asia, makes frequent use of the topic-comment construction to form sentences. Chinese also has an extensive system of measure words, another trait shared with neighbouring languages like and . See Chinese measure words for an extensive coverage of this subject.

Other notable grammatical features common to all the spoken varieties of Chinese include the use of serial verb construction, and the related .

Although the grammars of the spoken varieties share many traits, they do possess differences. See Chinese grammar for the grammar of Standard Mandarin , and the articles on other varieties of Chinese for their respective grammars.

Tones and homophones

Official modern Mandarin has only 400 spoken monosyllables but over 10,000 written characters, so there are many homophones only distinguishable by the four tones. Even this is often not enough unless the context and exact phrase or cí is identified.

The mono-syllable ''jī'', first tone in standard Mandarin, corresponds to the following characters: 雞/鸡 ''chicken'', 機/机 ''machine'', 基 ''basic'', 擊/击 '' hit'', 饑/饥 ''hunger'', and 積/积 ''sum''. In speech, the glyphing of a monosyllable to its meaning must be determined by context or by relation to other morphemes . Native speakers may state which words or phrases their names are found in, for convenience of writing: 名字叫嘉英,嘉陵江的嘉,英國的英 Míngzi jiào Jiāyīng, Jiālíng Jiāng de jiā, Yīngguó de yīng "My name is Jiāyīng, the ''Jia'' for ''Jialing River'' and the ''ying'' for ''the short form in Chinese of ''."

Southern Chinese varieties like Cantonese and Hakka preserved more of the of Middle Chinese and have more tones. The previous examples of ''jī'', for instance, for "stimulated", "chicken", and "machine", have distinct pronunciations in Cantonese : ''gik1'', ''gai1'', and ''gei1'', respectively. For this reason, southern varieties tend to employ fewer multi-syllabic words.


The entire Chinese character corpus since antiquity comprises well over 20,000 characters, of which only roughly 10,000 are now commonly in use. However Chinese characters should not be confused with Chinese words, there are many times more Chinese words than there are characters as most Chinese words are made up of two or more different characters.

Estimates of the total number of Chinese words and phrases vary greatly. The ''Hanyu Da Zidian'', an all-inclusive compendium of Chinese characters, includes 54,678 head entries for characters, including bone oracle versions. The ''Zhonghua Zihai'' 中华字海 contains 85,568 head entries for character definitions, and is the largest reference work based purely on character and its literary variants.

The most comprehensive pure linguistic Chinese-language dictionary, the 12-volumed ''Hanyu Da Cidian'' 汉语大词典, records more than 23,000 head Chinese characters, and gives over 370,000 definitions. The 1999 revised ''Cihai'', a multi-volume encyclopedic dictionary reference work, gives 122,836 vocabulary entry definitions under 19,485 Chinese characters, including proper names, phrases and common zoological, geographical, sociological, scientific and technical terms.

The latest 2007 5th edition of ''Xiandai Hanyu Cidian'' 现代汉语词典, an authoritative one-volume dictionary on modern standard Chinese language as used in mainland China, has 65,000 entries and defines 11,000 head characters. In Taiwan it is also proven that the Chinese language has 7 different tones.

New words

Like any other language, Chinese has absorbed a sizeable amount of loanwords from other cultures. Most Chinese words are formed out of native Chinese morphemes, including words describing imported objects and ideas. However, direct phonetic borrowing of foreign words has gone on since ancient times.
Words borrowed from along the Silk Road since Old Chinese include 葡萄 "grape," 石榴 "pomegranate" and 狮子/獅子 "lion." Some words were borrowed from Buddhist scriptures, including 佛 "Buddha" and 菩萨/菩薩 "bodhisattva." Other words came from nomadic peoples to the north, such as 胡同 "hutong." Words borrowed from the peoples along the Silk Road, such as 葡萄 "grape" generally have Persian etymologies. Buddhist terminology is generally derived from Sanskrit or Pāli, the liturgical languages of North India. Words borrowed from the nomadic tribes of the Gobi, Mongolian or northeast regions generally have Altaic etymologies, such as 琵笆 or 酪 "cheese" or "yoghurt", but from exactly which Altaic source is not always entirely clear.

Modern borrowings and loanwords

Foreign words continue to enter the Chinese language by transcription according to their pronunciations. This is done by employing Chinese characters with similar pronunciations. For example, "Israel" becomes 以色列 , Paris 巴黎. A rather small number of direct transliterations have survived as common words, including 沙發 ''shāfā'' "sofa," 马达/馬達 ''mǎdá'' "motor," 幽默 ''yōumò'' "humour," 逻辑/邏輯 ''luójí'' "logic," 时髦/時髦 ''shímáo'' "smart, fashionable" and 歇斯底里 ''xiēsīdǐlǐ'' "hysterics." The bulk of these words were originally coined in the Shanghainese dialect during the early 20th century and were later loaned into Mandarin, hence their pronunciations in Mandarin may be quite off from the English. For example, 沙发/沙發 and 马达/馬達 in Shanghainese actually sound more like the English "sofa" and "motor."

Today, it is much more common to use existing Chinese morphemes to coin new words in order to represent imported concepts, such as technical expressions. Any Latin or etymologies are dropped, making them more comprehensible for Chinese but introducing more difficulties in understanding foreign texts. For example, the word ''telephone'' was loaned phonetically as 德律风/德律風 during the 1920s and widely used in Shanghai, but later the Japanese 电话/電話 , built out of native Chinese morphemes, became prevalent. Other examples include 电视/電視 for television, 电脑/電腦 for computer; 手机/手機 for cellphone, and 蓝牙/藍芽 for Bluetooth. 網誌 for blog in Cantonese or people in Hong Kong and Macau. Occasionally half-transliteration, half-translation compromises are accepted, such as 汉堡包/漢堡包 for ''hamburger.'' Sometimes translations are designed so that they sound like the original while incorporating Chinese morphemes, such as 拖拉机/拖拉機 , or 马利奥/馬利奧 for the video game character ''Mario.'' This is often done for commercial purposes, for example 奔腾/奔騰 for Pentium and 赛百味/賽百味 for .

Since the 20th century, another source has been Japan. Using existing kanji, which are Chinese characters used in the Japanese language, the Japanese re-moulded European concepts and inventions into ''wasei-kango'' , and re-loaned many of these into modern Chinese. Examples include ''diànhuà'' , ''shèhuì'' , ''kēxué'' and ''chōuxiàng'' . Other terms were coined by the Japanese by giving new senses to existing Chinese terms or by referring to expressions used in classical Chinese literature. For example, ''jīngjì'' , which in the original Chinese meant "the workings of the state", was narrowed to "economy" in Japanese; this narrowed definition was then reimported into Chinese. As a result, these terms are virtually indistinguishable from native Chinese words: indeed, there is some dispute over some of these terms as to whether the Japanese or Chinese coined them first. As a result of this toing-and-froing process, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese share a corpus linguistics of terms describing modern terminology, in parallel to a similar corpus of terms built from Greco-Latin terms shared among European languages. Taiwanese and Taiwanese Mandarin continue to be influenced by Japanese eg. 便当/便當 “lunchbox or boxed lunch” and 料理 “prepared cuisine”, have passed into common currency.

Western foreign words have great influence on Chinese language since the 20th century, through transliterations. From came 芭蕾 , 香槟 , via 咖啡 . The English influence is particularly pronounced. From early 20th century Shanghainese, many English words are borrowed .eg. the above-mentioned 沙發 , 幽默 , and 高尔夫 . Later US soft influences gave rise to 迪斯科 , 可乐 and 迷你 . Contemporary colloquial Cantonese has distinct loanwords from English like cartoon 卡通 , 基佬 , 出租车 , 巴士 . With the rising popularity of the Internet, there is a current vogue in China for coining English transliterations, eg. 粉絲 , 駭客 , 部落格 in Taiwanese Mandarin.

Learning Chinese

Since China’s economic and political rise in recent years, standard Chinese has become an increasingly popular subject of study amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK.

In 1991 there were 2,000 foreign learners taking China's official Chinese Proficiency Test , while in 2005, the number of candidates had risen sharply to 117,660.

Chinese is a popular language; the approximate number of learners all around the world is predicted to be 100 million in 2010.


* ''Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise''. 7 volumes. Instituts Ricci . Desclée de Brouwer. 2001. ISBN 2-220-04667-2. Chinese to French .
* ''ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary''. Editor: John de Francis. University of Hawai’i Press. ISBN 0-8248-2766-X. Excellent Chinese to English dictionary arranged according to pinyin romanisation.
* ''ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese''. Axel Schuessler. 2007. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu. ISBN 978-08248-2975-9.

* online Chinese <-> English Dictionary
* free online Chinese dictionary with handwriting recognition, pinyin, sound clips, etc.
*: supports Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Hakka etc.
*: from - the Rosetta Edition
* Chinese-English Dictionary Project
* free multilanguage dictionary including simplified/traditional Chinese for Unix and win32
*: Chinese-English-Chinese Online Dictionary
*: Cantonese-English Dictionary Project
* Input Chinese words or sentences, get audio file of Mandarin pronunciation. Web-based tool.
* Add pinyin on ''top'' of any Chinese text. Mouse over any word to see English translation. Save output to format. Prints nicely. Also adds pinyin to any Chinese web page.
*Firefox users can install Add-ons for a pinyin annotator
* Language Tool, Offline Chinese Dictionary.


* A collection of Chinese language learning resources.
* One Chinese idiom a day with pinyin transliteration and English translation.
* Testing your knowledge of Mandarin tones.
* Pinyin practice for Mandarin learners in all levels
*: A large collection of Web resources by a professor of linguistics at Ohio State University
*: Chinese idioms in Simplified Chinese and ''Hanyu Pinyin''
* Learn to Read Chinese one word at a time.
* Google Pinyin Input Software
* Chinese Language Level System & Assessment
* Chinese Scholar- The Free Chinese Class
*Take online classes to learn Mandarin Chinese with certified instructors from Beijing.