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Chinese forms one of the two branches of the Sino-Tibetan language family. It can be considered both a "language" and a "language family," as the identifications of the "languages" or "dialects" is controversial. Most "dialects" (also known as "topolects")
of Chinese are mutually unintelligible. The two largest dialects are Cantonese and Mandarin:
Cantonese - (also known as Yue) has approximately 64 million speakers Of those 64 million, there are more than 46 million speakers in southern China and over 5 million in Hong Kong. Cantonese speakers are also found in
Malaysia (750,000), Vietnam (500,000), Macao (500,000), Singapore (33,000), and Indonesia (18,000).
Mandarin - is the most widely spoken of all Chinese languages/dialects and is used by upwards of 720 million people in China and Taiwan, or 70 percent of the population. It is spoken in a huge area of the mainland running diagonally from the extreme southwest to Manchuria and also along the entire east coast north of Shanghai. To generalize, most of China, with the exception of the southeastern provinces from Vietnam in the southwest to Shanghai in the northeast, is Mandarin speaking.
The Chinese language can be written in either "Simplified" characters (used in mainland China since the 1950s) or "Traditional" characters (still used in Hong Kong and Taiwan). While the spoken variants of Chinese differ greatly, the written language does not. Therefore, "Mandarin" or "Cantonese" refer only to the spoken language or dialects, while "Simplified Chinese" and "Traditional Chinese" refer exclusively to the written form of the language.
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