The Chinese language (汉语/漢語 Hànyǔ, 华语/華語 Huáyǔ, or 中文 Zhōngwén) is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees, with most of the varieties not being mutually intelligible. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world's population, or over one billion people, speaks some variety of Chinese as their native language. Internal divisions of Chinese are usually perceived by their native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, rather than separate languages, although this identification is considered inappropriate by some linguists and sinologists.
Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin (about 850 million), followed by Wu (90 million), Cantonese (Yue) (70 million) and Min (50 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility.
- From Wikipedia