Chinese is the leading representative of the Sino-Tibetan family. It has a number of variants that have been called dialects but are often regarded as separate languages. Mandarin Chinese is the standard form of Chinese and is spoken in N and central China by about 835 million people as their first language. Other leading dialects or languages of the Chinese subfamily are Cantonese or Yue (spoken in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces and also frequently outside mainland China), Wu (the tongue of Shanghai and Zhejiang province), Hakka or Hakkha (current in Guangdong and Jiangxi provinces), and Fukienese or Northern Min (spoken in Fujian and Guangdong provinces and many places outside mainland China, including the island of Taiwan).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.