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Chinese Language

Map No.



Chinese is a collection of languages that are mutually unintelligible, but use a common written form. By far the largest of these is Mandarin. Also shown in subsequent maps are Yue Chinese (Cantonese), Min Chinese, and Hakka Chinese. These varieties tend to be spoken in regions of the south and south-east of China. Chinese has spread far and wide; the largest numbers of speakers outside of China are in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages.


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Technical Notes

Territory size shows the proportion of all people who speak Chinese as a first language that live in that territory.

The maps in the 2005 language data series are made from data on the number of people speaking a language as their first-language, that is the language they would use at home.

Data sources
This map uses data several sources, the main one being Ethnologue (15th Edition, 2005). Estimating the number of speakers of a language is fraught with difficulty on several levels (last accessed January 2009). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. The language numbers we use and publish are rough estimates, and should not be taken as definitive. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

Further notes on the data, as well as all modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets.

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