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people have their own spoken and written language. Chinese belongs to the
Han-Tibetan language family. It is the most commonly used language in
China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world.
Chinese emerged in its embryonic form of carved symbols approximately 6,000
years ago. The Chinese characters used today evolved from those used in
bone and tortoise shell inscriptions more than 3,000 years ago and the bronze
inscriptions produced soon after.
Drawn figures were gradually reduced to
patterned stroke, pictographs were reduced to symbols, and the complicated
graphs became simpler. Early pictographs and ideographs were joined by
In fact, there are six categories of Chinese
characters: pictographs, self-explanatory characters, associative compounds,
pictophonetic characters, phonetic loan characters, and mutually explanatory
Chinese words are monosyllabic. A large proportion of
Chinese characters are composed of an ideogramatic element combined with a
Many non-Chinese sometimes get the feeling that there
are an unlimited number of Chinese characters. There are about 56,000
characters, of which only about 3,000 are in common use. In addition to
their functional value as symbols for records and communication, Chinese
characters have an aesthetic value as calligraphy.
of China's 55 minority people have their own languages, except the Hui and
Manchu, who use Chinese; 23 of these have a written form. Nowadays,
classes in schools in predominantly national minority areas are taught in the
local language, using local language textbooks.
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