Being the largest country in the world the Chinese have a vast and interesting history and this is also reflected in the languages that they use throughout the area each different province has their own different dialect and language that a person from a different province may not understand. They also have one common language that is spoken throughout China. These different dialects were mainly known and used by the educated elite in China and even among them, the pronunciations were very different. The classical Chinese was a standard of writing and not of speaking the language.
We will discuss how the language evolved through the different time periods
During the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, there was no specific word that was used for the language that was spoken at courts the word that was generally used translated to official speech in English. The term Mandarin was borrowed from the Portuguese word mandarim that was further derived from a Sanskrit word mantrin meaning counselor of ministers and was first used in reference to the Chinese bureaucratic officials.
During the 17th Century, the Empire made an attempt to have a pronunciation standard by setting up the Orthoepy Academies but did not have much success till the 19th Century and it became difficult for the emperor to understand what his officials had to say.
Till the 19th century, the standards of the language were set based on the dialect from Nanjing which was later replaced by the Beijing dialect when it started to get more popular but Nanjing Mandarin was still considered higher than the Beijing dialect. It was in 1909 that the Qing Dynasty established the Beijing dialect as the national language.
After the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, there was more success that was seen in promoting one common language throughout China. Delegates from the entire country convened in a Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation and published a dictionary of pronunciation that was a hybrid and did not match any single existing form of speech in China. Gradually most members of the National Language Commission settled upon using the Beijing dialect as the main source of the pronunciation standard in China.
In the early 1950s, nearly 41% of the people were able to understand the standard language, this number rose to around 90% in 1984 and it was 91% of those people who spoke Mandarin.
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