While the origins of many languages can be easily traced, the origin of Mandarin is a bit complicated. It is widely accepted that the Mandarin language is a part of the Chinese language family known as the Sino-Tibetan language family, but historians are not quite sure at what point in ancient history that ancient Chinese separated itself from the language family.
If you have an interest in learning the Mandarin language, we’ll share the brief history of it below.
THE EVOLUTION OF SPOKEN CHINESE
Old/ Archaic Chinese
The first form of spoken Chinese dates back to the 11th and 7th centuries B.C during the early and middle Zhou Dynasty. This form of spoken Chinese was not used among the masses but was reserved to the scholars, the wealthy and the aristocrats of ancient Chinese society. This marked the start of Chinese language and various dialects of the language developed in different parts of the country.
Middle Chinese was spoken during the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties during the 7th through to the 10th centuries A.D, and became a bit more complex than old Chinese. The same signs represented different words and it began to look much like the languages of today. The language was also influenced by other languages such as Sanskrit and Japanese.
Historically, Mandarin emerged as the language of the ruling class during the rule of the Ming Dynasty. When the capital switched from Nanjing to Beijing, the Qing Dynasty who took control continued using Mandarin and, since the language was based on the Beijing dialect, it comes as no surprise that it became the court’s official language. Officials from various parts of China who came to the capital had to use this language and from there the language spread. Modern Chinese was available to the masses and was comprised of four tonal variations and a fifth neutral tone.
Before the 20th century, there was no standard language and a variety of dialects and tongues were used across the region. The government saw this as a major issue and when the Republic of China was created in 1912, standardisation began.
The ‘Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation” saw to it that a simple, easy to learn phonetic system was implemented and in 1920 the first dictionary was published. The final product was taught in schools and in time the Modern Standard Chinese (Mandarin) was used throughout Mainland China.
In 1982, Mandarin became the official language of the People’s Republic of China. Mandarin is also the official language of Taiwan, one of the four official languages of Singapore and one of the eight official languages of the United Nations. Today, Mandarin is the first language of over one billion people and thousands of people are joining the ranks every year as they start learning Mandarin.
HOW CAN I JOIN THE RANKS?
If you wish to become one of the over one billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese, you can begin learning Mandarin language today! All you have to do is find one of the many online mandarin classes or take a Mandarin course in Singapore. Before you know it, you’ll be having full-fledged conversations with the Chinese waiters at the restaurants or in their stores!