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Say It Right Series

Language vs Dialect

Posted by sydcarten August 11, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

The differing regional forms of spoken Chinese: Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka etc. seem to be in many cases not mutually intelligible. Lack of mutual intelligibility is a defining characteristic between dialects and languages in related European spoken language, for example, French, Portugues and Italian.

Why is it then that they are referred to as dialects, rather than as separate languages?

Is it because all Chinese people share one system of writing, and a common ethnic/cultural identity?

Or is it a manifestation of Mandarin linguistic chauvinism?

Or is it, dare I say, because the words 'separate' or 'separation' and their synonyms are politically abhorrent?

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