Standard Chinese

"Huayu" redirects here. For other uses, see Huayu (disambiguation).
Standard Chinese
Modern Standard Mandarin
普通話 / 普通话 Pǔtōnghuà
國語 / 国语 Guóyǔ
華語 / 华语 Huáyǔ
Native to China, Taiwan, Singapore
Native speakers
(has begun acquiring native speakers cited 1988, 2014) [1] [2]
L2 speakers: 7% of China (2014) [3] [4]
Early forms
Middle Mandarin
  • Standard Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Mainland Chinese Braille
Taiwanese Braille
Two-Cell Chinese Braille
Wenfa Shouyu [5]
Official status
Official language in

  China (as Putonghua)
  Taiwan (as Guoyu)
  Singapore (as Huayu)
  United Nations
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

Wa State, Myanmar
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by National Language Regulating Committee (China) [6]
National Languages Committee (Taiwan)
Promote Mandarin Council (Singapore)
Chinese Language Standardisation Council (Malaysia)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
ISO 639-6 goyu (Guoyu)
huyu (Huayu)
cosc (Putonghua)
Glottolog None
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Common name in China
Traditional Chinese 普通話
Simplified Chinese 普通话
Literal meaning Common speech
Common name in Taiwan
Traditional Chinese 國語
Simplified Chinese 国语
Literal meaning National language
Common name in Singapore and Southeast Asia
Traditional Chinese 華語
Simplified Chinese 华语
Literal meaning Chinese language

Standard Chinese, also known as Modern Standard Mandarin or Standard Mandarin, also often referred to as Putonghua, Guoyu or simply Mandarin, is a standard language that is the sole official language of both China and Taiwan, and also one of the four official languages of Singapore. The pronunciation of the standard is based on the Beijing dialect, its vocabulary is drawn from Mandarin dialects, and the grammar is based on literature in the modern written vernacular.

Like other varieties of Chinese, Standard Chinese is a tonal language. It has more initial consonants but fewer vowels, final consonants and tones than southern varieties. Standard Chinese is an analytic language, though with many compound words. Like other varieties of Chinese it is a topic-prominent language and has subject–verb–object word order.

There exist two standardised forms of the language, namely Putonghua in Mainland China and Guoyu in Taiwan. Aside from a number of differences in pronunciation and vocabulary, Putonghua is written using simplified Chinese characters (augmented by Hanyu Pinyin romanization for pedagogical purposes), while Guoyu is written using traditional Chinese characters (augmented by Bopomofo for pedagogical purposes). There are many characters that are identical between the two systems.


In Chinese, the standard variety is known as:

Putonghua and Guoyu

In English, the governments of China and Hong Kong use Putonghua, [8] [9] Putonghua Chinese, [10] Mandarin Chinese, and Mandarin, [11] [12] [13] while those of Taiwan, [14] [15] Singapore, [16] [17] and Malaysia, [18] use Mandarin.

The term Guoyu had previously been used by non-Han rulers of China to refer to their languages, but in 1909 the Qing education ministry officially applied it to Mandarin, a lingua franca based on northern Chinese varieties, proclaiming it as the new "national language". [19]

The name Putonghua also has a long, albeit unofficial, history. It was used as early as 1906 in writings by Zhu Wenxiong to differentiate a modern, standard Chinese from classical Chinese and other varieties of Chinese.

For some linguists of the early 20th century, the Putonghua, or "common tongue/speech", was conceptually different from the Guoyu, or "national language". The former was a national prestige variety, while the latter was the legal standard.[ clarification needed]

Based on common understandings of the time, the two were, in fact, different. Guoyu was understood as formal vernacular Chinese, which is close to classical Chinese. By contrast, Putonghua was called "the common speech of the modern man", which is the spoken language adopted as a national lingua franca by conventional usage.

The use of the term Putonghua by left-leaning intellectuals such as Qu Qiubai and Lu Xun influenced the People's Republic of China government to adopt that term to describe Mandarin in 1956. Prior to this, the government used both terms interchangeably. [20]

In Taiwan, Guoyu (national language) continues to be the official term for Standard Chinese. The term Guoyu is less used in the PRC, because declaring a Beijing-dialect-based standard to be the national language would be deemed unfair to speakers of other varieties and to Chinese ethnic minorities.[ citation needed] The term Putonghua (common speech), on the contrary, implies nothing more than the notion of a lingua franca.[ citation needed]

During the government of a pro- Taiwan independence coalition (2000–2008), Taiwan officials promoted a different reading of Guoyu as all of the "national languages", meaning Hokkien, Hakka and Formosan as well as Standard Chinese. [21]


Huayu, or "language of the Chinese nation", originally simply meant " Chinese language", and was used in overseas communities to contrast Chinese with foreign languages. Over time, the desire to standardise the variety of Chinese spoken in these communities led to the adoption of the name "Huayu" to refer to Mandarin.

This name also avoids choosing a side between the alternative names of Putonghua and Guoyu, which came to have political significance after their usages diverged along political lines between the PRC and the ROC. It also incorporates the notion that Mandarin is usually not the national or common language of the areas in which overseas Chinese live.


The term "Mandarin" is a translation of Guānhuà (官话/官話, literally "official's speech"), which referred to the lingua franca of the late Chinese empire. The Chinese term is obsolete as a name for the standard language, but is used by linguists to refer to the major group of Mandarin dialects spoken natively across most of northern and southwestern China. [22]

In English, "Mandarin" may refer to the standard language, the dialect group as a whole, or to historic forms such as the late Imperial lingua franca. [22] The name "Modern Standard Mandarin" is sometimes used by linguists who wish to distinguish the current state of the shared language from other northern and historic dialects. [23]