Why is it that Mandarin and Cantonese are considered dialects of Chinese but Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French are considered separate languages and not dialects of Latin?

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Why is it that Mandarin and Cantonese are considered dialects of Chinese but Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French are considered separate languages and not dialects of Latin?

In: Culture

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Anonymous 0 Comments

In imperial china, many different spoken languages existed all throughout the country. Mandarin, Hakka, Cantonese, etc. Were all spoken in different regions, similar to spoken languages in Europe were. Most people didn’t care about written chinese during those tines because most people couldn’t read. The largest portion of people who could read were all government employees who received/sent scrolls to/from other provinces or from the capital. These people only spoke whatever the regional language was, unless they interacted directly with other provinces or the capital (in which case they would learn their regional language, or Mandarin in the case of the capital), however everyone could understand the written form regardless of their spoken language because of a mutual consensus on what each individual character meant.

This would mean that someone could dictate in Mandarin to write on a scroll, then the scroll could be sent anywhere in the empire and could be read by anyone able to read regardless of what their spoken language is.

If you go to china today, you will only see chinese characters everywhere because chinese is the written language. You can read the same passage written in chinese in any spoken (chinese) language, and it will mean the exact same, even if the spoken language is different. It is this unification on writing which defines the chinese written language. The Chinese government has slowly tried to replace all other spoken languages in china with Mandarin over the past few decades, so minority languages like Shanghaiese or Hakka may go extinct in the coming years, but any writings will still exist and will still be understandable because of the character consensus.

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