Chinese language

I’ve met two kinds of saying “Chinese” . So I have to ask what’s the difference between these words 中文 and 汉语 . . .

中文 often refers to the written language, whereas 汉语 refers to the spoken language, particularly Mandarin.

it is same i think

Essentially these terms are interchangeable.

Interesting. However, literally “Mandarin” has something to do with “满” instead of “汉” :slight_smile:

Word Origin and History for mandarin

“Chinese official,” 1580s, via Portuguese mandarim or older Dutch mandorijn from Malay mantri, from Hindi mantri “councilor, minister of state,” from Sanskrit mantri, nominative of mantrin- “advisor,” from mantra “counsel,” from PIE root *men- “to think” (see mind (n.)).

Form influenced in Portuguese by mandar “to command, order.” Used generically for the several grades of Chinese officials; sense of “chief dialect of Chinese” (spoken by officials and educated people) is from c.1600. Transferred sense of “important person” attested by 1907.

The Chinese word this would correspond to is 官, as in 官语; the language spoken by officials and educated people, which is what the Mandarin dialect was. Nowadays, 汉语 usually refers to the spoken Mandarin, 官语. Mandarin is the official language for the Hans, although of course everyone has their local dialect.

中文 and 汉语 can be easily differentiated by their component parts. 中 refers to 中国 and 文 refers to writing. So essentially, it refers to the common written language of the country, the characters. 汉 obviously refers to the Han people and 语 refers to speech. The Han people share the Mandarin dialect. So this usually refers to Mandarin.

But as Steve said below, they are essentially interchangeable. You can speak 中文 or 汉语. But I’d say 汉语 is a little more specific. 中国话 is another term even less specific than 中文 regarding dialect but specifically refers to the spoken word.

I’ve heard that some non-Han speakers of Mandarin take offense to the term 汉语, but I have never witnessed it. In any case, 中文 is a safe bet and can be used to refer to the spoken language too, although it doesn’t literally.

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In fact, you’ll see two forms of every language using either 文 or 语. For example, German is either 德文 or 德语. The former refers to the written form and the latter refers to the spoken form. This can be done with any language that has a spoken and written form.