The varieties of Chinese are usually described by native speakers as dialects of a single Chinese language, but linguists note that they are as diverse as a language family.
The internal diversity of Chinese has been likened to that of the Romance languages, but may be even more varied. There are between 7 and 13 main regional groups of Chinese (depending on classification scheme), of which the most spoken by far is Mandarin (about 960 million), followed by Wu (80 million), Yue (60 million) and Min (70 million). Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. All varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic.
The Sinitic languages, are a family of Sino-Tibetan languages, often synonymous with the group of Chinese varieties. They have frequently been postulated to constitute a primary branch, but this is rejected by an increasing number of researchers. The Bai languages and possible relatives, whose classification is difficult, may also be Sinitic; otherwise Sinitic is equivalent to Chinese, and the term may be used to indicate that the varieties of Chinese are distinct languages rather than dialects of a single language.
van Driem, George (2001), Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region, Brill, ISBN90-04-10390-2
Enfield, N.J. (2003), Linguistics Epidemiology: Semantics and Language Contact in Mainland Southeast Asia, Psychology Press, ISBN0415297435
Hannas, W. (1997), Asia's Orthographic Dilemma, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN082481892X
Kurpaska, Maria (2010), Chinese Language(s): A Look Through the Prism of "The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects", Walter de Gruyter, ISBN978-3-11-021914-2
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