Chinese (汉语 / 漢語; Hànyǔ or 中文; Zhōngwén) is a group of related but in many cases mutually unintelligible language varieties, forming a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many other ethnic groups in China. Nearly 1.2 billion people (around 16% of the world's population) speak some form of Chinese as their first language.
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.[a] 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.
Standard Chinese (Putonghua/Guoyu/Huayu) is a standardized form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. It is the official language of China and Taiwan, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. The written form of the standard language (中文; Zhōngwén), based on the logograms known as Chinese characters (汉字/漢字; hànzi), is shared by literate speakers of otherwise unintelligible dialects.
Of the other varieties of Chinese, Cantonese (the prestige variety of Yue) is influential in Guangdong province and in Hong Kong and Macau, and is widely spoken among overseas communities. Min Nan, part of the Min group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighboring Taiwan (where it is known as Taiwanese or Hoklo) and in Southeast Asia (also known as Hokkien in the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia). There are also sizable Hakka and Shanghainese diasporas, for example in Taiwan, where most Hakka communities are also conversant in Taiwanese and Standard Chinese.