Etymology: Mandarin

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by panjabigator, Jul 23, 2006.

  1. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    غریب الوطن
    Am. English
    Where did the term Mandarin come from? If the language is called Putonghua, where did this second term arise? Does it have to do with Mandarin oranges?;)
  2. Whodunit

    Whodunit Senior Member

    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Does this help:

    And <A href="">here's something different, but the idea comes close:

  3. vince Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    That's right, the term "Mandarin" does not derive from any Chinese language.

    The term used in China to describe the official spoken language is "putonghua" .
  4. midismilex Senior Member

    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    Wow! panjabigator. You're asking a very interesting and a very complicated question. And after knowing that, I think you will not just know too much, but veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery much.

    In MODERN world, and to foreigners, it's so easy to say people from Taiwan, they speak Taiwanese. And people from China, they speak Chinese. And overseas Chinese, people in Hong Kong/Macau after 1997, people relocated in Taiwan after 1949, they speak?? (What are the foreigners' answer?)

    OK, now saying the word "Mandarin" ,to people relocated in Taiwan after 1949 and to people in China now, and Manchu in China now, I think it will be not so easy to explain or definite the word "Mandarin". Now I can think of what it will be concerned our education in history, politics, translation, international situation between people in Taiwan and people in China. Ooops! Before 1997, what history that Hong Kong/Macau people learned in school? And after 1997, what history that Hong Kong/Macau people learned in school?

    I've also heard of an interesting questoin. The Chinese history we (including people in Taiwan and people in China) learned is DIFFERENT!

    I can imagine that will cause a FIGHTING discussion between ROC/PRC, perhaps including overseas Chinese and Manchu.

    And it is a REALLY complicated question. I wonder here is a language forum, can a FIGHTING discussion be allowed?
  5. scubapro25 New Member

    Thank you all for the excellent history of the English term 'mandarin,' through Portuguese, Malay and Sanskrit--I have often wondered about the origin of that term myself.

    Just a quick detour into the Chinese term 'putonghua'--in Mandarin 'pu tong' means 'common' and 'hua' means 'language' or 'speech,' so if you break it down, 'putong-hua' simply means the 'common speech' or dialect taught as the main dialect in both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan and even Singapore--to distinguish it from all the other, mutually unintelligible dialects of Chinese spoken both in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The so-called 'dialects' of China are as different from each other as the languages of Europe and have only the written language in common.

    Not surprisingly, though, the terms used for Mandarin differ in the PRC and Taiwan. In the PRC, they prefer the term you gave 'putonghua,' but in Taiwan, for mainly political reasons (they don't want to be associated with ideas coming from the communist mainland), they call it 'guo yu' or 'National Language.'
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2012
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Mandarin is not used only for "Standard Mandarin" i.e. putonghua/guoyu; but also for all the Northern* dialects called in Chinese 官话 or 北方话。

    *Northern also includes dialects that geographically are in the South-West.

    scubapro: guoyu was the term used in China before the PRC existed. The Taiwanese have only continued to use an old term. Putonghua was an expression created ad hoc in the PRC, in order to be "politically correct". "Guoyu" = national language, and the PRC didn't want to use nationalistic terms.
  7. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    If malay words were used in mainland China, it is possible that another form of this language existed already these as an ethnic type and older than the tonal forms of chinese languages.
  8. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    No. "Mandarin" is only used in Western languages, it's not used in China. In Chinese, the mandarin officials are calling 官 guan1, and the language 官话 guan1 hua4.

    There are studies that show that before the South of China was Han-ized the local languages were similar to some South-East Asian languages. In modern Southern Chinese dialects some substratum words are retained, which resemble Malay, Vietnamese, etc. and are not found in the Chinese written language.
  9. Lugubert Senior Member

    I dare you to find a Chinese language era without tones. Middle Chinese, say, 600 AD, is supposed to have had three to eight tones.

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