Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960

China, Demographic

Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960

Chinese nationalists who wanted to create a modern nation in the twentieth century had to contend with the dozens of regional forms of spoken Chinese, which they believed hindered the creation of a unified culture. Tam argues that these speech forms are not just dialects but distinct languages, as different from one another as many of the languages spoken in Europe. To solve the problem, modernizers designed a common language based on the vocabulary and pronunciation found in Beijing and claimed that the regional languages were mere offshoots of this main idiom. Mao Zedong’s regime forced all Han people to learn the common language.

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