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Mandarin vs putonghua vs beijinghua - simple definition


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My understanding is that putonghua is the standard found on news programs (e.g. 新闻联播) which you won't hear spoken on the street, however I'm not clear on how far removed from the standard one needs to speak to be speaking beijinghua.


Is there any easy or acceptable way to differentiate between mandarin and beijinghua? If putonghua is the standard, and mandarin describes a group of Northern accents/dialects, is it fair to say that Beijinghua is a variety of mandarin? 


The reason I'm asking is yesterday I was watching the following show with a Chinese friend and he mentioned the guest in the black jacket was speaking beijinghua (I had always assumed this kind of speech is just called accented mandarin). http://phtv.ifeng.com/program/qqsrx/detail_2013_10/18/30446867_0.shtml.

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The way I think of it is this:

Putonghua is the national language, with government bodies deciding what is and isn't standard. 'Putonghua' is not commonly used as an English word.

'Mandarin' (the English word) is often used to mean putonghua. It is also used to refer to a group of languages/dialects spoken in north and south-west China. I've also seen this language group called guanhua. This definition means beijinghua, as well as shaanxihua, sichuanhua etc. are varieties of Mandarin.

Beijinghua is the language/dialect traditionally spoken in/around Beijing.

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- Mandarin is a collective name for all northern dialects of Chinese. At least according to linguists.

- Putonghua is a standardised spoken version of Mandarin in the PRC. This is what schools teach and newscasters use.

- Guoyu is an older version of the same standard, and is the name of the official standard in Taiwan. In general, it is very similar to putonghua.

- Beijing dialect is the variety of Mandarin as spoken in Beijing. It is very close to putonghua, but has differences in vocabulary and pronunciation.

Much of the confusion comes from these facts:

- people often say "Mandarin" to mean "Standard Mandarin", or putonghua. Putonghua is often implied.

- putonghua was originally based on the speech of educated Beijing speakers from the turn of the last century. In the meantime, the two have diverged considerably

- despite the previous point, everybody in Beijing will tell you that the two are the same, and everyone not from Beijing is saying it wrong

- Guoyu in Taiwan is often accented nowadays, so people perceive it to be very different from putonghua. In a sense, the standard speech in Taiwan has shifted away from what it was and there is a new informal standard now

As for "accented Mandarin", it's a bit confusing. Beijing speech is a legitimate variety of Mandarin. It's just not the official standard (putonghua is). It has its own specific vocabulary, inflection and pronunciation. Your Chinese friend picked up on them and identified them as typical for Beijing speech.

The situation in the PRC is interesting. Putonghua is the ostensible standard taught in schools, but it does have a bit of a bookish, neutral and official feel to it. On the other hand, Beijing speech is often perceived to be street-wise, warm and informal. This led to many liumang characters in popular TV shows speaking with a Beijing accent, and it became emulated by many people around the country.

In some sense, Beijing pronunciation (if not the full-on slang-filled dialect) is becoming a bit of a parallel standard to putonghua, IMHO.

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This doesn't have any information value, but I just saw it on the subway today and was reminded of this topic. So, just for your entertainment -

PS - The small printed on the left says "地道北京话, 传承京文化" - "Dìdào běijīng huà, chuánchéng jīng wénhuà" - and on the right some word game (?) that I don't comprehend, "愣神儿 (发愣发呆)" "lèngshénr (fā lèng fā dāi)".


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That's actually really interesting - I never saw anything like that while I was in China, it was all touting 普通话。 


To expand on what Renzhe said above...

everybody in [Any city in the north-east] will tell you that the two are the same, and everyone not from [that city] is saying it wrong

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