Lingua francas in greater China

Chor Shing David LI

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


This chapter presents an overview of Han Chinese lingua francas in Greater China. The national lingua franca is called Putonghua in mainland China and Guoyu in Taiwan. Both must compete with regional lingua francas in the “dialect” areas. After clarifying the meanings of the terms yuyan ‘language’ and fangyan ‘dialect, the chapter briefly elucidates the tensions between Putonghua and the regional dialects. The Putonghua promotion campaign has been an important language policy goal in New China since the 1950s but has met with problems in the dialect areas, as well as in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao, where Chinese continues to be written in traditional Chinese characters. Cantonese is by far the most prestigious Chinese dialect, and its role as a regional lingua franca in the Pearl River Delta remains unchallenged. There is also some evidence that Putonghua is developing as an international lingua franca. Copyright © 2015 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of Chinese linguistics
EditorsWilliam S.-Y. WANG, Chaofen SUN
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199856343
ISBN (Print)9780199856336, 0199856338
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Li, D. C. S. (2015). Lingua francas in greater China. In W. S-Y. Wang, & C. Sun (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of Chinese linguistics (pp. 590-600). New York: Oxford University Press.


  • Han Chinese
  • Dialect
  • Lingua franca
  • Language policy
  • Putonghua


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