From an official point of view, there are two versions of Standard Mandarin, since the People"s Republic of China (PRC) government refers to that on the Mainland as Putonghua, whereas the Republic of China (ROC) government refers to their official language as Guoyu in pinyin.
Technically, both Putonghua and Guoyu base their phonology on the Beijing accent, though Putonghua also takes some elements from other sources. Comparison of dictionaries produced in the two areas will show that there are few substantial differences. However, both versions of ¡®school¡¯ Standard Mandarin are often quite different from the Mandarin dialects that are spoken in accordance with regional habits, and neither is wholly identical to the Beijing dialect. Putonghua and Guoyu also differ from the Beijing dialect in vocabulary, grammar, and usage.
It is important to note that the terms ¡®Putonghua (The Common Language)¡¯ and ¡®Guoyu¡¯ refer to speech, and hence the difference in the use of simplified characters and traditional characters is not usually considered to be a difference between these two concepts.
There are regional variations in Mandarin. This is manifested in two ways:
- The varieties of Mandarin cover a huge area containing nearly a billion people. As a result, there are pronounced regional variations in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. These regional differences are rather more pronounced than the differences in the varieties of English found in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
- Standard Mandarin has been promoted very actively by the PRC, the ROC, and Singapore as a second language. As a result, those who are not native speakers of Standard Mandarin frequently flavour it with a strong infusion of the sounds of their native tongues.
Dialects of Mandarin can be subdivided into eight categories: Beijing Mandarin, Northeastern Mandarin, Ji Lu Mandarin, Jiao Liao Mandarin, Zhongyuan Mandarin, Lan Yin Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, and Jianghuai Mandarin. Jin is sometimes considered the ninth category of Mandarin. (Others separate it from Mandarin altogether.)