Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese by comparing later varieties of Chinese with the rhyming practice of the Classic of Poetry and the phonetic elements found in the majority of Chinese characters.
Although many of the finer details remain unclear, most scholars agree that Old Chinese differs from Middle Chinese in lacking retroflex and palatal obstruents but having initial consonant clusters of some sort, and in having voiceless nasals and liquids.
The written form of the standard language (; Hànzì), is shared by literate speakers of otherwise unintelligible dialects.
In cases where Simplified and Traditional Chinese scripts are identical, the Chinese term is written once. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help: IPA.; literally: "Chinese writing") is a group of related, but in many cases mutually unintelligible, language varieties, forming a branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
Chinese is spoken by the Han majority and many other ethnic groups in China.
In addition, many of the smaller languages are spoken in mountainous areas that are difficult to reach, and are often also sensitive border zones.
The first written records appeared over 3,000 years ago during the Shang dynasty.