Mandarin dialects, particularly the Beijing dialect, form the basis of Standard Chinese, says Wikipedia.
Mandarin, as one language, has more native speakers (nearly a billion) than does any other language.
The English word "mandarin" (from Portuguese mandarim, from Malay [ˈməntəri] menteri, from Hindi mantri, from Sanskrit mantrin, meaning "minister or counsellor"), originally meant an official of the Chinese empire.
Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese, is a language that originated in the vicinity of Canton (i.e. Guangzhou) in southern China, and is often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue Chinese.
The Cantonese language is also viewed as part of the cultural identity for the native speakers across large swathes of southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible largely because of pronunciation and grammatical differences.
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Mandarin Chinese: one billion speakers