Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 官话; traditional Chinese: 官話; pinyin: Guānhuà; literally "speech of officials" or simplified Chinese:北方话; traditional Chinese: 北方話; pinyin: Běifānghuà; literally "northern dialect(s)"), is a category of related Chinese dialects spoken across most of northern and south-western China. When taken as a separate language, as is often done in academic literature, the Mandarin language has more native speakers than any other language. The "standard" in Standard Mandarin refers to the standard Beijing dialect of the Mandarin language.
Mandarin is also a general term describing any grade of nobility in the Chinese Imperial Court.
In English, Mandarin can refer to either of two distinct concepts:
The latter grouping is defined and used mainly by linguists, and is not commonly used outside of academic circles as a self-description. Instead, when asked to describe the spoken form they are using, Chinese speaking a form of non-Standard Mandarin will describe the variant that they are speaking, for example Southwestern Mandarin or Northeastern Mandarin, and consider it distinct from "Standard Mandarin"(putonghua); they may not recognize that it is in fact classified by linguists as a form of "Mandarin" in a broader sense. Nor is there a common "Mandarin" identity based on language; rather, there are strong regional identities centred on individual dialects, because of the wide geographical distribution and cultural diversity of its speakers.