Chinese (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語; pinyin: Hànyǔ or also 中文; Zhōngwén, especially for the written language) is a group of languages that form the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages, spoken by the ethnic Han Chinesemajority and many minority ethnic groups in Greater China. About 1.3 billion people (or approximately 16% of the world's population) speak a variety of Chinese as their first language.
The spoken varieties of Chinese are usually considered by native speakers to be variants of a single language. Due to their lack of mutual intelligibility, however, they are classified as separate languages in a family by linguists, who note that the varieties are as divergent as the Romance languages. Investigation of the historical relationships among the varieties of Chinese is just starting. Currently, most classifications posit 7 to 13 main regional groups based on phonetic developments from Middle Chinese, of which the most spoken by far is Mandarin (with about 800 million speakers, or 66%), followed by Min (75 million, e.g. Southern Min), Wu (74 million, e.g. Shanghainese), and Yue (68 million, e.g. Cantonese)