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Cantonese is unique among non-Mandarin regional languages in having a written colloquial standard, used in Hong Kong and by non-Standard Mandarin speaking Cantonese speakers overseas, with a large number of unofficial characters for words particular to this variety of Chinese. By contrast, the other regional languages do not have such widely-used alternative written standards. Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in online chat rooms and instant messaging, although for formal written communications Cantonese speakers still normally use standard written Chinese.

In Hunan, some women wrote their local language in N Shu, a syllabary derived from Chinese characters. The Dungan language, considered a dialect of Mandarin, is also nowadays written in Cyrillic, and was formerly written in the Arabic alphabet, although the Dungan people live outside China.

Chinese characters

Main article: Chinese character
The Chinese written language employs Chinese characters (?h?/? pinyin: hnz), which are logograms: each symbol represents a semanteme or morpheme (a meaningful unit of language), as well as one syllable; the written language can thus be termed a morphemo-syllabic script.

They are not just pictographs (pictures of their meanings), but are highly stylized and carry much abstract meaning. Only some characters are derived from pictographs. (1%, according to picogram.) In 100 AD, the famed scholar X Shn in the Hn Dynasty classified characters into 6 categories, only 4% as pictographs, and 82% as phonetic complexes consisting of a semantic element that indicates meaning, and a phonetic element that arguably once indicated the pronunciation.

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