I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Zhu Xiaonong’s book A Grammar of Shanghai Wu today. I was not thrilled with how it began. Below is the first paragraph in full:
Whether Chinese is a single language or a group of languages depends on the judgment criteria applied. The view that Chinese is a single language is reflected in Chinese linguistic literature. In the Western literature, however, Chinese is often regarded as a language sub- family containing separate languages like Wú 吴语, Mandarin 官话, Xiāng 湘语, Gàn 赣语, Kèjiā 客家话 (Hakka), Yuè 粤语 (Cantonese 广东话), Mǐn 闽语 (Hokien 福建话), etc. The linguistic differences between them are admittedly as large as those between, say, English and German or even larger. However, the shared culture, the uniform writing system, the same linguistic norm, and especially the common psychological identification by the speakers of these varieties make the identifying task relatively simple: Chinese is a single language with arguably the greatest linguistic diversity among languages.