This guide is created by Ruan Yang and maintained by Wu Yao Yao. If you have taken data or ideas from an article, book, websites or any other types of resources, you must write a citation for it. This is true even if you have rephrased the idea or concept in your own...read more
This guide is created by Ruan Yang and maintained by Wu Yao Yao. This is a resource guide on parts of speech focusing on the particles. It contains a select booklist, related subject headings and library classification numbers for further literature searching, new...read more
Books are good resources if you need to build foundation knowledge or are looking for comprehensive coverage of a particular topic. Compare to short journal articles, books can accommodate a greater length which allow them to cover detailed historical backgrounds, explanations and other narratives for broader and in-depth reading. Undergraduates who are unfamiliar with a particular field of research will generally find it easier to read books instead of articles.
Guide on Evaluating Books
Picking the relevant books
Relevancy Is the book relevant to your research topic, or what you are looking for? Does it answer to your research needs with regards to the geographical areas or social groups studied and the time period covered? What is the study approach used or are different perspectives included in the discussions? Look through the content page, preface or introduction to get an idea.
Authority Each fields of research has their own group of notable scholars. Make an effort to recognise their names and backgrounds such as research specialties. Certain publishers are also more famous in different types of publications or research areas. By reading their publications, you would have come into contact with some of the most famous theories in the field. You can read the author biography normally found in the front or back few pages of the book for quick information. It may also be available in the flaps of the dust jackets.
Accuracy There is a Chinese saying 尽信书不如无书, which suggests readers not to treat the contents of what is being read as the truths without questioning. Always question yourself whether there are any discrepancies in the discussions or statistics presented. Are the arguments supported by unbiased evidences or results? Try to compare the viewpoints of different social groups or authors to see the different perspectives.
Currency A book would typically take at least 2 years to be written to published. The information gathered inside would be older than that. Check the date of publication and ask yourself whether it would be suitable for your research. If you are relying on the most up-to-date information for your research, it may be better to read journal articles instead.
Browsing the collection
Browsing the collection
Books on Chinese Linguistics are housed mainly in the Chinese Library at S3.2, basement 5. You can browse the collection by classification number. The table below is a list of relevant classification numbers for this subject. Besides the classification number is the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), the proper subject term that you can use to search for books in our Library Catalogue. Note: please omit the ‘–‘between the subject headings when searching by subject in the NTU Library Catalogue.
|Topic||Subject Headings||Classification No|
|Chinese Linguistics||Chinese Language||PL1001 – 2244|
|Chinese language–To 600||PL1077 – 1078|
|Chinese language–Ancient Chinese, 600-1200||PL1079 – 1080|
|Chinese language–Middle Chinese, 1200-1919||PL1081 – 1082|
|Chinese language–Modern Chinese, 1919-||PL1083 – 1174|
|Chinese language–Simplified characters||PL1175|
|Chinese language–Translating||PL1277 – 1278|
|Chinese language, Dictionaries||PL1420 – 1498|
|Chinese language, Dialects||PL1501 – 1940|
|Translations techniques||Translating and interpreting||P306 – 310|
|Machine translating||P307 – 310|
|English language-Translating into Chinese||PE1498|
|Chinese language–Translating into English||PL1277 – 1278|
|Language and culture||Language and culture||p35|
|Fiction-Translations into Chinese||PN6120.9.C5|
Read about the LCSH and Classification Numbers used in libraries.
LCSH and Classification numbers
Understanding LCSH and classification numbers The Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) comprise a thesaurus of subject headings, maintained by the United States Library of Congress. LCSHs are applied to every item within a library’s collection, and facilitate a user’s access to items in the catalogue that pertain to similar subject matter. With each subject headings comes a range of alphanumeric numbers that indicate the sequence of the books on the shelves.
Using LCSH and classification numbers Once you have found the right subject heading, they are an excellent resource for finding relevant material in the Library Catalogue as you are able to hyperlink to a list of similar items. However, bear in mind that many library users incorrectly assume the library has no items on the desired topic, when they chose to search by ‘subject’ field, and the terms they entered do not strictly conform to a LCSH.
Tip: The easiest way to find and use LCSH is to start with a ‘keyword’ search, followed by looking at the subject headings of a relevant item to locate other related material. Once you have obtained the subject headings, remember that related items would be in the same range of classification numbers on the shelves. Soon, you would not even need to use the Library Catalogue by going straight to the particular range of classification numbers to browse!
Searching for Books
Searching for books
Instead of browsing, use the Library Catalogue to do a search first if you have a specific title in mind. The NTU Library Catalogue allows the usage of hanyu pinyin (Chinese phonics) or Chinese characters to search for Chinese books. View this frequently asked question for step-by-step instructions.
Tips on using Library Catalogue
What is the Library Catalogue? A library catalogue tells you what and where a material is held by the library. Most libraries have computerised catalogues which allow you to access via the internet. For example, the NTU Library Catalogue. There are also catalogues which allow cross-searching of multiple catalogues at once. For example, the Virtual Union Catalogue enables you to search across the catalogues of 11 libraries in Singapore.
Making use of Boolean Operators Ever encounter search results that are too long or too few causing great frustration in your research? You can use Boolean Operators to narrow or expand your searches as needed for a more effective and accurate searching process.
There are 3 Boolean Operators, “AND”, “OR”, and “NOT”. In general:
|“AND” Narrow search results by ensuring only results with all the search terms are displayed.||For example, if you are looking for titles on cognitive semantics, enter search terms “cognitive AND semantics” instead of “semantics”.|
|“NOT” Narrow search results by removing results containing the undesirable search terms.||For example, if you are not looking for titles on logical semantics, enter search terms “semantics NOT logical”.|
|“OR” Broaden search results by ensuring results containing either of the search terms are displayed.||For example, if you are looking for phonology or phonetics, enter search terms “phonology OR phonetics”.|
Where is that book?
NTU libraries have seven branches. Before making a trip down, make sure you know the location of the book first by searching the NTU Library Catalogue. Click for a map showing where all the libraries are and the collections they hold. Apart from the location of each library, you may also see the following stated under the “location” information in the library records. Here is a quick definition on what each mean and how to get access to the book.
|On order||The book is on order. To place a hold on it, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, student or staff number and the information of the book.|
|Material being catalogued||The book is being processed. To place a hold on it, send an email to email@example.com with your name, student or staff number and the information of the book.|
|Closed stacks||See Closed Stack Item Request.|
|Due date||The book has been borrowed. See Online Item Reservation.|
Can’t find it? Recommend to the Library!
NTU Library welcomes users to recommend books suitable for research and teaching but is not found in our collections. Try our Book Recommendation Service.
Selected Books lists by Subject
Selected book lists by subject
To help you get started, lists of selected books on the following topics in Chinese linguistics have been compiled. Click to retrieve the catalogue records.
- 文字学 Chinese language, Etymology
- 语法 Chinese language, Grammar
- 词典学 Chinese language, Lexicology
- 音韵学 Chinese language, Phonology
- 修辞 Chinese language, Rhetoric
- 训诂 Chinese language, Semantics
- 词汇 Chinese language, Syntax
E-books or electronic books are the digital version of print books designed to be read on a personal computer with Internet connection.
Browsing the Collection
The Library has more than 140,000 e-books, of which 100,000 are Chinese titles. Please note that Chinese e-books are not searchable in our NTU Library Catalogue but are listed separately in the following two databases.
Note: You will be prompted for your NTU network username and password to login if you are using your personal computer to access. Please type staff\username (if you are NTU staff) or student\username (if you are NTU student) to login.
Superstar is the earliest e-book database in China. NTU Library subscribed to 99,565 titles in the following categories: Chinese philosophy, literature, language, history and geography.
Enter “Chinese language” in the search box to see the list of related e-books. Below is a quick tips on Superstar.
NTU Library subscribed to 6,413 titles under these categories: economics, politics, language, literature, history and others. You need to install the China Digital Library reader in order to read these e-books.
Click on “语言，文字” to browse the 197 e-books on Chinese linguistics. Below is a quick user guide on Apabi.
E-books are normally found in databases maintained by e-book vendors, and only subscribed members can use the services. However, there are also web resources that provides free e-books. These e-books are normally books whose copyright has expired or permission to use have been obtained from the authors. There are 2 major free e-book providers:
- Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works. As of June 2010, Project Gutenberg claimed over 30,000 items in its collection, with an average of over 50 new e-books being added each week. All e-books are free for full text viewing.
- Google Books
These are books that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database. E-books with copyright clearance and those in the public domain are available in full text and free for download. Those with no copyright clearance have only a number of pages available for viewing. To read the full text, you need to either pay to access or buy a copy.
The advantages of using e-books are that they are available 24 hours online, and text searchable. Some out-of-print publications are only found in electronic formats as well since their print versions are no longer available. For example, some fairly old texts related to Chinese linguistics are available in the NTU Library’s e-books collection rather than the print collection.
Searching for books
Input the main text content for your module here.
A reference work is a compendium of information, usually of a specific type, compiled in a book for ease of reference. Reference works are usually referred to for particular pieces of information and may take the form of handbooks, directories, encyclopedias, yearbooks and dictionaries.
As a Chinese linguistics student or researcher, you may often find yourself referring to dictionaries. Some of these dictionaries are classics written years ago and are now available online for free because their copyright has expired. The Library also has more recently published dictionaries. These contain more recent developments in Chinese Linguistics.
Literature texts or publications used to analyse the language of a certain time period can be found in 丛书 or encyclopedias. Accompanying these encyclopedias are usually indexes acting as quick directories to that encyclopedia. Knowing how to use indexes can reduce your searching time significantly.
Tip:Some texts although published as an individual text can laos be published in a compilation. A good example is 《尔雅》which is also published in 《十三经》. Hence, if you can’t find the individual text, you can try looking for them in compilations or encyclopedias.
Here is an annotated list of dictionaries commonly used in Chinese linguistics organized in chronological order.
Found in 《十三经》, a compilation of 13 classic study texts during the Song Dynasty.《尔雅》 is the first book on semantic studies (训诂学), published during the Pre-Qin era. It contains a total of 19 chapters explaining the meaning of 4,300 words used in daily life, dialects and the common language of that period. The book covered animal and plant names, daily necessities, geographical terms, government divisions, musical instruments, adjectives, and others.《尔雅》opened a new horizon in the field and its influence on later publications can not be ignored. 《尔雅》is written in a short and precise manner which prompted later generations to produce specific publications to explain the contents further. An improved version would be the《尔雅郭注》,which is an annotated reader guide written by 郭璞 (276 – 324 AD) in the Jin Dynasty.
Written by 许慎 (58 – 147 AD) in the Eastern Han period, 《说文解字》is an important publication in the study of etymology (文字学) in the Chinese language.It examines the structure, the meaning and the sound of the characters, and is the first dictionary to use the structures of the Chinese characters themselves to group the characters (部首分类法). This method is still used in Chinese dictionaries today.《说文解字》contains a total of 9,353 Chinese characters, preserving many of the writing systems（小篆）used before the Pre-Qin era, and also those that still exist during the Han dynasty. Hence it is especially useful in the study of the writing system in oracle bones and bronze inscriptions. The publication was also the first to summarise the six different ways in which the Chinese characters was believed to have developed and evolved in China.
An essential text for the study of Middle Chinese phonetics（音韵）, 《广韵》was written during the Song Dynasty under royal orders. Building on the foundations of previous publications, 《广韵》expanded on and tidied the contents of the older texts, especially the important Sui Dynasty publication (which has been lost) on phonology 《切韵》. It is also useful for the study of Old Chinese and Modern Chinese, making it an important text in the study of Chinese linguistics.The contents of《广韵》 is categorised according to the four tomes （四声） in the Chinese language. It is published in 5 volumes, with a total of 26,194 characters with 206 phonetics documented.
Written in the Yuan Dynasty, 《中原音韵》examines the phonetics of spoken languages of Northern China. The author 周德清 (1277 – 1365 AD) wrote it by analysing the phonetics used in operas at that time, reflecting the phonetics in daily languages used.Whereas 《广韵》examined and analyzed northern and southern phonetics in written languages, 《中原音韵》is the first book that actually studied the phonology of existing spokenlanguages in the Northern China of that period.《中原音韵》analyses more than 5,000 words, separated into 76 phonetic groups, and is published in 2 volumes. 《中原音韵》can also be found in the first volume of 《中国古典戏曲论著集成》 and 《传世藏书 经库 语言文字》.
Written in the Qing Dynasty under the orders of the Qing imperial court,《康熙字典》is an important publication for studying the evolution, phonetics, and meaning of 47,035 words. There are twelve volumes altogether.The publication took six years to complete. It expanded and improved the formats and contents of past publications related to Chinese linguistics. Its thoroughness and completeness is one of the reasons why it is still widely used today. Having said that, 《康熙字典》is not without errors. Many later publications such as 《字典考证》were written to amend these errors.
There are more notable works in the study of Chinese linguistics and many books or guide books have been written about them. If you are interested to read more, you can look up 《中国文史工具资料书举要》 written by 吴小如 and 《中国古代语言学史》 written by 邓文彬. Both books document the background of publications and the differences and importance of each in its fields of research in detail. Both books also have simple guides teaching readers how to use these reference books.
- 吴小如. 中国文史工具资料书举要 (M). 香港：商务印书馆，1980
You can find journal articles, conference papers, reviews, standards, news articles and more from databases subscribed by the library. Listed here are a few core Chinese databases useful for Chinese linguistics. A list of relevant English databases are also included.
- China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) 中国知网CNKI is a major academic resource from mainland China. It provides comprehensive and current Chinese information including critical academic articles, dissertations, conference proceedings, research papers and books from a variety of publishers, research institutions, and information sources in China. Our subscription consists of:
- Journal articles on Literature/History/Philosophy (1994 – ), Politics/Military/Law (1994 – ), Education/Social Sciences (1994 – ) and Electronic Technology & Information Science (2003–2008)
- China Doctor/Master’s Dissertation on Literature/History/Philosophy (2003-2006) and Politics/Military/Law (2003-2006)
- WANFANG DATA 万方数据WANFANG DATA is a comprehensive information source in China. One of its main components is the Digitalized Journal Full-text Database, which provides access to multidisciplinary online journals. NTU Library has subscribed to four series: Philosophy/Politics/Law, Social Sciences, Economics/Finance and Health/Medicine with full-text available from 1997 onwards.View the list of Chinese linguistics journals available in WANFANG DATA.View its Database Information Page. 中文使用指南Read the user guide for WANFANG DATA.Tip: Make use of both CNKI and WANFANG DATA when looking for electronic journal articles as the coverage from both databases differ slightly. You may be able to locate an article in the other database if the first one does not have it.
- WiseSearch 慧科讯业Wiser covers 742 main Chinese newspapers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and other Asia Pacific countries. It contains more than 75 million individual articles, dating back to 1998 and grows by more than 1.8 million articles per month. Wiser supports full-text searching and also enables searching by phrases.Important Note: Please take note of the usage limit of 5,000 clicks per month.
View its Database Information Page. 中文使用指南 user guide.
- Dissertations and Theses via Proquest
The Dissertations and Theses database provides information about doctoral dissertations and master’s theses. The subject coverage in the Humanities and Social Sciences section is: Communications and the Arts, Education, Language, Literature and Linguistics, Philosophy, Religion and Theology, and Social Sciences. Full-text ia available from 1997 onwards.
View its Database Information Page. Download the user guide.
Factiva provides news and business information. It covers 10,000 sources from more than 159 countries in 22 languages and offers more than 400 continuously updated newswires.
View its Database Information Page.
JSTOR has a very wide subject coverage. It also offer excellent retrospective access to journal articles, going back to the 1800s in some cases. Another unique feature of JSTOR is that it displays images, graphs and charts that were originally present in the article. This is unlike many other databases which only preserve the text.In addition all articles found in JSTOR are available as full text, meaning they can be downloaded and printed on the spot. The only disadvantage JSTOR has is that it does not have access to the most recent articles. This is named the “moving wall” in JSTOR’s term and generally refers to the absence of the articles published in the most recent three to five years.
View its Database Information Page.
Journals are an important means for communicating the latest research. However journal articles in this field are generally primary materials and tend to be more technical in nature and may be less useful for undergraduates due to their comparative difficulty to books. It is useful to browse journals regularly to see the latest research in your field. If you have a research topic, journal articles are importance sources to use in supporting your ideas and findings. The basic evaluation of a journal is essentially the same as evaluating books. Refer to the BooksSection for more details. Some publishers, such as Thomson’s ISI provide databases that track the number of times that work has been cited by others. From this, they compile a list of journals ranked according to the average citation count that each work in a journal has been cited. Thus the higher the count (also called impact factor), the more impact it has on the research community. The impact factor for journals in different subject fields can be found in Journal Citation Reports. You can use this to see what are the well known journals in your field. Note that this is only applicable to journals that are indexed and covered by ISI.
Citation Analysis and the Journal Impact Factor
Browsing the Collection
Chinese journals are found in the Chinese Library Periodicals Shelves (located near the common PCs area). View the list of Chinese linguistics periodicals.
Searching the collection
Finding electronic journals
More English and Chinese journals are available in the electronic formats, and they can be found using the methods indicated below.
- NTU Library Subscribed E-journals A-to-Z list If you have a specific journal in mind, always try to find the electronic copy here first. Take note that only English journals are available, and searches are done using the journal title, and not the article title. There are four ways to search the A-to-Z list:
- Search for titles subscribed by the library. It is generally suggested to search by the Title Name.
- Browse the index of e-journal providers (if you are familiar with the journal publishers)
- Browse by subjects
- Browse a list of free e-journal
The search result will present the databases that the journal can be found in and the period covered. Do note the different coverage offered by different providers, and select the database that supplies the year you are looking for. Tip: You may come across the word “embargo of one year” in the search results. This means that the last one year of journal articles will not be available for viewing. In this case, the issues may be available in print formats instead. 2. Databases For Chinese journals, please refer to the CNKI and WANFANG DATA information in theDatabases Section for more details.
Finding print journals
Use the NTU Library Catalogue to search for a particular print journal, by locating the call number and location. Search using the journal title and selecting to search by ‘Journal Title’ from the drop down menu.
Can’t find it? Request to purchase it!
NTU Library provides procurement services for articles on your behalf. Try our Document Delivery Services.
The audiovisual (AV) collection consists of DVDs, blu-rays, VCDs, video cassettes, audio cassettes, LDs, audio CDs, music CDs, tapes, slides as well as maps and films.
Browsing the collection
The collection is located in the Business Library. Staff and Masters/PhD students can borrow the titles home while undergraduate students can approach the service desk to borrow a title and view it within the library.
Searching the collection
The audio visual materials related to Chinese Linguistics are mostly about learning the Chinese language. Use the Library Catalogue to check whether any AV materials is available for the topic you are interested. Read the guide on how to search for AV materials.
Can’t find it? Recommend to the Library!
NTU Library welcomes users to recommend AVs suitable for research and teaching, but are not found in our collections. Try our AV Recommendation Service.
Evaluating Web Resources
A guide can help us to differentiate the websites and point them out.
教育部语言文字应用研究所 The research centre comes under the Ministry of Education in China. It focuses on applied linguistics research examining the practical and theoretical considerations in linguistics studies. Areas of interest include general linguistics, language teaching, sociolinguistics, phonology and computational linguistics.
Resources related to Hong Kong
Linguistic Society of Hong Kong An academic linguistic association based in Hong Kong, it contains news and resources on the teachings and developments of linguistic studies in Hong Kong. Their studies on the Cantonese language is especially interesting.
Resources related to Singapore
新加坡文献馆 A website that collects information from theses, articles, news, and blogs on various topics related to Singapore. Topics include finance, culture, education, history, society and politics of Singapore. The website allows keyword searching within the archives.
- 国家教育部新世纪网络课程: 现代汉语 This is an online resource on modern Chinese Linguistics. There are links to dialectology, etymology, and a useful listing of related research centres, publications and websites found both locally and overseas.
- 历史语言研究所 The prestigious Institute of History and Philology in Taiwan is known for their research output and quality publications. It has rich collections of artefacts and resources in their museum and library.
- 中国社会科学院语言研究所 This prestigious Institute of Linguistics in China was led by several renowned scholars, including Luo Changpei (罗常培) and Lu Shuxiang (吕叔湘). The research centre examines a wide range of issues about linguistics, and is also very active in publishing their research results, producing several highly acclaimed titles over the years.
- 中国语用学研究所 This is an association formed by Chinese linguistic researchers and scholars from all over the world. Find updates on conferences, publications and scholars on this website.
- 语言学研究所 This website consists of useful electronic resources produced by the centre itself. Some are free to access online.
- China Related Materials This website is maintained by David K. Jordan, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, UCSD. Professor Jordan had written background essays on the pronunciation, simplification, romanization, and an extensive overview of the Chinese language.
- Linguistics and Language-Related Websites in Japan This is a bibliography list of language related websites in Japanese maintained by Gotoo Hitosi, Professor of the Department of Linguistics at the Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
National Policies on Chinese Language
- 国语推行委员会 This is the official website for the Taiwan governmental department in charge of the policies and directions of the language in Taiwan. You can find policies, official handbooks and other documents and news here.
- 中国语言文字网 This is the official website for the governmental department responsible for deciding and implementing the policies and directions for the Chinese language and other dialects in China. This website also includes the standardisation and regulations of using the language and dialects. You can find historical information and the latest developments or changes in the Chinese language and dialects here.
Writing and Pronunciation
- Orcat Mirror This is an interesting website which has the “Animated Chinese Characters” function that animates the correct steps of writing a Chinese character. Simply input the character in the search box and click on the desired results to see the full animation of writing the character stroke by stroke.
- Pinyin.com: a guide to the writing of Mandarin Chinese in Romanization This is a website that contains information on both the print and online resources that are related to the romanization of the Mandarin Chinese.
Reserves, also known as Reserved Book Room (RBR) books or Red-spot books, are recommended texts, references and articles recommended by lecturers for various courses. All Chinese reserves are kept in the Chinese Library Reserves shelves, located beside the Service Desk. Some English reserves are kept at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. Reserves can only be borrowed for two hours. Overdue fines is set at 50 cents per hour or part thereof. Tip: Reserves may be borrowed overnight at 7pm on weekdays, and at 10am on Saturdays. These overnight loan items must be returned by 11am on the next working day.
How to locate Reserves (via Course Codes)?
Here is a step-by-step guide for locating the reserves for a particular course.
- Go to the NTU Library Catalogue and click the ‘RESERVES’ tab
- Key in the course code in the search box
- Click “Search by Course ID” and the lecturer’s name will be shown
- Click the lecturer’s name and the list of recommended titles for the course will be displayed
- Take note the library location and the respective call number
- Retrieve the book from the Reserves collection in the respective library
Before writing your thesis or Final Year Project (FYP), you may be interested to take a look at what your seniors have done.
You can access graduation projects of the Division of Chinese in our Digital Repository, DR-NTU. Please note that graduation projects are archived in DR-NTU (Restricted Access) and not in DR-NTU (Open Access). View the reports related to Linguistics.
Read the linguistics-related research papers produced by other schools or research centres. Lastly, access the DR-NTU to find out more about its search functions.
Tip: You may be prompted to log in using your NTU network user name and password to view the full text. Take note that there is no need to input the “staff\” or “student\” before your username.
DR-NTU (Open Access) stands for Digital Repository – Open Access. It contains publications consisting of journal articles and conference papers written by NTU staff. The papers deposited in this repository are indexed by search engines.
HSS Staff papers
We encourage researchers to upload their research papers to DR-NTU Open Access. Copyright policies and archiving guidelines of your publishers can be found at Sherpa Romeo.
If you would like to submit your journal article or conference paper for inclusion into our Library Collection, please read the instructions about submission.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure, including grammar, syntax, and phonetics. Specific branches of linguistics include sociolinguistics, dialectology, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, comparative linguistics, and structural linguistics. The study of the Chinese language is known as Chinese linguistics.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE LINGUISTICS/XIAOXUE (小学)
The study of the phonetics system of the Northern dialects became popular during the Yuan Dynasty as years of rule by the Northern speaking Mongolians resulted in a mix of pronunciations by the Han people living in the North and the Mongolians, while the Southern dialects remained uninfluenced. The 2 important texts during this period were the《中原音韵》and《洪武正韵》.
Qing scholars also started to annotate older texts for Chinese linguistics. For instance, Duan Yucai (段玉裁), Gui Fu (桂馥), Wang Jun (王筠), and Zhu Junsheng (朱骏声) annotating the 《说文解字》. Other well-known authors include Wang Yinzhi (王引之) and Zhang Binling (章炳麟). Especially of note was Zhang Binling, whose important works included 《文始》, 《新方言》and 《小学问答》.
The study of Old Chinese began with the excavation of the Anyang archeological site. Many oracle bones were retrieved, paving the way to the study of Old Chinese. Guo Moruo (郭沫若) wrote several well received and highly acclaimed publications in this area.
MODERN CHINESE LINGUISTICS
In addition, revolutionary works appeared in other areas of Chinese linguistics as well. For example, the 《现代吴语的研究》 by Zhao Yuanren (赵元任) in 1928 was the first book to study the dialects of China in a systematic and scientific manner. The 《中国文法学初探》 by Wang Li (王力) in 1936 and 《修辞学发凡》by Chen Wangdao (陈望道) in 1932 also signified the arrival of modern Chinese linguistics.
Modern Chinese linguistics took a different path from the traditional school by using Western linguistic theories to study the Chinese language. This is considered to be more scientific and reliable than the older methods.
Another significant characteristic of modern Chinese linguistics is its close association with other disciplines. For example, sociolingustics — the study of the relationship between society and language. Research in modern Chinese linguistics is broadening and becoming more complex, continuously evolving with the modern society.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE CHINESE LANGUAGE
Old Chinese (上古汉语) approximately 1766 BC – 220 AD
The earliest known evidences of the Chinese language were the oracle bones and the bronze inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty. The language used was the early forms of the Chinese language.
Subsequently, the rule of the Western and Eastern Zhou Dynasty saw a flourish of texts written, with the Chinese language expanding and becoming more complex in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and writing styles. The Chinese were ruled as feudal states by feudal lords, with each state having its own set of laws, currency, and native languages that are mutually intelligible or unintelligible at this time. Hence, the common language present was actually the more refined writings system used by the nobles.
After unifying China, Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇)’s advisor Li Si (李斯) developed a standard script for the new country, which was based on the original writing system of the formal Qin feudal state. This is the first instant in the history of China, whereby the Chinese language undergone standardisation process.
The Han Dynasty saw the entry of Buddhism from India into China with Buddhist scriptures being translated into Chinese for propagation purpose. As a result of this, the written language in translated Buddhist scriptures was more similar to the spoken language as compared to the Classical Chinese used by the nobles or scholars. Therefore, Buddhist scriptures of that time are a good source for studying the spoken Old Chinese.
Middle Chinese (中古汉语) approximately 220 – 960 AD
Migration has caused some noble families and many commoners from Central China to settle in rural areas such as modern Nanjing, along the coastal areas. It was around this time that the common language and the native languages started to merge and evolved. After the years of strife that took place with the fall of the Han Dynasty, the Sui Dynasty was established, with a new examination system for the bureaucratic government, the Ke Ju (科举). This system of recruiting the brightest scholars into the court remains in use until the early 1900s.
The examination system requires young scholars to take a series of written examinations that tested on their writing skills such as composing poems. Hence, the scholars are required to be familiar with the phonology of the Chinese language, and the book Qie Yun (切韵) by Lu Fa Yan (陸法言) became the accepted textbook for this purpose.
Early Modern Chinese (现代汉语初期) approximately 960 – 1900 AD
After the fall of the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasty, China was ruled by the Yuan Dynasty whose rulers were the Mongolians, a group of nomadic tribes who had grown strong over the years in the plateau north of Central China. The last dynasty in China, the Qing Dynasty rulers were also Manchurians who came from beyond the frontiers.
As a result of their rules, the language of China became mixed with the Northern languages of the nomadic people outside Central China. This resulted in an absence of the stop endings (入声) in the phonetic system of Northern China dialects, while Southern China continued to do so. Two particular important texts for studying the evolution of the language in Northern China are 《中原音韵》 and 《洪武正韵》.
Serious language planning at the national level only started to take place in the late 19th century. In an attempt to modernise China, a national language was proposed. It was also at this time that a phonetic-spelling system was proposed as an alternative to the character-based script.
Modern Chinese (现代汉语) approximately 1900 – present
With the founding of the Republic of China, the official pronunciation of more than 6500 characters and the phonetic system (注音字母) was finally announced. However, the problem of the stop endings in the Northern and Southern dialects continue to hamper the movement. In order to improve on the standardisation process, the government continues its effort till today. The standard Mandarin or Putonghua (普通话) was proposed finally, based on the pronunciation of the Beijing dialect, the grammar of the Northern China dialects, and the vocabulary of vernacular literature.
Modern Chinese Pronunciation
Within China itself, there are countless dialects which her people use in their daily communication. These dialects tend to be mutually unintelligible as the years of isolation or interactions with different social groups have made each dialects evolve slightly or drastically over the long years of Chinese civilisation.
In order to standardise the pronunciation and hence achieve a common language or national language (国语) in China, Mandarin was aggressively pushed from all schools and media to encourage people to use. As a result of this effort, Mandarin is now recognised as the national language, while some dialects are in danger of disappearing.
Modern Chinese grammar and lexicon
The modern Chinese grammar and lexicon were mainly borrowed from the Northern dialects. Nowadays we use vernacular language (白话) as our written language. However, before the revolution of the Chinese language, the literary language (文言) was the accepted norm for writing instead. Vernacular language was looked down upon by the scholars.
The shift from using literary to vernacular language in the writings was due to the fact that the literary language contains characteristic of the Old Chinese, and is hence detached from the spoken languages. Young educated revolutionaries such as Hu Shi (胡适), Fu Sinian (傅斯年), Chen Duxiu (陈独秀) promoted the use of the vernacular language instead, and revolutionarised the literature culture of China after the 1930s.
Simplification of the Chinese script
The Chinese script was also viewed as being too complicated to learn and write during this time. A national debate was formed, with radical scholars wanting to change the entire Chinese script into the phonetic-based system.
However, the Chinese script was simplified instead and was called the simplified Chinese (简体字) to differentiate it from the traditional Chinese (繁体字). Simplified character forms were created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional Chinese characters. The movement started in the 1950s and continues into 2009, with the release of the latest finalised list of 8300 words in 2009.
Created by Lee Meiyu on 28 June 2010
- 邓文彬. 中国古代语言学史 (M). 成都 : 巴蜀書社, 2002
Division of Chinese
The Division of Chinese under the School of Humanities and Social Sciences offers the following courses related to Chinese linguistics:
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