The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy

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University of Hawaii Press, 1986 - Foreign Language Study - 330 pages
2 Reviews
"DeFrancis's book is first rate. It entertains. It teaches. It demystifies. It counteracts popular ignorance as well as sophisticated (cocktail party) ignorance. Who could ask for anything more? There is no other book like it. ... It is one of a kind, a first, and I would not only buy it but I would recommend it to friends and colleagues, many of whom are visiting China now and are adding 'two-week-expert' ignorance to the two kinds that existed before. This is a book for everyone." --Joshua A. Fishman, research professor of social sciences, Yeshiva University, New York "Professor De Francis has produced a work of great effectiveness that should appeal to a wide-ranging audience. It is at once instructive and entertaining. While being delighted by the flair of his novel approach, the reader will also be led to ponder on some of the most fundamental problems concerning the relations between written languages and spoken languages. Specifically, he will be served a variety of information on the languages of East Asia, not as dry pedantic facts, but as appealing tidbits that whet the intellectual appetite. The expert will find much to reflect on in this book, for Professor DeFrancis takes nothing for granted." --William S.Y. Wang, professor of linguistics, University of California at Berkeley
 

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Fundamentally changed my perception of the Chinese language. Read full review

Contents

On Defining Chinese and Language
37
A Sketch of Spoken Chinese
41
Idiolects Dialects Regionalects and Languages
53
Rethinking Chinese Characters
69
Whats in a Name?
71
From Pictographs to What?
74
How Do Chinese Characters Represent Sounds?
89
How Do Chinese Characters Convey Meaning?
116
The Monosyllabic Myth
177
The Indispensability Myth
189
The Successfulness Myth
204
Chinese Language Reform
221
Speech Reform
223
Writing Reform
240
Notes
289
Glossary
297

Demythifying Chinese Characters
131
The Ideographic Myth
133
The Universality Myth
149
The Emulatability Myth
161
Suggested Reading
301
References
303
Index
317
Copyright

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Page 35 - I think that the scholars who have almost let themselves be drawn into forgetting that Chinese is a spoken language have so exaggerated the influence of Chinese writing that they have, so to say, put the writing in place of the language.

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About the author (1986)

John DeFrancis (1911- 2009) John DeFrancis (1911 2009), Emeritus Professor of Chinese at the University of Hawai'i, graduated from Yale in 1933 and immediately departed for China to pursue his interests. In three years of study and travel, he covered over 4,000 miles in Northwest China and Mongolia, across the Gobi Desert, and down the Yellow River, immersing himself in grassroots contact with the language and people. Upon his return to the United States, DeFrancis earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at several institutions nationwide. Dr. DeFrancis is the author of dozens of articles and books on spoken and written Chinese, among them a widely used 12-volume set of educational materials and Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems (UH Press, 1989).

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