The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Chinese Language

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It is arranged alphabetically by linguistic region.

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Many of the entries in this section are based on hitherto unpublished research. This section includes one new entry: Southeast Asian tradition. Drawing on the expertise of over 90 contributors from 30 countries and an international panel of consultant editors, this volume offers a comprehensive overview of translation studies as an academic discipline and anticipates new directions in the field.

The contributors examine various forms of translation and interpreting as they are practised by professionals today, in addition to research topics, theoretical issues and the history of translation in various parts of the world. Vietnamese is written with a Latin-based alphabet. Jerry Norman estimated that there are hundreds of mutually unintelligible varieties of Chinese. In parts of South China, a major city's dialect may only be marginally intelligible to close neighbors. Until the late 20th century, Chinese emigrants to Southeast Asia and North America came from southeast coastal areas, where Min, Hakka, and Yue dialects are spoken.

Proportions of first-language speakers [4]. Local varieties of Chinese are conventionally classified into seven dialect groups, largely on the basis of the different evolution of Middle Chinese voiced initials: [47] [48]. The classification of Li Rong , which is used in the Language Atlas of China , distinguishes three further groups: [40] [49].

Some varieties remain unclassified, including Danzhou dialect spoken in Danzhou , on Hainan Island , Waxianghua spoken in western Hunan and Shaozhou Tuhua spoken in northern Guangdong. Standard Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect , the dialect of Mandarin as spoken in Beijing. The governments of both China and Taiwan intend for speakers of all Chinese speech varieties to use it as a common language of communication.

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Therefore, it is used in government agencies, in the media, and as a language of instruction in schools. In mainland China and Taiwan, diglossia has been a common feature. For example, in addition to Standard Chinese, a resident of Shanghai might speak Shanghainese ; and, if he or she grew up elsewhere, then he or she is also likely to be fluent in the particular dialect of that local area.

A native of Guangzhou may speak both Cantonese and Standard Chinese. Mutual intelligibility is considered by some linguists to be the main criterion for determining whether varieties are separate languages or dialects of a single language, [55] although others do not regard it as decisive, [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] particularly when cultural factors interfere as they do with Chinese.

On the other hand, he also objects to considering them as separate languages, as it incorrectly implies a set of disruptive "religious, economic, political, and other differences" between speakers that exist, for example, between French Catholics and English Protestants in Canada, but not between speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin in China, owing to China's near-uninterrupted history of centralized government. Because of the difficulties involved in determining the difference between language and dialect, other terms have been proposed.

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These include vernacular , [64] lect [65] regionalect , [53] topolect , [66] and variety. Most Chinese people consider the spoken varieties as one single language because speakers share a common culture and history, as well as a shared national identity and a common written form. Additionally, in Taiwan it is closely associated with Taiwanese independence , [ citation needed ] some of whose supporters promote the local Taiwanese Hokkien variety. There are some instances where a vowel is not used as a nucleus.

The number of sounds in the different spoken dialects varies, but in general there has been a tendency to a reduction in sounds from Middle Chinese. The Mandarin dialects in particular have experienced a dramatic decrease in sounds and so have far more multisyllabic words than most other spoken varieties.

The total number of syllables in some varieties is therefore only about a thousand, including tonal variation, which is only about an eighth as many as English. All varieties of spoken Chinese use tones to distinguish words.


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One exception from this is Shanghainese which has reduced the set of tones to a two-toned pitch accent system much like modern Japanese. A very common example used to illustrate the use of tones in Chinese is the application of the four tones of Standard Chinese along with the neutral tone to the syllable ma. The tones are exemplified by the following five Chinese words:.

Standard Cantonese , in contrast, has six tones in open syllables and three tones in syllables ending with stops: [71]. Chinese is often described as a "monosyllabic" language. However, this is only partially correct. In the modern varieties, it is usually the case that a morpheme unit of meaning is a single syllable; In contrast, English has plenty of multi-syllable morphemes, both bound and free, such as "seven", "elephant", "para-" and "-able".

Some of the conservative southern varieties of modern Chinese have largely monosyllabic words, especially among the more basic vocabulary. In modern Mandarin, however, most nouns , adjectives and verbs are largely disyllabic. A significant cause of this is phonological attrition.

Sound change over time has steadily reduced the number of possible syllables. In modern Mandarin, there are now only about 1, possible syllables, including tonal distinctions, compared with about 5, in Vietnamese still largely monosyllabic and over 8, in English. This phonological collapse has led to a corresponding increase in the number of homophones. Baxter's transcription they were dzyip , zyit , syik , dzyek , dzyi and zyik respectively.

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They are still pronounced differently in today's Cantonese ; in Jyutping they are sap9 , sat9 , sik7 , sek9 , si4 , sik9. In modern spoken Mandarin, however, tremendous ambiguity would result if all of these words could be used as-is; Yuen Ren Chao 's modern poem Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den exploits this, consisting of 92 characters all pronounced shi.

The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Chinese Language

As such, most of these words have been replaced in speech, if not in writing with a longer, less-ambiguous compound. In each case, the homophone was disambiguated by adding another morpheme, typically either a synonym or a generic word of some sort for example, "head", "thing" , the purpose of which is simply to indicate which of the possible meanings of the other, homophonic syllable should be selected. However, when one of the above words forms part of a compound, the disambiguating syllable is generally dropped and the resulting word is still disyllabic.

Most modern varieties of Chinese have the tendency to form new words through disyllabic, trisyllabic and tetra-character compounds. Chinese morphology is strictly bound to a set number of syllables with a fairly rigid construction. All varieties of modern Chinese are analytic languages , in that they depend on syntax word order and sentence structure rather than morphology —i.

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They make heavy use of grammatical particles to indicate aspect and mood. Chinese has a subject—verb—object word order , and like many other languages of East Asia , makes frequent use of the topic—comment construction to form sentences. Chinese also has an extensive system of classifiers and measure words , another trait shared with neighboring languages like Japanese and Korean. Other notable grammatical features common to all the spoken varieties of Chinese include the use of serial verb construction , pronoun dropping and the related subject dropping.

The entire Chinese character corpus since antiquity comprises well over 20, characters, of which only roughly 10, are now commonly in use. However Chinese characters should not be confused with Chinese words. Because most Chinese words are made up of two or more characters, there are many more Chinese words than characters. A more accurate equivalent for a Chinese character is the morpheme , as characters represent the smallest grammatical units with individual meanings in the Chinese language.

Estimates of the total number of Chinese words and lexicalized phrases vary greatly. The Hanyu Da Zidian , a compendium of Chinese characters, includes 54, head entries for characters, including bone oracle versions. The Zhonghua Zihai contains 85, head entries for character definitions, and is the largest reference work based purely on character and its literary variants.

The CC-CEDICT project contains 97, contemporary entries including idioms, technology terms and names of political figures, businesses and products. The most comprehensive pure linguistic Chinese-language dictionary, the volume Hanyu Da Cidian , records more than 23, head Chinese characters and gives over , definitions. The revised Cihai , a multi-volume encyclopedic dictionary reference work, gives , vocabulary entry definitions under 19, Chinese characters, including proper names, phrases and common zoological, geographical, sociological, scientific and technical terms.

The 7th edition of Xiandai Hanyu Cidian , an authoritative one-volume dictionary on modern standard Chinese language as used in mainland China , has 13, head characters and defines 70, words. Like any other language, Chinese has absorbed a sizable number of loanwords from other cultures. Most Chinese words are formed out of native Chinese morphemes , including words describing imported objects and ideas. However, direct phonetic borrowing of foreign words has gone on since ancient times.

Modern neologisms are primarily translated into Chinese in one of three ways: free translation calque , or by meaning , phonetic translation by sound , or a combination of the two. Today, it is much more common to use existing Chinese morphemes to coin new words in order to represent imported concepts, such as technical expressions and international scientific vocabulary. Foreign words, mainly proper nouns , continue to enter the Chinese language by transcription according to their pronunciations. This is done by employing Chinese characters with similar pronunciations.

The bulk of these words were originally coined in the Shanghai dialect during the early 20th century and were later loaned into Mandarin, hence their pronunciations in Mandarin may be quite off from the English. Western foreign words representing Western concepts have influenced Chinese since the 20th century through transcription.

English influence is particularly pronounced. Since the 20th century, another source of words has been Japanese using existing kanji Chinese characters used in Japanese. Other terms were coined by the Japanese by giving new senses to existing Chinese terms or by referring to expressions used in classical Chinese literature. As a result, these terms are virtually indistinguishable from native Chinese words: indeed, there is some dispute over some of these terms as to whether the Japanese or Chinese coined them first.

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As a result of this loaning, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese share a corpus of linguistic terms describing modern terminology, paralleling the similar corpus of terms built from Greco-Latin and shared among European languages. The Chinese orthography centers on Chinese characters , which are written within imaginary square blocks, traditionally arranged in vertical columns, read from top to bottom down a column, and right to left across columns. Chinese characters denote morphemes independent of phonetic change.

Written colloquial Cantonese has become quite popular in online chat rooms and instant messaging amongst Hong-Kongers and Cantonese-speakers elsewhere. It is considered highly informal, and does not extend to many formal occasions. The Chinese had no uniform phonetic transcription system until the midth century, although enunciation patterns were recorded in early rime books and dictionaries.

Early Indian translators, working in Sanskrit and Pali , were the first to attempt to describe the sounds and enunciation patterns of Chinese in a foreign language. After the 15th century, the efforts of Jesuits and Western court missionaries resulted in some rudimentary Latin transcription systems, based on the Nanjing Mandarin dialect. The Dungan language , considered by many a dialect of Mandarin, is nowadays written in Cyrillic , and was previously written in the Arabic script.

The Dungan people are primarily Muslim and live mainly in Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , and Russia ; some of the related Hui people also speak the language and live mainly in China. Each Chinese character represents a monosyllabic Chinese word or morpheme. In CE, the famed Han dynasty scholar Xu Shen classified characters into six categories, namely pictographs , simple ideographs , compound ideographs, phonetic loans, phonetic compounds and derivative characters.

Almost all characters created since have been made using this format. The 18th-century Kangxi Dictionary recognized radicals. Modern characters are styled after the regular script. Various other written styles are also used in Chinese calligraphy , including seal script , cursive script and clerical script.

Calligraphy artists can write in traditional and simplified characters, but they tend to use traditional characters for traditional art. There are currently two systems for Chinese characters. The traditional system , used in Hong Kong , Taiwan , Macau and Chinese speaking communities except Singapore and Malaysia outside mainland China , takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty.

The Simplified Chinese character system, introduced by the People's Republic of China in to promote mass literacy , simplifies most complex traditional glyphs to fewer strokes, many to common cursive shorthand variants.

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