Western grammars of the Chinese language in the 18th and 19th centuries

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The development of studies on Chinese grammar was an important innovation of European sinology, as the systematic descriptions of the language were scarcely represented in native tradition. The genre of bilingual grammars involved adapting the methodologies elaborated for Western languages to Chinese. Even though the Western model was predominant, bilingual grammars progressively integrated aspects of Chinese linguistics. Moreover, in their attempt to give an account of the specific features of Chinese, missionaries and scholars also developed new categories and theories, absent both in Latin and Chinese traditions. In this paper, we aim to retrace the evolution of the Western grammars of Chinese during the 18th and 19th centuries, by focusing particularly on the interplay between the analytical models of European origin and the descriptive obligations for the specific features of the Chinese language.


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