Francisco Varo's Grammar of the Mandarin Language (1703)

An English translation of ‘Arte de la lengua Mandarina’. With an Introduction by Sandra Breitenbach

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Francisco Varo&#8217;s <i>Arte de la Lengua Mandarina</i>, completed ca. 1680, is the earliest published grammar of any spoken form of Chinese and the fullest known description of the standard language of the seventeenth century. It establishes beyond doubt that this &#8220;Language of the Mandarins&#8221; was not Pekingese or Peking-based but had instead a Jiang-Huai or Nankingese-like phonology. It also provides important information about the nature and formation of pre-modern standard forms of Chinese and will lead to revisions of currently held views on Chinese koines and their relationship with regional speech forms and the received vernacular literature. Finally, it provides a wealth ot information on stylistic speech levels, honorific usage, and social customs of the elite during the early Qing period.<br />The book provides a full translation of the 1703 text of the <i>Arte</i>, an extensive introduction to the life and work of Varo, an index of Chinese characters inserted into the translation, and an index of linguistic terms and concepts. It should be of interest to a diverse readership of Chinese historical, comparative, and descriptive linguists, students of Qing history and literature, historiographers of linguistics, and specialists in early Western religious and cultural contact with China.

Subjects: Sino-Tibetan languages; History of linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Iowa

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