1887
Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-7031
  • E-ISSN: 1877-8798
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Abstract

In the eyes of early modern European scholars, Chinese was commonly regarded as a “lacking” language: lacking its own grammatical tradition or “grammatics”; lacking the complex morphology of the classical European languages; even lacking its own “parts of speech” or word classes. In the late 19th century Ma Jianzhong created a grammatics for Chinese by adapting the categories of Latin grammar - and with a good understanding of the similarities and differences between the two languages - but the Chinese grammarians who followed him have struggled with the question of what might be common to all languages and what might be distinctive to Chinese. Ma saw a Chinese grammatics as a way to fill a gap in the country's literacy education, and this applied focus has been shared by most Chinese grammarians since, something which has tended to put restrictions on their description and theorising. A historical perspective is thus absolutely essential for understanding the practical and ideological problems Chinese grammatics continues to face, and can also throw light on the general challenge of extending “European grammar” to non-European languages.

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2019-12-13
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