Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-7031
  • E-ISSN: 1877-8798
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There has been a common belief that the presence of classical Chinese elements may be an important characteristic of the written style in modern Chinese. An empirical study employing the multi-feature, multi-dimensional framework for studying register variation (Biber 1988) and the statistical method of correspondence analysis confirms that there is indeed a classical dimension in modern written Chinese; but it is only one of two dimensions. The quantitative results further show that the classical dimension is not the primary dimension. The more important dimension is that of ‘literate vs. non-literate’, which has not received as much attention. The separation of the classical from the literate dimension makes it possible to account for the fact that registers having more classical Chinese elements are not necessarily more literate and vice versa. Another intriguing finding from the study is that classical Chinese elements are not monolithic; there seem to be four different types, which are distributed differently along the literate as well as the classical dimension. The difference in word length and integrability is hypothesized to account for the different types.


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