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Chinese (Cambridge Language Surveys) 0th Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521296533
ISBN-10: 0521296536
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Editorial Reviews


"...Norman's Chinese fills a lacuna as a much-needed introduction to the Chinese language. It is useful for the scholar seeking some overall knowledge of the phonology, syntax, genetic relationship, writing system, and historical development of Chinese, as well as some understanding of China's language policies, past, present, and future." Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association

Book Description

A general introduction to the study of Chinese traces the language's history from the second millennium B.C. through the present and provides a contemporary view of its sociolinguistic status.

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Language Surveys
  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 29, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521296536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521296533
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is a surprising lack of general books on the Chinese languages aimed at students and amateur linguists, and Norman's book fills this lacuna admirably. Although coverage is uneven in parts, this book presents a survey of the language that is a tribute to the author's scholarship. More importantly, lucid language maintains the reader's interest and the book is a joy to read.
Many areas, including general typology, historical phonology, the writing system, the classical language, the modern language and dialectal variation, is covered to a greater or lesser extent, as are certain sociolinguistic issues relevant to the language. In particular, the historical linguistics and dialectology aspects of the language are well explained, the section on Modern Chinese being somewhat weaker.
The book, however, is not aimed at complete neophytes. A certain familiarity, albeit slight, with the Chinese language and history is presupposed, and the reader needs to be aware of, if not acquainted with, the basics of historical and comparative linguistics. Nonetheless, it is far from being an abstruse work understandable only by specialists in the field.
All in all, Norman has done a marvellous job in condensing the vast field of Chinese languages into a book of reasonable dimensions which is relatively error free. It will no doubt become a valuable general reference on the Chinese language.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Jerry Norman's overview of Chinese, part of the Cambridge Language Surveys series, is an admirably diachronic treatment. Not content to simply speak of features of the major modern dialects, Mandarin and Cantonese, Norman places very early an exploration of the historical phonology of Chinese (back to Old Chinese) and of the development of the script. His explanation of tonal development in Chinese, in which he uses the "s-hypothesis", is especially enlightening.

After this very necessary basis of historical linguistics, Norman devotes a chapter each to the literary language and written vernacular, two chapters to the modern standard language (i.e. Putonghua). He examines the dialects of North and Central China in one late chapter, and the dialects of the Southeast (including the difficulty of their classification) in another. The final chapter, "Language and society", discusses how the various languages coexist in daily life and what the future may hold.

As with all Cambridge Language Surveys volumes, readers must have some prior training in linguistics. Some knowledge of Mandarin at the very least will let the reader make good use of the information Norman provides. If you are looking for a general overview of Chinese and its dialects, this is a helpful resource.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Weary Traveller on September 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviewers have fairly summarized this book. One must have some background in linguistics (or at least a good linguistics text or reference handy) since Norman uses standard linguistics terminology without any explanation; one should also speak at least basic modern Chinese to appreciate many of the examples. My only real complaint is that the book does not use Chinese characters, rather pinyin (with tone marks), throughout the explanations. The problem here is that one pinyin syllable can have many meanings, since Chinese is so homophonic, thus printing the character would have been more revealing for anyone who reads Chinese or can use a good Chinese dictionary. I suspect the problem was with typsetting in 1988 when the book was published. Indeed Norman wonders how the Chinese characters will survive the computer age!! With 20-20 hindsight we can see that in fact the computer age has revitalized not only Chinese but many non-Latin scripts (thank you Unicode!). It would be nice if the book were re-done with characters and some updating based on more recent scholarship. Still, I learned a tremendous amount here, it is a fascinating journey and it's hard to see how it could be much better done in the limited space of one volume.
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