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Chinese (Cambridge Language Surveys) 0th Edition
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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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was for a class I am taking called Chinese Linguistics. It is great and informative, but definitely not for pleasure reading (unless you're a history buff).Published 19 days ago by Jennifer Simpson
this is probably the best academic introduction to the history of Chinese ever written. I am very impressed with the author's expertise in the field. Read morePublished on July 11, 2013 by dhydavid