Rogers Chinese and Japanese - Summary of the chapters on...

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Chinese Quick facts: How many speakers? Over 1 billion people. Where? People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Singapore, other communities around the world. Family of languages: Sino-Tibetan {Chinese, Tibeto-Burman}. Chinese is not genetically related to Japanese or Korean, although these languages have borrowed a lot of Chinese characters into their writing systems. Study of Chinese language, culture, etc.: Sinology. The Chinese population is divided in no less than 56 ethnic groups, each with their own language / dialect and culture. The dominant language and culture is that of the ethnic group Han [named after the Han Dynasty]. China can be divided in 7 large dialect groups, out of which the most prominent are Mandarin [in the North] and Cantonese [in the South]. Spoken dialects differ widely and are often not mutually intelligible; however, written Chinese looks the same everywhere, and it follows the Mandarin spoken dialect. This leads to a situation where TV shows or movies have subtitles, so any Chinese from anywhere can at least read and understand what is being said. Written Chinese Spoken Chinese naturally evolved with time. However, the written language was more or less stable for the last 13 centuries: Classical Chinese: 600 NEW – 19 th century. This led to a situation of DIGLOSSIA where people spoke one language [their version of spoken Chinese] and actually wrote another language [Classical Chinese]. Eventually, Classical Chinese was replaced with a vernacular-based written Chinese, which took over early in the 20 th century. Nowadays: Modern Standard Chinese, based on the Mandarin dialect spoken in Beijing. Understanding Classical Chinese requires special education. Note: The adoption of Modern Standard Chinese abolished DIGLOSSIA only for speakers of Mandarin. Speakers of any other dialect of Chinese remain to this day in a situation of diglossia. [See top of page 23 for how great the difference between what is spoken and what is written is.] The standardization of written Chinese across the huge surface of China has an interesting and remarkably early history. Attempts at standardization date as far as 2,000 years back. Around 600 NEW the emperor introduced a standard system of examinations to enter civil service. Examinations had to be written in Classical Chinese. Any male could sit in these exams. Since preparation could be costly, however, it was still more likely for rich people to succeed. Open access and the privileges given to civil servants were great incentives for people to try. A person could try again and again, until they succeeded. Perseverance was rewarded. All civil servants could thus write Classical Chinese. This, coupled with the fact that they were sent to all the corners of the empire and not allowed to serve in their native area led to their proficiency in Classical Chinese. A whole class of promoters of Classical Chinese was thus formed. Phonology of Modern Standard Chinese
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Rogers Chinese and Japanese - Summary of the chapters on...

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