January 19, 2011

Phonetic typology of the Chinese language

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- comparison of languages based on their formal structure
- no historical connections
- only the analysis of the present state of the language

Types of typology: syntactic, phonetic..

Phonological typology

Syllabic language - every syllable is a morpheme

Morpheme - shortest sound which still has a meaning

Phonetic typology:

Tonal language
Tone  - a melody of the voice, in which a syllable is pronounced and which has the same importance as any letter of the syllable

Historical division of Chinese

Old Chinese

1000 B.C. – 3rd/4th cen A.D.
- probably no tones – they developed form suffixes
- probably not a syllabic language

Middle Chinese

4th cen A.D. – Yuan Dynasty (13th cen)

Modern Chinese

Ming - Qing dynasty

Modern standard Chinese

普通話 (pu tong hua), 國語 (guoyu)

Common language of the Chinese people

Phonetics: based on the Beijing dialect
Vocabulary: based on the northern dialects
Grammar: based on the literary works that were written in the contemporary written language called 白話 (baihua)

Written Chinese:

Two forms of written Chinese today

白話 Baihua

- written form of Mandarin
- based on the contemporary Song dynasty spoken language
- (bai2) - to speak, to tell
- (hua2) – story
- “language of the story tellers”
- vocabulary based on northern dialects

文言文 Wen yan wen

- “elegant speech”, in opposition with Baihua
- based on the language in which the Analects of confucius (論語 - Lunyu)
- also called Calssical Chinese
- a distant analogy with Latin

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