An Anatomy of Chinese

An Anatomy of Chinese: rhythm, metaphor, politics

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    An Anatomy of Chinese
    Book Description:

    Rhythms, conceptual metaphors, and political language convey meanings of which Chinese speakers themselves may not be aware. Link’s Anatomy of Chinese contributes to the debate over whether language shapes thought or vice versa, and its comparison of English with Chinese lends support to theories that locate the origins of language in the brain.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06768-4
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book has grown from files that I have kept for more than three decades on items that have fascinated me about the Chinese language. When I dug into those files a few years ago I found that, in order to interpret their contents responsibly, I would need to read in a number of fields—prosody, cognitive science, philosophy of mind, comparative politics, even music theory—that were largely new to me. I asked colleagues for introductions to those fields and, with my store of Chinese examples serving as test cases, found the resulting exploration both pleasurable and rewarding.


  4. 1 Rhythm
    (pp. 21-112)

    The stress and intonation patterns in speech, which linguists call prosody, and which I am also calling, less formally, “rhythm,” are universal in human languages, in fact essential to them. If you hear syllables pronounced in a manner that aims at uniformity in matters of stress, pause, and pitch, the utterances will seem to you to be coming perhaps from a computer, or an imaginary alien. In any case, they will seem “not human.” Under a musicologist’s rigorous definition of “rhythm,” all phrases in spoken language necessarily have a rhythm, even if it is perfectly uniform or utterly random. The...

  5. 2 Metaphor
    (pp. 113-233)

    In 1935 a young American named Graham Peck, fresh from Yale and seeking adventure, set out for China, where he traveled widely, often by bicycle, making sketches, taking notes, and picking up some Chinese. In 1940 he went to China again, this time for a longer stay during which he took a post with the U.S. Office of War Information. Eventually, he became frustrated with a gap he perceived between official U.S. hopes for China and the abysmal conditions he found on the ground. After the war he put his perceptions into a book that was excellent in many ways...

  6. 3 Politics
    (pp. 234-348)

    Formal political language, in many societies and in many times, has tended to diverge from ordinary talk. Vocabulary can differ, rhythms and tones of voice can diverge, and even grammar can be affected. In most cases, what creeps into political language is officiousness. A stuffy tone can claim a special authority for the speaker, who then can assume a position of elevation above an audience. This makes glibness easier to achieve and can provide a slick suit of clothes for questionable or even groundless claims. George Orwell has written that “political language . . . is designed to make lies...

  7. Epilogue
    (pp. 349-356)

    To view the matter superficially, I chose the three themes in this book—rhythm, metaphor, and politics—simply because they are facets of the modern Chinese language that I have found interesting over the years. I had taken a lot of notes on them.

    But this explanation harbors a deeper question: why did these particular aspects of the language, and not others, draw my attention? Why was I not taking notes on the bai hua vernacular movement, on debates over romanization, or on conventions of punctuation or paragraphing? The topics one might choose to study are almost endless. Why these...

  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 357-358)
  9. Index
    (pp. 359-367)