This general introduction to the study of the Chinese language traces its history from its beginings in the second millennium BC to the present day and provides a clear picture of the contemporary language and its sociolinguistic status. Chinese in its numerous dialect forms, has more speakers than any language in the modern world, and this vast extension in time and space brings to its study an exceptional complexity. Nevertheless, Professor Norman handles this extraordinary range of material with a deftness of organization and lucid elegance of style that make his book of real interest to any reader with only an elementary knowledge of linguistics. It includes information on the genetic and typological connections of Chinese, traditional Chinese phonology, the writing system, the classical and early vernacular languages, the modern language and the non-standard dialects, and the history of linguistic reform in China, concluding with a discussion of present and future prospects.
Preface; Major chronological divisions of Chinese history; 1. Introduction; 2. The historical phonology of Chinese; 3. The Chinese script; 4. The classical and literary languages; 5. The rise development of the written vernacular; 6. The modern standard language I; 7. The modern standard language II; 8. Dialectal variation in North and Central China; 9. The dialects of the Southeast; 10. Language and society; Notes; References; Index.