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The Politics Of Language In China And The West (The 19th Century)

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Chapter Summary

Due to the morphemic nature of the Chinese script, phonetics deserves particular attention. Benjamin Elman in his study on the civil examination system assumed that Beijing Mandarin provided the sole phonetic standard for both the examinations and official communication during the Qing dynasty. Elman's statement contains two different propositions: (1) the standard pronunciation of the classical language was based upon the Mandarin dialect of the court and (2) the Beijing dialect was the standard language of (oral) official communication. This chapter discusses three alternative propositions: (1) The correct reading pronunciations of the classical language were based upon Song dynasty rhyme standards and codified in imperially commissioned dictionaries. (2) The same dictionaries also provided codification for the official lingua franca called "Mandarin". (3) In linguistic practise, the Beijing dialect emerged as a serious competitor to a southern form of Mandarin since the Qing Qianlong era during the 18th century.

Keywords:Beijing dialect; Benjamin Elman; Chinese script; classical language; Mandarin dialect; official lingua franca; phonetics; Qing dynasty; Song dynasty rhyme standards



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