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Breaking through the “jargon” barrier: Early 19th century missionaries’ response on communication conflicts in China

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image of Frontiers of History in China

Tracing the origin and circulation of the “jargon” spoken at Canton, the paper examines how “jargon” became an issue of Sino-foreign communication conflicts in the early 19th century, and how Westerners responded to it. As a lingua franca spread extensively in the Canton trade, the so-called “jargon” (a pidgin form of patois) played an essential role as communication tool between Chinese and foreign traders. However, in the eyes of missionaries in early 19th century China, the normal Sino-foreign contact process was interrupted and distorted by both parties’ overusing of the jargon. In this regard, early Protestant missionaries’ support of Chinese language study reveals an initial effort to break through the “jargon” barrier.


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