The Grammar of Chinese Characters: Productive Knowledge of Formal Patterns in an Orthographic System, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Grammar of Chinese Characters

Productive Knowledge of Formal Patterns in an Orthographic System, 1st Edition

By James Myers


234 pages | 33 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138290815
pub: 2019-05-02
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pub: 2019-04-16
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Anybody who reads or writes Chinese characters knows that they obey a grammar of sorts: though numerous, they are built out of a much smaller set of constituents, often interpretable in meaning or pronunciation, that are themselves built out of an even smaller set of strokes. This book goes far beyond these basic facts to show that Chinese characters truly have a productive and psychologically real lexical grammar of the same sort seen in spoken and signed languages, with non-trivial analogs of morphology (the combination of potentially interpretable constituents), phonology (formal regularities without implications for interpretation), and phonetics (articulatory and perceptual constraints). Evidence comes from a wide variety of sources, from quantitative corpus analyses to experiments on character reading, writing, and learning. The grammatical approach helps capture how character constituents combine as they do, how strokes systematically vary in different environments, how character form evolved from ancient times to the modern simplified system, and how readers and writers are able to process or learn even entirely novel characters. This book not only provides tools for exploring the full richness of Chinese orthography, but also offers new ways of thinking about the most fundamental question in linguistic theory: what is grammar?

Table of Contents

1. Chinese Character Grammar: The Very Idea

2. Character Morphology

3. Character Phonology and Phonetics

4. Corpus-based Evidence for Character Grammar

5. Experimental Evidence for Character Grammar

6. Implications and Applications

About the Author

James Myers is Professor of Linguistics at National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan. He has published numerous articles applying quantitative and experimental methods to grammatical issues in Chinese and other languages, and has also (co-)edited volumes on sign language, empirical grammatical research, and Chinese linguistics.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in East Asian Linguistics

This research monograph series is dedicated to bringing together a collection of books by scholars on the linguistic issues of East Asian languages. Predominantly focussing on Chinese, Japanese and Korean linguistics, this series is for linguists studying a single East Asian language, or a comparison of languages from the region. Approaches can be theoretical, applied, historical, comparative, experimental or interdisciplinary in nature. Proposed volumes are welcome from all areas, including theoretical aspects of a language or its dialects, language change and variation, bilingualism and multilingualism, language policy and politics, pragmatics and honorifics, discourse studies, corpus studies, language acquisition, etc. This series is also meant for heritage language teachers and teachers-to-be who study theoretical and applied aspects of their language to be better equipped for teaching. All titles in the series will be published in English and meant for an international readership.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General