Linguistics in Chinese
Linguistics in chinese is the scientific study of the sounds, words, phrases and sentences of the Chinese language. This includes phonology, morphology, semantics and grammar.
Like all languages, Chinese has undergone a great deal of change over time. It now divides into different branches, and many of these varieties are mutually unintelligible (e.g., New Xiang with Southwestern Mandarin and Xuanzhou Wu Chinese with Lower Yangtze Mandarin).
As in English, Chinese is a head-final language, with modifiers coming before the words they modify. However, like other East Asian languages, it also employs coverbs (
Chinese has a number of homonyms, but it is possible to disambiguate them using classifiers, which are used with all countable nouns. Additionally, the language has a system of tones that distinguishes different words. This is an essential aspect of the language for its speakers.
The morphological structure of Chinese words is dominated by compounding. It is estimated that 75-80% of all words in contemporary Chinese are composed of two or more lexical morphemes.
Unlike most Indo-European languages, Chinese does not have inflectional morphology or word classes. This has implications for how morphological processes are represented in the mental lexicon and for neural processing of these processes.
The linguistic study of Chinese also examines derivational affixes, which are bound morphemes (though some can function as free forms) prefixed or suffixed to a base to create new words and constructions.
Chinese is a tonal language and features a complex system of phonology. There are several branches of Chinese, each exhibiting limited mutual intelligibility with others: Mandarin, Wu, Yue and Hakka.
All Chinese monosyllables carry one of four tones and may be stressed or neutral. A number of them also have alternative disyllabic forms with almost identical meanings. This creates a strong contrast between full and weak syllables. The latter are considered ‘neutral’ and lack stress. This allows a certain degree of word order variation within compound words.
All varieties of Chinese use tone to distinguish words. Some, like Shanghainese, have as few as three tones while others, such as Southern Min, have as many as 12 tones.
The phonology of Old and Middle Chinese can be reconstructed from a combination of oracle bone inscriptions, rime dictionaries and patterns of rhyming in ancient poetry.
A system of tone is reconstructed that draws on historical, typological and synchronic evidence, arguing that it is autosegmental with a set of features organized into two hierarchies.
Vocabulary is the foundation for all other learning and practice activities. Without sufficient vocabulary, you can’t learn grammar patterns, idioms, reading, or even basic conversational skills. It’s therefore vital to devote at least ten minutes per day to growing your Chinese vocabulary.
Chinese words are composed of syllables, word elements and radicals that work together to carry meaning. As a result, despite the fact that some characters have the same pronunciation (e.g.,
It can seem as though Chinese has no grammar, as the language does not follow the grammar paradigms of Western languages. However, a deeper look at the language shows that there are structures and vocabulary usages in place that make up its grammar.
These include the use of classifiers and question/exclamation particles. These change the purpose and tone of a sentence by adding a nuance. The language also has a fluid word order. All of this makes Chinese a more flexible language than many other ones.
Studies on semantics of Chinese characters aim to address the limitations of traditional letter-processing models. They explore how the semantic and phonetic characteristics of a character affect the process of decoding and recognition.
Chierchia (1998) argues that the diverse interpretations of bare nouns in Chinese are largely due to their being construed as kind-denoting, existential, or definite. He also suggests that the greater N400 magnitude evoked by a character with a semantic radical may reflect impeded processing of that semantic relationship.
The Chinese linguistics community has a long history of research in a variety of areas. These include synchronic and diachronic comparative studies between Chinese and other languages, particularly in the fields of syntax, semantics, morphology, phonetics, and phonology.
All modern Sinitic languages have a maximum syllable structure of consonant-semivowel-consonant and employ a tone system that distinguishes words or syllables that would otherwise be identical in sound. Some dialects have as few as four tones, while others use up to six or more.