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This general introduction to the study of Chinese traces the language's history from its beginnings in the second millennium B.C. to the present, and provides a clear picture of the contemporary language and its sociolinguistic status. Chinese, in its numerous dialects, has more speakers than any other language in the modern world, and this vast extension in time and space brings to its study an exceptional complexity. Nevertheless, Norman's crisp organization and lucid elegance make this extraordinary range of material easily accessible even to those with an elementary understanding of linguistics. Chinese includes information on the genetic and typological connections of the language, the writing system, the classical and early vernacular tongues, the modern language and non-standard dialects, and the history of linguistic reform in China.
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.