The Analysis of Modern Peking Chinese

TLS will analyse modern spoken Chinese on the basis of recorded spontaneous speech and oral texts and on the basis of a fine phonetic transcription of relevant parts of these, NOT only - and certainly not primarily - on the basis of written (even less published!) text.

TLS will in the first instance concentrate on idiolects, the language of one speaker, not on a variety of speakers of Peking Standard Chinese whose speech may differ widely. The choice of idiolects is inevitably arbitrary.

The example material will in the first instance be in the form of recorded sentences from the following sources:

  1. A 1500 hour-long oral dictionary provided by Tang Yunling and recorded by Oldrich Svarny of the Academy of Sciences in Prague will be the main source.
  2. Digitalised and transcribed recordings of xiangsheng (comic dialogues) of Hou Baolin (Peking) and Ma Sanli (Tianjin) from the sixties and seventies.
  3. Modern Chinese will be studied in its pragmatic action context, and for this purpose extensive use will be made of digitialised films with speakers of Peking Chinese, including xiangsheng and other materials.

Innovative Features of the Planned Modern TLS

Up until 2003, TLS has largely concentrated on pre-Buddhist Chinese. Modern Chinese will be analysed in its historical perspective. Modern morphemes will be systematically related to ancient words.

Modern Chinese will be analysed so as to make it pervasively and rigidly comparable in every detail to the relevant earlier stages of the language.

Exactly the same analytic framework will be adapted and applied to all periods.

The repertoires of classical and tentative modern Chinese synonyms have been juxtaposed to allow for systematic historical comparison.

Foreign influences of all kinds on modern Chinese will be systematically recorded, Westernised grammar and lexis as well as the dominant Japanese influence on modern Chinese will be recorded in detail.

For all multisyllabic Modern Chinese words the internal morpho-syntactic structure and semantic composition will be defined.

Modern Chinese will be treated systematically as a stress prominent language focussing on minimal pairs like progress versus progress. Two-peak words like re-do do again will also be identified.

Modern Morphology and Syntax

Morphological and syntactic constituent structure will be analysed according to the same principles in TLS, wherever possible.

This is possible because so much of Modern Chinese (MC) morphology is classical Chinese syntax. (W. Faulkner: The past is not dead. It is not even past!)

This is desirable in order to show how much of the lexis and grammar of classical Chinese remains an integrated core part of MC.

The meanings and syntactic functions of MC morphemes in MC word formation are registered and analysed exactly along the same principles as the meanings of words.

E.g. ժ "school head" is taken as evidence that can be adnominal and mean "school", (cf. ն "campus") and that may function as a nominal head meaning "head (of an institution)" (cf. | "head of the institute").

Bound morphemes will be treated like (not as!) bound words

The complex questions of (degrees of) wordhood in MC are not allowed to get in the way of a homogeneous and strictly systematic analysis of constituent structure in MC.

Levels of Analysis for Modern Spoken Chinese

TLS focusses on the following:

  1. the modern conceptual repertoires and systematic lexical relations rather than simply on word meanings.
  2. The informants spontaneous subjective reconstruction of the meanings of words in her repertoires.
  3. The informants actual linguistic practice (which may exemplify features which are not included in her subjective reconstruction).
  4. The contrasts between the informants subjective reconstruction and the normative definitions in the standard Chinese-Chinese dictionaries and grammars of the time.
  5. The contrasts between her practice and that described in the standard Modern Chinese dictionaries and grammars of the time.
  6. The contrasts between the language of our acoustic material on the one hand, and the contemporary published sources on the other.
  7. The contrasts between the published Modern Standard Chinese material and the standard description of this language in the standard dictionaries.


Modern Peking Chinese Sound Materials

Ca 1500 hours of tapes in the form of an audio dictionary of Modern Standard Peking Chinese by Tang Yunling, a Manchu speaker of Chinese recorded in 1966-69, covering all the material in Xiandai Hanyu pinyin cihui "VOCABULARY OF MODERN CHINESE" (1963), in Lu Zhiwei, Beijing hua danyinci cihui "MONOSYLLABIC VOCABULARY OF PEKING SPEECH" (1956) and in Zhang Xunru, Beijing hua qingsheng cihui QINGSHENG WORDS IN PEKING SPEECH (1957).