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The Languages of China

4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  28 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
"In producing a book on China as a linguistic area, the ideal is a comprehensive and accurate account that places China's linguistic diversity in a meaningful historical, geographical, and social context. Ramsey has succeeded admirably in achieving this end."--Jerome L. Packard, The Journal of Asian Studies." . . a unique and brilliant work. . . . Ramsey integrates nearly ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published October 21st 1989 by Princeton University Press (first published May 21st 1987)
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Hadrian
Jun 14, 2016 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Delightful volume on the many languages spoken in China. About half of the book is focused on the Chinese languages, which he unfortunately classifies all as related dialects (instead of avoiding the political debacle over whether they are all separate from each other based on the lack of mutual intelligibility). Aside from this spurious decision, however, he writes wonderfully of the history of these languages, grammar, pronunciation, and writing system.

The other half of the book is on the 'min
...more
Terence
May 09, 2011 Terence rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Linguistic dilettantes
This is a perfectly nice (if dated - 1987) book about exactly what the title suggests and it probably could only appeal to readers like myself who are fascinated by how people speak but aren't linguists or philologists.

If you are a linguist, I think the book is too general as it's more a survey of Chinese languages than an in-depth analysis of any one of them.

And because it was written pre-Tiananmen, pre-fall of the Berlin Wall, pre-Soviet collapse, I don't know how current Ramsey's discussion o
...more
Helmut
Jul 29, 2014 Helmut rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Ein Land, viele Sprachen
Der konfuzianistische Gedanke des 大同[datong], der "großen Gemeinsamkeit", und die typisch chinesische Fixierung auf die Geschichte, geht so tief, dass Chinesen das linguistische Faktum, dass sie eigentlich ein multilinguales Land sind, nicht anerkennen können. Die Sprache "Chinesisch" wird daher mehr über kulturelle, geschichtliche und politische Faktoren definiert als über linguistische. Besonders faszinierend ist beim "Chinesischen" der Einfluss der Geografie auf die Sp
...more
Christopher
Jul 20, 2007 Christopher rated it it was amazing
S. Robert Ramsey's THE LANGUAGES OF CHINA is a survey originally published by Princeton University Press in 1987. China is an immense country with a rich linguistic heritage, and it is a challenge to cover even the basics adequately in a mere 340 pages. Ramsey does an admirable job, and this student of historical linguistics was thrilled to see such attention paid to the diachrony of many languages mentioned within.

The "Chinese language", the set of mutually unintelligible dialects belonging to
...more
Alan
Aug 05, 2012 Alan rated it it was amazing
An awesome tour-de-force on all things linguistic and Chinese. It edifies both on how linguists think and do, and on the history of Chinese as both a (collection of related) languages and as a script central to Chinese and neighboring civilizations. Further, its almost equally deep discussions of the languages of the other peoples in the PRC (excluding, unfortunately, Tibetan... why not?) are equally eye-opening. I did not know that there exist so many distinct and indistinct peoples in south Ch ...more
André
Apr 21, 2012 André rated it liked it
Not bad as an introduction to the languages of Chinese (language history, "dialects" as well as minority languages), but also a bit shallow. One gets a mere superficial overview of these languages, but not more. On the other hand, Ramsey seems to prefer talking more about the sociolinguistical and historical as well as ethnological factors, rather than the languages themselves. So you get to know more about the history of the speakers than about their languages themselves. It's okay as an introd ...more
Qubitng
Mar 23, 2015 Qubitng rated it it was amazing
This book is completely engrossing. I knew next to nothing about the history of Cantonese and it's place among the "dialects" of Chinese. Nor was I really aware of the roles played by geography, politics, and cultural influences in shaping a language or even in a language's classification. The writing is concise and lucid; and much of it is accessible to laymen.
yini
Nov 06, 2013 yini rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
An excellent, if politically dated, overview of the eponymous subject.
Karen Chung
Jan 30, 2012 Karen Chung rated it it was amazing
Excellent introduction to Chinese and the other languages of China.
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