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Reviewed by:
  • Chinese: An Essential Grammar
  • John Jing-hua Yin (bio)
Yip Po-ChingDon Rimmington. Chinese: An Essential Grammar, second edition. London: Routledge, 2006. xiv, 242 pp. Hardcover $125.00, ISBN 0–415–38026–X. Paperback $32.95, ISBN 0–415–37261–5.

As China has steadily become an important and influential country in the world of economy and politics, the Chinese language has increasingly drawn the interest of many native English-speaking learners despite the fact that it is a more challenging language for them to learn in comparison with other commonly taught Indo-European languages. Chinese: An Essential Grammar, second edition (henceforth CEG), by Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington, is an informative and readable book for those English-speaking learners (including high school, college, and nontraditional students) who want to be well informed of the basic features of Chinese grammar so as to be effective and efficient in the process of learning the language.

CEGis a much needed addition to the collection of books on Chinese grammar. Chinese grammar books that have been published in the past few decades are mainly of four kinds: (1) those written in Chinese primarily for Chinese-speaking linguists and students specializing in Chinese linguistics, such as Zhōngguó Xiàndài Yǔfǎby Wang Li, Zhōngguó Wénfǎ Yàoluèby Lü Shuxiang, Yǔfǎ Jiǎngyìby Zhu Dexi, and Xiàndài Hànyǔ Yǔfǎ, Jiǎnghuàby Ding Shusheng and others; (2) those written in English for English-speaking linguists and students studying Chinese linguistics, such as A Grammar of Spoken Chineseby Yuen-ren Chao, Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammarby Charles N. Li and Sandra A. Thompson, and A Reference Grammar of Mandarin Chinese for English Native Speakers, and Discourse Grammar of Mandarin Chineseby Chauncey C. Chu; (3) those written in Chinese to assist readers in teaching and learning Chinese as a foreign language, such as Shíyòng Hànyǔ Yǔfǎby Fang Yuqing, Shíyòng Xiàndài Hànyǔ Yǔfǎby Liu Yuehua and others, and Duìwài Hànyǔ Jiàoxué Shíyòng Yǔfǎby Lu Fubo; and (4) those written in English to assist non-Chinese-speaking students to learn and understand Chinese as a foreign language, such as Essential Grammar for Modern Chineseby Helen T. Lin and A Practical Chinese Grammar for Foreigners [End Page 288]by Li Dejin and Cheng Meizhen. While the first two kinds are more theoretical than practical, the last two kinds are more practical than theoretical. Obviously what English-speaking learners of Chinese need most is the fourth kind; however, except for the two books listed under this category, hardly any other books of this kind could have been found until 1997, when the first edition of CEGwas published. After that, two Chinese grammar workbooks and a comprehensive Chinese grammar book by the same authors were published in 1998 and 2004, and they considerably lessened the scarcity of Chinese grammar books for English-speaking learners of Chinese as a foreign language. With updated examples and a newly added chapter on paragraphs, the second edition of CEGis greatly improved. At the same time, the second edition of CEGremains a handy book that provides succinct explanations and ample examples for the essentials of Chinese grammar. Its added chapter on paragraphs makes it more resourceful than any other Chinese grammar books written in English in helping readers understand how meanings are expressed coherently in extended Chinese discourses.

CEGis uniquely structured. It has four separate yet related sections: “Nouns,” “Verbs,” “Sentences,” and “Paragraphs.” Nouns and verbs are the two most important parts of speech to form sentences, and sentences constitute paragraphs. The arrangement is logical. In the first section of the book, not only nouns but also pronouns as well as noun modifiers (including numerals, measures, adjectives, and other grammatical entities that can be used as adjectives to play the function of attributives) are introduced. Likewise, in the second section, verbs and their modifiers such as preverbal adverbials and various kinds of postverbal complements are introduced. Aspect markers, modal verbs, and grammatical...