Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar, and: Gateway to the Chinese Classics: A Practical Introduction to Literary Chinese, and: A Classical Chinese Reader (review)
- China Review International
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1998
- pp. 236-239
- Additional Information
236 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Edwin G. Pulleyblank. Outline ofClassical Chinese Grammar. Vancouver: University ofBritish Columbia Press, 1995. xiv, 192 pp. Hardcover $65.00, isbn 0-7748-0505-6. Paperback $35.95, isbn 0-7748-0541-2. Jeannette L. Faurot. Gateway to the Chinese Classics: A Practical Introduction to Literary Chinese. San Francisco: China Books and Periodicals, Inc. xviii, 128 pp. Paperback $14.95, isbn 0-8351-2537-8. A. D. Syrokomla-Stefanowska, with the collaboration of Bi Xiyan. A Classical Chinese Reader. Broadway, New South Wales: Wild Peony Ltd.; Honolulu : distributed internationally by University of Hawai'i Press, 1996. 181 pp. Paperback $30.00 (AUS $40), isbn 0-9586526-0-0. New additions to the pool of resources devoted to broadening our understanding of classical Chinese grammar and vocabulary are certain to be welcomed by both professors and students ofthe language. As a student working to understand and translate the vast and varying corpus of classical Chinese texts, I find it is sometimes easy to lose heart at the complexity of the grammar and the ambiguity of the characters (sometimes within texts, and quite often between them). This potential confusion is compounded by the fact that, with regard to a variety of central issues, there are a great many ongoing and unresolved debates among wellstudied scholars. While a relative neophyte is not in a strong position to enter the fray with much authority, one can make intelligent decisions and discriminations about which texts are likely to be helpful and which texts seem to be moving in the wrong direction. At the same time initiative can be found in the fact that even the most esteemed experts (among them Edwin G. Pulleyblank) acknowledge that they are still not fully comfortable with the language, and that much more work remains to be done. The aim of this review is to evaluate three recent contributions to the field, with particular focus on the degree to which they are suited to function as learning aids in either a classroom environment and/or when studied independentiy. These three works share a pedagogical (as opposed to scholarly) focus, but in practice would require somewhat different applications. Pulleyblank's Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar (hereafter Outline) is an outgrowth of notes the author assembled over the years for teaching purposes. It has a "primarily pedagogi-© 1998 by University cai ami» ^ ^v^ ancj as suc^ ^6 pOSit;ons taken do not receive the full treatment normally afforded what otherwise may be controversial points. Grammar and vocabulary are put forward relatively methodically (by degrees of complexity), and ofHawai'i Press Reviews 237 each new lesson is illustrated by several examples skillfully drawn from classical Chinese texts. All told there are fifteen chapters organized topically. The degree ofPulleyblank's facility and familiarity with the language comes shining through with his lucid and detailed explanations. Students should be wary, however, that strong mastery ofEnglish grammar and grammatical terms is essential in order to get the most out of Outline. One example: "Where English and many other languages use hypotactic constructions, with relationships of subordination explicitly marked by conjunctions and verbal morphology, Chinese very often uses parataxis, leaving the semantic relationships to be inferred from the context" (p. 149). Some may want to contend that Pulleyblank has overstated the case for grammar in classical Chinese, drawing parallels and marking contrasts with English structures and categories that may not in fact have been operational (at least in a conscious sense) at the time the language was in use. One response (that may be weaker than the case Pulleyblank himselfwould make) would be to say "to each his own"—those who are comfortable employing a structure ofanalogous terms and relations should do so at dieir convenience. The justification, as always, hinges on the results. One certainly can't find much to argue over in his sample translations—they are as straightforward as they are illuminating. At the same time, anyone who is inclined to raise questions about Pulleyblank's grammatically informed approach ought to be able to provide something in its stead that is over and above merely "getting a feel" (to use Faurot's expression) for the...