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690LANGUAGE, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 3 (1986) REFERENCES Berman, Ruth A. 1978. Modern Hebrew structure. Tel-Aviv: University Publishing Projects. Georgiev, Vladimir I. 1981. Introduction to the history of the Indo-European languages . Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Gumowski, Marian. 1975. Hebräische Münzen im mittelalterlichen Polen. Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt. Heyd, Uriel. 1954. Language reform in modern Turkey. Jerusalem: Israel Oriental Society. Jakobson, Roman, and Morris Halle. 1964. The term Canaan in Medieval Europe. For Max Weinreich on his seventieth birthday: Studies in Jewish languages, literature and society, 147-72. The Hague: Mouton. Kahane, Henry and Renée. 1970. Abendland und Byzanz: Literatur und Sprache. Reallexikon der Byzantinistik, ed. by Peter Wirth, 1:4, col. 345-416. Amsterdam: Hakkert. Krauss, Samuel. 1898. Griechische und lateinische Lehnwörter im Talmud, Midrasch und Targum, 1-2. Berlin: S. Calvary. Massariello Merzagora, Giovanna. 1980. La parlata giudeo-piemontese. Archivio Glottologico Italiano 65.105-36. Pritsak, Omeljan. 1984. Na perexresti dvox tysjaöolit'. Suöasnist' 1/2.80-90. Wexler, Paul. 1981. The terms for 'synagogue' in Hebrew and Jewish languages: Explorations in historical Jewish interlinguistics. Revue des Études Juives 140:1/ 2.101-38. Wolf, Siegmund A. 1956. Wörterbuch des Rotwelschen. Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut. [Received 25 November 1985.] The Chinese language: Fact and fantasy. By John DeFrancis. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984. Pp. x, 330. $20.00. Reviewed by Matthew Y. Chen, University of California, San Diego If any readers are lured by the title of this book to expect detailed discussion of the syntax, semantics, or phonology of Chinese, they will be disappointed: this 300-page, handsomely produced work is devoted to the subject of Chinese characters. A more descriptive, if less tantalizing, title would have been 'The Chinese writing system: Fact and fantasy.' The volume consists of four parts: Part I (Chaps. 1-3) defines such terms as 'idiolect', 'dialect', 'regionalect', and 'language', and provides a sketch of spoken Chinese. Part II (Chaps. 4-7) forms the core of the book, and focuses on two questions: 'How do Chinese characters represent sounds?' (Chap. 5), and 'How do Chinese characters convey meaning?' (Chap. 7). In Part III (Chaps. 8-13), DeFrancis mounts an 'Entmythologisierung' campaign against some cherished notions—e.g. that Chinese characters are primarily 'ideographic ', i.e. graphic representation of meaning rather than sound (Chap. 8); that written Chinese serves as an ideal vehicle of communication among the speakers of diverse dialects/languages (including Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean), much as Latin once played the role of 'lingua franca' in the entire Western world (Chap. 9); that Chinese is monosyllabic (Chap. 11); and that it REVIEWS691 is indispensable for the preservation of national unity (Chap. 12). The book closes with Part IV (Chaps. 14-15) on speech and writing reforms, and an impassioned plea for Pinyin (or some such scheme of romanization eventually to supplant what DeF considers as an inefficient and chaotic, if not utterly irrational, writing system that has shackled the Chinese mind for centuries. DeF, best known for his extremely popular series oftextbooks used by many students of the Chinese language in the US, has succeeded to a remarkable degree in rousing readers' curiosity and in challenging them to look at Chinese writing in a refreshingly new, often unconventional, and sometimes controversial fashion. He has a nimble mind and a vivid imagination, and excels in inventing felicitious examples to illustrate his point. For instance, he compares 'phonetic compounding' to a 'rebus' puzzle (p. 172)—which is entirely appropriate and insightful, if a trifle irreverent. The introductory section entitled 'The Singlish affair' is a classic piece of imaginative writing, as entertaining as it is instructive. In what follows, I will focus on the two core questions: how do Chinese characters represent sound and meaning, respectively? The answers have momentous practical consequences. Consider beguiling examples such as these: (1)mù i- from ^ 'tree' (2)ri? from o 'sun (3)döng %_ from ^ + s 'east' (tree silhouetted against the rising sun) Used repeatedly in textbooks and popular literature on Chinese script, such examples help to perpetuate the widespread misconception that Chinese characters are either stylized drawings of concrete objects ('tree', 'sun'), or symbolic representations of abstract...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 690-694
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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