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CHAPTER I THE schola r wh o examine s th e structur e an d evolutio n of huma n speec h finds materia l o f th e highes t valu e i n every on e o f th e severa l thousan d language s o f th e world . The phoneti c law s an d inflexion s o f a Sout h Se a languag e or a Negr o languag e ma y b e jus t a s instructive , i n th e comparative stud y o f linguistics , a s th e correspondin g phenomena i n Lati n o r German . Th e non-specialis t public , on th e contrary , attache s a widel y varyin g valu e t o th e different languages . O n th e on e hand , a languag e i s con sidered o f mor e practica l importanc e th e large r extensio n it has , i.e . th e greate r th e numbe r o f peopl e wh o spea k it ; on th e other , a languag e i s appreciate d i n proportio n a s i t possesses a ric h an d valuabl e literatur e an d thu s play s a great part in civilization. It is remarkable that the European s have until recent times paid but scant attention to a language which i n bot h thes e respect s mus t b e sai d t o occup y a very prominent plac e among the language s o f the world, namely , Chinese. Spoke n b y a large r numbe r o f peopl e tha n an y other language , i t i s a t th e sam e tim e a languag e havin g a venerabl e an d extensiv e literature , a languag e whic h ha s played i n easter n Asi a a par t comparabl e t o tha t o f Lati n and Gree k i n Europe . An exac t figure o f th e numbe r o f peopl e wh o spea k Chinese a s thei r mothe r tongu e canno t b e given . W e ca n only state , i n th e wa y o f approximation , tha t Chines e i s spoken over an area in eastern an d centra l Asia that is larger than Europe , an d b y a populatio n o f somethin g betwee n 600 an d 70 0 millions . Ther e are , moreover , considerabl e Chinese colonie s i n othe r part s o f the w r orld, for instanc e i n 2 SOUND AN D SYMBO L Malaya. And to this it must be added that for many centurie s it serve d a s literar y languag e i n Japan , Kore a an d Annam . Not onl y doe s Chines e excee d i n exten t th e mos t widel y spoken Europea n languages , suc h a s English , German , French, Russian , Spanish , bu t i t ma y mak e goo d it s clai m to a positio n equa l wit h their s a s a civilizin g influence . While i t i s onl y durin g th e las t fe w hundre d year s tha t th e Western language s hav e becom e th e medi a o f a n advance d culture, Chin a ca n produce a literature three thousand year s old, a literatur e which , som e centurie s befor e Christ , ha d reached ful l maturity , an d comprise d work s o f philosoph y and o f historica l researc h a s wel l a s work s o f a purel y literary o r aestheti c character . In puttin g th e ag e of Chines e literature a t three thousan d years w e ar e givin g a n approximat e figure only . An d her e we ar e brough t fac e t o fac e wit h th e first grea t proble m that ha s t o b e considere d i n th e stud y o f th e linguisti c conditions of China . Ho w...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789882202795
Related ISBN
9789622092570
MARC Record
OCLC
728771368
Pages
106
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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