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Summary Details

Query:   Chinese Historical Syntax
Author:  Keith Slater
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Historical Linguistics

Language Family:   Chinese Subgroup

Summary:   Regarding query:

Thanks to those who answered my query (LinguistList 16.2294) about the
diachronic stability of literary Chinese grammar. Here is a summary of the

QUESTION: Is there any sort of relative stability in classical literary
Chinese (lexically, syntactically, or general stylistics). Is there a 600
year period from c.400 BC to c.1912 which exhibits this type of stability?

ANSWERS: The following grammars and textbooks on ''Old Chinese'' would be a
good starting point (there are others which would also be helpful):

W.A.C.H. Dobson - Early Archaic Chinese
W.A.C.H. Dobson - Late Archaic Chinese
Edwin G. Pulleyblank - Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar
Ulrich Unger - Einf├╝hrung in das Klassische Chinesisch

The introductory chapters of these (and other) works all present some
justification as to why language periods like ''Classical Chinese'' or
''Late Archaic Chinese'' have been established and how they can be
distinguished from earlier or later periods. Needless to say, different
authors put the borderline(s) at different places in time.

With regard to ''literary'' stability, the phenomenon of ''Literary
Chinese'' might be of interest. The Wikipedia entry on ''Classical
Chinese'' ( has some very
good remarks on this particular variety of Chinese which played a role
similar to that of Latin in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Richard Kunst wrote a paper 30 years or so ago, ''Literary Chinese Viewed
in the Light of Literary Latin.'' This might have something relevant to the
topic of stability and change in literary Chinese:
(HTML, ca. 500KB)
(Adobe Acrobat PDF, ca. 13655KB)

LL Issue: 16.2536
Date Posted: 01-Sep-2005
Original Query: Read original query


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