MA in Chinese Studies 2011-2012


Jeroen Wiedenhof

General info

In this course, close reading of Chinese-language materials in general and Chinese linguistics combines advanced language training with the chance to develop awareness of disciplinary thinking, and concomitant types of textual analysis and interpretation.

Also see the University Study Guide.

Time and venue

Texts and assignments

BLOCK 3: week 1 | week 2 | week 3 | week 4 | week 5 | week 6 | week 7 |
BLOCK 4: week 1 | week 2 | week 3 | week 4 | week 5 | week 6 |
During the teaching semester, this page is being refreshed weekly on Tuesdays at 9:00am.
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week 1 (10 Feb 12)


趙元任 Yuen Ren Chao, 序 "Xù" [Preface].In: Chao (1968, 1980)b, frontispiece. Facsimile reproduction of a handwritten endorsement by the original author of a Chinese translation of his A grammar of spoken Chinese (1968).

趙元任 Yuen Ren Chao, 連動式 "Liándòng shì" [Verbal expressions in series] In: Chao (1968, 1980)b, pp. 172-176

中國話的文法 Zhōngguóhuà de wénfǎ [A grammar of spoken Chinese]. 香港 Hong Kong: 中文大學出版社 Chinese University Press, 1980, pp. 172-176. Translation of Yuen Ren Chao, A grammar of spoken Chinese, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968. Translated by 丁邦新 Pang-Hsin Ting.



1.  Chao's 序 will be introduced in class. We will also start translating his text on 連動式. No preparation is needed for this first session.

2.  Please pay attention to the historical, cultural and academic contexts of both texts. These will be explained and discussed in class.

week 2 (17 Feb 12)


Chao (1968, 1980)a


3.  Read the assigned text, taking good notice of the context discussed in week 1.

4.  Please note down any difficulties you may have in reading these texts, and bring your notes to class.

week 3 (24 Feb 12)

  • Chao (1959, 2002)

趙元任 Yuen Ren Chao, 第一讲 ∙ 语言学跟跟语言学有关系的些问题 "Dì yì jiǎng: Yǔyánxué gēn gēn yǔyánxué yǒuguān de xiē wènti" [First lecture: Linguistics and some questions relating to linguistics]. In: 语言问题 Yǔyán wènti [Problems of language], 趙元任全集第1卷 Zhào Yuánrèn quánjí dì yí juàn [Collected works of Yuen Ren Chao, Part 1]. 北京 Peking: 商务印书馆 Shāngwù Yìnshūguǎn, 2002, pp. 10-16. Originally published in 1959. Earlier reprint, in traditional characters: 臺北 Taipei, 商務印書館 Shāngwù Yìnshūguǎn, 1968, pp. 1-10.

NEW! with Lin-guistics

5.  Read Chao's 第一講, noting down any difficulties you may have in reading the text. Please bring your notes to class.

6.  First check this week's news sites on the chink-in-the-armor incident. Then translate the following English expressions into Mandarin (characters & Pinyin transcription).

  • Linsanity
  • a chink in the armor

Note: the more translations the merrier! Please give translations of different kinds, e.g. factual (check Chinese news sources or dictionaries), creative and/or exploratory. Dutch translations are allowed but not compulsory.

7.  Be prepared to discuss the chink-in-the-armor incident on its linguistic merits in class. Please formulate in writing, with attention to details of transcription:

  • all relevant meanings of chink
  • literal and figurative meanings for a chink in the armor
  • at least one parallel between the chink-in-the-armor incident and the arguments put forward by Y.R. Chao in his 第一講.

Please bring all relevant questions to class on 24 Feb. Next week (2 March), aspects of assignment 7 will be required from you as a hand-in assignment.

More online links are on the chink-in-the-armor page.

week 4 (2 Mar 12)


  • Saussure (1916, 1985)

    "Signe, signifié, signifiant" and "Premier principe: l'arbitraire du signe". In Ferdinand de Saussure, Cours de linguistique générale: Édition critique préparée par Tullio de Mauro [A course in general linguistics: Critical edition prepared by Tullio de Mauro], pp. 97-102. Enlarged edition, Paris: Payot, 1985, reprint 1997. Postface by Louis-Jean Calvet. First edition: 1972. De Saussure's original published by Charles Bally and Albert Séchehaye, in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger, Genève, 1916.
    Online edition: Saussure, Ferdinand - Cours de Linguistique Generale, pp. 97-102.

    Note: in the online edition, the text can be enlarged by pressing the "Full Screen" button.

...or in English translation:

  • Saussure (1959)

"Sign, signified, signifier " and "Principle I: the arbitrary nature of the sign". In Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in general linguistics. New York: Philosophical Library, 1959, pp. 65-70. Translation of Saussure (1916), translated by Wade Baskin.
Doc88 online browsable edition: Course in general linguistics, pp. 65-70. PDF edition: Course in general linguistics, pp. 65-70.

Note: on page 65, the illustration has been printed too low: it should follow immediately after the first paragraph of the text.

...and/or an explanation in Dutch:

  • § 2 "Spraakklanken en filologie" en § 3 "Vorm en betekenis" uit Taal in wording

You need to hand in the next assignment (#8) at the beginning of class on Friday 2 March.

The following applies to all written assignments in this course:

  • no digital hand-ins, only printed on paper with line spacing at 1.5 minimally
  • hand-in time is at the beginning of the class, or in my mailbox (Arsenaal, first floor) before that time
  • you will receive my written comments on your assignments
  • the Colorado Style Guide can help you interpret my comments
  • if you have any questions about the assignments or about my comments, please make an appointment to dicuss these
  • take care to apply adequate linguistic transcriptions
  • please edit your text carefully; don't forget to include your name, the date and your student number

8.  Hand-in assignment – Discuss the chink-in-the-armor incident on its linguistic merits in a short essay:

  • for sources and other details, see assignment 7 above
  • this time, however, you do not need to refer to the arguments put forward by Y.R. Chao in his 第一講
  • maximum length is two pages
  • your readership is an interested lay public from Europe, i.e. they will be eager to read your explanations, but they do not know any Chinese, nor any linguistics, nor any details about public sensitivities in the United States
  • assume that your reader is non-native in English, so you need to provide semantic details about the word chink and the expression chink in the armor
  • first, describe the incident; then zoom in on (socio-)linguistic details
  • provide a conclusion, punch line or clear statement at the end of your essay.

9.  Last week, we discussed the linguistic units distinguished by Ferdinand de Saussure. Now please review these basics using the sources mentioned above, under "Texts". Note down any difficulties you encounter. Please bring your notes to class: we will make a quick inventory of remaining problems.

10.  Refresh your memory about the way different linguistic units can be represented in transcription. Common conventions have been summarized in the online Transcriptiewijzer. Note down any difficulties in that text, and write out the exercise given in section 4. Lingling and Meng-huan: since this text is in Dutch, please email me (with Cc: to each other) to schedule an appointment to discuss its contents.

11.  We wil first meet in our usual classroom, Vrieshof 4, Room 010. During the first hour, we will walk to another classroom to join a lecture by Professor Alain Peyraube (see under "Event" below). You are required to take notes during the lecture: we will compare notes in the next session. Your next assignment may focus on your notes.


Analytic/isolating languages

a lecture by Alain Peyraube (CRLAO, CNRS-EHESS, Paris)

"The terms ‘analytic’ and ‘synthetic’ should be used in a relative rather than absolute sense. For example, languages like English are less inflectional, and thus more analytic than most of the other Indo-European languages. Chinese is said to be an isolating language and consequently an analytic language, i.e. a language that conveys grammatical relationships syntactically, via the use of words or free morphemes. It does not possess bound morphemes, such as inflectional prefixes, suffixes or infixes. However, it is also claimed that Archaic Chinese (11th-2nd c. BCE), and especially Late Archaic – the Classical Chinese par excellence (5th – 2nd c. BCE) – had an inflectional morphology, and not just derivational affixes. With this idea of degrees of analyticity and syntheticity in mind, some scholars have hypothesized that Classical Chinese has been moving from less analyticity to more analyticity between Archaic and Medieval Chinese (5th – 14th c. AD), and from more syntheticity to less syntheticity from Medieval to Modern Chinese (14th – 18th c. AD) and then on to Contemporary Chinese (from 18th c. on). This hypothesis will be discussed in the paper and it will be shown that this cyclic change is far from being well-founded.

Date and time: Friday, March 2nd 2012, 13:30-15:30

Venue: Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities, Matthias de Vrieshof 2, room 001

Language: English

All are welcome

week 5 (9 Mar 12)

  • Sūn e.a. (2007) 孙宏开 Sūn Hóngkāi, 胡增益 Hú Zēngyì, 黄行 Huáng Xíng (eds.), 汉语 "Hànyǔ” [Chinese]. In: 中国的语言 Zhōngguó de yǔyán [The languages of China], 北京 Peking: 商务印书馆 Shāngwù Yìnshūguǎn, 2007, pp. 108-128.
  • pp. 181-182 of Jerry Norman, Chinese (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988 / East Asian Library: Green Room, handbooks shelves).

12.  Bring your lecture notes of Peyraube's "Analytic/Isolating languages" (2 March) to class.

13.  Please read the new text, and bring your reading notes to class.

14. Can you spot anything remarkable about the publishing details printed on page ii?

15. How would you characterize the first paragraph of p. 108?

16. On pp. 109-111, tone is established as the main criterion for a division of Sinitic dialect groups. Are other criteria available?

To answer this question, please consult pp. 181-182 of Jerry Norman, Chinese (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988; on the East Asian Library's handbooks shelves).

17. Are the two tabels on p. 111 given in phonetic or phonemic transcription?

18. Please check if the overview of Peking Mandarin initials, finals and tones on p. 111 is complete.

19. On p. 113, the general lack of "形变" is described for Peking Mandarin. Can you name a productive morphological process in Peking Mandarin nonetheless? [note: check productive as a linguistic term]

20. The overview of Cantonese tones on p. 113 (lines 4-6) is followed by a number of examples.

(a) For speakers of Cantonese: please check if all 入声 tones that you can think of are covered in this overview.

  • If the answer is yes, please provide your own examples, citing free (not bound) forms only.
  • If the answer is no, please write down any missing tones, indicating their tonal values according to the five-point scale used in the text.

(b) For other participants: please make an inventory of all the 入声 tones given here. For each of these, please

  • give the tonal values according to the five-point scale used in the text;
  • cite the example, providing transcription, Chinese character, and English translation;
  • try to pronounce the example, and check your pronunciation with a Cantonese speaker.

21. In note 1 of p. 115, the original table quoted and reproduced here is supplemented by one extra possibility. Can you give more?

̄22. Please make sure that you understand all technical terms in the section on 六书 on p. 116.

23. Note that on p. 118, 《经上》is a typo for 《经说上》.

24. Page 122 describes the 尔雅 dictionary. Please indicate in which ways this dictionary differs from a modern Chinese dictionary.

25. On p. 124, please identify 王力 and 俞敏.

26. On p. 126, please identify 陈第. One of his most famous quotes is shown below; can you translate it?

week 6 (16 Mar 12)


Lingling and Meng-huan: since the third text is in Dutch, please email me (with Cc: to each other) to schedule an appointment to discuss its contents.


27.  We will continue with the 汉语 "Hànyǔ" text, starting from page 111 and assignment #18 above.

28.  Your next hand-in assignment (#29 below) will be about Chinese tones. The following steps will help you prepare:

  • Please bring assignment #29, printed on paper, to class on 16 March.
  • We will discuss your results and any remaining problems in class.
  • Final deadline to hand in this assignment is next week, at the beginning of class on Friday, 23 March.

29.  Hand-in assignment – Write a short essay entitled "Mandarin and Cantonese tones" explaining how the five Mandarin tones and the nine Cantonese tones are related.

week 7 (23 Mar 12)


You need to hand in assignment #29 at the beginning of class on Friday 23 March.

30.  As announced in class, please send me an email spotting any remaining questions in the 汉语 "Hànyǔ" text:

31.  Read Lǚ's text and bring your reading notes to class.

32.  Try to establish the social and academic context of this squib on the basis of the text: who is writing to who, for what reason, and from which position?

33.  Lǚ's account lists various Chinese etymons, all of which can be (or have been) written with a character containing 艮 gèn as a phonetic component.

On page 544-545, you will find

– a table summarizing data from traditional sources;

– a diagram summarizing Lǚ's analysis of those data;

– three conclusions.

In the first of his conclusions, Lǚ mentions an item which he identifies as "很2". However, no "很2" appears either in the table or in the diagram. What went wrong here?


week 1 (6 April)

NO CLASS (Good Friday break)

week 2 (13 April)

no class


Lǐ (2005)

李晓琪 Lí Xiǎoqí, 前言 "Qiányán" [Preface]. In: 现代汉语虚词讲义 Xiàndài Hànyǔ xūcí jiǎngyì [Lecture notes on function words in Modern Chinese], 1992, Vol. 5, pp. 364-370. 北京 Peking: 北京大学出版社, Běijīng Dāxué Chūbǎnshè, 2005, pp. 1-7



You need to hand in this assignment at the beginning of class on Friday 13 April.

  • Please explain what happened to Lǚ's mysterious "很2" in the context of assignment 33.
  • This time, your readership is a peer audience: MA students in Chinese Studies with linguistic interests.
  • You can assume that your reader has read Lǚ's (1987) article: please dive right in to explain what went wrong with "很2".
  • The attempt is more important than the solution. It does not matter if you cannot solve the riddle, but:
    • a) your linguistic transcription needs to distinguish between graphical form, phonological form and meaning; and
    • b) you need to illustrate to your reader how this three-way distinction is relevant to the problem at hand.
  • Maximum length is two pages, including the source reference for Lǚ (1987).

35.  Read Li's 前言 carefully. Please bring your reading notes to class.

updated 11 April 2012