MA in Chinese Studies 2012-2013


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 |
BLOCK 4: week 1 | week 2 | week 3 | week 4 | week 5 | week 6 | week 7 |
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week 1 (4 Feb 13)


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.

Library introduction (6 Feb 13)

3.  As a complimentary service, a introduction of Chinese linguistic literature will be held on Wednesday 6 February. Participation is not compulsory, but you are most welcome to join in.

Time: 2:15pm

Location: East Asian Library, Green Room

Note that since this tour is intended for BA2 students, it will be conducted in Dutch.

week 2 (11 Feb 13)


4.  This week, we are joining the linguistics event "In het teken van taal" at the KNAW (Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences).

This event is organized at the occasion of the presentation of the 2013 De la Court Prize to Bram Jagersma.

Details about the program can be found at the KNAW Agenda page. Please make sure to sign up in advance.

The venue is at the Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29, 1011 JV Amsterdam.

From Amsterdam Central Station, this either a ten-minutes walk (see map); or you can ride one stop on the subway, descending at Nieuwmarkt station.

week 3 (18 Feb 13)


Chao (1968, 1980)a


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

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

week 4 (25 Feb 13)


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.


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

8.  Listen to last Thursday's edition of the BBC Worldservice program World Briefing. An mp3 file can be found here.

At 16'37", there is an item about Bó Xīlái.

Listen carefully to the way this Chinese name is pronounced, first by the announcer, and then by the reporter.

(a) Now try to transcribe these two non-native pronunciations as precisely as possible in IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet.

(b) Also transcribe a native Mandarin pronunciation of this name in IPA.

Hints: see the IPA charts.

week 5 (4 March 13)

  • Chao (1959, 2002)

  • Chao (1968)

    "Abbreviated Characters", pp. xxv-xxvii of Yuen Ren Chao, A grammar of spoken Chinese. Berkeley: University of Califormia Press, 1968.

    Note: you will find a copy of this work on the handbook shelves in the East Asian Library, under number L 7 C 10.

  • 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.

Top: from Chao (1968: xxvii)

Bottom: from W. Simon, A Beginners’ Chinese-English Dictionary. Londen: Lund Humphries, 1947, p. 219.


  • Hand in assignment #8, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 4 March, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.
  • Always add full name, student number and date to your hand-in assignments.
  • If you need help typing IPA, have a look at the Gentium font and my suggestions for typing IPA. If this doesn't work for you, leave blank spaces in your typescript and write in these symbols by hand on your print-out.
  • 9.  Read "Abbreviated Characters" from (Chao 1968), and have a good look at the list on pp. xxvi-xxvii.

    a.  What is meant by "the newest abbreviations" (p. xxv)?

    b.  Did these "newest abbreviations" later become official in the People's Republic of China? – If so: when? If not: why not?

    c.  Give (at least) four examples of differences between 簡體字 and the list on pp. xxvi-xxvii.

    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.

    Ms Xiao Yu: since this text is in Dutch, please email me a.s.a.p. to schedule an appointment to discuss its contents.

    11.  Finish reading Chao's 第一講. We will discuss any remaining questions in class.

    12.  In this lecture, Yuen Ren Chao tells an anecdote about an old Chinese woman, and then adds the original German version of the story.

    a.  Summarize Chao point in your own words.

    b.  Make use of Saussure's original work to explain how Chao's point relates to the Saussurean notion of the signe.

    week 6 (11 March 13)


    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


  • Hand in assignment #12, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 11 March, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.
  • Always add full name, student number and date to your hand-in assignments.
  • Please note:

    • Your summary is intended for an academically interested audience which does not know any Chinese, and is not necessarily trained in linguistics.
    • Your summary need not quote each and every example from the story.
    • Please provide transcriptions and/or English translations for expressions from other languages wherever this is appropriate.
    • Small is beautiful : maximally three pages A4 with line spacing set at 1.5.

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

    BLOCK 4

    week 1 (25 March 13)


    1. Video

    Instruction: Consulting the 优酷/Youku link below should suffice for all assignments about this video.
    – Four short excerpts from the video are also provided as an extra.
    – These four files are in the MOV video format, which may run better on Mac operating systems than on Windows.
    – Installing the free VLC Player often helps to play MOV files smoothly on Windows.

    excerpts (MOV files, a few seconds each; see the instruction above!)
    潘家园免费摊位变收费 (2'18")    

    潘坤 Pān Kūn, 李昆 Lǐ Kūn

    TV channel





    市民 1   市民 2

    2. Text

    Leipzig Glossing Rules of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


    14.  Finish the last pages of 李晓琪 Lí Xiǎoqí's 前言. Please bring any remaining questions to class.

    15.  Please listen to the 优酷/Youku video link given above. Do not worry if you cannot understand everything. Your first task is to get a general picture of the context, and of the local issues reported here.

    a.  Write down what this report is about in (maximally) two English sentences.

    b.  Translate the title of the video into English.

    c.  Can you spot 潘家园 on the map?

    d.  What can you find out about the date of this report?

    16.  In linguistic work, examples are often quoted in three separate lines. The first line contains a transcription of the original utterance; the second line contains glosses, and the third line offers a running translation.

    If you are unfamiliar with this format, just check out the five examples on page 395 of "Purpose and effect in the transcription of Mandarin".

    Some details on the glosses in the second of these three lines are provided by the Leipzig Glossing Rules of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; but note that different conventions may apply in the description of different languages.

    Next time, this exercise will serve as a hand-in assignment. This time, please write out your text as carefully as possible so that any problems can be identified and discussed in class.

    17.  Optional extra assignment: if you are getting the hang of this, you may also have a go at presenting the comments made by 市民 1 and 市民 2 in the same three-line format. Please keep these transcripts for later reference.

    week 2 (1 April 13)

    NO CLASS (Eastern)

    week 3 (8 April 13)

    no class

    week 4 (15 Apr 13)


    Reading notes

  • Hand in assignment #16 [with one difference, see below], printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 15 April, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.
  • Always add full name, student number and date to your hand-in assignments.
  • Please note: instead of 摊主 1 and to 摊主 2, your transcriptions must represent the utterances spoken by 市民 1 and 市民 2.

    18.  Read Sūn e.a. (2007) pp. 108-128. Please bring your reading notes to class.

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

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

    21. 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).

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

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

    24. 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 the meaning of productive as a linguistic term]

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

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

    (b) If not: please make an inventory of all the 入声 tones given here. For each of these, please

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

    ̄27. Please make sure that you understand all technical terms in the section on 六书 on p. 116.

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

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

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

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

    32.  uSis Registration: Please note that in order to receive a grade for this course at the end of this term, you have to register in uSis with "5174KCH15R" before 12 May.

    week 5 (22 April)


    33.  Please finish reading Sūn's 汉语 "Hànyǔ" chapter. We will pick up the text from page 113; see assignment 25.

    34.  On the meaning of 行用 on p. 108, I have added a reading note.


    On Monday, 22 April, in the second hour of class, a short oral presentation will be expected of you, explaining in your own words how the 反切 system works.


    Points of consideration:

    • your presentation will be in English
    • maximum duration is ten minutes – please time yourself in preparation!
    • your target audience is an intelligent and interested lay person; fellow students from the Chinese and/or Japanese Department may be invited to listen in.
    • in your explanation of the 反切 system, please consider that nur das Beispiel führt zum Licht, vieles Reden tut es nicht
    • a short handout for the audience will probably come in handy, because it will save you time writing on the blackboard (please prepare 10 copies)
    • powerpoints are allowed, but only after prior consulation (over email) – also note that setting up your system will cut into your ten minutes!

    week 6 (29 April)


    36.  Read "What is Occam's Razor?" from the Weburbia website. Please bring your reading notes to class.

    37.  Please finish reading Sūn's 汉语 "Hànyǔ" chapter. We will discuss assignments 29-31 above.

    38.  Reconsider and compare the two diagrams on pp. 114-115. In the second diagram, each of the terms 名词, 动词 and 形容词 in the bottom row are connected with the term 谓语 in the top row.

    a.  Give examples from spoken Mandarin for each of these lines.

    b.  For each of the three sentences, please provide two analyses: (1) one which introduces a deleted element, and (2) the other without consideration of any deleted element.

    c.  For each of these six analyses, determine which ones conform with Occam's Razor.

    d.  Explain whether, or to what extent, the diagram on p. 115 conforms with Occam's Razor.

    39.  Read Wiedenhof (1995) pp. 62-73. Please bring your reading notes to class.

    40.  In the light of the discussion of Occam's Razor, determine whether the application of this principle precludes an analysis of as a verb 'not to be' – and if so, how.

    41.  Try to spot and correct the Pinyin transcription error in example 5.11.

    week 7 (6 May)


  • Hand in assignment #38, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 6 May, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.
  • Always add full name, student number and date to your hand-in assignments.
  • 42.  Read Lǚ's text. Please bring your reading notes to class.

    43.  Consider the account given in Lǚ (1987) on 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) a table summarizing data from traditional sources;

    (b) a diagram summarizing Lǚ's analysis of those data;

    (c) 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.

    Find out what went wrong here. Please

    a.  correct the error(s), and

    b  provide arguments indicating why your textual correction(s) represent what Lǚ must have intended.

    updated 1 May 2013