CHINESE LANGUAGE, The. Among the oldest of human scripts, the Chinese system of writing has had an astonishing effect upon the life and structure of the language itself. It has conditioned largely the development of both the native speech and the written form of the vernacular, making the acquisition of Chi nese one of the most easy, and yet the most difficult, in the linguistic field. There is, apart from syntax, virtually no grammar. From one point of view Chinese is the unaltered baby-talk of mankind, fixed, too early in its history, by writing. This, while allowing for endless de velopment in forms visible to the eye, has robbed the soil and closed the avenues of growth to what meets the ear. The whole language, spoken and written, consists of rudimentary monosyllables, each intended to represent a word or thing. It is true that these are often com bined to make compound words. Various other devices have been elaborated, which enlarge the powers of coneeption and expression, while ex panding the field of description. These verbal combinations, especially the compound writ ten forms, appeal powerfully to the mind through the eye. The striking characteristic in the Chinese and Turanian languages is the unchangeability of the root, the reverse of the case in Semitic and Aryan languages. The meaning of a word is determined, not by giving it a name as a °part of speech? nor by inflec tion, or terminology; but wholly by its place in the sentence. The same character may serve in manifold forms as noun, verb, adjective, ad verb or other part of. speech. To the native, or expert' scholar, this is not so difficult, for the notable device of using auxiliary words is constant and universal. There are hundreds of these words, which, having long served as more or less correct conceptions of things, according to their shape, size, use, nature or relation, act as so many ready-made agents of classification. The categories which they suggest or furnish enable the Chinese to extend the powers of both thought and language, and on perception of a new idea or object, at once to catalogue or classify the novelty, whether native or for eign, when first presented to the mind. Where we say 50 •head" of cattle, a "flock" of sheep, a "brace" of partridges, or a "spans of horses, a few tens of times, the Chinese employ these aids to memory and classification in hundreds of instances. It seems clear that, as concerning the luxuriance of the written characters and the comparative poverty of the sounds of the spoken vernacular, nature's law of compensation has been strikingly illustrated. Not a few sounds in vogue in ancient times — as for example, those in the classic poems and old rhyming dic tionaries show—have been lost; while of the written characters or logograms, at least 25,000 words are still in use, and the Great Dictionary of ICang Hi in the 18th century contains 44,449. It is quite possible, counting obsolete words and remembering the great demands made by the modern age, that 80,000 characters may be legiti inately'considered as in the Chinese repertoire. Since the recent revolutions and the establish ment of a republic, Chinese editors, writers and government departments have found in the word-coinages and character-combinations of the Japanese a rich addition to the resources of both speaker and penman in China. Beginning as early as 1870, the literary men of Japan, who used the script of China, and not a few of whom were at home in the Chinese classics, began, from the storehouse of the past, to mint new expressions for Occidental and modern ideas and things. These, after trial and long use, have been accepted in China. Thus a rich infusion of terms has come to reinforce the oldest of languages, with the newest of needed additions in a mighty nation, suddenly brought face to face with a new world of thought. In neither case has any modification of the syntax or structure of the two languages been sought or wrought. There are many written forms, or styles, of writing, six at least of these being long and widely recognized. While this shows the copiousness of the language, as it issues from the it does but reveal also the poverty of vocables in the native speech. There is no common language of the lips in the Chinese republic, nor is there the verbal unity, such as exists even in Russia. A linguistic map of China would suggest a crazy quilt, lacking all unity. The °mandarin dialect,* so-called, comes nearest to being a standard spoken language, and possibly offers a ground plan, on which the hoped-for future linguistic unity of the Chinese republic may become a possibility. This
speech of educated men, especially of officials and those who travel,. has even been under lit erary cultivation and an excellent medium of thought. Hardest of all for foreigners is the mastery of the "tones.' By means of the device of uttering the same sound in various vocal forms, depending chiefly on pitch, the same word or sentence is made to bear widely differ ent meanings and to effect varied purposes. Yet this is one of the devices tending to pauperize the spoken language, even while eking out the popular resources of sound, and to expand the written language. With a stick on the sand or earth, or with pencil or paper, educated natives of various lands, under the Chinese world of culture, can converse all day; even when the opening of their lips means instant confusion, the eye, in this case, having supreme advantage over the ear. The writer has often been amused, while aniong his Oriental friends, at the discussions consequent upon his interro gations put to them. Controversy might run high owing to the paucity of sounds and the very large number of homophones (from five to a thousand, or more, characters, to express one sound). When no pen, pencil, blackboard and chalk, stick and earth were at hand, under standing and final settlement were readied by using the forefinger of one hand as the chalk, and the palm of the other as the blackboard, so to speak, in order to give something like graphic visibility to the argument or answer. One can quickly tell what a spoken word means, when he sees the characters with which it is written, but otherwise has more or less difficulty. Some amusing blunders in foreign books, especially those of tourists, have arisen from lack of knowledge of the• ideograph. To reduce the mass of written words into categories of thought, the ancient tables of 514 radicals, or root-ideas, have been grouped under 214 heads. knowing these—and every mature pupil is expectepi to have them by heart —a bright learner quickly discerns in a new .character the basic idea. Then, according to his education, culture, imagination and experience, he can rec ognize a meaning new or old, or dissect a sen tence. Such knowledge serves very much, as with us, as a classical education does helping one to dissect new or unfamiliar words. Un doubtedly, in its origins, the Chinese language was hieroglyphic, each character being meant for a picture of the object represented— as in the, still recognizable forms for moon, sun, field, etc. Ages ago, however, all such vestiges passed from sight. The invention of the hair pencil, in place of the stiff stylus, and the necessity of holding the pen and paper in the manner now common, revolutionized the old form of script. The 'grass character' or running hand, completed the separation of idea and form. There is thus no alphabet in China, though in modern days 26 or more characters have been selected and are used arbitrarily for their phonetic value only and chiefly to trans literate foreign names. In modern days, also, some progress has been made, chiefly by mis sionaries, in Romanizing the colloquial in vari ous provinces. Among prominent educators, chiefly American, plans are under way for a reform of the diversified scripts of China, Korea and Japan. While all three have a common basis of inheritance and culture, yet they differ in their written forms. The three ways of expressing thought, in writing are thus found in adjoining countries,— the i , or logo gram (China); the syllable (Jaw) • and the true phonetic sign, or alphabet (Korea). There seems no insurmountable obstacle— while leav ing the vernaculars of the three countries un touched— toward the creation of mie standard system of writing, as in most of Europe, for all the lands which value the Chinese inherit ance.
Bibliography.-- Hirth, (Notes on the Chi nese Documentary Style' (2d ed., 1909) ; Marsh man, 'Clavis (Serampore 1814) ; Pre mare, 'Notitia Sinicie' (Malacca 1831; Eng. trans., by Bridgman, Canton 1847) the grammars of Martin (Shanghai 1863), Julien (Paris 1870) and Schott (Berlin 1857) ; the dic tionaries of Giles (Shanghai 1892; 2d ed., 1912), Eitel-Genithr (Hongkong 1910), and Watters, on the Chinese Language' (Shanghai 1889).
Eu.ior GRIFFIS, Author of (China's Story in Myth, Legend, etc.>