To early Europeans who encountered it, the Chinese language — with its use of tones, its lack of grammatical inflections for tense or number, and above all the seemingly picture-based writing system — seemed utterly unlike any language they were familiar with. Chinese society and government, administered by an educated elite chosen through competitive examinations, also seemed to be radically different from the societies of Europe.
The idea that the Chinese language was organized according to fundamentally different principles than other languages has continued to capture the imaginations of leading intellectual figures, Chinese and non-Chinese. How different is Chinese? Are the thought patterns of Chinese speakers profoundly affected by the nature of their language, or of its script?
These questions have continued to occupy both Chinese and non-Chinese thinkers down to the present day. They are also connected with ideas about the nature of human languages and the range of variation among them. This course will critically examine the history of these questions and the answers that have been proposed.
Course requirements include midterm and final examinations, group presentations, and two short research papers.
A 10-minute PowerPoint group presentation on the reading assignments with a 1-pg write-up (10%),1/2 to 1-pg weekly response papers on the assignment (20%), two 6-8 page papers (60%), and active participation and attendance (10%).
Undergraduates in History, Linguistics, and Asian Studies.
There are no prerequisites.
Lecture format twice a week for 90 minutes.