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An Anatomy of Chinese: rhythm, metaphor,…
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An Anatomy of Chinese: rhythm, metaphor, politics

de Perry Link

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During the Cultural Revolution, Mao exhorted the Chinese people to "smash the four olds": old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas. Yet when the Red Guards in Tiananmen Square chanted "We want to see Chairman Mao," they unknowingly used a classical rhythm that dates back to the Han period and is the very embodiment of the four olds. An Anatomy of Chinese reveals how rhythms, conceptual metaphors, and political language convey time-honored meanings of which Chinese speakers themselves may not be consciously aware, and contributes to the ongoing debate over whether language shapes thought, or vice versa. Perry Link's inquiry into the workings of Chinese reveals convergences and divergences with English, most strikingly in the area of conceptual metaphor. Different spatial metaphors for consciousness, for instance, mean that English speakers wake up while speakers of Chinese wake across. Other underlying metaphors in the two languages are similar, lending support to theories that locate the origins of language in the brain. The distinction between daily-life language and official language has been unusually significant in contemporary China, and Link explores how ordinary citizens learn to play language games, artfully wielding officialese to advance their interests or defend themselves from others. Particularly provocative is Link's consideration of how Indo-European languages, with their preference for abstract nouns, generate philosophical puzzles that Chinese, with its preference for verbs, avoids. The mind-body problem that has plagued Western culture may be fundamentally less problematic for speakers of Chinese.… (més)
Membre:Bakhtin
Títol:An Anatomy of Chinese: rhythm, metaphor, politics
Autors:Perry Link
Informació:Publisher Unknown, 376 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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Etiquetes:stopped-reading

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An Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics de Perry Link

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might start over some day
  Bakhtin | Oct 27, 2018 |
Two-hundred-and-twenty years ago this month the British envoy to the Manchu Qing empire, Lord Macartney, reached the summer resort of Chengde northeast of Beijing and was granted an audience with the Qianlong emperor.

Hoping to open up trade, Macartney presented Qianlong with some of the finest products of Western ingenuity. The emperor asked many questions and commanded demonstrations, and his enquiries about a model of a British battleship betrayed an existing knowledge of foreign naval technology. He and his forefathers had already made use of the scientific and technological skills of Western missionaries to produce maps, to correct the aberrant Chinese calendar, and to cast improved cannon.

Yet Qianlong’s public response to Macartney was that he had no interest in Western technology since everything his empire needed could be found within its borders.

Although Princeton professor emeritus Perry Link’s Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics concentrates largely on modern times and in particular on thirty years of notes about Mandarin’s quirks, his analysis of guanhua or “official language” in which Chinese officials routinely announce what both they and their listeners know to be false, applies just as well to Qianlong’s response to Macartney.

No less inquisitive than the emperor about how things work, Professor Link dismantles and examines the mechanisms by which the modern rulers of China both consciously and unconsciously use language to club the populace into submission. There are important lessons here for all who travel or do business in China, or who merely read news reports about the country.

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The standard by which the rightness of official pronouncements is judged is not whether they are true or not, but whether they serve official interests or not. If understood properly guanhua is more reliable then ordinary mendacity as it at least reliably indicates not only what the speaker wants the listener to believe, but where the speaker’s interests lie.

For two centuries Macartney’s refusal to kowtow to the emperor has been blamed for his mission’s failure to establish trade relations, but in fact Qianlong’s public response was a fine example of guanhua, and had been written even before Macartney arrived. It identified Qianlong’s interests with those of his subjects and spurned any suggestion of Chinese inferiority that an interest in foreign technology might have suggested.

What Professor Link little touches on is how the gap between what is said and what is really thought has now spilled beyond politics into so many other spheres, as many tourists listening to their guides, or foreign businessmen who insist on taking contracts at face value, have learned to their cost.

It’s not Sun Zi’s Art of War they should be reading, but a book that reminds them that learning Mandarin is neither here nor there. But if they don’t understand guanhua they’ll never understand China.
afegit per peternh | editaThe Wall Street Journal, Peter Neville-Hadley (Web de pagament) (Sep 19, 2013)
 
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During the Cultural Revolution, Mao exhorted the Chinese people to "smash the four olds": old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas. Yet when the Red Guards in Tiananmen Square chanted "We want to see Chairman Mao," they unknowingly used a classical rhythm that dates back to the Han period and is the very embodiment of the four olds. An Anatomy of Chinese reveals how rhythms, conceptual metaphors, and political language convey time-honored meanings of which Chinese speakers themselves may not be consciously aware, and contributes to the ongoing debate over whether language shapes thought, or vice versa. Perry Link's inquiry into the workings of Chinese reveals convergences and divergences with English, most strikingly in the area of conceptual metaphor. Different spatial metaphors for consciousness, for instance, mean that English speakers wake up while speakers of Chinese wake across. Other underlying metaphors in the two languages are similar, lending support to theories that locate the origins of language in the brain. The distinction between daily-life language and official language has been unusually significant in contemporary China, and Link explores how ordinary citizens learn to play language games, artfully wielding officialese to advance their interests or defend themselves from others. Particularly provocative is Link's consideration of how Indo-European languages, with their preference for abstract nouns, generate philosophical puzzles that Chinese, with its preference for verbs, avoids. The mind-body problem that has plagued Western culture may be fundamentally less problematic for speakers of Chinese.

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