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Anatomy of Chinese [Hardcover]

Perry Link

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Book Description

8 Feb 2013 0674066022 978-0674066021
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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Product Description


In "An Anatomy of Chinese," Perry Link has made a fascinating discovery that those who are literate in Chinese are subliminally aware of, but which he is the first to make explicit in a lucid and illuminating fashion. Link brings aspects of the Chinese language innate cadences, prosody to the surface and analyzes them in such a fashion that we come to understand the structure and genius of Chinese better than ever before. It is a captivating and ingenious tale that the author spins.--Victor Mair, University of Pennsylvania"

About the Author

Perry Link is retired from a career teaching at Princeton University and now is Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines at the University of California, Riverside. He publishes on Chinese language, literature, and cultural history, and also writes and speaks on human rights in China.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book makes me think about my native language in a fun way 30 Sep 2013
By chenji - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a native Chinese speaker, I need to translate documents between Chinese and English in my work from time to time, but I never realized how rhythms, rhymes, and metaphors have played such important roles in Chinese language. I just feel some speech/writing good or not so good unconsciously, taking the Wuyan, Qiyan for granted, now I know why and will be appreciating contents in Chinese with more awareness on rhythms, rhymes, and metaphors, trying to know more of the writer's intention behind. I will also try to use these techniques to improve my writing. In this aspect, this book gives me practical benefit.

From another perspective, I often introspect on the Chinese culture and why I have certain behaviors as a Chinese as opposed to western people that I meet, I read books on psychology, philosophy, etc. This book gives me additional food for thought in putting my introspection into context. Now I have more puzzle pieces at hand, from psychology to language, I have a better feel on what the solved puzzle will look like. Now I come closer to know why am I thinking in a certain way, why other people around me are thinking in a certain way, why I'm expressing myself in a certain way, why other people are speaking in a certain way to me, etc.

I enjoy reading this book, enjoy great examples that are taken right from authentic life of Chinese people, I enjoy this book even more because of its thought provoking quality.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What to get for the Chinese-speaker on your holiday gift list 5 Nov 2013
By John J. Tkacik Jr. - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"An Anatomy of Chinese - Rhythm, Metaphor and Politics," is a beautifully structured work with sparkling insights and tingling wit which causes me everlasting regret that I could not have it 40 years ago when I first embarked on the study of the language (. . . or maybe 35 years ago when I would have appreciated it even more than a beginner).

Professor Link's book should be required reading for any student of Chinese beyond the beginner's level and will illuminate China's rich language and literature for any non-native Chinese speaker. It is also essential reading for any analyst of current Chinese politics and/or economics.

And, of course, it is delightful to read. It will be a cherished and much-appreciated gift to that Chinese language student on your holiday gift list.
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