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Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar Paperback – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520066103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520066106
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 4.4 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,058,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Li and Thompson's book. . . is clearly ordered and convenient to consult."--"Journal of the American Oriental Society

About the Author

Charles N. Li is Professor of Linguistics and Chairperson, Linguistics Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. Sandra A. Thompson is Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. C. A. Edwards on 4 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
Contrary to the previous reviewer I find this book extremely helpful, though it will not be to everyone's taste. It is not a course book rather a reference (as the title indicates). The book is aimed both at linguists (I am not one) and mandarin language students (which I am). The explanations in the book are made in terms of the linguistic categories, and as such they are made more clearly than in books that shy away from linguistic terminology. In every case plenty of examples (and counter-examples) are provided. Readers unfamiliar or uncomfortable with such terminology will not like this book however.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maria on 3 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
Helpful for intermediate or advanced students. Only Pinyin, no Chinese characters are used, so be sure you have a complete dictionary by side if you want to improve your writing skills. Complete book with many examples.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 July 1998
Format: Paperback
I must say I was very disappointed with this weighty tome on Chinese grammar. It's authors insisted on quoting every previouse Chinese grammatician to such an extent that it proved difficult to read between the lines. Granted they try to cover a very difficult subject but the inclusion of 'wrong grammar' examples only further added to the confusion as I tried to read this. I am sure there is some useful information to be gained form this book, but be warned you will need a lot of patience. This is something I have not!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Good for syntacticians, poor for computational linguists 29 Jan. 2000
By L. Gerber - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have owned and used this book for about 6 years. The coverage is good, and there are detailed descriptions and discussion of each of the pheonomena covered. The greatest strength (for linguists) is the diagnostic tests used to demonstrate what lexical/grammatical category a word or phrase belongs in. The weaknesses are that a) it is not concise; b) everything is presented only in romanization; c) The descriptive terms are sometimes odd or outdated seeming. For example the chapter on "de" postverbal phrases has some long, strange title. To readers of current linguistic literature, these would more handily be classed as "resultative phrases" to capture the similarity with phenomena in many other languages. If you want a succinct reference/descriptive grammar (for example for developing computational linguistic applications) "Essential Chinese Grammar" by Yip and Rimmington is a better choice.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good supplementary reading 2 Jan. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a good book for a student of Chinese at the high-intermediate level or above as a supplementary grammar. It's too long-winded and difficult to use as a practical look-up guide to help when you help forming a given sentence for your homework assignment. It's not a dictionary of grammar "how to's". The books by Yip and Rimmington are better for that.
Instead, it's good background reading on the "why's" of the language after you already know the "how to's". For example, you can read the chapter on aspect and gain a deeper understanding of the logic of why certain sentences work and others don't and where the subtleties lie. For this book is more of a scholarly, systematic analysis of Mandarin grammar than a "teach yourself" guide.
Li and Thompson are progressive rather than conservative in what they accept as sayable. Some sentences I've never come across in my several years of learning Mandarin. So I'm not surprised that some native speakers have called the grammar in this book wrong. The reason is that Li and Thompson haven't limited their grammar to reflect what's typical in Mandarin, but have tried to include what is POSSIBLE. They don't just include "standard Putonghua" but have included controversial uses and regional variations. In fact, Li and Thompson freely admit in their preface that some native speakers will disagree with some of the sentences in this book while other native speakers will disagree with other sentences. Mandarin has never been totally uniform and certain usages remain controversial and non-universal. I have often found textbooks disagreeing with each other. I also have found native speakers disagreeing with each other too.
As others have written, the tone of this book is scholarly, and not easily digestible, and there are no Chinese characters, only pinyin (but what's the problem with that? There is never any chance of mistaking one word for another since each Chinese word is translated into English). If you can live with these shortcomings, I recommend this book for more serious, academically-orientated students as a supplement to your other grammar books.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A nice reference 12 July 2004
By Vladimir Menkov - Published on
Format: Paperback
True to the title, this is indeed a nice reference book on
Chinese grammar, something I would like to keep on my
bookshelf next to the dictionaries. It is easy to read,
at least for a student with some experience of reading
grammar books and a prior exposure to basic linguistic
terminology. A large number of both positive and negative
examples are helpful in making grammar rules easier to understand.
Now, two minor complaints. First, if the authors were to prepare
a new edition, I wish they had used page space a bit more
economically. It seems that by slightly tightening spacing
between the words in the examples, many examples that
now stretch to 2 or 3 lines could be compressed into one or two.
Doing this could significantly reduce the page count.
Or, even better, the freed space could be used to give
parallel text in Hanzi (Chinese characters) next to each
example. One would think that with moder typesetting that
would not be too complicated, unlike in 1981, when the book
first appeared. While Hanzi are not strictly necessary --
tone marks and Englsih translation of every word allows one to
look any word in a dictionary -- printing them next to the
examples would provide additional visiual cues to those
readers who already know their characters, and an additional
opportunity to learn useful characters (e.g., the three
different "-de" suffixes) "by osmosis" to those who are still
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
No chinese character 15 Mar. 2000
By Pedro Osuna Alcalaya - Published on
Format: Paperback
This does not pretend to be a review but just an advise for people like me who thought they would find any chinese characters inside this book: there are none. I bought the book to use it as a complement to my chinese studies but found to my absolute surprise that it doesn't contain even a single chinese character (except the ones in the front cover) making its study extremely difficult. I really appreciate the work the authors have done and I don't have anything to say about the book as such but I find it sad that the examples are written in romanized chinese instead of chinese characters. As this is not a compalint about the book but about the presentation, I'd rather not assign any stars to it.[...] Hmmmm..., it seems they force me to do so. Let me then be impartial and assign three...
lots of insights, but needs updating 12 July 2013
By dhydavid - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this is a standard grammar book. although many of the points made in the book have been challenged, the insights made by the authors are still quite enlightening. it would be nice to have a completely updated edition of it though.
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