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Dialectical views required to assess Europeanization of mandarin

Author  :  ZHANG CHUNHAI, ZHAO LU     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-10-09

While admitting the positive aspects of Europeanization, it is essential to maintain the healthy ecology of Chinese, so this linguistic phenomenon does not go too far.

The Europeanization of mandarin is a grammatical phenomenon caused by the impact of Indo-European languages. In recent years, scholars have focused on the characteristics of Europeanized Chinese language expressions.

Grammar, vocabulary

As Western technology and culture flock into China, Western languages, especially English, have had an increasingly impact on the Chinese society and changed aspects of written mandarin.

Shen Xiaolong, a professor from the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Fudan University, said the most radical Europeanization of mandarin is the habit of organizing a sentence based on verbs. Also, modern Chinese grammar adopts the paradigm of English grammar, which analyzes sentences based on verbs. 

Shen said a system of paradigms and terminology with cultural perspectives drawn from Western research has been employed. After a century’s practice, the compatible and incompatible relationships between terminology and Chinese culture have become increasingly clear.

Chen Manhua, a professor from the School of Liberal Arts at the Renmin University of China, said scholars extensively discussed the Europeanization of grammar after the May Fourth movement in 1919. The Europeanization of grammar is mainly characterized by the clarification of subject, the reduction of topic sentences, changes in passive sentences, the increase in long attributive sentences, the emergence of appositive clauses, more parentheses in written language, new orders and increased prepositional phrases in the clauses of complex and compound sentences, and some specific sentence forms or expressions as result of the imitation of Western languages. 

Liu Limin, a professor from the College of Foreign Languages and Cultures at Sichuan university, said linguistic Europeanization is common in both translations and other form of original writings such as news reports. In addition to the language itself, Europeanization now also exists in communication practices, though these aspects are rarely mentioned. For example, in response to a compliment, Chinese people sometimes show modesty in the traditional way, but some also say “thank you” in Westerners’ style.

Controlling Europeanization

It is reasonable to say that the Europeanization injects new blood into mandarin, but on the other hand, it is essential to maintain the healthy ecology of Chinese and acknowledge the impact of Europeanization to avoid having this linguistic phenomenon going too far.

Liu said that modern science and technology, laws, and social civilization demand more clarity and accuracy in linguistic communication than ever before. The development of social culture has to some extent justified the Europeanization phenomenon. Inevitably, Europeanization brings negative effects. For example, some Europeanized mandarin speakers are more wordy, losing their original conciseness and thus become more awkward-sounding. “This kind of phenomenon is more common in translation, which tends to cause troubles in understanding. In addition, it will be harder for the younger generations to use elegant Chinese in the future if it is not properly guided,” Liu said. 

The Europeanization of mandarin is a natural result of the import of Western science, technology and culture. The linguistic phenomenon brings vitality to means of expression while to a large degree limiting the traditional methods of Chinese expression.

Shen said that from the perspective of cultural linguistics, the Chinese language is quite flexible in that it can express rigorous and complex ideas in Europeanized forms. However, Chinese is a high-context language, which means that a lot of compatible information is not formalized in words. In this aspect, Europeanization limited the Chinese means of expression based on short phrases. 

Facing this, Liu said Europeanization actually demonstrated the great flexibility and durability of mandarin, ensuring that it can both connect the past and link to the future. Adequate Europeanization promotes the efficiency of communication between China and the rest of the world in fields such as economy, science and culture. As for the negative impacts, the combined efforts of practitioners in the fields that will influence language such as education and media are required to guide people to distinguish the means of expression that actually decrease the strength, accuracy and clarity of Chinese expressions.




Editor: Yu Hui

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