John DeFrancis, *The Chinese. Language: Fact and Fantasy*. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii. Press, ). Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Page 5. Page 6. Page 7. The Chinese Language has 65 ratings and 11 reviews. Christopher said: THE CHINESE LANGUAGE: Fact and Fantasy, by the legendary pedagogue of. title: The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy author: DeFrancis, John. publisher: University of Hawaii Press isbn10 | asin: print isbn

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The Chinese language. Fact and fantasy | Robert Saussure –

fanhasy Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Fact and Fantasy by John DeFrancis. Describes some of the concepts underlying the Chinese language and writing system, and gives the author’s position on a number of ideas about the language. Paperbackpages. To see what your friends thought of this languae, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about The Chinese Languageplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Jul 24, Christopher rated it really liked it. Fact and Fantasy, by the legendary pedagogue of Chinese John DeFrancis, is an imprecisely titled book. What DeFrancis seeks to show here is that the Chinese character writing system is inefficient, defranfis, and detrimental to mass literacy.

DeFrancis begins with an introductory essay which he later revealed to be a joke about a World War II committee of Asian scholars attempting to facy a character-based writing system for Western peoples once they were subjugated by the unstoppable Japanese.

After this brief piece, the reader will already defrancia that characters are unsuitable for most cyinese the world’s languages. In the second part, DeFrancis tries to reach a conclusion on what exactly characters are, as diverse terminology from “pictograph” to “ideograph” has been used. The third part, “Demythifying Chinese Characters” is the real meat of the book. While hard to believe now, in previous centuries European intellectuals were enamoured gact characters and even called them a universal writing system.

DeFrancis slays the universality myth, and the closely related emulatability myth, mainly based sefrancis the fact that literacy is so hard to acheive, as well as on the fact that no phonetic information can be had.

The idea that Chinese is monosyllabic is shown as a myth, since the spoken language has and depends upon polysyllabic constructions to avoid redundacy and only in the thoroughly artificial written language could one see monosyllabism. The myth that characters are indispensable is revealed, since pinyin works well once the spoken language is used as a basis for writing, and only the use of an artificial literary language hampers alphabetization.


Students of Chinese will already understand this, for reading a transcript of a conversation in pinyin presents little confusion.

Finally, if anyone out degrancis really still believes that characters could be successul, DeFrancis shows how terrible their impact has been on mass literacy in China compared to Japan.

An interesting aside in this chapter is that even Japanese literacy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The fourth and final part discusses historical steps for reform of the spoken and written languages.

Some knowledge of Chinese, ideally Mandarin Putonghua is necessary to fully enjoy this book, although DeFrancis tries hard to make it accessible to fantasyy general audience.

DeFrancis was one of the great Western scholars of Chinese, and from a three-year sojourn in China in his youth he had a great love of the Chinese people and their culture.

The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy – Wikipedia

If he argues against the use of characters, his opinions are worth hearing out, and students and scholars of Chinese may be quite interested by this work. I can’t understand why my professor recommended this book for me.

It’s outdated, presents a very narrow-minded view on Chinese language apparently though written annd an expert? It was almost painful to read it and I had to skip over a lot of unnecessary and repetitive ramblings.

The Chinese language : fact and fantasy

Merely the chapters about the Chinese language and writing reforms were very informative and gave a nice overview. If I can’t understand why my professor recommended this book for me. This book isn’t at all suitable for sinologists and linguists. Jan 21, Owlseyes marked it as to-read Shelves: The story of pinyin One country, two systems The coexistence of pinyin and Chinese characters highlights the role of emotion in language decisions Jan 21st in: Dec 17, Jeremy rated it it was amazing.

Fundamentally changed my perception of the Chinese language. View all 10 comments. Jul 19, Robert rated it really liked it. I read this as a sort of introductory guide languabe the Chinese language, which sounds like it would be both fun and impossibly difficult for me to learn.

Also includes some history of the Chinese language, and recent efforts to reform it, from the perspective defracnis an author writing in It would have been nice to have had an updated epilogue that outlined subsequent developments in Chinese language reform. The introductory essay “The Singlish Affair” was also entertaining. Sep 05, Judy rated it defrancie it Shelves: This book will be of interest only to those who want to dig into the linguistics of Chinese.

For people andd Chinese it might illuminate some of langauge problems you are having. It’s by one of the most prominent Chinese linguists of the last century, who in the first half of the book tackles and for the most part demolishes many of the myths about the Chinese language held both by outsiders and by Chinese scholars themselves.


I would have rated it higher if the second half hadn’t been so out of date. It consists mostly of discussions of the political history of the attempt to spread literacy in China, and the issues of the writing system–should the characters be replaced or at least supplemented by a phonetic system?

Written inthe whole discussion I believe has been or soon will be rendered obsolete by the widespread use of the internet and cell phones, for the way characters are input into computing devices is by typing phonetically. Once communication is mediated by computers, game over. Mar 20, Maria rated it it was ok.

The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy

A very enticing title for a pretty dry read. Also quite dated by now! Aug 12, Nick rated it liked it Shelves: Informative, but I felt some parts of the book dragged on and the author repeated his main ideas too many times.

Bram rated it really liked it Aug 15, Giedra rated it it was ok May 17, Jonathan rated it it was amazing Jan 26, Max rated it really liked it Apr 18, Jordan Kostelac rated it liked it Jul 03, Tony rated it did not like it Jan 02, S rated it it was ok Jan 15, Igor rated it it was amazing Jun 07, Tom rated it really liked it Mar 07, Shari rated it liked it Sep 18, Fan Zhen rated it liked it Nov 26, Dbaguti rated it really liked it Jul 31, Marta L rated it really liked it Mar 12, Dec 11, Ty Huard rated it it was amazing.

Matt rated it it was amazing Apr 27, Aug 20, Robert rated it liked it. Very interesting book if you’re into Chinese and linguistic histories. If not, don’t bother. Iamjane rated it it was ok Nov 08, Ariel rated it it was amazing Jan 18, Rob rated it it was amazing Jun 15, Yafen Shen rated it it was amazing Nov 17, Jimbotronic rated it it was ok Nov 09, Christohper rated it it was amazing Apr 13, Inappropriate book description 3 Aug 31, Books by John DeFrancis.

Trivia About The Chinese Langu No trivia or quizzes yet. Quotes from The Chinese Langu Emulating the operatic Mikado’s “object all sublime Anyone who believes Chinese characters to be a superior system of writing that can function as a universal script is condemned to complete the task of rendering the whole of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address into Singlish. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.