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postgraduate thesis: Phoneticizing China : the politics of the pinyin reform movement

TitlePhoneticizing China : the politics of the pinyin reform movement
Authors
Issue Date2013
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Dong, Y. [董宇飛]. (2013). Phoneticizing China : the politics of the pinyin reform movement. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5295531
AbstractThis thesis provides a historical review of the theoretical and practical influence of Protestant missionaries on the late Qing Chinese language reformers. The origins of the language reform movement have always been concealed in historical records. The missionaries’ contribution to this movement has almost entirely been forgotten. With a focus on the key figures in the language reform movement, including W.A. P. Martin, John Macgowan, Joseph Edkins, Lu Zhuangzhang, and Wang Bingyao, this thesis attempts to demonstrate the similarities between the missionaries’ views on the Chinese language and those of their Chinese assistants. The Chinese reformers’ imitations of the missionaries’ language experiments are also outlined. In the historical context of late Qing China, the Chinese reformers made language reform a way of enhancing the national strength of China. Thus, they made modifications to the original Romanized system and invented their own written forms of phonetic characters. With reference to the collaborations between China and the West, the thesis emphasizes Western influence as one of the crucial aspects of the origin of the language reform movement in China. This movement is still ongoing today with the widespread use of the pinyin input method in computers and smartphones. The thesis is divided into two chapters, analysing both the theoretical and the practical dimensions of language reform. It demonstrates how the missionaries’ critique of the perceived defects of the Chinese language and their practice of changing the linguistic situation in China strongly affected the views and practice of the Chinese reformers. It also offers a critical analysis of the Chinese reformers’ rationale, including their eagerness to advance the modernity of China. The first chapter discusses their views on the defects of the Chinese language in terms of its ideographic features, chaotic grammatical structure, and the discrepancy between speech and writing; it examines how their statements, proposals, and debates on these issues amounted to a discursive formation that defined the classical Chinese language as an inadequate instrument for China’s modernization project. I argue that the Chinese reformers accepted the missionaries’ phonocentric critique of the Chinese language and recognized the need to reform it in order to revitalize Chinese civilization. Through an examination of the genealogy of the missionaries’ influence on the practice of the early Chinese language reformers, particularly Lu Zhuangzhang and Wang Bingyao, I argue in the second chapter that the early stage of language reform in China sought its embodiment in the missionaries’ language practice: it was carried out through a combination of defence, argument, and negotiation between the Chinese reformers and the missionaries, eventually resulting in a compromise between reforming the language and preserving the cultural essence of China. With the knowledge and institutions that had been produced, the reformers’ final objective was to increase the literacy rate of the Chinese population, as this would thus strengthen the power of China as a modern nation-state. Finally, by revisiting the historical contribution of the late Qing language reformers, I argue that language reform in China is an unfinished project.
DegreeMaster of Philosophy
SubjectChinese language - Reform - History
Chinese language - Modern Chinese, 1919- - Phonetics
Dept/ProgramEnglish
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/212641

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorDong, Yufei-
dc.contributor.author董宇飛-
dc.date.accessioned2015-07-24T23:11:20Z-
dc.date.available2015-07-24T23:11:20Z-
dc.date.issued2013-
dc.identifier.citationDong, Y. [董宇飛]. (2013). Phoneticizing China : the politics of the pinyin reform movement. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5295531-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/212641-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis provides a historical review of the theoretical and practical influence of Protestant missionaries on the late Qing Chinese language reformers. The origins of the language reform movement have always been concealed in historical records. The missionaries’ contribution to this movement has almost entirely been forgotten. With a focus on the key figures in the language reform movement, including W.A. P. Martin, John Macgowan, Joseph Edkins, Lu Zhuangzhang, and Wang Bingyao, this thesis attempts to demonstrate the similarities between the missionaries’ views on the Chinese language and those of their Chinese assistants. The Chinese reformers’ imitations of the missionaries’ language experiments are also outlined. In the historical context of late Qing China, the Chinese reformers made language reform a way of enhancing the national strength of China. Thus, they made modifications to the original Romanized system and invented their own written forms of phonetic characters. With reference to the collaborations between China and the West, the thesis emphasizes Western influence as one of the crucial aspects of the origin of the language reform movement in China. This movement is still ongoing today with the widespread use of the pinyin input method in computers and smartphones. The thesis is divided into two chapters, analysing both the theoretical and the practical dimensions of language reform. It demonstrates how the missionaries’ critique of the perceived defects of the Chinese language and their practice of changing the linguistic situation in China strongly affected the views and practice of the Chinese reformers. It also offers a critical analysis of the Chinese reformers’ rationale, including their eagerness to advance the modernity of China. The first chapter discusses their views on the defects of the Chinese language in terms of its ideographic features, chaotic grammatical structure, and the discrepancy between speech and writing; it examines how their statements, proposals, and debates on these issues amounted to a discursive formation that defined the classical Chinese language as an inadequate instrument for China’s modernization project. I argue that the Chinese reformers accepted the missionaries’ phonocentric critique of the Chinese language and recognized the need to reform it in order to revitalize Chinese civilization. Through an examination of the genealogy of the missionaries’ influence on the practice of the early Chinese language reformers, particularly Lu Zhuangzhang and Wang Bingyao, I argue in the second chapter that the early stage of language reform in China sought its embodiment in the missionaries’ language practice: it was carried out through a combination of defence, argument, and negotiation between the Chinese reformers and the missionaries, eventually resulting in a compromise between reforming the language and preserving the cultural essence of China. With the knowledge and institutions that had been produced, the reformers’ final objective was to increase the literacy rate of the Chinese population, as this would thus strengthen the power of China as a modern nation-state. Finally, by revisiting the historical contribution of the late Qing language reformers, I argue that language reform in China is an unfinished project.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshChinese language - Reform - History-
dc.subject.lcshChinese language - Modern Chinese, 1919- - Phonetics-
dc.titlePhoneticizing China : the politics of the pinyin reform movement-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5295531-
dc.description.thesisnameMaster of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelMaster-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEnglish-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b5295531-

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