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Understanding the Public Order in the Emerging Market Economy in China

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  • Zhu Suli
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    Suppose I could write fabulous Chinese prose but had absolutely no knowledge of Chinese grammar? Suppose I understood not a word of English and, indeed, had never even heard the language spoken? And, then, suppose that someone, somewhere presented me with a book written in eloquent and masterly English? Just what would be my reaction? It is probably fair to say that I would find "alphabetic letters" something of a mess and would find it equally hard to believe that their function was the same as our Chinese ideograms in a comprehensible word order. Perhaps, after repeated observations, I would be able gradually to realize that these different combinations of letters indeed followed a set of rules. If then I received some instruction in the language, learned the meanings of some of these words, began to recite vocabulary, and comprehended the meaning of simple sentences, I would soon realize that I could effectively convey basic thoughts and feelings, including, perhaps, some that I was unable to express in my native Chinese. (There is considerable truth in this statement, at least according to studies in linguistic philosophy and anthropology that indicate our basic feelings and conceptions are, in many ways, intimately related to our particular language, and, thus, in learning a new language we, in effect, acquire a new set of feelings. In this regard, recall Wittgenstein's comment that language is a kind of entire ethos of life). Having acquired the basics, suppose I was then able to master the grammar and syntax of English with its strict rules on structure and word order, all the while noticing that, in certain respects, English and Chinese shared a number of similaritiesâsubject-verb-noun order, for instanceâthough the differences were also apparent. English and Chinese are not, as some suggest, completely incompatible. Furthermore, I would no longer believe the old adage that "Chinese has no grammar," a view made popular ever since >i>Master Ma's Grammar>/i> (Mashi wentong).

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    Article provided by M.E. Sharpe, Inc. in its journal Chinese Economy.

    Volume (Year): 32 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 4 (July)
    Pages: 51-57

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    Handle: RePEc:mes:chinec:v:32:y:1999:i:4:p:51-57
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