Classical Chinese grammar

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Classical Chinese grammar is the grammar of Classical Chinese, a language register which has certain characteristics which are quite different from many languages, especially ones with highly marked inflectional morphologies, and also compares and contrasts with the various particular grammars of modern vernacular Chinese, in various ways.


Further information: Classical Chinese lexicon

Classical Chinese is distinguished from written vernacular Chinese in its style, which appears extremely concise and compact to modern Chinese speakers, and to some extent in the use of different lexical items (vocabulary).[citation needed] An essay in Classical Chinese, for example, might use half as many Chinese characters as in vernacular Chinese to relate the same content.

In terms of conciseness and compactness, Classical Chinese rarely uses words composed of two Chinese characters; nearly all words are of one syllable only. This stands directly in contrast with modern Chinese dialects, in which two-syllable words are extremely common. This phenomenon exists, in part, because polysyllabic words evolved in Chinese to disambiguate homophones that result from sound changes. Similarly, Chinese has acquired many polysyllabic words in order to disambiguate monosyllabic words that sounded different in earlier forms of Chinese but identical in one region or another during later periods. Because Classical Chinese is based on the literary examples of ancient Chinese literature, it has almost none of the two-syllable words present in modern Chinese languages.


Classical Chinese has more pronouns compared to the modern vernacular. In particular, whereas Mandarin has one general character to refer to the first-person pronoun ("I"/"me"), Literary Chinese has several, many of which are used as part of honorific language (see Chinese honorifics), and several of which have different grammatical uses (first-person collective, first-person possessive, etc.).[citation needed]


In syntax, Classical Chinese is always ready to drop subjects, verbs, objects, etc. when their meaning is understood (pragmatically inferable). Also, words are not restrictively categorized into parts of speech: nouns used as verbs, adjectives used as nouns, and so on. There is no copula in Classical Chinese, "是" (pinyin: shì) is a copula in modern Chinese but in old Chinese it was originally a near demonstrative ("this"); the modern Chinese for "this" is "這" (pinyin: zhè).

Word order[edit]

The Classical Chinese word order is often the reverse of Mandarin; for example, Mandarin 饒恕 (pinyin: ráoshù, "forgive") is Classical 恕饒 ).[1] [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 鄭張尚芳 (2003). 上古音系. People's Republic of China: Shanghai Educational Publishing House. ISBN 9787532092444. Retrieved 2014-06-22. 
  2. ^ Maris Boyd Gillette (2000). Between Mecca and Beijing: modernization and consumption among urban Chinese Muslims. Stanford University Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-8047-3694-4. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  • 《新高中文言手册》 (1998年 北京华书)
  • 《新华字典》 (第10版)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]