Since the beginning of the XX century, when Western grammar was introduced into China, a heated debate has arisen on the causes of the lack of any grammatical study before then. Usually Chinese scholars have singled out as causes: the elementary structure of the Chinese language; the traditional educative system, which was organized just for a very narrow cultural elite and was based on learning by heart; the absence of contacts between Chinese and the languages of neighbouring populations. Nevertheless, many Chinese linguists have lately found out the “sprouts” of a native grammatical study. In order to correctly frame this topic, it is necessary to formulate a preliminary definition of what ‘grammar’ is, by pointing out its object, its method and its branches. Moreover, a comparison with two of the world’s most important traditions of grammatical studies, i.e. the European one and the Indian one, would make clearer the conditions under which what in Europe and in India was called ‘grammar’ could develop and why Chinese linguistics did not feature the same characteristics.

Yufa you meiyou? Le condizioni della nascita (o dell’assenza) dello studio grammaticale in Cina

PELLIN, TOMMASO
2008

Abstract

Since the beginning of the XX century, when Western grammar was introduced into China, a heated debate has arisen on the causes of the lack of any grammatical study before then. Usually Chinese scholars have singled out as causes: the elementary structure of the Chinese language; the traditional educative system, which was organized just for a very narrow cultural elite and was based on learning by heart; the absence of contacts between Chinese and the languages of neighbouring populations. Nevertheless, many Chinese linguists have lately found out the “sprouts” of a native grammatical study. In order to correctly frame this topic, it is necessary to formulate a preliminary definition of what ‘grammar’ is, by pointing out its object, its method and its branches. Moreover, a comparison with two of the world’s most important traditions of grammatical studies, i.e. the European one and the Indian one, would make clearer the conditions under which what in Europe and in India was called ‘grammar’ could develop and why Chinese linguistics did not feature the same characteristics.
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