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Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy by John…

Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy (1984)

by John DeFrancis

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127394,816 (3.38)4



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I read the Amazon reviews, noticing that the negative and equivocal reviews were written by people who actually read Chinese with some degree of fluency, and realized that I don't need to read this book. So I skimmed. Assertions about the desirability of abolishing Chinese characters in favour of an alphabetical system, which is the burden of DeFrancis's argument, annoy me. Trying to read romanized Chinese text is as difficult as trying to read English text written in Chinese characters (you might call it a rebus format), and just as frustrating; not to mention the millennia of cultural heritage embodied in the characters which would be entirely lost to the world. Orwellian Newspeak is benign by comparison. DeFrancis begins his book with a shaggy-dog tale, a "joke" dozens of pages long and full of "corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative", in which the Japanese during WWII anticipate complete victory over the US and spearhead a committee to plan writing the English language in Chinese characters. It is highly ironic that he fails to comprehend that he wants to inflict the same kind of violence upon the Chinese language. ( )
  muumi | Mar 17, 2015 |
Great introduction and a well-grounded presentation of the facts (and the fantasies) about the Chinese language make this a must-read for Chinese learners. Gets a bit strident towards the end, though. ( )
  Audacity88 | Apr 5, 2012 |
The introduction is fantastic! ( )
1 vote mcandre | Jul 6, 2010 |
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