Classical Chinese
(7,339 words)

1. Definition

Classical Chinese (CC), or Late Archaic Chinese (LAC), is the language that was used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century BCE. Changes at the syntactic and semantic level over subsequent centuries were only sporadically incorporated into the literary language, leading to a gradual separation between the colloquial and written languages. These are the circumstances that gave rise to wényán 文言 ‘cultivated language’, or ‘literary Chinese’ (see Names for the Chinese L…

Cite this page
Maurizio SCARPARI, “Classical Chinese”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 23 April 2017 <>
First published online: 2015

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