Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics

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Languages and Language Families
(4,968 words)

1. What Is a Language?

The Chinese linguistic terminology for languages and dialects is to some degree incommensurable with the usual foreign translations. Yǔyán 語言, usually translated as ‘language’, actually corresponds to what is better called macrolanguage; this is due to the fact that Chinese itself, with its shared history, culture, logographic writing system and its millennia of divergence, is regarded as one yǔyán in China, whereas the normal ling…

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David BRADLEY, “Languages and Language Families”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 21 March 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000219>
First published online: 2015

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