Chinese Language and Identity Research Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Communication - Language
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #97979356

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Chinese as the native language and culture to research. Include such information as the need to communicate, social organisation (tribes, cities, etc.) contacts with other cultures, development of a written language, nonverbal aspects of language (such as inflection and body language), changes over the centuries, etc.

Chinese culture and language

Chinese cultural values play an important role in shaping the community's social norms, with the majority of individuals in China being inclined to take on attitudes that are in accordance with their traditions. Chinese language needs to be understood as being much more than a dialect, as it has a strong socio-cultural effect on its speakers and as it affects individuals in a cognitive-linguistic way. The impact of such ideas on concepts such as people, families, and communities can be observed by addressing the way that they function with the language as a central model facilitating better connections between bodies.

This essay addresses the idea of language as having an important relationship with the psychology and heritage of the Chinese people. Cultural anthropology and developmental psychology are essential in being able to understand how Chinese can influence a person's thinking and how he or she is likely to start utilizing a great deal of traditions originating in China as a consequence of becoming fluent in the language.

II. History

Early representations of Chinese ideas were under the form of objects, and the first Chinese characters were pictures meant to resemble the object or concept their creator wanted to put across. These respective characters gradually became more sophisticated and eventually came to represent ideas rather than objects.

In order to be able to have a complex understanding of Chinese language, one would have to look at the numerous elements that are directly connected to it. Poetry, for example, is essential because of the way that it influenced individuals to address words with the purpose of creating a type of musicality -- a concept that would entertain others through the way it could be used as a melodic concept. "The earliest Chinese word for dance [wu] was a pictorial symbol depicting a dancing man with an ox tail in each of his hands." (Gu, 2011, p. 11) Pictographs were generally used with the intention to represent diverse ideas in dance and poetry. This, once again, proves the degree to which the Chinese came to use characters in an attempt to address other cultural concepts -- ideas that often seem to have nothing to do with language.

While most languages use letters or combinations of letters with the purpose of representing sounds, Chinese has not been built on such ideas. Instead, Chinese uses symbols designed to put across meanings and sounds that are meant to relate to meanings. "Although we still do not know exactly how long Chinese characters have been in existence, we do know that Chinese characters have had a history as a highly developed writing system for no less than 3,300 years." (The History of Chinese Characters, p. 1)

The earliest known representation of Chinese language has used:

Characters under the form of pictures

Characters intended to indicate ideas

Characters that one could understand associating with the multiple messages they expressed (in this case several characters were used)

Characters intended to explain ideas

Characters combining both sounds and pictures

Characters that have initially been intended to represent particular ideas but eventually came to be associated with others

Pictographic characters are relatively easy to understand, as especially after learning their meaning one is probable to consider them self-explanatory. The pictographic method has been adopted as one of the most important concepts behind the creation of the Chinese language. "The human body or body parts as well as things that can be observed in nature were depicted in simple drawings based on their most conspicuous and differentiated traits." (The History of Chinese Characters, p. 2) Indicative characters were designed to address more concept ideas that could not be represented by making use of pictographic characters. Characters intended to explain ideas were similar to associative characters, as they too used several pictographic and abstract signs with the purpose of explaining ideas.

While the pictographic method was initially recognized as the most effective method to develop language, Chinese thinking evolved steadily and started to adopt picto-phonetic characters as a means to provide a more complex description of objects and ideas. Most of the characters used in modern-day Chinese-speaking communities are considered to be picto-phonetic. Even with this, the significant progress seen in these respective communities during recent centuries has lead to many of these characters employing more complex concepts. Modern Chinese is believed to use less than 30% of its characters with the purpose of providing a phonetic pronunciation of each individual character.

III. Culture and identity

The Chinese language has a lot to do with feelings expressed throughout China during recent millennia. While most people are inclined to think about Mandarin when hearing about Chinese in general, the reality is that there are great deals of dialects in China. Mandarin is recognized because it is more common and especially because it is the most common language on the planet. The language is so complex that it is itself divided into several dialects depending on the region it is spoken in.

Communist authorities acknowledged the complex linguistic system in China and considered that it was in the people's best interest to attempt to simplify it, as doing so would enable individuals across the country to experience lesser barriers as they tried to come together.

"The promotion of Mandarin Chinese, starting in 1956, especially in government at the county and higher level, actually announced that Mandarin Chinese is the official language in China." (Wang, 2013, p. 51)

In order to emphasize how language is interconnected with Chinese culture, one must look into the country's recent economic development. Having become one of the most developed nations on the planet, China rapidly extended its influence over other cultures. This meant that Mandarin Chinese experienced even more popularity, only that this time it became popular in the international environment, with people starting to associate it with China in general. To a certain degree, speaking Mandarin Chinese is probable to assist individuals in being able to integrate Chinese-speaking communities more easily, thus meaning that businessmen dealing with Chinese peers have a privileged role in business dealings if they are familiarized with the country's language and culture. Furthermore, being acquainted with Chinese is also probable to assist a person in being able to become a more active part of the Chinese identity (Wang, 2013, p. 51).

IV. Heritage language

The idea of Heritage language might seem confusing to many, but this is largely due to the fact that it is relatively new in comparison to other terms that are used to describe dialects that are characteristic to particular communities and that are representative of these respective groups. In order to be able to understand it more efficiently, one can relate to more common terms used to describe such ideas, with 'mother tongue' or 'home language' being likely to trigger feelings of familiarity in individuals.

One of the best methods of trying to comprehend the idea of heritage language is to consider Chinese learners who are members of communities that speak non-Chinese as a consequence of being partly assimilated by other cultures. Chinese as a heritage language has been taught for several decades and even centuries, as teachers have acknowledge that it could assist individuals in experiencing a stronger connection to their roots. "As early as the nineteenth century, Cantonese classes were offered to children of early immigrants residing in Chinatowns in a number of larger U.S. cities such as San Francisco and New York." (Weiyun He & Xiao, 2008, p. 2) Language schools in the contemporary society have a great deal (hundreds of thousands) of Chinese-learning students and thus concentrate on providing information that is somewhat easier to understand as a consequence of its context. Teachers direct their efforts at presenting students with Chinese cultural values as a whole in addition to teaching them about the language itself (Weiyun He & Xiao, 2008, p. 2).

While simply gathering information provided to the student and trying to assimilate it as effectively as possible can eventually be enough to have a person experienced in a particular language, heritage language involves more complex ideas. "The HL learner brings with himself/herself a set of ambiguities and complications which are typically absent in the second or foreign language learner or mother tongue learner and which can be sources of both challenges and opportunities." (Weiyun He & Xiao, 2008, p. 2) Taking this into account, it seems less problematic to discuss Chinese culture and language in a framework involving non-Chinese speakers. Heritage language has learners accept the fact that they need to assimilate a great deal of information concerning the cultural background associated with the language they are interested in learning (Weiyun He & Xiao, 2008, p. 2).

V. Chinese -- the language behind…

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