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date: 19 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The Chinese language is relatively unusual for the combination of its writing system and morphosyllabic structure. It is often assumed to be a simple unitary language despite its being spoken in many places around the world. Drawing on research based on the analysis of 450 million characters of Chinese newspaper texts from several representative major speech communities, this chapter examines some basic and salient features of the Chinese language, starting with the important and distinct characteristics of graphic characters and words, especially with respect to threshold literacy. It also focuses on other lexical aspects, including part-of-speech fluidity, information content, and how the lexical trends and developments revealed by textual corpora could function as time capsules of culture and society. The considerable Pan-Chinese variations thus observed may suggest a phenomenon analogous to what is found in the English language across the Atlantic, and that between its other varieties spoken elsewhere.

Keywords: textual corpora, speech communities, lexical trends, Pan-Chinese variations, culture and society

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