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2 - Unchangeable Roots

Fangyan and the Creation of a National Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Gina Anne Tam
Affiliation:
Trinity University, Texas
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Summary

Chapter 2 analyses how late-Qing and early-Republican period efforts to construct a Chinese national language shaped debates over the role of fangyan in the modern Chinese nation. As reformers debated how best to modernize their nation through language by drawing upon philological studies of their own and the Western criticisms of Chinese society explored in Chapter 1, two narratives emerged. Some elites proposed that, because fangyan were an indispensable part of the nation, the national language should represent these, their shared, historical core. Others, drawing on the examples of France and Japan, contended that one fangyan should be chosen as a national representative and others should be demoted to variant status. Although in 1925 a language based almost entirely on the phonology of Beijing was chosen as the bedrock of the national language, these failed proposals created a precedent for centering Chinese collective identity on fangyan and, as a result, a basis for envisioning a more heterogeneous notion of national belonging. From local village bureaucrats to textbook producers, fangyan were portrayed as “roots” of a shared past, critical to forming a basis for a shared ethnic and national community.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Unchangeable Roots
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.003
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  • Unchangeable Roots
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.003
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Unchangeable Roots
  • Gina Anne Tam, Trinity University, Texas
  • Book: Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960
  • Online publication: 28 February 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108776400.003
Available formats
×