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Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (Paperback)

Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar (Paperback)
Author/Publisher: Charles N. Li, Sandra A. Thompson
Format: paperback
Emphasis: Grammar
Level: Beginning - Intermediate - Advanced
List Price: $35.95

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Detailed information
Editorial Reviews
D.C. Bennett, Bulletin of the School of Oriental/African Studies
"The text is very clearly written and the explanations of the meaning of particular constructions are perceptive. There are also useful summaries at the end of each chapter. The book will undoubtedly be of considerable use to students and teachers of Mandarin. It will also provide linguists with a wealth of information about the language and a large stock of well-chosen example sentences." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Paul Fu-Mien Yang, Journal of Asian Studies
"The volume. . . . will remain first for many years to come as a standard and comprehensive description of modern Chinese grammar. It is highly recommended to English-speaking students, teachers, and linguists as an indispensable reference work." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details
  • Paperback
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (April 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0520066103
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds.
  • Average Customer Review: based on 9 reviews.

Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Exceptional source, October 2, 2005

Reviewer: Nathan W. Laforce

The book describes Mandarin grammar very well. The explanations are a bit wordy, but understandable and the numerous examples are quite useful


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

A nice reference, July 12, 2004

Reviewer: Vladimir Menkov (Okanagan Valley, British Columbia)

True to the title, this is indeed a nice reference book on
Chinese grammar, something I would like to keep on my
bookshelf next to the dictionaries. It is easy to read,
at least for a student with some experience of reading
grammar books and a prior exposure to basic linguistic
terminology. A large number of both positive and negative
examples are helpful in making grammar rules easier to understand.

Now, two minor complaints. First, if the authors were to prepare
a new edition, I wish they had used page space a bit more
economically. It seems that by slightly tightening spacing
between the words in the examples, many examples that
now stretch to 2 or 3 lines could be compressed into one or two.
Doing this could significantly reduce the page count.

Or, even better, the freed space could be used to give
parallel text in Hanzi (Chinese characters) next to each
example. One would think that with moder typesetting that
would not be too complicated, unlike in 1981, when the book
first appeared. While Hanzi are not strictly necessary --
tone marks and Englsih translation of every word allows one to
look any word in a dictionary -- printing them next to the
examples would provide additional visiual cues to those
readers who already know their characters, and an additional
opportunity to learn useful characters (e.g., the three
different "-de" suffixes) "by osmosis" to those who are still


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Good supplementary reading, January 1, 2004
Reviewer: A reader
This is a good book for a student of Chinese at the high-intermediate level or above as a supplementary grammar. It's too long-winded and difficult to use as a practical look-up guide to help when you help forming a given sentence for your homework assignment. It's not a dictionary of grammar "how to's". The books by Yip and Rimmington are better for that.

Instead, it's good background reading on the "why's" of the language after you already know the "how to's". For example, you can read the chapter on aspect and gain a deeper understanding of the logic of why certain sentences work and others don't and where the subtleties lie. For this book is more of a scholarly, systematic analysis of Mandarin grammar than a "teach yourself" guide.

Li and Thompson are progressive rather than conservative in what they accept as sayable. Some sentences I've never come across in my several years of learning Mandarin. So I'm not surprised that some native speakers have called the grammar in this book wrong. The reason is that Li and Thompson haven't limited their grammar to reflect what's typical in Mandarin, but have tried to include what is POSSIBLE. They don't just include "standard Putonghua" but have included controversial uses and regional variations. In fact, Li and Thompson freely admit in their preface that some native speakers will disagree with some of the sentences in this book while other native speakers will disagree with other sentences. Mandarin has never been totally uniform and certain usages remain controversial and non-universal. I have often found textbooks disagreeing with each other. I also have found native speakers disagreeing with each other too.

As others have written, the tone of this book is scholarly, and not easily digestible, and there are no Chinese characters, only pinyin (but what's the problem with that? There is never any chance of mistaking one word for another since each Chinese word is translated into English). If you can live with these shortcomings, I recommend this book for more serious, academically-orientated students as a supplement to your other grammar books.


5 of 12 people found the following review helpful:

The book can only fool non-native speakers of Chinese, February 22, 2003

Reviewer: Yu-rui Liu (Taiwan)

As a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan, I found this book contains too much seemingly complicated rules. However, a little Sprachgefuehl(feeling for the tongue) led me to the conclusion that the rules and categories are hocus pocus, i.e., they do NOT reflect the actual way we speak the language. This is a serious problem, becuase linguistics is descriptive in nature. If the rules proposed in the book do not adequately reflect reality, then they are useless. I doubt if the example senteces were really secured from native speakers.

Non-native speakers might be dumbfounded by the apparent complexity of the book and think it is too scholarly. In fact, howver, they are only fooled into thinkning so because they are dealing with a subject they are not familiar with--Mandarin Chinese, in this case.


3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

brain pain, July 16, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
This is not for the regular student of Chinese. Too much
techno mumbo-jumbo. If you are a linguist, then good. Might
help with specific questions. I think the Routledge grammar
books are more usefull to the student. "Basic Chinese: A Grammar and Workbook" seems great so far. There are also "Chinese: An Essential Grammar" and "Intermediate Chinese: A Grammar and
Workbook". I hope to get the other two soon. I also looked
at "Practical Chinese Grammar" and it looks very good. It
is a companion to the "Practical Chinese Reader" series.
These other books seem to be a better place to learn from
than this heavy scholarly book.
Zain jian
Zhu Ni Hao yun


9 of 11 people found the following review helpful:

No chinese character, March 15, 2000

Reviewer: Pedro Osuna Alcalaya (Spain)

This does not pretend to be a review but just an advise for people like me who thought they would find any chinese characters inside this book: there are none. I bought the book to use it as a complement to my chinese studies but found to my absolute surprise that it doesn't contain even a single chinese character (except the ones in the front cover) making its study extremely difficult. I really appreciate the work the authors have done and I don't have anything to say about the book as such but I find it sad that the examples are written in romanized chinese instead of chinese characters. As this is not a compalint about the book but about the presentation, I'd rather not assign any stars to it.[...] Hmmmm..., it seems they force me to do so. Let me then be impartial and assign three...


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