With China's international status and influence being on the rise, Chinese language — a symbol of the peaceful national rise — has shouldered more responsibility of realizing the nation's ″going global″ strategy in recent years. However, Chinese journals face great challenges in disseminating Chinese culture and studies worldwide. Unlike English and many other Indo-European languages, Chinese language is the barrier to the comprehension of most non-Chinese native readers (NCNRs) even with a little knowledge of Chinese partly because of its grammar. Grammar is a set of rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words through its grammatical relations in any given natural language. Every language has its own means to express grammatical relations in language use, overtly and covertly. Overt ones are explicit grammatical markers. For example, English and other Indo-European languages use inflection such as prefix, suffix or vowel change to express different grammatical meanings such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, and mood. Chinese language, however, lacks inflection and therefore its grammatical categories are not expressed by overt grammatical means. Developed from pictograph, every Chinese character has already carried semantic meaning. It is difficult to select a certain character to express a prefix or suffix without the interruption of its character meaning. Furthermore, a single character can function both as a content word and a function word. For example, in the Chinese sentence ″wo shì yīgèxìng kāifàng de rén,″ the character ″xìng″ can be both a content word meaning ″sex″ and a suffix meaning ″property.″ When ″xìng″ is stressed, it refers to the former (I am a person of sexual openness); when it is unstressed, it refers to the latter (I am an open-minded person). The ambiguity is partly due to the lack of space between gèxìngkāifàng in writing, though in speaking the use of stress could clarify the meaning. Without inflectional transformation, Chinese has to rely on particles (e.g. conjunctions, clause relatives and prepositions) and word order. However, the position of Chinese particles in a sentence as well as their emergence in a sentence is not grammatically required and usually can be omitted. Examples are portmanteau phrases and four-character phrases that frequently appear in Chinese language, in which particles are often omitted for the sake of rhythm and parallel structures. Their causal relations or transitional relations can be inferred from the context or their idiomatic meanings. The principles of constructing Chinese sentences and phrases are somewhat similar to the growth of a bamboo, going straight forward in the order of temporal and spatial relations or of importance, without any need for conjunctions and relatives. However, a long bamboo-type coordinate sentence composed of minor sentences and clauses enjoys lesser clear grammatical logic than a tree type English complex sentence since the punctuation marks like commas in a Chinese long sentence are used randomly. The place and the number of commas used by an author are determined by the topics, or his/her personal style or likes and dislikes instead of grammatical rules. Often the rhythm plays a more important role in separating clauses and phrases than semantic meaning. Word order in Chinese is indeed a useful grammatical means to express grammatical relations. In such sentences as ″lái kèrén le (Here comes a guest)″ and ″kèrén lái le″ (The guest is coming),″ by using different word orders, Chinese sentences can express a definite or indefinite meaning without articles like English ″a/the.″ Yet word order is constrained by topics and contexts in Chinese as evidenced by the sentence ″zhècháng dàhuo, xiāofángduì xìngkuī laíde jíshí (Literally: It is lucky that the fire, the fire brigade came on time; Real meaning: It is lucky that the fire brigade came on time despite the heavy fire.)″ whose subject seems insignificant. Any language should make full use of overt grammatical forms to facilitate readers' comprehension. For lack of sufficient grammatical forms, Chinese users may make more mental efforts because they have to infer the grammatical relations between words and sentences when they receive and decode a piece of information, which entails more cognitive burden in reading comprehension. This poses a daunting challenge to NCNRs as they lack the Chinese language and culture context. Therefore, an attempt to increase overt grammatical markers in Chinese to ease the cognitive burden on international readers may be worthwhile. Detailed suggestions are as follows: 1) introduce an English space between words to decrease ambiguities such as ″gèxìnkāifàng″; 2) discourage the use of ellipsis in sentences where particles like ″de″ and ″di″ which indicate parts of speech, and function words like conjunctions and relatives are critical to the comprehension of grammatical relations; 3) ban on such sentence/clause types as sentences with no subjects, inverted sentences, compressed sentences, run-on sentences, portmanteau phrases and four-character phrases, and 4) decrease the use of metaphorical expressions with Chinese cultural characteristics. Above all, it is urgent to study Chinese grammar in written forms so as to benefit the NCNRs to read Chinese academic journals.
蔡基刚 张弘坤. 洪堡特语言哲学思想视野下的汉语学术期刊走出去研究[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2017, 3(5): 42-50.
Cai Jigang Zhang Hongkun. Chinese Academic Journals Going Global from the Perspective of Humboldt's Linguistic Philosophical Thought. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2017, 3(5): 42-50.