Throughout the world, hundreds of millions of people, Chinese and foreign, are learning a version of Chinese called Putonghua. Few students of this language are aware that the Chinese they are learning is not the naturally existing “language of the Chinese people” – for there never was such a thing – but is actually an artificially constructed hybrid form, a linguistic patchwork of compromises based upon many thorny linguistic, historical and political factors. Since the turn of the twentieth century a host of linguists and political leaders, from the radical intellectuals of the May Fourth Movement, to leaders such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, all fought linguistic wars to establish a national language for a linguistically fractured China. In the process, many radical proposals were put forth, such as abolishing the Chinese language itself and replacing it with Esperanto, and eradicating the Chinese characters in favor of an alphabetic script. This talk traces the story of China’s language unification project, the current language policy in China, and the pedagogical issues of teaching Chinese language and script in the 21st century era of cyberspace and the Internet.
David Moser holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan, with a major in Chinese Linguistics and Philosophy. He has been based in Beijing for over 25 years, active in academic and media circles.
Moser was a visiting scholar at Peking University in 1987-89, and a visiting professor for five years at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, where he taught courses in Translation Theory and Psycholinguistics. He is currently Associate Dean of the Yenching Academy at Peking University.
He appears often on BBC radio as a commentator on the daily program Business Matters, and is also a frequent China analyst on Al Jazeera television. Professor Moserhas worked at China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing as a program advisor, translator, and host, and continues to be active on Chinese television as a commentator in both Chinese and English on news shows such as CCTV Dialogue and World Insight.
Moser is author of the book A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language, published by Penguin, and is also a co-host of the Sinica Podcast, an influential China current affairs podcast widely listened to by journalists and China watchers throughout the world.
Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Dr. Adrian Thieret, Global Perspectives on Society Teaching Fellow.
This event is co-sponsored by the Global China Studies program.
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