Shemtov wrote: ↑
14 May 2020 10:47
On a similar note, does anyone know enough about the Chinese"dialects" to make a comparitive guide? I'm leaning Mandarin and have read about Cantonese, but I haven't been able to find a good overview of other Sinitic languages
I doubt anyone here knows, but I'd love to be surprised.
Also it is true that no good overviews of Sinitic at large exist, even in Mandarin, but this is largely because the varieties of Chinese in general continue to be heavily understudied, especially in terms of their grammar. Much more has been researched and documented about their synchronic and diachronic phonology and their content word lexicon. Note that although decent, very thick dictionaries of single content words of Cantonese, Shanghainese and Min Nan already existed by the 19th century, which were very helpful to early researchers of Middle and Old Chinese in the 1920s and 1930s like Bernhard Karlgren and Yuen Ren Chao, the first long grammatical monograph of Cantonese was not written until the 1990s ("an embarrassing gap considering the extensive related literature, which has now been finally resolved", said one academic review at the time), the first such work on Shanghainese not until the 2000s, and the first one on (Taiwanese) Min Nan not until the 2010s. IIRC the best existing overview of the grammar of a Hakka dialect is about 80 pages long...
Understanding about the grammar of most dialects continues to be confined to papers on very specific topics of specific dialects.
I sometimes wonder if this is an influence of grammar being less prominent, less obvious, in many ways less difficult to grapple with in highly isolating languages, so that people that get involved in Chinese linguistics tend to prefer to care about phonology or lexicography instead. It amuses me that more effort seems to have been made so far to scrape as much old Wu lexicon as possible out of Ming- and Qing-era vernacular literature than to study the grammar of Mao Zedong's old Gan dialect...