Classical Chinese

I would like to suggest to integrate classical chinese into lingq. Not just as a course but as a seperate language. It’s just as Latin and Italian. This website offers great content for this:

Would be great if this could be added.


I have Chinese on my radar in a couple of years, after German. I hope to get there. Very interesting.

That would be amazing!

I would like it but there is a difference. Italian and Latin are two different languages. Like Modern and Ancient Greek, Classical and Modern Chinese are the same language. I’m not sure if they would add different stages of the languages. Would there be sufficient online dictionaries? Will the mini stories be available? Latin was added before the requirement that every new languages has to have mini stories. What do you think?

Why do you think so? I find that many people get confused by simple naming conventions. The fact that we call languages such as classical Chinese, Cantonese or Putonghua with a general common .denomination of “Chinese” doesn’t make them be closer to one another than languages that we choose to call with different terms, such as “Latin”, “Italian” or “Spanish”, usually simply because the parent language has more than one widely known and influential descendant.
Such a confusion results in a lot of misconceptions. It is not difficult to find YT videos about the “oldest languages” that fall for the same trap, considering that a language that is usually referred to with the same word, such as “Persian” or “Tamil” or “Greek” is older than others that are known by different denominations over time, as if that would make them automatically more understandable or less changed.

What I wanted to say is that Latin and Italian are two different languages. Not stages of the same language. Latin and Old Italian are two different languages in linguistics. Old Italian and Modern Italian are Italian. And you can notice that. Ancient Greek and Modern Greek are Greek. Italian and Spanish are different languages and not dialects of Latin. Languages change over time.

I understood that and that is exactly what I think is wrong. You still insist that everything called “Greek” is “the same language” just because it is called that way and everything that is not called Latin is another, just by virtue of the name. You say that “languages change over time” but you don’t apply the same idea to Greek or Chinese, simply based on the usual names. That is a contradiction. Greek and Chinese have changed just as Latin, naming conventions can’t change that.

And no, the idea you are propounding that “Latin is different from Italian/Spanish/French” but Putonghua is the same language as Wenyan and so on does not represent the scientific understanding in the matter

I’m talking about linguistics. Not about feelings. Latin is not a Romance language, Latin is an Italic language. It is not about the names, it is about the languages. Latin is still Latin. There are Old Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, Medieval Latin and Late Latin which are all Latin, belonging to the Italic language family which descend from Proto-Italic.

Classical Chinese did not even have tones originally. The syntaxis was different to modern Chinese. The vocabulary was mainly monosyllabic, now it is mainly bisyllabic.

Based on a criterium of mutual intelligibility, Classical Chinese and modern putonghua cannot be considered the same language, because Kongzi would not understand a modern day speaker nor viceversa without proper training.

There are just as many differences between Classical Chinese in the time of the Shijing or even the time of Confucius and modern putongua as there are between Latin and any romance language.

Old and Middle Chinese are still older forms of Modern Chinese in historical linguistics. Like Old and Middle English or Old and Middle High German are older forms of Modern English and Modern German. They are not intelligible for modern speakers but the same language.

So what objective criterium do Classical and Modern Chinese meet, to be considered as the same language, that Latin and romance languages do not meet?

Wow! A Ben Shapiro’s fan. That’s nice (*). What feelings and, especially, what linguistics are you talking about?
There are several criteria to distinguish languages and there’s not one that can be applied to Latin/Romance languages differently from Wenyan/Putonghgua, you are ony blindly applying preconceptions based on simple denomination.

(*) Just kidding! It’s really not nice at all

As an example of possible criteria, here are those used by Ethnologue:
There are other possible differentiations and there’s a difference between a synchronic (as in Ethnologue) and a diachronic (over time) characterization of what a language is.
The bottomline, however, is that it all depends on the criteria you use but you have to apply them equally. Just as in the case of those used by Ethnologue, there is no rational and linguistically accepted criterion (either synchronic or diachronic) that would apply differently to Wenyan/Modern Chinese languages and to Latin/Roman languages (as @Jokojoko83 has pointed out).
If you don’t agree, provide an example of one that does so, along with some source to back it up. Simple hand waving and Youtube slogans are not enough:

I know this is overkill but I can’t help addressing your misconceptions about language families, at least for others not to fall for them:
You think that Latin is “Italic”, whereas Romance languages are “Romance”. You seem to be supposing that those terms are mutually exclusive. By your “logic”, English would not be an Indo-European language and Proto-Germanic would not be Germanic.
The truth is that those terms come from a “family tree” model of language relationship and they refer to the chain of ancestor languages: English is a Germanic language and also Indo-European because it stems from Proto-Germanic which, in turn, is derived from PIE.
By the same token Italian, French, Spanish, … are Romance languages (because they are derived from Latin) and also Italic because their parent language derives from Proto-Italic, they are Indo-European languages as well.
Whether or not the parent language is considered to be part of the family it spawns (e.g., wether Latin is “Romance”) is a simple matter of convention and you can argue one way or another. At any rate, the exact same criterion would apply to decide whether Proto-Germanic is “Germanic”, or more relevant to this discussion, whether Old Chinese is Chinese.
Wenyan is based on Old Chinese but changed somewhat over time as it kept on being used as a literary language, just the same as Medieval Latin, there’s absolutely no difference in status, position in the language family tree or intelligibility between those two cases.

I’m not sure that this conversation about the difference of putonghua and wenyanwen leads anywhere. Let’s be more practical and talk about language learning. I study Chinese studies and we have to take classical chinese classes for three semesters because it’s quite different. The grammar, vocabulary is so different that many chinese cannot even explain it to me. Dictionaries are available for that and the website I mentioned above has plenty of stories with translations (we do not talk only of 60 but hundreds, probably thousands).

Assuming for a second that I could easily understand wenyanwen without adding other dictionaries or a new language to lingq. This would mean that I should be able to check the dictionary and understand the meaning of a given word immediatly. This wouldn’t be the case because these words have completely different meanings which changed over time. The main point to give consideration to is if it would help language learners. It could, but only with other dictionaries and a new language in the options could help not to econfuse these languages.

Another point which was mentioned above is that the tones and the pronounciation was different. It was different because a lot of it was based on Cantonse. The modern Cantonse is much more similar to wenyanwen than putonghua. The baihua (白话) movement where Chinese started to use vernacular language happened in the 20s of the last century. This means that wenyanwen needed to be learned by people who tried to become an official through the examination system keju (科举). This is reason enough for me to regard it as two different languages.

Yes, the main point is that you need a different language slot to learn Classical Chinese. I think this is a good idea. I tried to learn a bit back in the day but it is very hard if you use a traditional learning system. I’m sure Lingq would make the experience much more enjoyable and you’ve provided enough content to build upon. It would very nice to have this language available on Lingq

I agree. I think a gueded course with explanations such as “A First Course in Literary Chinese” is perfect to start with. This could easiliy be exported into lingq. I’m just wondering how the dictionaries could be imported because most dictionaries I know are either in books, only on other websites or on my phone (pleco).

Isn’t that copyrighted material? That would be a problem, I was thinking about free-domain texts which is what I thought you linked to above. Is there a good online dictionary that we can use?

The texts are not copyrighted and I think the dictionary on that website might work: Chinese Text Project Dictionary. The character look up would be important and the translations of primary English and secondary chinese would be great.