Chinese language and the Silk Roads

Authored by: Barbara Meisterernst

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Applied Linguistics

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138650732
eBook ISBN: 9781315625157
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter will provide an overview of research on the position of Chinese in the multilingual environment of the Silk Roads. Almost none of the languages prevalent on the Silk Roads was genetically related to Chinese. They were either Indo-European, including Iranian languages, or Altaic languages; only the Tibetan language is of the same linguistic stock as the Chinese language. The linguistic situation on the Silk Roads is best represented by the manuscript findings from Dunhuang, Turfan and other oasis towns. Particular focus of this chapter will be on the cultural background of early translators of Buddhist texts into Chinese, the relevance of Chinese and Chinese education in the oasis towns of Dunhuang and Turfan and the role of the discovered manuscripts in the linguistic study of Chinese.

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