RAS Lecture

Wooden Box

China’s Search for a Common Language: The Past and Future of Putonghua

Co-sponsored by The Hopkins China Forum

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.

Professor David Moser will present on 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.

David Moser has been based in Beijing for over 25 years, and 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. He is author of A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language (2016) published by Penguin, and is also a co-host of the Sinica Podcast. He holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Chinese Studies from the University of Michigan.

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