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Vernacular Elements and Literary Language in Han Period Chinese: A Linguistic Comparison of Corresponding Chapters in the Shǐjì and the Hànshū

Pages 207 - 233



In this paper some arguments from a linguistic perspective will be provided against the hypothesis presented e. g. in Hulsewé (1975) that the stylistic differences between the Shǐjì and the Hànshū in the parallel chapters argue against the authenticity of the respective chapters of the Shǐjì. The debate on the authenticity of the Shǐjì has particularly concentrated on chapter 123 ‘The memoir of Dayuan’, parallels of which appear mainly in chapter 61 and 96 of the Hànshū; but other chapters have also been discussed. It will be demonstrated that the linguistic characteristics of the Shǐjì at issue are actually typical not only for the assumedly non-authentic chapters but for the entire text, and thus they cannot provide an argument for the later composition of these chapters. Additionally, it will be hypothesized that the linguistic characteristics of the Shǐjì, i. e. the employment of more function words, or of seemingly redundant expressions display a higher degree of colloquialisms employed by the authors of the Shǐjì in comparison to the Hànshū which is more ‘Classical’ in style. The latter may be considered to be the actual starting point for the wényán style, consciously referring back to the prestigious style of the Late Archaic, the ‘Classical’ literature, whereas the Shǐjì displays a closer relation with the spoken language of the time.



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