The Semantics of Chinese Music

Analysing selected Chinese musical concepts

Adrian Tien | National University of Singapore
ISBN 9789027204080 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
ISBN 9789027268914 | EUR 99.00 | USD 149.00
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Music is a widely enjoyed human experience. It is, therefore, natural that we have wanted to describe, document, analyse and, somehow, grasp it in language. This book surveys a representative selection of musical concepts in Chinese language, i.e. words that describe, or refer to, aspects of Chinese music. Important as these musical concepts are in the language, they have been in wide circulation since ancient times without being subjected to any serious semantic analysis. The current study is the first known attempt at analysing these Chinese musical concepts linguistically, adopting the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach to formulate semantically and cognitively rigorous explications. Readers will be able to better understand not only these musical concepts but also significant aspects of the Chinese culture which many of these musical concepts represent. This volume contributes to the fields of cognitive linguistics, semantics, music, musicology and Chinese studies, offering readers a fresh account of Chinese ways of thinking, not least Chinese ways of viewing or appreciating music. Ultimately, this study represents trailblazing research on the relationship between language, culture and cognition.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“This is an eye-opening account of Chinese ways of thinking and talking about music, and by implication, possible ways of thinking and talking about music in general. Musicology and linguistics meet in this book in a way they have never done before. Original and ground-breaking.”
“A delightful book! It offers a practical and interesting methodology to probe how Chinese think and talk about their music. Chinese talk/write a lot about their music!”
“For centuries, the essential qualities of Chinese music hinged on the rising, falling, winding and turning of sound and non-sound elements. Non-sound, according to linguist and musicologist Adrian Tien, includes silence, interruptions and rests, as well as the ebb of sounds as they fall towards nothingness. Non-sound was as integral to music as the white space in a work of calligraphy. Tien observes that it was “expected of even the introductory beholder to hear beyond the sonic form”. Listening was not primarily about the ear: it required a freeing of the mind so that other non-sensory stimuli could be perceived.”
Cited by

Cited by 10 other publications

Carson, Lorna & Ning Jiang
2021. An Anatomy of the Chinese Offensive Lexicon. In An Anatomy of Chinese Offensive Words,  pp. 17 ff. DOI logo
Farese, Gian Marco
2020. The Ethnopragmatics of English Understatement and Italian Exaggeration: Clashing Cultural Scripts for the Expression of Personal Opinions. In Studies in Ethnopragmatics, Cultural Semantics, and Intercultural Communication,  pp. 59 ff. DOI logo
Levisen, Carsten
2021.  Pæn, flot, dejlig, and lækker . International Journal of Language and Culture 8:1  pp. 14 ff. DOI logo
Levisen, Carsten & Sophia Waters
2017. Chapter 1. How words do things with people. In Cultural Keywords in Discourse [Pragmatics & Beyond New Series, 277],  pp. 1 ff. DOI logo
Steingo, Gavin & Jim Sykes
2019. Introduction. In Remapping Sound Studies,  pp. 1 ff. DOI logo
Tien, Adrian
2016.  Not so fast: Speed-related conceptsin Chinese music and beyond . Global Chinese 2:2  pp. 189 ff. DOI logo
Tien, Adrian
2016. Compositionality of Chinese idioms: the issues, the semantic approach and a case study. Applied Linguistics Review 7:2  pp. 149 ff. DOI logo
Tien, Adrian
2017. To Be Headed for the West, Riding a Crane: Chinese Pragmemes in the Wake of Someone’s Passing. In The Pragmeme of Accommodation: The Case of Interaction around the Event of Death [Perspectives in Pragmatics, Philosophy & Psychology, 13],  pp. 183 ff. DOI logo
Wang, Ke & Michael Webb
2023. Seeking best practice: A systematic review of literature on Chinese music teaching and learning in Western classroom contexts. International Journal of Music Education  pp. 025576142311759 ff. DOI logo
Zou, Ivan Yifan & William S.-Y. Wang
2021. Music as social bonding: A cross-cultural perspective. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 44 DOI logo

This list is based on CrossRef data as of 19 march 2024. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Main BIC Subject

CF/2GDC: Linguistics/Chinese

Main BISAC Subject

LAN009000: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
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U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2014044078 | Marc record