In the article written by Benjamin A Elman called Rethinking East Asian Languages, Vernaculars and Literacies, 1000-1919, he has given the detailed analysis on the East Asian language. At the beginning, it is mentioned that his field of expertise is the Bai Hua Xiao Shuo, which also means the vernaculars novels and what differs vernacular novels from the traditional Chinese novels is that most people can understand the vernacular novels. However, for the traditional novels, only the very well-educated people would understand the meanings and differences.
In fact, in the first chapter of the article, the relationship between writing as well as speech had been presented because this notion is quite significant for the debates about vernacular and the vernacularization. For the Bai Hua Xiao Shuo, the written form of a language, it shall be noticed that it is not solely about the “written” language of the modern Chinese writing. However, it is actually mixed with the local spoken dialects and other religious languages because they had made their ways into the vernacular novels. However, it is not correct to mix spoken Chinese language with the written one because for Chinese language, very often, the same sound could stand for more than thousands of words which is quite different from the European language.
In the next part of the article, the author went on to explain that as the bai hua writing era had begun, it was time people separate writing from speech and this change is similar to the one is Europe. For example, in China, people had BaiHua and WenYan as their spoken language and written language while in European nations, there were Latin and daily vernaculars.
However, a point which is often misunderstood by ordinary people is also mentioned in the article: most people understand the vernacular and the wen yan as two extreme and polarizing language forms in Chinese language. Also, people misunderstood that wen yan is written by well educated people in the court when the bai hua was used by the ordinary low class citizens as their local dialect. However, this notion was corrected in the article because as the author has written, “the vernacular dialects are spoken by the highest ranks people just like the common people too.”
Some important historical figures are mentioned such as the Qiu Ting Liang who was known to be the holistic block or the Qing reformer as he believed that classical Chinese should be singled out as it is more important to encourage people to use the vernacular as their bai hua speech. In the article, it is said that the important historical event called the May Fourth Bai Hua writing movement is the important activity in which the scholars have promoted the bai hua as the written form as well as the spoken form of people’s language. In the end, the bai hua, wen yuan and mandarin were all reexamined again.
To conclude, Mandarin is the common form of language which is shared by the officials and the majority of Chinese are more used to using the language of bai hua as it is simple and easy to understand. As the Chinese language has further developed, different forms of languages are developed for years and every form has mixed with other dialects from different places. However, no single form should be omitted because every form of language represents the Chinese culture.