Orientalism and occidentalism: Two forces behind the image of the Chinese language and construction of the modern standard

Helena Casas-Tost, Sara Rovira-Esteva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article identifies the principal myths and misconceptions surrounding the Chinese language and, by means of discourse analysis, shows how they have been expressed and become entrenched in the academic world, both in China and in the West, despite the evidence which undermines the premises on which these myths are founded. We also show how these views originated from applying a Western linguistic model to descriptions and reforms of the Chinese language, thus, reinforcing the orientalist discourse on Chinese that still persists and has permeated the Chinese language teaching. We tackle these issues from a Spanish perspective at a time when the country is experiencing important educational changes at three levels. First, there is an increase in courses on Chinese Studies. Second, European university curricula are undergoing a process of homogenisation. And, third, a new policy to standardise language learning, teaching and assessment at all stages of education is being implemented all over Europe. We are concerned about this policy because the model designed for European languages is also being applied to non-European languages. We believe that this new context is an ideal occasion to question existing discourses and bring forth new approaches towards the production and reproduction of knowledge related to the Chinese language. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-121
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Multicultural Discourses
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Chinese language
  • East asian studies
  • Knowledge production and reproduction
  • Orientalism
  • Western views of the chinese language
  • Westernisation


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