The Language of the Sangleys

A Chinese Vernacular in Missionary Sources of the Seventeenth Century


Handwritten in the seventeenth century, the Arte de la lengua chio chiu is the oldest extant grammar of the Chinese vernacular known as Southern Min or Hokkien, and a spectacular source text for present-day linguistics. Its author, a Spanish Dominican missionary, worked among the Chinese settlers in Manila or “Sangleys”. The first part of The Language of the Sangleys is an in-depth analysis of the Arte in its historical, social and linguistic contexts. The second part offers an annotated transcript and translation of the Arte, including facsimiles of the original manuscript, making this study eminently fit for classroom use. Combining sophisticated theory and method with meticulous philology, The Language of the Sangleys presents a fascinating, new chapter in the history of Chinese and general linguistics.
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EUR €146.00USD $194.00

Biographical Note

Henning Klöter, Ph.D. (2003) in Chinese linguistics, Leiden University, has been assistant professor at National Taiwan Normal University. He is currently the Head of the Department of Chinese Languages and Literatures at Ruhr University, Bochum. His publications include Written Taiwanese (2005).

Review Quotes

'..., the apparatus and analytical framework employed by K[löter] are perhaps the most rigorous and meticulous yet seen in treatments of comparable missionary linguistic records of Chinese. All subsequent contributions in this area
will perforce be held to the standards now established in the present work.(..) K[loeter]’s book must now take precedence over all previous treatments. It will be of special interest to students of the new and growing field of missionary linguistics,the history of Western contact with China in general, and the specialty of Mǐn comparative and historical dialectology in particular. Though the book will of course be valuable primarily as a reference source, the introductory material in the chapters of Part I, together with the rigorous editorial methodology manifested in the second part, may also serve as a sort of manual for anyone who pursues future work in this and related fields.'
W. South Coblin, University of Iowa, Historiographia Linguistica XXXIX:1 (2012),

'The Arte manuscript may be the oldest surviving document presenting an extensive grammar of a Chinese language. In this solid and detailed study of the Arte,which includes a transcript and translation of the missionary text, together with a full set of beautiful color facsimile plates of the original manuscript, Henning Klöter has produced a useful volume that will allow many to explore this fascinating document.'
RICHARD VANNESS SIMMONS, Rutgers University, Journal of Asian Studies, 71,3


Linguists interested in missionary linguistics, history of linguistics, historical sociolinguistics, Chinese dialectology, historical phonology of Hokkien.
Sinologists interested in the history of Chinese language studies by Westerners, Chinese-Western cultural exchanges.