Primary Lessons in Swatow Grammar (Colloquial)


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Primary Lessons in Swatow Grammar was published by American Baptist missionary Rev William Ashmore in Swatow in 1884, despite suffering partial loss of sight for a prolonged period because of ophthalmia. He accomplished this with the assistance of Rev. William Duffus of the English Presbyterian Mission, who had charge of a small press. 

In his own words, Rev. Ashmore did not intend for his book to set forth "the usages and principles of Chinese grammar in general, but of the Swatow dialect (as the missionaries referred to spoken Teochew) only". Furthermore, he meant for it to be "an elementary work designed for beginners" to "help any of them to tide over some of the difficulties which meet them at the outset". 

 After an introduction to the Teochew vernacular (including variations in pronunciation between the "Hu city" (府城, i.e. the old Teochew prefectural city that is now Chaozhou city)/Thenghai (澄海) and Teoyor (潮陽), the book gives an interesting overview of what is Teochew grammar.

According to Rev Ashmore, grammar is called Bun Huap (文法, "literary method") in Teochew. Under Teochew grammar, words are divided into two general classes which are called sit-ji (實字, true or substantive words) and hu-ji (虚, empty words). The former are words that contain "anything discernible" and comprise all nouns and sometimes verbs; the latter are words that have "nothing discernible", including all auxiliaries, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections etc. Besides this, words are also classified as uah-ji (活字, living characters) and si-ji (死字, dead characters). 

The main body of Primary Lessons consists of 36 lessons, whose headers are shown below"

  1. Pronouns
  2. Short sentences
  3. Short sentences
  4. Declension of Pronouns
  5. Sentences
  6. Other Pronominal Words
  7. Substantive Verb
  8. Possessive Verb
  9. Interrogatives
  10. Time
  11. Place, Direction, &c
  12. Quantity
  13. The Article
  14. Prepositions and equivalents
  15. Conjunctions
  16. Adverbs
  17. Interjections
  18. Adjectives
  19. Resemblance
  20. Difference
  21. Nouns
  22. Gender
  23. Number
  24. Verbs
  25. Conjugational Equivalents
  26. Examples in the Active Voice
  27. Various Passive Forms
  28. Mood Equivalents
  29. Tense Equivalents
  30. Some Usages of Syntax
  31. Growth of Sentences
  32. Bits of Description
  33. Abbreviations
  34. Slang
  35. Various Questions
  36. Words used in teaching and arguing

    In addition to these lessons, there is an appended list of syllables representing the sounds used in pronouncing Teochew that was prepared by Rev. S.B. Patridge.

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