pick up any introductory book to linguistics... it's all in there.
you might also want to look into some stuff on sociolinguistics too, the language/dialect controversy (especially in china) is strongly linked to that area.
the wikipedia article on "dialect" is actually rather good, you could check that out, there's a link to a wikipedia article on the chinese language situation there which looks rather good too.
how about the handbook of bilingualism? i'm not quite sure if you are looking at bilingualism or second language acquisition, there are two handbooks of second language acquisition, both very good and state of the art.
or wei's bilingualism reader (2000).
or ellis's 2nd language acquisition (2008).
What do you mean by "bilingual" studies? Is your interest in like bilingual couples' kids who grow up learning two languages?
If you just mean learning/ speaking a second language in general, a very good start would be to look at the Stephen Krashen's books on second language acquisition. I can't remember which one it was (sorry), but one of them also had an excellent literature review on first/second language learning. Also look into Universal Grammar (Chomsky)- although it's older I don't think you can ignore Chomsky when looking at linguistics... well, maybe I'm saying this because I like him
don't worry, hairui. just read those wikipedia articles and take it from there. follow the links to explanations of bilingualism, second language acquisition etc. they are a good introduction. everyone has to start somewhere and wikipedia is not a bad place.
i think you are chinese, aren't you? in that case, you will have to really watch out when talking about dialects/language in the chinese context because chinese national politics has its own reason for classing them as dialects (national cohesion) when linguists outside of china actually do not. after all, you probably want to make your thesis internationally accessible, don't you?
Amongst Chinese academics, clear distinctions are made between regional speech and national speech. Academic journals highlight the blurring of boundaries between dialects and languages, especially in Oriental languages.
Thanks for the advice and the links. Most helpful.
i read that due to chinese politicians who wish to stress that china is all one big nation and one happy family the propaganda machine propagates the myth that all languages in china are actually just "dialects" of a standard language. this myth is also propagated by chinese linguists and linguists living in china (who probably don't want to get into trouble with the authorities). people outside of china don't normally agree with the chinese dialects theory.
IMO the basic distinction between languages and dialects is that dialects tend to generally be mutually comprehensible (bavarian german/austrian german/standard german), whilst languages are not (german/english/french etc). there are special cases (dialect continuums) where there is a language at each end of the continuum (such as german and dutch which are mutually incomprehensible), but where the continuum inbetween these languages is filled up with dialects from both languages (for example low german/plattdeutsch) which are mutually comprehensible with their "neighbours" in the continuum.
there is a saying: a language is a dialect with an army (which could be applied to the serbian/croat situation...).
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