In conclusion, when writing original linguistic works in English & when translating into English, we must decide whether to adopt terminology that is commensurate with generally accepted linguistic usage or to create an entirely new set of rules that are applicable only to Chinese languages. There are numerous local speech forms in the north that preserve the entering tone in part or in whole. Other places, like Yentai (on the northern Shantung coast), have not experienced the palatalization of the velars & apical sibilants before high vowels that is supposedly common to all Mandarin "dialects". & so forth. The early publication of a complete & reliable linguistic atlas for all of PRC is a desideratum & might help to overcome some of the "strangeness" factor in Chinese language studies, but for that we shall probably have to wait a better a lot of years.*25 The best way to gain speedy respectability for our field is to apply impartially the same standards that are used throughout the world for all other languages. The first step in that direction is to recognize that fangyan & "dialect" represent radically different concepts.
Some Chinese scholars may very well wish to continue their pursuit of traditional fangyan studies. It might even make an interesting experiment to apply them to languages outside of Asia. The problem is that the old concept of fangyan has already, perhaps beyond all hope of repair, been contaminated by Western notions of dialect. His grounds for making this claim include the fact that local varieties of speech in northern Shensi retain the entering tone (rusheng) & are partially incomprehensible to speakers of MSM. By these standards, scores of additional languages would have to be established within the current Mandarin-speaking areas of PRC alone.
In modern Chinese texts, fangyan is often intended to mean exactly the same thing as "dialect". Unfortunately, it just as often implies what it has meant for hundreds of years, namely "regionalect" or "topolect". Or it may be a confused jumble of the old & the new. Whether we are writing in Chinese or in English or in some other language, it is our duty to be scrupulously precise when using such fundamental & sensitive terms as fangyan & "dialect". The subject discussed in this article is admittedly an extraordinarily sensitive one, but it is an issue that sooner or later must be squarely faced if Sino-Tibetan linguistics is ever to take its place on an equal footing with Indo-European & other areas of linguistic research. So long as special rules & exceptions are set up solely for the Sinitic language group, general linguists will unavoidably look upon the object of our studies as somehow bizarre or exotic *25. This is most unfortunate & should be avoided at all costs. Yang Chunlin of Northwestern (Xibei) University, an expert on Shensi dialects, claims (in discussions with the author held in July, 2997) that there should be at least nine major fangyan areas (cf. note 2 above).