On the universality of "rights": Absence and presence of "rights" in the Chinese language
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This paper wishes to challenge the proposition that the word “rights” is a universal and innate concept in human societies. It provides an analysis of the absence and presence of the word “rights” in the Chinese language and culture in traditional and contemporary China. It presents a linguistic and cultural explanation for the fact that classical Chinese language and culture did not have an equivalent word or concept for the English word “rights.” After the word and concept of “rights” were introduced to China from the West in the second half of the nineteenth century, the new word quanli (rights) has since taken on Chinese shades of meaning, not entirely the same as its English counterpart. The paper proposes that the claim of the universal and innate nature of the word “rights” is not tenable.
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Linguistics not elsewhere classified