This is a review of Perry Link's book about Chinese. This passage sums it up pretty well, and although I haven't read the book (yet), it's high on my list of books to get my hands on:
"In writing An Anatomy of Chinese, Link brings the heft of a respected Sinologist to the study of language, and in doing so breaks up some treasured myths in the broader world of Sinology. For some reason — perhaps because it makes them seem more eccentric and interesting — “China experts” often feel free to pontificate about how the Chinese language works, perpetuating a set of myths that do little beyond portraying Chinese as some exotic “other”: Chinese “is a pictographic language,” “is a monosyllabic language,” “doesn’t express time,” and so forth. In bringing the tools of linguistics to a popular investigation of Chinese, Link performs what is, ultimately, perhaps the greatest service that social science can perform: demystifying and de-essentializing that which on the surface might otherwise seem imponderable and incomprehensible."