Program History

Chinese Linguistics Program

History · Focus · Orientation


Chinese linguistics at The Ohio State University has had a long tradition that dates back to the early 1960’s. In many ways, the founding father for both the Department of Linguistics and the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures is Professor William S-Y. Wang. Back in 1961, he was tasked with drawing up the preliminary program of study that ultimately formed the basis for the M.A. program in linguistics in 1962, the same year that a Division of Linguistics was created, and he was appointed the division chair. (See the early History of the Department of Linguistics (pdf).) A Ph.D. program in linguistics followed in 1965, with the first two doctorate degrees awarded to Professor Wang’s advisees, Mantaro Hashimoto in 1965 and Anne Yue Hashimoto in 1966. Both dissertations were on Chinese linguistics: Mantaro Hashimoto on Chinese historical reconstruction and Anne Yue Hashimoto on modern Chinese syntax. Together with Professor Charles J. Fillmore serving as advisors, the first M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations in Chinese linguistics were produced in the Division of Linguistics at Ohio State. Ph.D. graduates who have (or had) become internationally-known in the field of Chinese linguistics thus came from Linguistics (e.g., Professors Mantaro Hashimoto (deceased), Anne Yue-Hashimoto, Sandra A. Thompson, Shuan-fan Huang, and John H.T. Lu). Since 1965, a staggering total of some 80 (or more) Chinese linguistics theses and dissertations have been produced at The Ohio State University! (A list of Chinese linguistics theses and dissertations produced at Ohio State is available at Chinese Linguistics Theses and Dissertations at The Ohio State University (1965 –  ).

Professor William S-Y. Wang was instrumental in establishing the Division of East Asian Languages and Literatures in 1962, then offering a B.A. in Chinese and Japanese, with three core faculty members; besides Professors William S-Y. Wang and Charles J. Fillmore, the third faculty member was Professor Eugene Ching. Professor Wang left Ohio State in 1966 for U.C. Berkeley and Professor Fillmore followed soon afterwards. With their departure, the first graduate program was an M.A. in Chinese literature in 1967, followed by a Ph.D. in Chinese in 1969. The beginning of graduate studies in Chinese linguistics in DEALL more or less coincided with the unit becoming a full-fledged Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures in 1970, with the arrival of Professor Frank Feng-sheng Hsueh, whose research interest was in Chinese historical phonology and grammar.

A strong tradition in Chinese linguistics in DEALL became established with a graduate program in Chinese linguistics at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels. The program attracted students from the U.S. and abroad, especially under the stewardship of Professor Timothy Light in the 1980’s when he came from University of Arizona to chair the department. Even after he left for Western Michigan University, he retained ties with Ohio State as Adjunct Professor in DEALL. Professor Light brought with him the Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association. The Journal continued to be edited by DEALL faculty members (Professor Frank Hsueh, and then Professor James Tai) until 1994.

After Professor Timothy Light’s departure in 1986, the torch was passed on to Professor Frank Hsueh, who juggled teaching and research with serving as acting DEALL chair on two occasions before retiring in Spring 1995. During his many years in DEALL, Professor Hsueh advised a number of graduate students in Chinese linguistics, as well as developed and taught a number of the courses in Chinese linguistics in the department, including Chinese phonology, history of the Chinese language, Chinese historical syntax, Chinese historical phonology, and the graduate seminar in Chinese linguistics. (Professor Eugene Ching, who regularly taught language courses in the department, developed and taught one Chinese linguistics course, namely, the course on the Chinese writing system, during his years in the department before his retirement in the mid-1980’s.) In addition to courses in Chinese linguistics, Professor Hsueh’s regular courses included the three-quarter series of classical Chinese (Chinese 601-603). During the first few years of retirement, before moving to California, he taught several courses and co-advised some graduate students’ dissertations.

Professor James H-Y.Tai and Professor Marjorie K.M. Chan joined DEALL in Autumn Quarter 1987 (Professor Tai replacing Professor Timothy Light and Professor Chan replacing Professor Eugene Ching), eventually forming the core of the Chinese linguistics program. Professor James Tai had been teaching at Southern Illinois University, and Professor Marjorie Chan had just completed two years of post-doctoral research at the Phonetics Laboratory at UCLA. The Chinese linguistics team was then joined briefly by Professor Robert Sanders (and later by Dr. Shunde Jin as a Lecturer (1996-1998)). The newest addition to the graduate program in Chinese linguistics program is Professor Zhiguo Xie, beginning Autumn Quarter 2011.

Professor James H-Y. Tai was trained in theoretical linguistics at Indiana University. His research interest over the years has been modern Chinese syntax. His teaching in DEALL included the introductory course in Chinese linguistics, Chinese syntax, history of the Chinese language, the graduate seminar in Chinese linguistics, as well as Classical Chinese. In addition to teaching and advising numerous graduate students in Chinese linguistics, he also served for two terms as the Editor of the Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association. In 1995, Professor Tai was recruited to National Chung Cheng University (NCCU), Taiwan, to assist in establishing the Graduate Institute of Linguistics, the first such independent institute established in Taiwan. (While at NCCU, he also served a four-year term (1998-2002) as the Dean of the College of Humanities.) During the initial two years of the Graduate Institute of Linguistics at NCCU, Professor Tai continued to be co-affiliated with the Ohio State University. With his resignation from the Ohio State University in Summer 1997, Professor Tai began a new, official affiliation with DEALL as Adjunct Professor. As the Graduate Institute of Linguistics at NCCU forms an integral part of that institution’s goal to become the center of cognitive sciences in Asia in the twenty-first century, future cooperation and exchanges will benefit students and faculty in the international arena. Professor Tai currently has new administrative responsibilities in Taipei, Taiwan, while maintaining his academic affiliation with NCCU. He served for two years in the prestigeous position of Director General, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Council of Taiwan (i.e. the equivalent of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation in the U.S. rolled into one). With Professor Tai’s current roles in the academic and research-funding settings in Taiwan and his continued good-will and formal affiliation with OSU as Adjunct Professor, there are yet further possibilities for future cooperative ventures — between DEALL and the Graduate Institute of Linguistics at NCCU, between OSU and National Chung Cheng University, and between OSU and the research community in Taiwan at large. In the meantime, Professors Tai and Chan will continue to collaborate on some research projects.

Professor Marjorie K.M. Chan‘s training was in linguistics, with specialization in Chinese linguistics. She completed her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Linguistics at the University of British Columbia (with an M.A. thesis in 1980 on Zhongshan phonology under the advisorship of Professor Edwin G. Pulleyblank), and her Ph.D. degree in Linguistics at the University of Washington (with a Ph.D. dissertation in 1985 on Fuzhou phonology under the advisorship of Professor Ellen Kaisse). She did a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Phonetics Laboratory of the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) before coming on board at The Ohio State University. Her teachers in Chinese linguistics included: Professors Edwin G. Pulleyblank (University of British Columbia), Jerry Norman and Anne Yue-Hashimoto (University of Washington), and faculty members teaching at the Linguistic Society of America Summer Linguistic Institute held one summer at the University of Hawaii, namely, Professors William S-Y. Wang, Ying-che Li, Robert Cheng, and Fang-kuei Li. Professor Chan’s research focus continues to be phonetics and phonology of Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese, along with interest in both synchronic and diachronic issues. Professor Marjorie Chan’s current research also encompasses language and gender, as well as pragmatics of intonation. Professor Chan’s teaching includes introductory courses in Chinese linguistics, as well as courses on Chinese phonology, syntax, dialects, and more specialized topics covered in seminars, such as Chinese corpus linguistics.

GACL In addition to teaching Chinese linguistics to our graduate students, Professor Marjorie Chan also serves as the advisor of the graduate student organization, Graduate Association of Chinese Linguistics (GACL). It is an extremely active organization that was established in spring 2008, with Hana Kang as the founding GACL President. Besides involvment in teaching, research, and other professional activities in Chinese linguistics, Professor Chan also actively contributes to the Chinese language teaching profession. She was elected to the Board of Directors of the Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) in 1997 for a three-year term. While on the Board of Directors, she was nominated for the Vice-President / President-Elect position in 1999, and was elected to that position, thus, serving as CLTA Vice-President from November 1999 through November 2000, followed by one year as President, and one year as Immediate Past President, completing her three-year elected officer positions on the CLTA Board of Directors in November 2002. Because of her knowledge of computing and web technology, in the same year that she was elected to the CLTA Board of Directors, Professor Chan was appointed by the Board to serve as CLTA Webmaster. The Chinese Language Teachers Association Home Page, hosted jointly by what was then The Ohio State University’s College of Humanities (now part of the College of Arts and Sciences) and its Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, was officially “unveiled” on 20 January 1998. In addition, during her Presidency, a contract was signed between the Chinese Language Teachers Association and the National East Asian Languages Resource Center’s Foreign Language Publications and Services at the Ohio State University for services related to printing of the Association’s Journal and to sales of back issues to be managed by OSU FLPubs. As of 1 December 2011, Professor Chan has been serving as the Director of Ohio’s Institute for Chinese Studies, one of three institutes (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) that comprise the East Asian Studies Center. (The Center is, in turn, under the auspices of the Office of International Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences.)

Professor Zhiguo Xie is the newest faculty member in the Chinese Linguistics program, arriving in Autumn 2011. He completed a dual bachelors degree from the University of Science and Technology (B.S. in Science English and B.E. in Computer Science), and two M.A. degrees in Linguistics, the first completed at Syracuse University and second at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Cornell University in Spring 2011. Under co-chairs Professors Mats Rooth and Dorit Abusch, his dissertation is entitled, The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese and English. Professor Xie’s research explores the structure and meaning of various languages, especially Mandarin Chinese. His is also interested in sociolinguistics and discourse analysis of the Chinese language. He is the only faculty member in DEALL who has knowledge of the Tibetan language. Professor Xie brings a dynamic and exciting new dimension to the graduate program in Chinese linguistics. Professor Xie also serves as the co-advisor of the Graduate Association of Chinese Linguistics (GACL).

Since the establishment of DEALL as an department in 1970, graduate students in the Chinese linguistics program have produced over 50 theses and dissertations. (See the cumulative listing of Chinese Linguistics Theses and Dissertations at The Ohio State University (1965 –  ).) Of these, some 30 are doctoral dissertations, with most of them produced during the past two decades. Upon completion, many graduates from the Chinese linguistics program have been strategically placed in major universities in the United States, as well as in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Korea. Since graduating, some of them have become very active in the Chinese linguistics community in the U.S. and abroad. Others have applied their linguistic training to careers in Chinese language teaching, combined with research in linguistic and pedagogical research. Chinese linguistics faculty members have also served on dissertation committees in the Department of Linguistics and other units at Ohio State, helping to guide those doctoral students to conduct linguistic research pertaining to the Chinese language. As of 1 January 1999, Professor Marjorie Chan is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at OSU.

naccl-20 logo Chinese linguistics faculty members in DEALL have, over the years, been very active in hosting a number of major Chinese linguistics events. Since 1986, for example, faculty members in Chinese linguistics have hosted the Second Conference on Chinese Linguistics in 1986; the XIXth International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, also in 1986; the Third Ohio State University Conference on Chinese Linguistics in 1988; the First Northeast Conference on Chinese Linguistics (or NECCL-1) in 1989, a conference that has since extended its regional boundaries and has been renamed “North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics” (NACCL), to encompass both the U.S. and Canada; the Workshop on Interfaces and the Chinese Language, which was held in conjunction with the 1993 Summer Linguistic Institute, hosted by OSU’s Department of Linguistics and sponsored by the Linguistic Institute of America (LSA), and the return of NACCL to Ohio State University in April 2008 to celebrate its twentieth anniversary for NACCL-20. Beginning with the NACCL-20 proceedings, subsequent NACCL proceedings have been published in PDF format and freely accessible online at NACCL Proceedings Online, which is part of the NACCL ( website . With a team that has always been very productive in research, and highly visible in the Chinese linguistics community, it is not surprisingly that DEALL has been recognized as one of the strongest centers of Chinese linguistics in North America, and has attracted students and scholars world-wide.

The main focus of Chinese linguistics in DEALL today is the synchronic study of linguistic structures of both spoken and written Chinese, in the context of China’s history and culture. The main objective is to uncover details as well as generalizations that have hitherto been hidden. The findings have both theoretical and pedagogical implications: theoretical with respect to Chinese linguistics in particular and linguistics in general, and pedagogical with respect to applications to language teaching and learning. At the same time, since China has had a long, written tradition, Chinese linguistics in DEALL also includes a historical dimension in order to understand better the modern language in its social setting and cultural milieu, and includes the study of vernacular written forms, such as written Cantonese, which includes exploring historical textual sources as corpora. Hence, Chinese linguists in DEALL also study Chinese history, culture, and literature, in addition to their central research in Chinese linguistics.

Course offerings in Chinese linguistics in DEALL cover both undergraduate and graduate levels, with topics ranging from introductory concepts about the structure of the Chinese language to more advanced, theoretical issues in Chinese linguistics that are covered in graduate seminars. The Chinese linguistics faculty also teaches about the Chinese script, unique among the writing systems of the world. The topic is covered both as a subject within the undergraduate and graduate introductory Chinese linguistics courses, and as a separate course. DEALL’s course offerings include ten specifically on Chinese linguistics. These are given in the table below (where ‘U’ is Undergrad, ‘G’ is Grad, followed by the number of credit hours. Not included in that table are courses for individual or group studies, thesis or dissertation research, interdepartmental seminars, etc. Graduate students in DEALL pursuing a masters or doctoral degree in Chinese linguistics take the introductory Chinese linguistics course (Chinese 5380) and one other Chinese linguistics course (e.g., Chinese 5381), and design the remainder of their program under the guidance of their advisor. For a full listing and description of Chinese courses, including Chinese linguistics, see DEALL‘s Chinese course offerings. See also Professor Marjorie Chan’s sample online course syllabi. The course listing below, specifically for Chinese Linguistics, has been updated following The Ohio State University’s conversion from quarter system to semester system begining in the 2012-2013 academic year.


Chinese 4380 The Chinese Language U 3
Chinese 4381 The Chinese Language and its History U 3
Chinese 4383 The Chinese Language and Its Script U 3
Chinese 4389 Topics on the Chinese Language U 3
Chinese 5380 Introduction to Chinese Linguistics U G 3
Chinese 5381 History of the Chinese Language U G 3
Chinese 5383 The Chinese Writing System U G 3
Chinese 5387 Bilingualism in the Chinese Contexts U G 3
Chinese 7382 Chinese Phonology G 3
Chinese 7384 Chinese Syntax G 3
Chinese 7385 Chinese Dialects G 3
Chinese 7386 (tentative) Chinese Semantics and Pragmatics (forthcoming) G 3
Chinese 8382 Studies in Chinese Historical Phonology G 5
Chinese 8384 Studies in Chinese Historical Syntax G 3
Chinese 8897 Seminar in Chinese Linguistics G 3

The research orientation in Chinese linguistics in DEALL is grounded in functional and cognitive perspectives. Thus, it links with Professor Galal Walker’s current pedagogical research that focuses on the role of memory in the teaching and learning of the Chinese language, and with Professor Jianqi Wang‘s cognitive approach to pedagogical issues pertaining to the Chinese language. Professor Wang joined DEALL in Autumn 1998 as a tenure-track faculty member for what was then a newly-created Chinese language pedagogy position that is part of the East Asian Pedagogy component in DEALL. His 1996 Ph.D. dissertation, entitled Theoretical Consideration on Chinese Language Processing, was completed in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawaii. Within DEALL, Chinese linguistics also dovetails with Professor Charles Quinn’s research in Japanese functional linguistics, and Professor Mineharu (“JJ”) Nakayama’s research in Japanese psycholinguistics. And Professor James Marshall Unger, who joined the Department in Autumn 1996 as DEALL’s chair, researches in Japanese linguistics and has publications that are directly related to the Chinese language or its script. Professor Unger’s major areas of research are writing systems, literacy, and script reform, and he offers a course on “Scripts of East Asia” (EALL 683), which covers Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. And, while Professor Mari Noda‘s core research interest and activities relate to Japanese language pedagogy, her educational background combines linguistics and language pedagogy; her 1990 Ph.D. dissertation, completed in (what was then) the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Cornell University, was a functionally-based linguistic study on The Extended Predicate and Confrontational Discourse in Japanese. A 1998 addition to the Japanese component in the Department is Professor Etsuyo Yuasa, hired for the Japanese language pedagogy component. Her research background is Japanese linguistics, with core research interests in the interaction between syntax and semantics, and extending to pedagogical research since joining the Language Pedagogy component in the Department. Her Ph.D. was from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. Professor Yuasa oversees the Japanese Individualized Instruction Program. A new addition to the Department in Autumn 2006 is Korean language pedagogy specialist, Professor Danielle Ooyoung Pyun, who is the second faculty member in the Korean component, in the teaching of Korean language and culture. She also teaches a graduate introduction to Korean linguistics. Professor Pyun received her Ph.D. in Foreign and Second Language Education in 2003 was from the College of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University.

All in all, DEALL currently has an impressive array of faculty members with formal, theoretical linguistic training who are teaching in a department with M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Chinese and Japanese, in which there are three subfields of specialization, namely, linguistics, literature, and language pedagogy. Moreover, Professors Marjorie Chan and Mineharu Nakayama are affiliated with the Ohio State University’s Center for Cognitive Science. And, together with Professors James M. Unger and Etsuyo Yuasa, they are also members of the Adjunct Faculty of the Department of Linguistics at the Ohio State University. OSU’s Department of Linguistics pursues the scientific investigation of language as a human phenomenon in its historical, psychological, and social dimensions. The graduate programs in linguistics in DEALL (viz., Chinese linguistics and Japanese linguistics at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels), while sharing those pursuits, are nonetheless more centrally language-driven, in the investigation of the linguistic structures and historical development of the specific languages within the larger context of the field of theoretical linguistics. Linguistics in DEALL is, furthermore, oriented towards a more functional approach, stressing the socio-cultural context for linguistic communication and discourse, both spoken and written. DEALL faculty members in the linguistic component are often invited to serve on Ph.D. candidacy examinations and dissertation committees that pertain to their field; conversely, their graduate students also invite linguistic faculty in the Department of Linguistics and other units on campus to serve on their committees. Thus, there is much synergy that promotes dialogue and other scholarly interactions across units at Ohio State, activities that benefit both students and faculty.