Since 2004, I have been increasingly occupied in compiling reference works, in both paper and digital form. This work combines automated parsing of electronic corpora with manual study of parts of speech and translation. The narrative materials below derive peripherally from this research.
A long-term interest is the principles on which the Chinese writing system is organized and how it has varied and developed historically.
Beginning in 1999, I began publishing on the formal organization of literature in the medieval period. The key issue in this work is that medieval Chinese literature is designed to have its own sound, which is not necessarily the same as that of spoken language. This is an aspect of “diglossia”, in which “high” and “low” registers of language coexist without necessarily being closely related. (“High” register language is associated with writing and other formal situations.) Chinese in early and medieval times was a much more extreme example of this phenomenon than are modern Mandarin or English, something that is often forgotten when contemporary eyes examine the literature of the past.
I developed this field as a synthesis of my separate training in the disciplines of sinology and historical-comparative linguistics, together with my own lifelong interest in the oral performance of written literature.
My graduate and doctoral research was in the field of dialect classification, which concerns the question, “How can we decide what a dialect or other sample of language ‘is’?” Once basic affiliations are accurately identified, they can be applied to studying questions of the history of culture, of which other evidence may not survive in the written or physical record.
This field has been of long interest to my Doktorvater, Jerry Norman. My fellow student under Norman, Richard VanNess Simmons, has also worked extensively in problems of classification and ID.