Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics 2021


Chao now


Reading Yuen Ren Chao's work in the 21st century




Jeroen Wiedenhof


Course description

This course is devoted to the rich legacy of linguist, educator, musician, philosopher and mathematician Yuen Ren Chao 趙元任 (Zhào Yuánrèn, 1892-1982).

We will decipher, translate, analyze and discuss Chao’s originals (including manuscripts); explore the historical contexts of his work; and assess its current scholarly relevance.

The course is kaleidoscopic by design, as dictated by the wide range of Chao’s fascinations.

Course objectives

Students will gain

Mode of instruction

Reading course with daily assignments, group discussions, and topicalized lectures. The language of instruction & discussion is English.

An (online) excursion has been planned for at least one session.

In preparing Chao's texts, students will be expected to pool resources depending on individual backgrounds and reading skills in English and in Chinese (traditional & simplified characters and/or handwriting).

Reading materials

We will read Y.R. Chao’s originals in English and Chinese, including cursive manuscripts.

Examples are texts from A grammar of Spoken Chinese, Mandarin Primer, 阿麗思漫遊奇境記 / Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and “ə sistim əv ‘toun letəz’ ”.

The focus will be on linguistic subjects, with an occasional outing into other disciplines. These selections for this course will be distributed through the Summer School.


Before coming to this course, make sure to have read Jerry Norman, Chinese (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Daily assignments and all other details can be found at the course’s website at <www.wiedenhof.nl/ul/cnow21ss.htm>.

Updated 8 March 2021 | home