Tanaka Sota

Kyoto University

February 17, 2021
4:30 PM EST

漢文 (The Chinese Script) in the History of Japanese Written Languages


This talk aims to better understand the complex role that written Chinese (hanwen/kanbun 漢文) played within the variation and history of Japanese written languages. The written language of classical Chinese became a means to write the Japanese language. The key factor in this development is kundoku 訓読, a system with which a written Chinese text can be read out as an idiom of Japanese.

I first survey the specific types of documents which used kanbun within the larger script system of premodern Japan even after the development of the phonetic kana script. Second, I will argue that this continued use of kanbun motivated and influenced the reliance on “classical” (Middle Japanese) grammar in writing, down to the 20th century. I also point out that there was room for linguistic variation even in texts in classical grammar and this enabled a wide variety of literate people to write classical Japanese, which had become so different from spoken Japanese.

For Zoom registration, please click here. Registration is required.

Upcoming workshops:
Jennifer Guest, April 7

Shimizu Masaaki

Prof. SHIMIZU Masaaki
Osaka University

Oct. 30 (Fri), 2020
9:00 AM EST

The Diversity of Vietnamese Nôm Characters in Two Medieval Vietnamese Sutras

Please contact John Phan ahead of time to receive the Zoom link.

Upcoming Workshops:
Tanaka Sōta, February 17
Jennifer Guest, April 7


CLEA Events in 2020-21

SHIMIZU Masaaki (Osaka University), October 30, 9 AM Eastern

TANAKA Sōta (Kyoto University), February 17, 4:30 PM Eastern

Jennifer GUEST (Oxford University), April 7, 4:30 PM Eastern

Mark your calendars!

Jennifer Guest


Dr. Jennifer GUEST
Associate Professor of Japanese, University of Oxford

April 2 (Thu), 2020
Princeton University, Chancellor Green 105

Borders of poetic language: defining Chinese and Japanese-style poetry in a twelfth-century commentary to the Wakan rōeishū

Abstract: The eleventh-century anthology Wakan rōeishū (和漢朗詠集, Japanese and Chinese-style Chanting Collection) was a key resource for premodern literary education that brought Literary Sinitic couplets and vernacular Japanese waka poems together into a single encyclopaedic order; its flourishing medieval commentary tradition became an important site for scholars to debate and experiment with different approaches to understanding poetry. This discussion will focus on the preface and one section of annotation from an anonymous twelfth-century commentary, Wakan rōei chūshō (和漢朗詠註抄), as a starting point for considering how commentators on this anthology imagined distinctions between different kinds of poetic language and constructed multiple histories of poetry within a broader transregional literary setting.

Upcoming Workshops:
Dr. Jungwon Kim (Columbia University), May 5, 2020 at Columbia

Jungwon KIM

Dr. Jungwon KIM
EALAC Columbia University

Friday, 28 February 2020 4:30 PM
918 International Affairs Building (Columbia University)


Vernacularization of the Great Ming Code in Early Chosǒn Korea (1390-1910)

Upcoming Workshop:
Jennifer Guest (Oxford), April 2 at Princeton


Coming soon in 2020:

Jungwon Kim (Columbia) on the Joseon vernacularization of the Great Ming Code at Columbia University, February 28 (Fri), 2020

Jennifer Guest (Oxford) on medieval Japanese poetic commentary at Princeton University, April 2 (Thu), 2020

Mark your calendars!

Nhung Tuyet Tran

Dr. Nhung Tuyet Tran
Dept. of History, University of Toronto

November 15 (Fri), 2019
Princeton University, Jones Hall 202

Articulating Sinic Values at the Interstices of Empire: Literary Sinitic, Vernacular Vietnamese, and Neo-Confucianism in the Cham Heartland

Abstract: In 1718, in the coastal city of Quy Ninh, in what is now Vietnam’s south central coast, a group of students reprinted the “Guide for Young Learners by Category and Rhyme (指南幼學備品協韻)” in honour of their teacher. As its title suggests, the compiler intended to explicate literary sinitic terms for young Vietnamese speakers. Divided into chapters explicating classical Chinese terms such as political figures, familial relationships, and flora and fauna, young Vietnamese speakers probably used it, and its earlier iterations, to improve their literacy level in the literary Sinitic. More than a simple dictionary, I suggest that the bi-lingual glosses reflect the influence of Cham cultural patterns and habits in its articulation of orthodox Confucian values.

Upcoming Workshops:
Dr. Jungwon Kim (Columbia University), late February 2020 at Columbia
Dr. Jennifer Guest (Oxford University), early April 2020 at Princeton