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Samuel Wells Williams’ Understanding Process of Chinese Language
Samuel Wells Williams
Chinese language of nineteenth century
The Middle Kingdom
A Syllable Dictionary of the Chinese Language
|Abstract:||一八三零年代來華的美國首批新教傳教士，在中國的「廣州制度」下開始他們的傳教事業。面對異文化所需探勘、相互交流的工具，學習漢語因此成為來華傳教士藉以瞭解中國社會的工作之基。作為十九世紀在華最久的傳教士之一，衛三畏（Samuel Wells Williams, 1812-1884）對漢語的深刻認識與豐碩的研究成果使其成為美國首位漢學教席。在其出版眾多與中國相關的著作中，以漢語學習書籍與總論性作品《中國總論》為重要的研究產出。然而，過去對於衛三畏的研究多著重於其所編字典，缺乏從他的漢語學習歷程來探討《中國總論》不同版本上的差異。有鑒於衛三畏對漢學的深刻貢獻，本研究透過文本分析探討衛三畏在華的漢語學習歷程，且藉其認識漢語的軌跡來檢視《中國總論》版本差異的背後原因。
In the 1830s, the first group of American Protestant missionaries have begun preaching under the “Canton System” in China. In the face of the needs for cross-cultural communication, learning Chinese languages became the fundamentals for missionary work to understand Chinese society. Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884), one of the well-known missionaries staying in China for the longest period in the nineteenth century, has great understandings of Chinese languages, and his contribution to the sinology make him known as first chair of Sinology in the United States. Among several Williams’ works related to China, the Chinese learning books and the introductory work, The Middle Kingdom, are his important research outputs. However, previous studies of Williams’ works put an emphasis on the dictionary studies instead of his Chinese learning journey and its effect on two editions of The Middle Kingdom. In view of his great influences and contributions to Sinology, this study investigated Williams’ Chinese learning process and trajectories as a perspective to examine the differences of two editions of The Middle Kingdom. The findings showed that Williams’ process of learning Chinese languages have been influenced not only by readings but also by Chinese regional dialects. His emphasis on Chinese regional dialects can be seen through his later editions of Easy Lessons in Chinese, An English and Chinese Vocabulary, A Tonic Dictionary of the Chinese Language, and A Syllable Dictionary of the Chinese Language. Additionally, in light of fruitful phonetics of Chinese dialects, his Chinese studies focus more on phonic and less on grammar, reflecting his central idea of reciprocal language communication. The differences between two editions of The Middle Kingdom may result from the transition of work identities, the increase of travel experiences, and increased understandings of Chinese languages. Through systematical investigations into Williams’ Chinese learning process, we revealed his trajectories of learning Chinese languages as a reference of Sinology studies in the nineteenth century.
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