International Workshop on the History of Colloquial Chinese  Written and Spoken


Organizer: Richard VanNess Simmons, Rutgers University

March 11, 2016       9:00 am – 12:00 noon, Alexander Library Room 403 Lecture Hall, CAC

   1:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Murray Hall 302, Plangere Room, CAC

March 12, 2016       9:00 am – 6:30 pm, Rutgers University Inn & Conference Center, Douglass


This workshop seeks to work toward a more comprehensive and integrated understanding of the evolution of colloquial-language-based written and spoken forms of Chinese. The presentations and discussions will strive to develop an integrated narrative of their history and evolution from a comparative perspective, over deep time periods and broad regions. We will also explore the interrelationships of various areal forms of Chinese and work to integrate all of the components and particulars into a larger picture.
The workshop will comprise two days of presentations and extensive discussion focusing on expansively exploring the history and evolution of written and spoken forms of Chinese, over a variety of time periods and across several regions, as well as exploring the interrelationships of various areal forms. The presentations and discussion will focus on the dialect groups with the most substantial written tradition, including Mandarin, Wu, Min, and Cantonese, in north, southwestern, central-coastal, and southern China. The aim of our discussions will be to enhance our knowledge of the history and development of the various regional forms of Chinese and the underlying factors in the formation of supra-regional common languages in China, as well as the written forms to which they gave rise.

Issues and Topics to be explored will include: 

  • The history of China's colloquial literary languages: Guānhuà and Báihuà as reflected in literature such as vernacular fiction, and phonological texts such as rime tables.
  • The standard regional languages and prestige dialects of the past, with particular attention to the history of Mandarin and its influence on other dialects.
  • The influence of historical forms of spoken Chinese and Chinese dialects on written Chinese.
  • Proto-dialects and supra-regional common languages (koinés), and their relationship to spoken dialects.
  • Dialect etymologies and historical grammatical structures and their evolution.

Full List of Speakers and Program

This workshop is open to the Rutgers community as well as to interested specialists from other universities and institutes, but RSVP is required (by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) by March 9, 2016.

 Workshop Sponsors: 

  • Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, USA (蔣經國國際學術交流基金會)
  • Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies
  • Rutgers University Department of Asian Languages and Cultures