SMS Panel 2016: Language in the Ming

The 2016 meeting of the Society for Ming Studies will take place on Friday, April 1 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. After the business meeting, there will be a panel on “Language in the Ming,” with the following presentations.

Date: Friday, April 1, 2016
Time: 8:30 pm
Location: Virginia Room, Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Richard VanNess Simmons (Rutgers): “Spoken Mandarin in the Ming”

The prestige spoken Mandarin koine known as Guānhuà 官話 is a descendant of the Mandarin dialects of the central plains that were pushed southward in the 12th century when the Song court vacated the north to escape the Jurchen invasion. Subsequently, a somewhat evolved version of central plains Mandarin came to be widely spoken in the regions of what are now Anhui and Jiangsu, the territories from which Zhu Yuanzhang eventually marched forth to expel the Yuan and establish the Ming. As a result of Zhu’s conquest and rule, that new Mandarin became the foundation for the commonly accepted prestige spoken koine that was current throughout China in the Ming and into the Qing. My talk will introduce the various kinds of evidence we have for the nature of that Mandarin koine and describe what we learn from that evidence regarding what spoken Mandarin was like in the Ming.

Wang Sixiang (Columbia): “Language and Empire: Asymmetries of Knowledge/Power in Early Modern China-Korea Relations.”

Early modern Korean and Chinese states all employed linguistic intermediaries: frontiersmen, professional interpreters, palace eunuchs, and defectors—to navigate diplomatic relations with one another. The social backgrounds, official status, relative prestige, and overall significance of these figures varied tremendously in different time periods (as did their relative effectiveness). This talk will discuss how institutional and political changes in institutions of language interpretation also affected the relative power and political initiative available to each side. Whereas Korean attention to the mastery of Mongol, Chinese and Manchu language provided space for maneuver, especially when mastery of spoken Korean was neglected at the imperial court. At times, the converse was also true; space for Korean agency diminished when the Korean court had to confront imperial agents with knowledge of Korean language and local Korean conditions. The intermediate space of translation became a contested site, where control translated into tangible advantages.

Catherine Swatek (University of British Columbia): Title TBA, on dialect in fiction and drama

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