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A great Chinese professor gone

August 28, 2012

I was lucky enough to be a student of Chinese  at the University of Washington when Prof. Norman was teaching. I still turn to his great book Chinese when I need to understand something about the language. It was so much a go-to volume when I was in school we just called it “the green book.” He will be missed.


Remembering Professor Jerry Norman

A Pioneer in Chinese Language Studies

(Grace Norman)

(Grace Norman)

by Chris Livaccari

This year, the Chinese language field lost one of its true pioneers. Professor Jerry Norman of the University of Washington was a linguist and scholar of Chinese—its many languages and dialects—and of Manchu and other languages often classified as being in the Altaic family.

Professor Norman, who passed away on July 7, 2012, began working in the field in the late 1950s and early 1960s, at a time when it was likely considered rather eccentric for someone from a non-Asian background to study Chinese. Even when I started learning Chinese in the early 1990s, it was relatively unusual, so I cannot even imagine what it must have been like 40 years earlier. I often wonder what it must have been like for such a pioneer in the field to watch the explosive growth of Chinese language education in the United States, and in particular to consider the idea that Chinese might soon become a world language on the order of Spanish, Russian, or English. Norman became Professor of Chinese at the University of Washington in 1972, just as the United States and China were at the point of resuming official relations, and so he watched the U.S.-China relationship grow from those first uncertain steps into the mutual dependency of the twenty-first century.

Please read more here.

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