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John DeFrancis (August 31, 1911January 2, 2009) was an American
linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo ...

linguist
,
sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
, author of
Chinese language Chinese ( or also , especially for the written language) is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic lan ...
textbooks,
lexicographer Lexicography is the study of lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic th ...

lexicographer
of
Chinese dictionaries Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang ...
, and
Professor Emeritus ''Emeritus'' (; female: ''Emerita''), in its current usage, is an adjective used to designate a retired chair, professor, pastor, bishop, pope, director, president, prime minister, rabbi, emperor, or other person who has been "permitted to retai ...
of Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.


Biography

John DeFrancis was born in
Bridgeport, Connecticut Bridgeport is a historic Port, seaport city in the U.S. state of Connecticut, and its List of cities in Connecticut, largest city. With a census-estimated population of 144,399 in 2019, it is also the List of cities by population in New England, ...
in a family of modest Italian immigrant origins. His father, a laborer (who changed his name from DeFrancesco), died when DeFrancis was a young child. His mother was illiterate. After graduating from
Yale University Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two ...
in 1933 with a
B.A. Bachelor of Arts (BA or AB; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through ...
in economics, DeFrancis sailed to China with the intent of studying Chinese and working in business. In 1935, he accompanied H. Desmond Martin, a Canadian military historian,cf. Desmond, Henry Martin, ''The rise of Chingis Khan and his conquest of North China'', introduction by
Owen Lattimore Owen Lattimore (July 29, 1900 – May 31, 1989) was an American author, educator, and influential scholar of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependenci ...

Owen Lattimore
, edited by Eleanor Lattimore (Johns Hopkins Press, 1950)
on a several-thousand-mile trip retracing the route of
Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋbr>Mongol script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically for the Mongolian language, and was the most ...

Genghis Khan
through Mongolia and northwestern China. His book ''In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan'' (University of Hawai'i Press, 1993) describes this journey riding camels across the
Gobi Desert The Gobi Desert () is a large desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al ...

Gobi Desert
, visiting the ruins of
Khara-Khoto Khara-Khoto (; mn, Khar Khot; "black city") is an abandoned city in the Ejin Banner Ejin or Ejina (Mongolian Mongolian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Mongolia, a country in Asia * Mongolian people, or Mongols * Mongolia (191 ...
and rafting down the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
. Along the way, he met the Chinese Muslim
Ma Clique The Ma clique or Ma family warlords is a collective name for a group of Hui The Hui people ( zh, c=, p=Huízú, w=Hui2-tsu2, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "chi ...
warlords
Ma Buqing Ma Buqing (1901–1977) (, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original script" referring to the original Perso-Arabic script; ...

Ma Buqing
and
Ma Bukang Ma Bukang (, Xiao'erjing Xiao'erjing or Xiao'erjin or Xiaor jin or in its shortened form, Xiaojing, literally meaning "children's script" or "minor script" (cf. "original script" referring to the original Persian alphabet, Perso-Arabic scr ...
. DeFrancis returned to the United States in 1936 and did not visit China again until 1982. DeFrancis began graduate studies in Chinese, first at Yale under George A. Kennedy and then at
Columbia University Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a Private university, private Ivy League research university in New York City. Established in 1754 as King's College on the grounds of ...

Columbia University
due to Columbia's larger graduate program in
Sinology Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () ...
. He received an
M.A. A Master of Arts ( la, Magister Artium or ''Artium Magister''; abbreviated MA or AM) is the holder of a master's degree A master's degree (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch ...
from Columbia in 1941, then a
Ph.D. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; or ''doctor philosophiae'') is the most common at the highest academic level awarded following a course of study. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. Be ...
in 1948 with a dissertation entitled "Nationalism and Language Reform in China", which was published by Princeton University Press in 1950. He began his academic career teaching Chinese at
Johns Hopkins University The Johns Hopkins University (Johns Hopkins, Hopkins, or JHU) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty S ...

Johns Hopkins University
during the period of
McCarthyism McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion Subversion (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...
and the
Red Scare A Red Scare is the promotion of a widespread fear of a potential rise of communism Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Lati ...
, but was
blacklisted Blacklisting is the action of a group or authority, compiling a blacklist (or black list) of people, countries or other entities to be avoided or distrusted as being deemed unacceptable to those making the list. If someone is on a blacklist, t ...
for defending his colleague
Owen Lattimore Owen Lattimore (July 29, 1900 – May 31, 1989) was an American author, educator, and influential scholar of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependenci ...

Owen Lattimore
from unsubstantiated allegations of being a "Russian spy", and eventually laid off in 1954.https://johndefrancis.wordpress.com/ After an unhappy stint as a vacuum-cleaner salesman, DeFrancis eventually returned to teaching, notably at
Seton Hall University Seton Hall University (SHU) is a Private university, private Catholic research university in South Orange, New Jersey. Founded in 1856 by then-Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley and named after his aunt, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Seton Hall is the ...
from 1961 to 1966, and the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa from 1966 to 1976. In the 1960s, at the request of John B. Tsu, he wrote a 12-volume
series Series may refer to: People with the name * Caroline Series (born 1951), English mathematician, daughter of George Series * George Series (1920–1995), English physicist Arts, entertainment, and media Music * Series, the ordered sets used i ...
of
Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more ...
textbooks and readers published by
Yale University Press Yale University Press is a university press A university press is an academic publishing Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditional ...
(popularly known as the "DeFrancis series"), which were widely used in
Chinese as a foreign language Chinese as a foreign or second language is when non-native speakers study varieties of Chinese, Chinese varieties. The increased interest in China from those outside has led to a corresponding interest in the study of Standard Chinese (a type of ...
classes for decades; DeFrancis was one of the first educators outside China to use
pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objecti ...
as an educational aid, and his textbooks are said to have had a "tremendous impact" on Chinese teaching in the West. He served as Associate Editor of the ''
Journal of the American Oriental Society The ''Journal of the American Oriental Society'' is a quarterly academic journal published by the American Oriental Society since 1843.Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association'' from 1966 to 1978. DeFrancis retired from teaching in 1976, but remained an important figure in Chinese language
pedagogy Pedagogy (), most commonly understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning Learning is the process of acquiring new , , s, s, , attitudes, and s. The ability to learn is possessed by s, s, and some ; there is ...
, Asian
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, ...
, and
language policy Language policy is an interdisciplinary academic field. Some scholars such as Joshua A. Fishman and Ofelia García consider it as part of sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of socie ...
, as well as a prolific author. One of his most well-known books, '' The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy'' (University of Hawai'i Press, 1984) attempts to debunk a number of what DeFrancis considered "widespread myths" about the language—including, for instance, what he referred to as "The Ideographic Myth." Another influential work of his was ''Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems'' (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1989), which addressed more myths about the Chinese writing system, and has been called his "
magnum opus 's ''The Creation of Adam ''The Creation of Adam'' () is a fresco Fresco (plural ''frescos'' or ''frescoes'') is a technique of Mural, mural painting executed upon freshly laid ("wet") lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-po ...

magnum opus
" by colleague Victor H. Mair. DeFrancis spent his final years diligently working as Editor in Chief of the "ABC (Alphabetically Based Computerized) series" of Chinese dictionaries, which feature innovative
collation Collation is the assembly of written information into a standard order. Many systems of collation are based on numerical order or alphabetical order, or extensions and combinations thereof. Collation is a fundamental element of most office fili ...
by the pinyin romanization system. DeFrancis died on 2 January 2009, in
Honolulu Honolulu (; ) is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals (or more formally ''majuscule'') and smaller lo ...

Honolulu
, Hawaii, at the age of 97.Edward Wong
John DeFrancis, 97, author and Chinese-language scholar
January 18, 2009. Also printed at
Nora Caplan-Bricker
John DeFrancis, 97, Chinese language scholar, is dead
. ''Yale Daily News'', January 16, 2009.


Works

John DeFrancis was the author and editor of numerous publications. See Mair 1991 (pages vii-ix) for a partial list.


The "DeFrancis series"

Textbooks (Yale Language Series, Yale University Press): *''Beginning Chinese'' (1963). 2nd revised edition, 1976. . *''Character Text for Beginning Chinese'' (1964). 2nd edition, 1976. . *''Beginning Chinese Reader (Parts I and II)'' (1966) . *''Intermediate Chinese'' (1964) . *''Character Text for Intermediate Chinese'' (1965) . *''Intermediate Chinese Reader (Parts I and II)'' (1967) Part 1: . Part 2: . *''Advanced Chinese'' (1966) . *''Character Text for Advanced Chinese'' (1966) . *''Advanced Chinese Reader'' (1968) . *''Index Volume'' (1968) *''Annotated Quotations from Chairman Mao'' (1975) .


Supplementary series

Accompanying ''Supplementary Readers'' for the ''Intermediate Chinese Reader'', (Yale University Press, 1976): * Volume I: ''
The White Haired Girl ''The White-Haired Girl'' () is a Chinese opera, ballet, (later adapted to Beijing Opera and a film) by Yan Jinxuan to a Chinese libretto by He Jingzhi and Ding Yi. The folklore of the white-haired girl is believed to have spread widely in the area ...
'' by Chi-Yu Ho. . * Volume II: '' The Red Detachment of Women'' by Chi-Yu Ho. . * Volume III: ''Episodes From the
Dream of the Red Chamber ''Dream of the Red Chamber'' (''Honglou Meng'') or ''The Story of the Stone'' (''Shitou Ji'') is a classic Chinese novel composed by Cao Xueqin Cáo Xuěqín (; ); (1715 or 17241763 or 1764)Briggs, Asa (ed.) (1989) ''The Longman Encyclop ...
'' by Louise H. Li. . * Volume IV: ''
Sun Yat-sen Sun Yat-sen (; born Sun Deming; 12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) Singtao daily. Saturday edition. 23 October 2010. section A18. Sun Yat-sen Xinhai revolution 100th anniversary edition . was a Chinese statesman A statesman or stateswoman ...

Sun Yat-sen
'' by Yung Teng Chia-Yee. . * Volume V: ''
Wu Song Wu Song ( zh, c=武松, p=wǔ sōng), also known as Wu the Second ( zh, c=武二郎, p=wŭ èrláng, labels=no), is a legendary hero recounted since the 13th century; and one of the well-known fictional characters in the ''Water Margin'', one of t ...
Kills a Tiger'' by Yung Teng Chia-Yee. .


Books and monographs


The Prospects for Chinese Writing Reform
, ''Sino-Platonic Papers'' No. 171, 2006 *
In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan
' (University of Hawaii Press, 1993) , . *''Visible Speech: The Diverse Oneness of Writing Systems'' (University of Hawaii Press, 1989) . *'' The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy'' (University of Hawaii Press, 1984) . *''Colonialism and Language Policy in Vietnam'' (Contributions to the Sociology of Language, Nr. 19, Mouton, 1977) . *''Things Japanese in Hawaii'' (University of Hawaii Press, 1973) . *''Chinese-English Glossary of the Mathematical Sciences'' (American Mathematical Society, 1964) *''Chinese Social History'', by E-tu Zen and John DeFrancis (American Council of Learned Societies, 1956) *''Bibliography on Chinese Social History'', by E-tu Zen and John DeFrancis (Yale University, Far Eastern Publications, 1952) *''Talks on Chinese History'' (with Elizabeth Jen Young) (Far Eastern Publications, 1952) *''Report of the Second Round Table Meeting on Linguistics'', Language Teaching Monograph Series on Languages and Linguistics, No. 1 (Georgetown University Press, 1951) *''Nationalism and Language Reform in China'' (Princeton University Press, 1950; reprinted Octagon Books, 1975) . *''Chinese Agent in Mongolia, translated from the Chinese of Ma Ho-t'ien'' (Johns Hopkins Press, 1949)


Dictionaries

Editor of bilingual Chinese dictionaries (University of Hawai'i Press), which are used as databases for software such as
Wenlin Wenlin Software for Learning Chinese () is a software application software, application designed by Tom Bishop, who is also president of the Wenlin Institute. It is based on his experience of the needs of learners of the Chinese language, predomina ...
: *'' ABC Chinese-English Dictionary'' (1996, pocket edition 1999) . *''ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary'' (2003) . *''ABC Chinese-English/English-Chinese Dictionary'' (2010)


Reviews


References

;Works cited


Further reading

*Mair, Victor H., ed.
Schriftfestschrift: Essays on Writing and Language in Honor of John DeFrancis on His Eightieth Birthday
', ''Sino-Platonic Papers'' #27, August 1991. (PDF)


External links


John DeFrancis biography
Wenlin Institute

Pinyin.info
John DeFrancis page
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
John DeFrancis' acceptance speech
for the Walton Lifetime Achievement Award of the Chinese Language Teachers Association in 1998.
John DeFrancis Memorial 1911-2009
* Andrew Leonard

''Salon'', Jan. 8, 2009.

''The China Beat'' (blog). 1/21/2009. {{DEFAULTSORT:Defrancis, John American sinologists 1911 births 2009 deaths 20th-century linguists Linguists from the United States People from Bridgeport, Connecticut University of Hawaiʻi faculty Columbia University alumni