Languages & Cultures of East Asia

Trad 101, Sections 18-19-20-21   Fall 2000

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Updated 8/18/00
Subject to revision


Feng-hsi Liu MW 9:00-10:00
Franklin 610
Tsuyoshi Ono MW 12:30-1:30
Franklin 514

Teaching Assistants:

Margaret Camp Th 9:30-10:30
Park Student Union
Hang Du T 10:00-11:00
Park Student Union



"Languages and Cultures of East Asia" (TRAD 101) explores the social, historical, and linguistic aspects of the languages and cultures of East Asia and how they have changed over the centuries, focusing particularly on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The overall goal of the course is to introduce you to several East Asian cultures by examining how people in those cultures use the medium of language to interact with others in their own culture, in other East Asian cultures, and in still more distant cultures. We will examine basic concepts in East Asian cultures such as hierarchies of age, gender, and status; and the relative value placed on silence and verbal communication. For each of the topics studied, we will consider how it has been reflected in and constantly reconstituted by language use. We will also introduce basic concepts central to the study of languages and their interaction with individuals, cultures, and societies. Various topics covered will be related to the American cultural context, and you are encouraged to explore similarities and differences between East Asian cultures and your own cultural traditions. We will concentrate especially on various Chinese languages, Japanese, and Korean, but we will also pay some attention to Ainu (a minority language in Japan), Austronesian languages spoken in Taiwan, Okinawan, Taiwanese, and minority languages in China. The course will focus on questions such as those listed below. These questions have been approached by scholars from the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, history, literature, sociology, and philosophy, and we will discuss what various disciplines have contributed to our understanding of how human beings use language.

1) How do social and cultural factors interact with languages? For example, most of East Asia has been influenced by Confucian ideas about hierarchical human relationships. Can we see evidence in various East Asian languages for the importance of hierarchy in their societies? Or how about gender--a crucial social category in all human cultures: are there differences in how men and women are expected to use language in various East Asian societies?
2) Many East Asian countries are not monolingual. What is the relative status of the different languages spoken in multilingual East Asian countries? How has this changed through time? To what degree are governments or other elites engaged in language planning, and what problems face speakers of minority languages? Are there any parallels with the position of minority languages in the United States today?
3) What different kinds of writing systems have been invented throughout history? Which of these writing systems are represented among the East Asian languages and how have they changed over the centuries? A number of East Asian languages use "Chinese characters" as at least one part of their writing systems. What is the relationship between these writing systems and computer technology?
4) How many languages are spoken in East Asia, and what kinds of historical and cultural relationships link them to each other and to languages spoken beyond the East Asian region? What is the difference between a dialect and a language? How do the number and areal distribution of dialects vary in China, Japan, and Korea compared to the United States?
5) What are some of the different ways various aspects of a language (sound system, word structure, lexicon, grammar, discourse structure, etc.) can be organized? For example, what kinds of sounds are possible in human languages? How do the sound systems of individual languages make use of these sounds? What kind of sound systems do we find among the various East Asian languages? Are they similar or quite different? How do they compare to the sound system of English?

Reading assignments, lectures, and written assignments are designed not merely to present you with a body of information to be digested, but to assist you in thinking critically about the issues addressed. Some homework assignments will involve using the internet to search for resources on East Asian languages and cultures, thus enabling you to become familiar with the computerized resources which are rapidly increasing in availability and importance. Weekly discussion sections will provide an opportunity to meet with your instructors in smaller groups, to discuss course material in a more informal setting, and to probe deeper into questions and issues raised in lectures. In addition to regular attendance in class and active participation in discussion sections, you will do a number of different types of writing throughout the term: homework assignments, in-class writing assignments, and essay exams. These tests and assignments will emphasize the following skills:

1) summarizing and expressing what you have learned in lectures or in readings
2) drawing connections between different readings and ideas, and between materials covered for class and broader issues
3) expressing your reasoning in writing and arguing logically for a proposed analysis


The textbooks for the course will be two packets of readings from Fast Copy. These will be available at the ASUA Bookstore in the textbook section (in the basement). The readings are numbered. We will use these numbers to refer to the articles throughout the course. The first packet is available now; the second packet will be available in a couple of weeks.


The final grade for the course will be determined from your oral and written work as follows:

Class participation 20%
In-class writing assignments 20%
Homework assignments 20%
Mid-term 20%
Final exam 20%

Class Participation

Regular attendance in class and active participation in discussion sections count for 20% of the course grade. For lectures random attendance will be taken; for discussion sections attendance will be taken at each class. You are expected to come to class having read and considered the assigned material so that you can follow and ask questions at lectures and participate meaningfully in discussions. Grades will reflect the quality of participation as well as the quantity. You will not receive credit for attending a section other than the one for which you are registered.

In-Class Writing Assignments

There will be very brief in-class writing assignments (7-8 minutes) at the beginning of class on eight of the discussion days. The task will be to write a response to one or two questions about the readings and/or lectures for that week. The questions will require you to draw connections between information from different sources, to evaluate the information covered that week, and, for some questions, to compare East Asian cultural and linguistic contexts with your own. These questions should not be difficult if you have done the reading and thought carefully about the material before coming to class. The in-class writing assignments count for 20% of the course grade. There will be no make-ups for these assignments, so you must be in class on time in order to complete the assignment. We will, however, drop the lowest score before averaging the grades from these assignments.

Homework Assignments

There are three types of homework assignments: 1) four assignments that involve analyzing data to identify patterns in language use and writing a report about the findings, 2) one internet group project, one goal of which is to help you become discriminating "consumers" of the internet, evaluating the quality of the resources you find, and 3) two 2-3 page essay assignments that ask you to consider critically an issue related to East Asian culture and/or language, possibly relating it to American culture. One of the two essay assignments may be rewritten based on your instructor's feedback. Your final grade will be the one you receive on the rewritten paper. When you turn in your assignments, only hard copy will be accepted; electronic versions will not be accepted. For all the assignments you turn in, please save a copy for yourself.

Mid-Term and Final Exam

Both exams may consist of both short-answer questions and longer essay questions. You will be given a list of possible essay questions to study before each test, one or two of which will be on the test. These essay questions will require you to move beyond simply regurgitating information gained through the class and to demonstrate an increasing ability to draw connections, make comparisons, and evaluate the worth of different ideas you have encountered. There are no make-up exams except in exceptional circumstances and with a signed excuse from a doctor or university official. The mid-term will be during a normal 50-minute class period (Monday, October 16th), and the final exam will be a two-hour exam during finals week (Monday, December 11th, 11:00-1:00).


Although we encourage you to get together to talk about the readings and ideas brought up in class, for all individual assignments you are expected to do your own written work in order to receive credit. Materials turned in as part of a group project must be the work of all group members. Words or ideas that come from someone else must be cited: "A good rule of thumb is this: Whenever you consciously borrow any important element from someone else--any sentence, any colorful phrase or original term, any plan or idea--say so, either in a footnote, bibliography, or parenthesis" (from "Academic Honesty in the Writing of Essays and Other Papers", Carleton College, 1990). See the University of Arizona Code of Academic Integrity for specific information regarding University of Arizona policy. Violations of the Code may result in your failing to receive credit for this class.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This syllabus is subject to change; any changes will be announced in class.