Jerry Norman (sinologist)

Jerry Lee Norman
Born (1936-07-16)July 16, 1936
Watsonville, California, United States
Died July 7, 2012(2012-07-07) (aged 75)
Seattle, Washington, United States
Fields Chinese linguistics
Institutions University of Washington
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Academic advisors Y. R. Chao
Notable students W. South Coblin
Known for Study of Min Chinese dialects, Manchu language
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 羅傑瑞
Simplified Chinese 罗杰瑞
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡝᠯᠪᡳᡥᡝ

Jerry Lee Norman (July 16, 1936  July 7, 2012) was an American sinologist and linguist known for his studies of Chinese dialects and Chinese historical phonology, particularly those on the Min Chinese dialects and the Manchu language. Norman had a large impact on Chinese linguistics, and was largely responsible for the identification of the importance of the Min Chinese dialects in linguistic research into Old Chinese.[1]

Life and career

Jerry Norman was born on July 16, 1936, in Watsonville, California. His family were migrant farmers who had fled the Dust Bowl conditions of Oklahoma in the mid-1930s.[2] Norman entered the University of Chicago in the autumn of 1954 and majored in Russian, but was forced to withdraw after two years because of financial problems.[3] He was briefly a Catholic novitiate, then joined the U.S. Army and began studying at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, where he was first introduced to the Chinese language.[3]

After completing his military service, Norman enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a B.A. in 1961.[3] He then continued at Berkeley as a graduate student, studying Chinese under the prominent Chinese linguist Y. R. Chao as well as Manchu and Mongolian under James Bosson.[3] He earned an M.A. in 1965, and after working with Chinese linguist Leo Chen on a glossary of the Fuzhou dialect, in 1966 he joined the Chinese Linguistics Project at Princeton University as a staff linguist.[4] While at Princeton, Norman traveled to Taiwan to perform in field research on Taiwanese Hokkien, and in 1969 he received a Ph.D. from Berkeley with a dissertation on the Jianyang dialect entitled "The Kienyang Dialect of Fukien".[5]

Norman was promoted to assistant professor after completing his Ph.D. in 1969. While at Princeton, Norman met and married Stella Chen, and together they had four children. In 1972, Norman moved with his family to Seattle, Washington to join the faculty of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, where he remained until his retirement in 1998. Norman's scholarship focused on the Min dialects of Chinese, and was largely responsible for its recognition as an important tool for reconstructing the phonology of Old Chinese. He was a passionate student of Manchu history and literature, and was one of the last North American scholars to be fluent and literate in Manchu.

He died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in Seattle on July 7, 2012.[6]

Selected works



  1. Sagart (2012), p. 341.
  2. Coblin (2013), p. 219.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Coblin (2013), p. 220.
  4. Newsletter of the Association for Asian Studies. 14: 51. 1968. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Léo A. Orleans; Caroline Davidson, eds. (1980). Science in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press. p. xxi. ISBN 9780804710787.
  6. "In Memory of Jerry Lee Norman". Retrieved 2012-07-15.

Works cited

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