Meet the Researcher

Page Index

The content of this page was developed from the research of Dr. Arienne Dwyer,
Dr. Wang Xianzhen, Dr. Limusishiden (Li Dechun) and Ms. Lu Wanfang.

Dr. Wang Xianzhen

Dr. Wang Xianzhen, a native speaker of Monguor and the central data collector for the Monguor project, is not a trained linguist. In fact, he works as a plastic surgeon who specializes in treating burn victims at a hospital in Xining, China. However, for over ten years he has been spending his weekends traveling 200 kilometers each way between Xining and the towns of Tongren, Minhe, and Huzhu to work with Monguor speakers and to collect language data.

His interest in documenting Monguor began in 1992, when he first collaborated with Dr. Kevin Stuart, an English teacher from Oklahoma who was working in China. Dr. Stuart knew of Monguor's status as an endangered language, and he encouraged Dr. Wang to record folktales from talented storytellers. These storytellers lived in very remote areas and were largely uneducated, and Dr. Wang had only a cassette recorder with no microphone at his disposal. As Monguor has no orthography, Dr. Wang developed a writing system in pinyin to facilitate editing the stories.

In 1996 Dr. Wang translated "English 900 Sentences," a textbook used throughout China for teaching English, into Monguor, and he recorded the sentences on cassette tape.

Dr. Wang has published an article in the journal 'Chime' about Monguor wedding songs, with both a Monguor translation and English transcription.

Now Dr. Wang works with his colleagues, Dr. Li in Huzhu and Mr. Zhu in Minhe, to collect Monguor data. He trains his team members to use computers to help with the work, and occasionally he is called upon to troubleshoot problematic software and fix the computers (the Monguor project has led him to become a self-taught computer "expert").

Dr. Wang is very excited and grateful for this opportunity to work with Dr. Arienne Dwyer and E-MELD. His goals for the Monguor project involve making the language data available on the web to the Monguor community. He wants speakers to be able to use the information he has collected to teach Monguor to their children and to revive forgotten words and phrases. He also hopes his work will help preserve Monguor culture and customs. For example, many folksongs are only recorded in their Chinese translations, and he hopes that one day he will be able to back-translate the songs and provide these communities with a small part of their forgotten past.

Follow the path of the Monguor data

  1. Get Started: Summary of the Monguor conversion
  2. Convert Data: Conversion page (Classroom)
  3. Create a Lexicon: FIELD tool (Workroom)
  4. Present Data: Stylesheets page (Classroom)

User Contributed Notes
E-MELD School of Best Practices: Meet the Researcher: Dr. Wang Xianzhen
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