Travel grant: Sino-Tibetan Languages: Research Methodologies and Approaches to Linguistic Field Studies and Language Documentation among Tibeto-Burman Speaking Minorities in China

Ghent, Belgium
26th-30th Oct 2020
Deadline: 31st Jul 2020

Thanks to the generous support of the TIANZHU FOUNDATION, we are pleased to award up to 800 Euros in travel remuneration of five international PhD students. This money can be used for travel, accommodation, and meals. To apply for this travel grant, please send a one-page cover letter and your CV to by July 31st, 2020.
The selected candidates will be notified by August 10th, 2020.

Name: Prof. Christoph Anderl
Faculty: Arts and Philosophy
Department: Languages and Cultures (Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies / DiaLing)

Prof. Ann Heirman (Languages and Cultures – East Asia)
Prof. Linda Badan (Translation, Interpreting and Communication / MULTIPLES / DiaLing)

Doctoral School Course


Sino-Tibetan Languages: Research Methodologies and Approaches to Linguistic Field Studies and Language Documentation among Tibeto-Burman Speaking Minorities in China

Dates: October 26 – 30, 2020
Venue: Het Pand, Ghent University

Based on the current Covid19 situation, the DS could be also transformed into an online event (or “mixed” event), if necessary.

This specialist course will focus on an interdisciplinary approach to the Sino-Tibetan (ST) language family, with an emphasis on languages of the Tibeto-Burman (TB) branch spoken by ethnic minorities in China. In the course there will be an emphasis on linguistic aspects, such as the genetic relations between the ST languages in a historical perspective, comparative approaches to the study of language families, fieldwork research on endangered languages, fieldwork methodologies, as well as the cultural and religious background of ST speaking ethnic minorities in China.

Topic of the course:
The course focuses on the Sino-Tibetan language family and Tibeto-Burman languages as spoken in Southwestern regions of China, as well as the sociocultural, religious, and ecological contexts of ethnic minorities of these regions. The DS will provide an overview of ST languages in a historical perspective, and deal with the research of language families in a comparative context (especially contrasting / comparing the Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan groups). More specifically, the focus will be on Tibeto-Burman languages as spoken in the Southwestern region of Yunnan, China, many of them being endangered and on the verge of becoming extinct. The linguistic aspects will be discussed in a contextualized way, giving consideration to the sociocultural, religious (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, and native religions), and environmental / ecological aspects of the ethnic minority communities. Another part of the course will concretely deal with linguistic fieldwork methodologies and the documentation of endangered languages.

Tentative programme with time schedule:

The five-day course will have 5 – 6 contact hours a day (ca. 27 contact hours all together), including lectures, discussions of research material, presentations by the PhD students, round-table discussions, and documentary film screenings.

Monday, October 26th:
9:30: Welcome Greetings (C. Anderl; A. Heirman; L. Badan)
10:00-12:00: Sino-Tibetan Languages: Introduction and Historical Perspective (Nathan Hill)
12:00-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-15:30: Tibeto-Burman Languages: An Introduction (Nathan Hill)
15:30-16:30: Sino-Tibetan Languages: Research Methodologies in a Comparative Perspective 1 (Nathan Hill)

Tuesday, October 27th:
10:00-12:00: Linguistic Field Work Methodologies 1: New Developments (Nathan Hill)
12:00-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-14:30: Religion and Culture of the Biyo Communities of Southwestern China (PhD researcher Bai Shan)
14:30-15:30: Discussion with Students (C. Anderl; N. Hill; J. Wang; L. Badan)
15:30-16:30: Sino-Tibetan Languages: Research Methodologies in a Comparative Perspective 2 (Nathan Hill)

Wednesday, October 28th:
10:00-12:00: Introduction to the Hani language group (Wang Jianhua)
12:00-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-14:30: Round Table Discussion: Research on Language Families in a Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspective (Nathan Hill, Wang Jianhua)
14:30-16:30: 16:30: Interactive Presentations of Students’ PhD Projects

Thursday, October 29th:
10:00-12:00: Linguistic Field Work Methodologies 2: Field Work Among Hani Communities in Southwestern China and Beyond (Wang Jianhua)
12:00-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-15:30: Hani Religion and Culture / Presentation of a Documentary Film on Minorities in Southwestern China (Wang Jianhua)*
15:30-17:00: Interactive Presentation of Students’ PhD Projects

Friday, October 30th:
10:00-12:00: Linguistic Field Work Methodologies 3 (Linda Badan)
12:00-13:30: Lunch Break
13:30-14:30: Religions and Cultures of Minorities in Yunnan Province (Wang Jianhua; Bai Shan)
15:30-16:30: Final Discussion with Students

* The presentation of the documentary film (dealing with the culture and religion of ethnic minorities) will probably take place in a larger venue, since it will be open to a more general public (since it is of interest for a variety of researchers, including anthropologies and sociologists)

Lecturer (1):
Name: Nathan Hill
Affiliation: SOAS University of London

Nathan Hill studied Tibetology and Historical Linguistics at the Catlin Gabel School and Harvard University, in addition to institutions in France, Nepal, Tibet, and Japan. Currently he is teaching at SOAS, London, and is also a distinguished lecturer at Renmin University, Beijing. Hill is one of the leading scholars concerning the history of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and has published extensively in this field, in addition to his research on Tibeto-Burman languages and the methodologies of historical and corpus linguistics. He has published extensively in various fields of historical linguistics and Sino-Tibetan languages. The publications include three authored books (including Comparative Phonology of Tibetan, Burmese, and Chinese. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2019), five edited books (including Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV. Brill, 2012), and more than 70 refereed journal articles (e.g., the recent comparative study “The Differing Status of Reconstruction in Trans-Himalayan and Indo-European”, Cahier de Linguistique Asie Orientale 48.2 (2019)), and ca. 20 book chapters.

Lecturer (2):
Name: Wang Jianhua
Affiliation: School of Sociology, Yunnan Minzu University

Wang Jianhua studied Ethnobotany at the Kunming Institute of Botany and Anthropology at the University of California Riverside. Currently, he is a professor and vice head of the Department of Anthropology at the School of Sociology, Yunnan Minzu University. In addition to the teaching and research on minority languages and cultures, he is highly engaged in the preservation of endangered Hani languages and is the International Coordinator of the Mekong Akha Network for Peace and Sustainability (MAPS), Chiang Mai, Thailand, coordinating research activities in Hani speaking areas of Thailand, China, Laos, and other regions. Prof. Wang is a native speaker of Hani / Akha and as such is able to also convey an “inside view” concerning the sociocultural and religious situation of ethnic minorities in Yunnan, as well as concerning minority languages in Southwestern China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. He has engaged in anthropological research on various Hani communities in China and Thailand, with a special emphasis on questions of sustainability and ecological resources. He has published more than ten books and papers on this subject, as well as having presented numerous papers at conferences. He is highly engaged in various research projects (more than 25) concerning minorities and ecology, the migration of Hani people, the preservation of Hani language and culture, comparative studies of various Hani languages, and biodiversity in minority territories of Southwestern China and Southeast Asia. He has also produced several documentaries on the subject of minorities in Southwestern China.

Supporting lecturers:
Linda Badan (UGent)
Christoph Anderl (UGent)
Bai Shan (UGent)

PhD students with a background in Chinese studies and/or Chinese culture and religions; and/or PhD students with a linguistic background and an interest in language families / Sino-Tibetan / Tibeto-Burmese languages ; and/or students engaging in linguistic field studies in East Asia; and/or students engaging in the study of endangered languages and ethnic minorities in East Asia. The film screening will be open to a wider and less specialized audience.