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One professor's quest to explore the languages of Chinese Inner Asia, from Tibetan to Uyghur

Friday, April 18, 2014

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas professor who studies Chinese Inner Asia as an area of linguistic and social convergence was named a 2014 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Arienne Dwyer, a professor of anthropology and co-director of the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, received a prestigious 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship. Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of distinguished achievement and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Dwyer’s fellowship was one of 177 awarded out of a pool of about 3,000.

She will take the fellowship during the 2015-’16 academic year to work on a book on Inner Asian “convergence,” which argues for an areal grammar, in which the dominant languages, Tibetan and Chinese, both influenced and were influenced by nondominant languages of the area.

This is the second prestigious fellowship Dwyer has received this academic year. She was also awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Arienne Dwyer has achieved a feat that few researchers can match. It’s an outstanding achievement in itself to receive either a Guggenheim or an NEH fellowship in one year. That she has been selected for both awards in one year speaks volumes to the importance and integrity of her work,” said Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

“The Guggenheim is primus inter pares among fellowships in the humanities, arts and social sciences,” said Victor Bailey, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities. “Professor Dwyer is to be unrestrainedly commended for attracting an award that will add prestige and luster to her own career, and to the university she serves.”

Dwyer is known for identifying Chinese Inner Asia as a language convergence area (Sprachbund), and for her work in Uyghur language and cultural studies. Her work bridges linguistic typology and ethnography, critical discourse analysis, indigenous advocacy and digital humanities.

During her Guggenheim Fellowship, she will apply text-mining techniques to the languages of Inner Asia in order to assess similarity and difference in linguistic, literary and historical aspects of the area. She has extensively studied the mutual influence of languages in contact in previous work. For example, she discovered that Chinese caused a Mongolic language to develop tonal contrasts.

The upcoming Guggenheim book project, “Inner Asian Convergence,” will connect with other work, including her current NEH Fellowship. That book project, "Camel Spring: Narratives and Meta-Narratives of the Silk Road," explores the stories told by and about Central Asians. Much of Dwyer’s collaborative work can also be studied and accessed through the Interactive Inner Asia and Uyghur Light Verbs web sites. The audiovisual and transcription materials of oral arts and everyday life in the region that she and colleagues have collected are preserved and easily accessible for future generations of Inner Asians and researchers.

Dwyer has won 12 major external grants and fellowships since joining KU in 2002, including several major research grants from the National Science Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship and a joint NEH/National Science Foundation Fellowship. These grants have supported and trained about 50 KU students.

This is the 90th year of Guggenheim Fellowships. Since 1925, the foundation has granted more than $315 million to almost 17,700 individuals, including recipients of Nobel and Pulitzer awards, and other significant international honors. 


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CEAS M.A. Program

The Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) at The University of Kansas now offers an M.A. program in Contemporary East Asian Studies. Full-time students with prior East Asian language training will be able to complete the degree within 12 months. For more information about this M.A. program including specific requirements for admission, visit www.ceas.ku.edu/degrees, or contact Ayako Mizumura, Assistant Director of CEAS, by email (ceasma@ku.edu) or call 785-864-1478. You can also download our program flyer (PDF) Please share this information with your friends, colleagues and students! We are looking forward to hearing from you.

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