Trade and Missionary Work: A Word Frequency Analysis of Dialogues and Detached Sentences in the Chinese Language (1816) and the Pedagogy of Robert Morrison

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Department 1

East Asian Studies


This paper analyzes how pedagogy is a means through which different political, economic, and cultural forces interact. I focus on one form of pedagogy—teaching Chinese as a foreign language, and use one textbook—Dialogues and Detached Sentences in the Chinese Language (1816) compiled by Robert Morrison (1782–1834)—as a case study to examine a convergence of factors that influenced the material for learning Chinese in the early nineteenth century. I combine the word frequency analysis of Dialogues and Detached Sentences in the Chinese Language and the close examination of certain translations from the textbook, and contend that this textbook reflects the diverse interests such as the urge to trade with China and the mission to spread Christianity. My paper concludes that pedagogical material is deeply rooted in its economic, political, and cultural conditions and that a synthesis of distant reading and close reading can reveal new aspects of the connection between Morrison's textbook and its historical context.



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