In the early 1930s, the well-known man of letters Phan Khôi wrote a series of essays about the Vietnamese language in which he advanced a number of proposals for reform. I focus on those arguments that are specifically concerned with the practices for referring to persons and, in particular, the practices for referring to participants in communication (i.e., speaker-addressee, writer-reader). I suggest that these arguments articulate a vision for Vietnamese public life that was imagined as breaking from the legacy of a Confucian past and establishing the conditions for the free flow of discourse among self-abstracted individuals.
The Inconvenience of Tradition: Phan Khôi’s Pragmatism and His Proposals for Modernizing Language Reform
Jack Sidnell is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. For their comments on earlier versions of this essay and many insightful suggestions for improvement, the author thanks Monica Heller, Judy Irvine, and Hy Van Luong, as well as two anonymous reviewers. He is also much indebted to the JVS editors, especially Peter Zinoman whose expert reading prompted a revision of the biographical portion of the paper. The author alone is responsible for all remaining inadequacies.
Jack Sidnell; The Inconvenience of Tradition: Phan Khôi’s Pragmatism and His Proposals for Modernizing Language Reform. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 August 2023; 18 (3): 56–97. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2023.18.3.56
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