In their various fields of research, scholars working on classical and premodern East Asia constantly encounter situations in which the parameters of the language used in a given text constitute by themselves an essential part of its meaning-making. In other words, the semiotisation of a text is no longer solely a function of its explicit content, at the denotative level: it is also determined by that implicit, connotative dimension, which is the choice of the particular linguistic form that is used to write that text. This dimension is present in many situations: quotation, commentary, rewriting, literary creation (in genre-hopping, for example), and more broadly in the genesis of many types of texts.

In China, the coexistence of the two different registers of classical and vernacular Chinese (literary Chinese vs./ vernacular Chinese) has triggered a whole series of linguistic relocations that are not only stylistic, but also translational in the full sense. The neighbouring countries of the so-called « sinographosphere » (Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Altaic regions, etc.), while maintaining ambiguous relations of linguistic familiarity and strangeness in relation to classical Chinese (which did not necessarily call for translation into local vernacular languages), were themselves drawn into multiple forms of intralingual translation and rewriting, according to the ever complex situations of diglossia, pluriglossia or plurilingualism.

The two-way relationship of rewriting cannot be reduced to the convenient model of a ‘high’ (or ‘classical’) variety of language versus ‘low’ variety(ies) in situations of diglossia or pluriglossia. The configurations are in fact much more complex, but also much more interesting. Intralingual translation cannot be limited to instrumental purposes, as in the ‘initiate-profane’ configuration, where an ancient or classical text is translated into a version deemed more ‘accessible’. In China, the hermeneutics of the Classics is linked to the emergence of vernacular genres. This phenomenon is also of interest to China’s neighbouring countries and cultural areas. In the East Asian space, while it is true that the widespread use of Classical Chinese until the premodern period produced what might be called a kind of Sinographic cosmopolitanism, which to some extent obviated the immediate need for translation between different languages in the written sphere, this did not prevent the development of vernacular languages and the sharing of knowledge from diachronic and socio-cultural perspectives.

The contiguity of the practices of rewriting, commentary and intralingual translation in the countries of the sinographosphere in the classical and premodern periods explains why this line of research has a transversal dimension.

The program led to a workshop in 2017, with publication in progress, and a workshop in 2021.




Rainier Lanselle (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Barbara Bisetto (Università degli Studi di Verona)

CRCAO members

Full members
Rainier Lanselle (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Matthias Hayek (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Pierre Marsone (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Philippe Papin (École Pratique des Hautes Études)
Jean-Noël Robert (Collège de France)
Daniel Struve (Université de Paris)
Victor Vuilleumier 宇乐文 (Université de Paris)

Associated members
Barbara Bisetto (Università degli Studi di Verona)
Anne Cheng (Collège de France)
Vincent Durand-Dastès (Inalco)

Research support
Philippe Pons (CNRS)

Aude Lucas (Independent)

Outside Participants

Özlem Berk Albachten (Université du Bosphore, Bogazici University, Turquie)
Rebekah Clements (Durham University)
Matthew Fraleigh (Brandeis University)
Mårten Söderblom Saarela (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)
Viatcheslav Vetrov (Université de Heidelberg)
Karen Korning Zethsen (University of Aarhus, Denmark)