William S-Y Wang

Picture of William S-Y Wang
Language Engineering, Computational Linguistics, and Language & Evolution

Contact Information

Office: Now at: Chinese University of Hong Kong
Email: wsywang@ee.cuhk.edu.hk

Personal Statement

Professor Wang was born in Shanghai, where he received his early schooling. In 1951, he won a four year scholarship to Columbia College in New York City. While still a freshman, he coauthored a musical production of the Chinese legend, the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid, which was performed at the International House of New York. He went on to pursue graduate studies in linguistics at the University of Michigan, and wrote his Ph.D. dissertation in the laboratories of Prof. Gordon E. Peterson. The dissertation, completed in 1959, was one of the first studies to apply the combined knowledge of linguistics and acoustics to the problem of machine recognition of speech. Aspects of his research in this area were published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

After his graduate studies, Prof. Wang undertook research on machine translation from Russian to English at the I.B.M. Research Center at Yorktown Heights. He also held a post-doctoral appointment at the Research Laboratory of Electronics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on problems of speech analysis. He returned to teach at the University of Michigan for a year before accepting a position at the Ohio State University. There he established a Department of Linguistics and a Department of East Asian Languages, and served as the first Chairman of both.

After a visiting professorship sponsored by the Department of Chinese and Department of Anthropology of the National Taiwan University, Prof. Wang accepted a position as Professor of Linguistics at the University of California in Berkeley in 1966, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1994. In 1973, he founded the Journal of Chinese Linguistics, the first international publication in the field, and continues as its editor till this day, with its office at the Project on Linguistic Analysis at Berkeley. After his official retirement, he served as Director of the Chao Yuen Ren Center for Chinese Linguistics and Professor of Graduate School at Berkeley until 2000.

In 1995 Prof. Wang was appointed Chair Professor of Language Engineering at the City University of Hong Kong. In 2004 he accepted a position as Research Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in the Department of Electronic Engineering and in the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages. He is an Adjunct Professor of Lanzhou University, Nankai University, Tsinghua University, Yunnan University, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The honours he has received include a Guggenheim Fellowship [New York], two fellowships from the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioural Sciences [Stanford], a National Professorship from Sweden [Stockholm, Umea, Upsala, and Lund], a resident fellowship from the Center for Advanced Studies at Bellagio [Italy], and a fellowship from the International Institute of Advanced Studies [Kyoto]. He was elected President of the International Association of Chinese Linguistics when it was founded in 1992 [ Singapore]. He is an Academician of the Academia Sinica [Taiwan], and serves on the Advisory Committees of the Institute of Linguistics [chairman] and of the Institute of Information Sciences [member].

His publications include numerous articles in technical journals, and several encyclopaedias, as well as in general science magazines, including American Scientist, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [USA], Scientific American and 科學人 [Taiwan].  His writings have appeared in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.

He has contributed to several encyclopedias, including "Speech" in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, "Sino-Tibetan" in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, and "Origins of Language" in the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics. In recent years, Prof. Wang has collaborated with biologists and computer scientists in a common search for the origin of language and patterns in language differentiation. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, he will continue his research on language from an interdisciplinary perspective, involving engineering, linguistics, and biological sciences.

Selected publications

The items below may be viewed as PDF files via clicking. The starred items (*) below are copied from:
W. S-Y. Wang, Explorations in Language, Taipei: Pyramid Press, 1991.


Whitehouse, P., Usher, T., Ruhlen, M. & Wang, W. S-Y. 2004. Kusunda: an Indo-Pacific language in Nepal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 101.5692-5695

Wang, W. S.-Y., Ke, J. Y., & Minett, J. W. 2004. Computational Studies of Language Evolution. Pp. 65-106 in Computational linguistics and Beyond. Huang, C.R. & Lenders, W., eds. Academia Sinica: Institute of Linguistics.
(Chinese translation: èªžè¨€æ¼”åŒ–çš„è¨ˆç®—ç ”ç©¶ã€‚è¨ˆç®—èªžè¨€å­¸å‰çž»ã€‚75-126。商務印書館, 2005)

Peng, Gang. and Wang, William S-Y. 2004. An innovative prosody modeling method for Chinese speech recognition. International Journal of Speech Technology. 7.129-140

Wang, Feng & Wang, W. S.-Y. 2004. Basic Words and Language Evolution. Language and linguistics, 5.3.643-662

王士元. (2004). ä¸­å¤®ç ”ç©¶é™¢èªžè¨€å­¸ç ”ç©¶æ‰€æˆç«‹è³€è©ž (Congratulatory remarks at Nan'gang.)

Minett, James W., and Wang, W. S-Y. (2004). Modeling endangered languages: the effects of bilingualism and social structure. Submitted for publication.

Minett, J. W. and Wang, W. S-Y. (2003). On detecting borrowing: Distance-based and character-based approaches. Diachronica. 20.2:289–330.

Minett, J. W. and Wang, W. S-Y. (2003). An analysis of the lexical skewing method for detecting language contact. Submitted for publication.

Ke, J. Y., Ogura, M. & Wang, W. S-Y. (2003). Optimization Models of Sound Systems Using Genetic Algorithms. Computational Linguistics. 29.1:1-18.

Wang, W. S-Y. (2003). Vignettes from the Cultural Revolution. EE Concord, City University of Hong Kong. 12. p. 7-8. (中文譯文: 文革剪影 汪鋒 譯)

鄧曉華、王士元(2003). è‹—ç‘¤èªžæ—èªžè¨€çš„è¦ªç·£é—œä¿‚çš„è¨ˆé‡ç ”ç©¶ - 詞源系統分析方法. 北京: 中國語文. 3:253-263

鄧曉華、王士元 (2003). 藏緬語族語言的數理分類及其形成過程的分析. 北京: 民族語文.

Wang, W. S-Y. & Ke, J. Y. (2002). Language Heterogeneity and Self-organizing Consciousness. Commentary in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Ke, J. Y., Minett, J. W., Au, C. P. & Wang, W. S-Y. (2002). Self-organization & Selection in the Emergence of Vocabulary. Complexity. 7.3.41-54.
(a) Wang, W. S-Y. (2003). 'Yunnan and her Cultural Treasures'. International Association of Chinese Linguistics Newsletter. 11.2:3-5.
(b) 王士元. (2002). 語言是雲南的文化寶藏. 科學人.8:58-59.

Wang, W. S-Y. (2001). Human Diversity and Language Diversity. In L. Jin, M. Seielstad and C. Xiao (Eds.). Genetic, Linguistic and Archaeological Perspectives on Human Diversity in Southeast Asia. Singapore: World Scientific. pp. 17-33.

Wang, W. S-Y. (2001, March). The Joy of Research. A lecture delivered at the Symposium on Broadening Research Frontiers at the City University of Hong Kong.

王士元,柯津云. (2001). 語言的起源及建模仿真初探. 中國語文. 282:195-200.

王士元. (2001年10月). 孟德爾與瓊斯,道不同不相為謀?.科學中國人.

Schoenemann, P. T., Budinger, T. F., Sarich, V. M. & Wang, W. S-Y. (2000). Brain Size Does not Predict General Cognitive Ability within Families. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. [U.S.A.] 97:4932-4937.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1999). Language Emergence and Transmission. Studies on Chinese Historical Syntax and Morphology. pp. 246-57.

Wang, W.S-Y. (1998) Three windows on the past.  508-534. The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern Central Asia.  V.H.Mair, ed.  University of Pennsylvania Museum Publications.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1998). Language and the Evolution of Modern Humans. In K. Omoto and P. V. Tobias (eds.). The Origins and Past of Modern Humans. World Scientific, pp.247-262.

Schoenemann, P. T. & Wang, W. S-Y. (1996). Evolutionary Principles and the Emergence of Syntax. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 19.4:646-47.

Freedman, David A., & Wang, W. S-Y. (1996). Language polygenesis: A probabilistic model. Anthropological Science. 104:131-37.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1994). Glottochronology, Lexicostatistics, and Other Numerical Methods. The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (R. E. Asher, ed.). 3:1445-50.

*Wang, W. S-Y. (1991). Bibliography. Explorations in Language. Taipei: Pyramid Press.

*Wang, W. S-Y. (1989). Language Prefabs and Habitual Thought. Forum Lectures, TESOL Summer Institute, San Francisco State University.

Cavalli-Sforza L.L., & Wang, W. S-Y. (1986). Spatial distance and lexical replacement. Language. 62:38-55.

林燾,王士元. (1984å¹´12月). è²èª¿æ„ŸçŸ¥å•é¡Œï¼Žä¸­åœ‹èªžè¨€å­¸å ±. 2:59-69.

*Tzeng, J. L. & Wang, W. S-Y. (1983, May-June). The First Two R's. American Scientist, 71:238-243.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1979). Language Change -- A Lexical Perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology. 8.353-71.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1979). Review of The Role of Speech in Language. Language. 55.941-5.

*Wang, W. S-Y. (1978). The Three Scales of Diachrony. In B. B. Kachru (ed.). Linguistics in the Seventies: Directions and Prospects. Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois. pp.63-76.

Wang, W. S-Y. (1974). Notes on a trip to China. The Linguistic Reporter. 16:3-4

Wang, W. S-Y. (1973). Chinese Language. Scientific American.
French translation: La langue chinoise.  76-82 in Pour la Science, Octobre 1997.
Italian translation: La lingua cinese. 80-86 in Le Scienze, Giugno 1999.
German translation: Die chinesische Sprache.  72-78 in Spektrum der Wissenschaft (Dossier 01/2000).
Chinese translation: 漢語。56-71 in 語言與人類交際。廣西教育出版社。1987.

*Wang, W. S-Y. (1969). Competing Changes as a Cause of Residue. Language. 45:9-25.

*Wang, W. S-Y. (1967). Phonological Features of Tone. International Journal of American Linguistics. 33.2:93-105.

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