Jerry Lee Norman (July 16, 1936 – July 7, 2012) was an American sinologist and linguist known for his studies of Chinese dialects and historical phonology, particularly on the Min Chinese dialects, and of the Manchu language. Norman had a large impact on Chinese linguistics, and was largely responsible for the identification of the importance of the Min Chinese dialects in linguistic research into Old Chinese.
July 16, 1936|
Watsonville, California, U.S.
July 7, 2012 (aged 75)|
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley|
|Thesis||The Kienyang Dialect of Fukien (1969)|
|Academic advisors||Y. R. Chao|
|Notable students||W. South Coblin|
Jerry Norman was born on July 16, 1936, in Watsonville, California. His family were migrant farmers who had fled the Dust Bowl conditions of Oklahoma in the mid-1930s. Norman entered the University of Chicago in the autumn of 1954 and majored in Russian, but was forced to withdraw after two years because of financial problems. He was briefly a Catholic novitiate, then joined the U.S. Army and began studying at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, where he was first introduced to the Chinese language.
After completing his military service, Norman enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a B.A. in 1961. He then continued at Berkeley as a graduate student, studying Chinese under the prominent Chinese linguist Y. R. Chao as well as Manchu and Mongolian under the American scholar James Bosson (1933–2016). He earned an M.A. in 1965, and after working with Chinese linguist Leo Chen on a glossary of the Fuzhou dialect, in 1966 he joined the Chinese Linguistics Project at Princeton University as a staff linguist. While at Princeton, Norman traveled to Taiwan to perform in field research on Taiwanese Hokkien, and in 1969 he received a Ph.D. from Berkeley with a dissertation on the Jianyang dialect entitled "The Kienyang Dialect of Fukien".
Norman was promoted to assistant professor after completing his Ph.D. in 1969. While at Princeton, Norman met and married Stella Chen, and together they had four children. In 1972, Norman moved with his family to Seattle, Washington to join the faculty of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, where he remained until his retirement in 1998. Norman's scholarship focused on the Min dialects of Chinese, and was largely responsible for its recognition as an important tool for reconstructing the phonology of Old Chinese. He was a passionate student of Manchu history and literature, and was one of the last North American scholars to be fluent and literate in Manchu.