Yuen Ren Chao (mandarin
:"Zhao Yuanren")(1892-1982) was the founder of modern Chinese dialectology
and was also generally influential in many other fields of Chinese linguistics
and developed a lot of the research and surveying methods used even to this day in Chinese linguistics. He was a professor at Harvard
. He was originally from Changzhou
He devised the idea of classifying the tones of Chinese in a range of pitches from one to five- at the time, before the advent of tape recording, he used a huqin, a type of musical instrument, to mimic the tones of a person's voice.
Another of his abilities was that he was able to produce any vowel sound on command, without error, even though some sounds did not originally occur in Chinese.
Zhao Yuanren is generally "never wrong"- even when conflicts are found between what he said and what is actually true, some sort of explanation will be given so that the "god of Chinese dialectology"'s reputation will be preserved.
For example, my professor had been doing research on the amount of tones in Chinese dialects, in this case one of the Wu dialects. Y.R. Chao had done his research on the tones using his own ear and a huqin, a type of musical instrument, to replicate the tones. Chao had arrived at the conclusion that there were at most 11 tones. However, my professor had gone to research using a microphone and recording equipment, so he got a more accurate reading and found there were 12 tones. However, this presented his professors with a difficult problem. Y.R.Chao was known never to be wrong, yet my professor's evidence was incontrovertible- their solution was thus accomplished: since Y.R. Chao had done his research 50 years previously, the professors said that the language had acquired an extra tone in the interim! Therefore both Y.R. Chao and my professor were correct...