Ash Henson, PhD, CTO – Outlier Linguistics

Ash Henson, PhD, CTO

Ash Henson (李艾希),
PhD, MSc

Though his professional career started in engineering. Ash has been fervently learning languages since 1991. He speaks Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese and German, all in varying states of decay. In addition to these, he has learned to some level or another another 7 languages. With both an undergraduate and a Master's degree in electrical engineering, specializing in electromagnetic wave propagation, he worked as an engineer/programmer for 8+ years. Somehow during this time, he managed to spend 1.5 years living in Utrecht, the Netherlands and even worked for a short time as a professional Dutch to English translator as well as a volunteer interpreter. Less than a year after graduating with his Master's in 2004, he left engineering and moved to Asia to pursue a long time passion: a career in foreign languages.

After a short seven-month stay in Hong Kong, he moved to Taiwan to attend the intensive, academic Chinese program at ICLP (臺大國際華語研習所) for 10 months. Before entering the PhD program in the Chinese department at National Taiwan Normal University, Ash spent six years in the Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (TCSL) PhD program where he focused his coursework mostly on linguistics, including courses such as:

  • Introduction to Sino-Tibetan (漢藏語概論)
  • Chinese Dialectology (漢語方言學)
  • Classical Chinese (古代漢語文學之教學研究) taught by Prof. Cheng Tsai-Fa (鄭再發)
  • Chinese Syntax (漢語語法學)
  • Chinese Semantics (漢語語義學)
  • Special Topics in Contemporary Linguistics (當代語言學專題研究)

While preparing for the TCSL PhD qualifying exams, he also became very familiar with the following topics: topology and universals, semantics, transformational grammar, case grammar, functional grammar, contrastive analysis, Chinese syntax, pragmatics, phonology and Chinese morphology.

Around 2006, he was introduced to and fell in love with Old Chinese phonology and Chinese paleography. He was very fortunate to be able to attend two separate two-week intensive seminars in Old Chinese phonology and paleography at Leiden University (2007) and at Oxford University (2009), arranged by Dr. Dirk Meyer of Oxford University and taught by Dr. William Baxter of the University of Michigan and Dr. Chen Jian (陳劍) of Fudan University (復旦大學).

During his time in the TCSL department, he took Chinese Characters: Theory and Practice (漢字理論與應用) from Huang Pei-Jung (黃沛榮) and the following classes related to paleography in the Chinese department, from Prof. Chi Hsu-Sheng (季旭昇):

  • Research into Oracle Bone Script (甲骨文研究)
  • The Seal and Clerical Scripts of the Qin, Han, Wei and Jin Dynasties (秦漢魏晉篆隸研究)
  • Research into the Scripts of the Warring States Period (戰國文字研究)

as well as Research into the Evolution of Chinese Character Forms (漢字形體學研究) from Tu Chung-Kao (杜忠誥).

Though he had already become a PhD candidate, after discussing his future with Chi Hsu-Sheng (季旭昇) (on top of previous advice from Dr. Baxter and Dr. Meyer), he decided to leave TCSL and move over to the Chinese department to pursue more academically rigorous studies in paleography. There he took:

  • Special Topics: the Philosophy presented in Chinese Excavated Texts (出土文獻思想專題研究) with Dr. Chen Li-kui (陳麗桂)
  • Special Topics in Chinese Historical Grammar (漢語歷史語法專題研究) with Dr. Wang Chin-Hui (王錦慧)
  • Selected Chinese Linguistics Classics (中國語言學名著選讀) with Dr. Wu Sheng-Hsiung (吳聖雄)
  • Historical Chinese Phonology I&II (聲韻學1&2) with Dr. Kuo Nai-Chen (郭乃禎)

He threw in a course on oral interpretation (逐步口譯-中翻英) in the translation department taught by Chris Findler (范大龍) for good measure. In April 2014, Ash took and passed the Chinese department PhD qualifying exams in the area of paleography (which also included Old Chinese phonology and Bronze Vessels), and thereby regained the status of PhD candidate. He defended his dissertation, titled 《文字考釋及以偏旁為主的文字分析研究》 (Paleographic Analysis and Research into a Functional Component-based Framework) and graduated in January 2022.

In addition to the research for Outlier, Ash is also very interested in Chinese excavated texts and the Chinese classics. He also attended Prof. Chi Hsu-Sheng's (季旭昇) (mostly) weekly excavated text study group for over two years. If Ash had any free time, he would spend it learning as many languages as he could and more about the Chinese classics.

Published papers


李艾希〈考釋商周古文所見「智」字構形之三個問題〉,《中國文字》二○二二年冬季號 (總第八期)。(Three Fundamental Questions Related to the Paleographic Analysis of the Shāng and Zhōu forms of 智 “wisdom.”)


李艾希〈朝鮮吏讀、鄉歌、鄉札與何時代的漢語有關?〉《千里音緣一線牽-2021 第四屆韓漢語言學國際學術會議會後論文集》。 (What Stages of Chinese are Korean Idu, Hyangga, and Hyangchal Actually Related to?)


Shengli Feng (馮勝利); Ash Henson (李艾希). Parallel Prose and Spatiotemporal Freedom: A Case for Creative Syntax in “Wucheng fu”. In: Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture (2015) 2 (2): 444–480. (〈駢文韻律與超時空語法——以《蕪城賦》為例〉《中國文學與文化》。)


李艾希〈論雙聲與上古音系之「音近」關係〉《孔壁遺文集》, 臺北市: 藝文。 (The Notions of Shuāngshēng (i.e., matching initials) and ”Similar Sounds” in the phonology of Old Chinese)


李艾希〈以教學為主的漢字結構〉《漢字漢文教育》2012 年第28 輯, 頁 43-66。(A Learning-centered Conceptual Framework for Understanding Chinese Characters)

Conference Presentations

March 2024

Conference: International Conference on Research into Integrating Old Chinese Phonology and Paleography: Celebrating Dr. William Baxter's 75th Birthday, Westlake University (西湖大學), Hangzhou, China (古文字與上古音整合研究:慶賀白一平先生七秩晉五華誕國際學術研討會)

Presentation: The Character 爻 and the origin of the character 學 (甲骨文「爻」字與「學」字之起源)

August 2023

Conference: The 21st International and the 41st National Academic Conference on Chinese Historical Linguistics, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (第 21 屆國際暨第 41 屆全國聲韻學學術研討會)

Presentation: How is it that in the Oracle Bone Script, 爻 yáo "criss-crossed pattern" can be used to represent 學 xué "to study, learn"? (在甲骨文中「爻」字為何可借為「學」字? )

March 2023

Conference: Tools of the Trade: The Way Forward, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Presentation: The Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters: a dictionary with digital DNA

October 2022

Conference: The Changing Pronunciation of Chinese during the Han Dynasty: Applying Graph Theory to Poetic Rhymes, Trinity University, Dublin, Ireland.

Paper: Using Network Theory for Detecting Rhyme Communities in Han Dynasty Rhyming Texts (在漢朝押韻文獻中, 運用網絡理論來查出韻部)

April 2022

Conference: Digital Methods in Historical Linguistics, Philology, and Paleography, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

Paper: Researching Han Dynasty Phonology: Old Problems and New Studies (漢朝字音研究:舊問題及新研究)

August 2021

Conference: The Fourth International Symposium on Sino-Korean Linguistics, Taipei, Taiwan.

Paper: What Stages of Chinese are Korean Idu, Hyangga, and Hyangchal Actually Related to? (朝鮮吏讀、鄉歌、鄉札與何時代的漢語有關?)

July 2015

Conference: The 2nd Int’l Conference on Chinese Characters, Language and Culture, Beijing, China.

Paper: Increasing Learning Efficiency by Understanding Character Origins (藉由理解字源提升漢字學習之研究)

October 2011

Conference: The 2nd Int’l Conference on Learning and Teaching of Han Characters, Daegu, South Korea.

Paper: A Learning-centered Conceptual Framework for Understanding Chinese Characters (以教學為主的漢字結構)

April 2009

Conference: Int’l Conference on Applied Linguistics & Language Teaching (ALLT), Taipei, Taiwan.

Paper: Using Learning Strategies for Improving Chinese Character Pedagogy (如何運用漢字學習策略改進漢字教學)

May 2008

Conference: Classics Live Again (2): Conference on Research Methods for Working with Excavated Texts, Taipei, Taiwan.

Paper: Using Knowledge and Concepts from Chinese Paleography and Reconstruction of Old Chinese Phonology to Improve Chinese Character Pedagogy (運用文字學與聲韻學之概念及知識以改善漢字教學)