Hi, my name is Thomas Van Hoey (IPA:[‘to:mas van ‘hui]). Alternatively, you may find me by my Chinese name — 司馬智 (Hanyu pinyin: Sīmǎ Zhì).

I am a sinologist and a linguist, with a PhD in Linguistics (read at the Graduate Institute of Linguistics of National Taiwan University). My MA degrees in Sinology and Linguistics were obtained at the University of Leuven.

My overarching research goal is to understand how people construe meaning through ideophones and iconicity, while balancing cognitive and cultural factors. To that end, my dissertation, “Prototypicality and salience of Chinese ideophones: A cognitive and corpus linguistics approach”, supervised by Lu Chiarung, investigates the Chinese ideophonic lexicon through four different methodological lenses: multiple correspondence analysis, diachronic prototype semantics, semantic vector spaces, and collostructional analysis. A prototypical structuring of the ideophonic lexicon is found throughout the data, which is collected from the corpus as well as the Chinese Ideophone Database (CHIDEOD), constructed by Dr. Thompson (HKU) and myself. CHIDEOD is freely accessible online in multiple formats, and can be used as a model for the cross-linguistic database that is to be constructed in the first stage of the project. The accompanying explanatory article to CHIDEOD is forthcoming with Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale.

I am currently (starting January 2021) a post-doctoral researcher at the Language Development lab at the University of Hong Kong. Our main project focuses on the learnability of ideophones from a cross-linguistic perspective while focusing on the artiuculatory and gesticulatory gestures of the ideophonic items.

Click here for my academic cv.


  • ideophones
  • (Premodern) Chinese
  • historical linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • lexical semantics


  • PhD in Linguistics, 2015-2020

    National Taiwan University

  • MA Linguistics, 2015

    University of Leuven

  • MA Sinology, 2014

    University of Leuven

  • BA Sinology, 2012

    University of Leuven

Recent Posts



Learnability of ideophones

How well are ideophones learned if we look at articulatory and gesticulatory gestures?


The Chinese Ideophone Database

Chinese ideophones and prototypicality

Studying the prototypicality and salience of the Chinese ideophonic lexicon