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2088Re: Dating Chinese writing Re: [ANE-2] Cherubim Origins

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  • Peter T. Daniels
    Aug 5 9:01 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      ----- Original Message ----
      From: E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...>
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Saturday, August 5, 2006 10:45:56 AM
      Subject: Re: Dating Chinese writing Re: [ANE-2] Cherubim Origins


      To: ANE-2
      In Response To: Peter Daniels
      On: Chinese Writing
      From: Bruce

      Peter has previously, but on that occasion privately, chided me on my
      suggestion about date nomenclature. I may as well repeat here the gist of my
      earlier answer to him:

      ME: Chinese chronology is disputed earlier than the year 0841 (this is a
      culture-neutral way of writing 841 BC);

      PETER: No, it is not. It is an immensely confusing perversion of the
      phenomenon of the meaningless leading zero -- precisely because we have
      learned from our earliest age to disregard leading zeros!

      ME: Non sequitur. It is culture-neutral because the standard conventions in
      English, BC or BCE, both *assume* English, that is, they are abbreviations
      of English words and thus culturally centered in English. Those conventions
      do not adequately represent French (where a different phrase is in use), or
      German, or in fact anything other than English. I always recommend that
      **********
      Like it or not, the international language of scholarship is currently English, and if either French or German has adopted a non-Christian way of referring to the Eras, I haven't heard of it yet: the expressions are still "avant j.-c." and "vorchristlich."
      **********
      EBRUCE: conventions in any subject should be as widely based, or as widely
      acceptable, as is reasonably possible. The other neutral device (that is,
      the other device not based on words in a particular language) which one
      sometimes encounters is a minus sign prefixed to BC dates.
      **********
      We certainly don't encounter that in ANE studies, which are quite aware of astronomical practice.
      **********
      EBRUCE: All in all, then, it seems to me that the leading
      zero convention, which raises neither of these practical problems, and also
      does not rub Englishness in the faces of other language speakers, has a good
      deal going for it. Respectfully suggested, to those capable of entertaining
      such suggestions in tranquility.
      **********
      When I reviewed the 1998 Mair volumes (Sino-Platonic Papers 98 [Jan. 2000]: 4-46), I essentially had to state that your article was unreadable and uninterpretable, because of your bizarre date formulations, your bizsrre citation style; and your idiosyncratic transliteration (or transcription?) of Chinese, referenced only to a (then?) unpublished manuscript.
      **********
      EBRUCE: As to Peter's substantive objection, minus "perversion" and other somewhat
      unscientific lexical items, we, or at least a good many of us, have NOT
      "learned to disregard leading zeroes." They are increasingly common, and we
      often have to pay attention to them in daily life. Those citing an ISBN
      number, to take only one instance, will disregard the leading zero at their
      **********
      ISBNs begin with "1" for books in English, "3" for books in German, etc. Perhaps "0" is used for books in Chinese?
      **********
      EBRUCE: and/or Amazon's peril. It is precisely this greater familiarity with leading
      zeroes in modern life (including modern banking) which makes a leading zero
      convention less strange to the ordinary citizen, and thus more practical as
      a general convention, than it would have been 30 years ago. There will
      always be people who like what they have, and Peter has signed on as one of
      them. His distaste for this specific suggestion may or may not be widely
      shared, but his arguments in support of that distaste don't strike me as
      having general weight.

      Now we come to Chinese writing.

      ME: the Jou conquest of Shang was within 50 years or so of 01000, and
      writing was introduced to China three or four
      centuries before that.

      PETER: That's highly unlikely. By the time Chinese writing is first attested
      (Oracle Bone Inscriptions, ca. 1250 BCE), it is a (functionally speaking)
      fully developed writing system, and in the other known cases of script
      invention (Sumerian and Mayan), it took many, many centuries to achieve that
      status -- in both cases, moreover, the mediation of writing in other
      languages was certainly (Sumerian) or probably (Mayan) involved, which
      provided the impetus for full phoneticization. We might then expect the
      first experiments with Chinese proto-writing to reach back close to the 3rd
      millennium.

      ME: That timescale might fit that hypothesis, but that hypothesis itself
      doesn't convince me. It is agreed that Chinese oracle bone writing emerges
      rather full-blown. That suggests one of two things: either (1) Chinese
      writing went through a long period of local development which, and the
      social concomitants of which, are both utterly lost to us, or (2) it arose
      and quickly developed, in idiosyncratic local form, but as the result of
      stimulus from outside.
      **********
      The origins of Chinese civilization are vastly off-topic for ANE-2 List, and nothing here is unfamiliar; I would refer you to the article by Michael Puett in the same Mair volume, on the scholarly pendulum regarding "outside influence" on China in the 2nd millennium. He argues for a middle ground, recognizing that some characteristics are imported and some are native. He does _not_ consider writing as a phenomenon influenced by the outside, and with very good reason ...
      **********
      EBRUCE: It may be objected that Chinese is typologically different from all the
      other Asian writing systems which might have suggested it. That, to my mind,
      **********
      What "all the other Asian writing systems" of the 2nd millennium are those? The graphonomist [I have switched to Hockett's term from Gelb's "grammatologist" because of Derrida] is struck by its typological _similarity_ to Sumerian and Mayan writing.
      **********
      implies stimulus (knowledge of the *idea* of writing, without any guidance
      as to method, and thus a local resort to rebus procedures, much as in
      Kipling's story) rather than direct imitation. But the distances involved do
      not make that a less likely possibility. As for the missing alphabet, at
      least one scholar (Pulleyblank) has suggested that the seemingly meaningless
      **********
      Pulleyblank abandoned that suggestion decades ago.

      He, Mair, and Cyrus Gordon spoke back to back to back at the 33rd ICANAS in Toronto in 1990 on exactly the same topic, and none of them ever provided the slightest hint of convincing evidence.

      On the notion of "stimulus" and "rebus procedures," see any number of articles of mine, including, of course, my explanation of why writing came to be independently invented in exactly three locations that we know of: Sumer, China, and Mesoamerica. Bibliography can be provided if requested. In every known instance, "stimulus" results in a syllabary, not a logography.
      **********
      series of cyclical (calendrological) signs, in two series of 10 and 12,
      totaling 22, may be distributed across the phonological system in such a way
      as to suggest an original consonantal set. If so, that possibility was not
      followed in the further development of the script, and represents a fossil
      rather than a fairway. But it might provide evidence of a sort of
      typological transition.

      [I delete the political comments and the descriptions of various phenomena that plausibly were borrowed into China, as even more irrelevant to ANE-2.]
      --
      Peter T. Daniels grammatim@...

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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