2090Re: Dating Chinese writing Re: [ANE-2] Cherubim Origins
- Aug 5, 2006To: ANE-2
On: Previous Thread
We seem to be in an irascible zone, but herewith a few notes for any irenic
PETER: Like it or not, the international language of scholarship is
BRUCE: Just so, and it behooves an international language to behave with
diplomatic tact. If its conventions can be adjusted to be more comfortable
for non-natives using that international medium, so much the nicer.
PETER: ISBNs begin with "1" for books in English, "3" for books in German,
etc. Perhaps "0" is used for books in Chinese?
BRUCE: Without leaning over very far at my desk, I find A Cohen (ed), The
Psalms [Hebrew Text and English Translation], 2ed Soncino 1995, ISBN
1-871055-65-2 (formerly ISBN 0-900689-32-3), part of a 14v set whose current
ISBN is 0-871055-70-9); also Erhard S Gerstenberger, Psalms: Part 1 / With
an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, Eerdmans 1988, ISBN 0-8028-0255-9; also
Michael Goulder, The Prayers of David: Psalms 51-72, Sheffield 1990, 2001;
Clark 2004, ISBN 0567082180 [sic; PB]. Doesn't look particularly Chinese to
PETER: The origins of Chinese civilization are vastly off-topic for ANE-2
List, . . .
BRUCE: Not for the original Cherubim topic, it would seem. I trust we have
at least succeeded in clarifying the dragon question as it affects that
discussion. As to the general principle, let me put it this way: the next
ANE conference to be organized on the principle of divine kinship might with
interest include representatives who can speak to the case of India, that of
China, and for that matter, the later stages of Alexander's career.
PETER: [on Chinese writing] 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, .
BRUCE: Michael had an interesting function at that conference. It was to be
the peacemaker, and for that reason he was spotted as the critical speaker
on the final, and public, morning of the conference. Nobody with an
experience of diplomacy will miss the symbolism. I thought Michael did it
very well, and told him as much at the time. But his overview might not be
the last word on any one of the specific points which it included.
PETER [on Chinese language]: The graphonomist . . . is struck by its
typological _similarity_ to Sumerian and Mayan writing.
BRUCE: The typical Chinese character is made up of two elements, one
conventionally called the "radical" in the belief that it represents the
root meaning, and the other conventionally called the "phonetic." Best
current thinking is that the "radical" is what at least some Near
Easternists call the "determinative" or semantic-area designator, and the
"phonetic" carries not only the sound, but [as in all languages] the meaning
associated with the sound. It would be nice to know exactly what NE script
is closest to this system, given that the "phonetic" part is pictorial
rather than alphabetic. Peter implies Sumerian. Does that find general
agreement on this list?
PETER: . . . 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.
BRUCE: Bibliography welcome. As for "stimulus" resulting in a syllabary, it
seems to me, from what little I know of writing systems in general, that the
most general tendency is for cultures to take one step at a time. We have a
syllabic system of writing in China, but not a syllalbary (a transition to
pure phonetic script). That step was later taken when Chinese writing was
borrowed into Japan [I trust nobody will take offense at this notion], and
there used not only in its original form, but in a reduced and abbreviated
form as a syllabary (still in use today). Presumably the third step, perhaps
more easily taken when ideas cross a frontier than when they do not, is from
a syllabary to its single-sound constituents, producing a further economy in
the inventory. That seems to have happened in Korea.
GEORGE SOMSEL: My Moslem friend, however, has a different view since their
calendar is based on the date of the Hegira. Thus even expressing the date
as 0200 rather than 200 B.C. or 200 B.C.E. is not culturally neutral.
BRUCE: Point taken. I might better have said "linguistically neutral." But
even that may be something, in a sometimes difficult world.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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