Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pinyin Accents


I shall have far more respect for accents now that I find that I can display them properly at least some of the time.

Mark from Pinyin News has sent me an article by Peter Boodberg. I have been absorbed in trying to understand at least some of it. His language is wonderful. He uses terms like 'the relation of graph to vocable,' and 'the living tissue of the Word' and 'graphic enteguement.'

If you read nothing else please read the last paragraph cited below. This is part of a classic debate that can be pursued further on the many pages of If I am not here I am probably over there. Reading.

"The investigation of the corner-stone problem of Chinese epigraphy, the relation of graph to vocable, has indeed been rather retarded than advanced by the new finds. Most students in the field have chosen to concentrate their efforts on the exotically fascinating questions of ‘graphic semantics’ and the study of the living tissue of the Word has almost completely been neglected in favour of that of the graphic integuement encasing it.

It is in the hope of dispelling this fog of misunderstanding that the writer presents in the following pages for the consideration of Sinologists a few hypotheses on the evolution of ‘sound and symbol’ in archaic Chinese, hypotheses that have in view the preparation of the ground for the discussion of this all-important problem.

Pictograms [graphic representations of natural objects] and symbolic signs do not constitute in themselves Graphs, i.e. elements of a written language. In order to become such, they must be conventionally and habitually associated with certain semantic-phonetic values.

Apart from a few exceptional cases, then, ‘ideographic’ characters as a class, we make bold to assert, simply do not exist. Those characters which appear to be such in the later forms of the script are predominantly ‘learned’ creations of Chinese schoolmen, graphical modifications of either original pictograms and symbols or perverse rationalizations of ‘organically’ developed phonetic compounds."

Some Proleptical Remarks on the Evolution of Archaic Chinese. Peter A. Boodberg. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies vol.2, No. 3/4 (Dec. 1937) 329-372


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