MA course 2022-2023

Sinographics

 

Chinese writing & writing Chinese

 

Jeroen Wiedenhof

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Index

 

 

General information

e-Prospectus catalog number: 5174KCH45 & 5474ISCW7

For details see

Time and venue

Time: Second semester, day & time t.b.a.

Venue: t.b.a.

Sessions

Block 3

Week 1 (Mon 6 Feb 23)

Intro / Speaking and writing in the sinophone world

Writing is – in most definitions – connected with language. But if language travels through sound waves and writing is a visual medium, then how do these two domains interact?

Writing systems displays intricate and diverse ways of mapping the sounds and meanings of language to a visual format.

Once written down, some elements from speech are preserved and some are lost. And vice versa: the visual signal may transmit components from the spoken original, but also features which are absent in spoken form.

In this first session, we will explore how language comes to us through the Chinese script – and how fast such modes can change.

Texts


Study suggestions

Time management: do not underestimate assignment #5 below. It may involve more reference checking than would seem at first glance.

Assignments

Please make sure you prepare your answers to all questions & assignments in writing.

1.  Read the assigned chapter from Jerry Norman's Chinese.

In preparing this text, please check that you are familiar with

  • technical terms in English and in Mandarin (including the corresponding Chinese characters);

  • names and dates for dynasties, historical periods and historical figures;

  • geographical designations.

Note down any difficulties you may have in reading the text, and bring your notes to class.

2.  On p. 58, the origins of Chinese characters are outlined.

a.  In English, do you know a term for the study of writing systems? And in Mandarin?

b.  Can you name (at least) three families of scripts, i.e. writing systems of the world which (as far as we know) developed independently?

c.  Is the oracle bone script the undisputed precursor of the modern Chinese character script?

d.  Can you name (at least) seven different Sinitic languages?

Please give the English and in Mandarin names for each of these, as well as the Chinese characters (简体 & 繁體) for each name.

e.  What is the oldest Sinitic phase which has been reconstructed in phonological detail? Please give (approximate) dates.

f.  Is the language encoded by the oracle bone script the undisputed precursor of the modern Sinitic languages?

3.  The ideographic notion, i.e. the notion "that Chinese characters in some platonic fashion directly represent ideas rather than specific Chinese words" may be "patently absurd" (pp. 60-61), but it is immensely popular nonetheless.

Find a reference (in print or online) which clearly demonstrates, or is clearly based on, the ideographic notion.

a.  From this source, note down one specific statement or claim demonstrating this notion.

b.  Formulate a counter-argument against this specific statement or claim, basing yourself (at least in part) on the information in section 3.1.

4.  Pages 67-69 introduce the 說文解字.

In one or two sentences, summarize the significance of this work

  • for the study of the Chinese script; and

  • for Chinese lexicography.

5.  On p. 76, please study Table 3.6 carefully, including the notes on p. 77.

a.  Can you read all characters listed in the Table?

For your reference: see e.g.

b.  Can you give more recent examples of individual characters created in order to "adapt[...] the traditional script to the modern language" (p. 75)?

6.  In note 8 of p. 81, please define the term homophonous in your own words.

7.  In note 10 of p. 82, it is noted that "the alternation of words beginning with sh and r in a single phonetic series is unusual".

The note discusses the simplified character , but the remark on "phonetic series" is strongly rooted in tradition – in other words, in the traditional script.

a.  In your own terms, what is a "phonetic series"?

b.  Can you find an instance of alternation between Mandarin sh- and r- within the traditional character script?

8.  In the same note 10, consider the example of ràng 'to allow' again.

Note that "ràng" is italicized, but " 'to allow' " is placed within single quotation marks.

a.  In your own words, formulate the difference between these typographical conventions.

Which linguistic units do they represent?

b.  Can you list other typographical conventions, representing other linguistic units?

For each unit, give English and Mandarin names, as well as the Chinese characters (简体 & 繁體).

c.  Is there also a typographical convention which represents items as orthographic units, i.e. as the written forms of a script?


Week 2 (Mon 13 Feb 23)

 

 

 

 

Course Reserve Shelf

The Leiden Asian Library has a dedicated Course Reserve Shelf for this course

The Course Reserve Shelf (in Dutch: Collegeplank) has number ALCRS112

Chinese character reference toolbox

 

Databases

 

Journals

 

Traditional texts online

Linguistic toolbox

 Terminology

 Languages of the world

 e-ANS (Dutch grammar)

Sinitic languages

 Grammatica van het Mandarijn

 A grammar of Mandarin

 Writing on language

 Linguistic transcription

 Proofreading symbols

 IPA Chart

 IPA sounds & videos

 IPA TypeIt

   

 Pink Trombone

Updated 31 August 2022