A quarter century of Sino-Platonic Papers

These days, with the click of a mouse one can publish something that can instantly be seen by people around the world. But despite this ease it can still feel like a major accomplishment if someone has the tenacity to keep even a blog going past its first few years.

Consider, then, the days long before user-friendly blogging software, the days before blogs even. The days before desktop publishing was in the hands of more than a few, before most people had the ability to send or receive files electronically, before most people had even heard of the Internet. The days when typewriters were still common.

So these were also the days so long before Unicode that including Chinese characters or even common diacritics in a manuscript usually meant writing them in by hand.

The days when small-scale publishing meant trips to the copy shop and long sessions spent photocopying and stapling. When the international correspondence needed to issue a small journal meant trip after trip to the post office, paying postage to send something to what might well be the other side of the globe, and having to wait weeks, months, for a reply.

The days when receiving payment for issues meant paper checks sent through the regular mail and then taken during certain hours to the bank, where you would wait in line for a teller. And heaven help you with the endless paperwork and waiting if the check was not in U.S. dollars but a foreign currency.

The days when long-distance phone calls really cost something. And international calls? Ouch!

And all that’s on top of all of the other many challenges involved in running a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Those are just some of the situations Victor Mair had to deal with when his journal, Sino-Platonic Papers, was getting off the ground. And there have certainly been many challenges since.

So I think it’s worth noting that Sino-Platonic Papers has reached the age of twenty-five and is still going strong.

There are now more than two hundred issues, the majority of which are available in full for free on Sino-Platonic Papers’ Web site. The shortest issue is just four pages, while the longest to date stretches over three volumes and comprises approximately one thousand pages.

That this journal has published all manner of authors, from internationally renowned scholars to unaffiliated researchers out in the boondocks, helps demonstrate its willingness to take risks. (But, as Cameron Crowe reminds us, that’s how you become great.)

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released its thirteenth volume of book reviews (many of which are particular favorites of mine). But what is especially notable is that it marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of this wide-ranging journal.

I congratulate SPP‘s editor, Victor Mair, on this milestone.

Here’s what the anniversary issue covers.

  • Preface
  • Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History by Nicola Di Cosmo
  • The Prehistory of the Silk Road by E. E. Kuzmina, ed. Victor H. Mair
  • Mozi: A Complete Translation by Ian Johnston
  • Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era by Yuri Pines
  • The Politics of Mourning in Early China by Miranda Brown
  • The Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem by Brent Landau
  • A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World by Peter Kingsley
  • Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, ed. Walter Scheidel
  • The Camel’s Load in Life and Death: Iconography and Ideology of Chinese Pottery Figurines from Han to Tang and Their Relevance to Trade along the Silk Routes by Elfriede Regina Knauer
  • Ethnic Identity in Tang China by Marc Abramson
  • Mélange tantriques à la mémoire de Hélène Brunner/Tantric Studies in Memory of Hélène Brunner, ed. Dominic Goodall and André Padoux
  • Imperial China, 900-1800 by F. W. Mote
  • Local Religion in North China in the Twentieth Century: The Structure and Organization of Community Rituals and Beliefs by Daniel L. Overmyer
  • Tibetan Market Participation in China by Wang Shiyong
  • Chinese as It Is: A 3D Sound Atlas with First 1000 Characters by Conal Boyce
  • Language Choice and Identity Politics in Taiwan by Jennifer M. Wei
  • ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary, ed. John DeFrancis and Zhang Yanyin
  • Learning Chinese, Turning Chinese: Challenges to Becoming Sinophone in a Globalized World, by Edward McDonald

Disclaimer: I volunteer as SPP’s technical editor and maintain its Web site. But I certainly didn’t have any such position twenty-five years ago!

Dungan and Gyami

The most recent release from the archives of Sino-Platonic Papers is a particular favorite of mine, Two Non-Tetragraphic Northern Sinitic Languages (2.6 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair. In case that title sounds a little technical, in layman’s terms the title might be A Couple of Languages Closely Related to Mandarin that Are Not Written with Chinese Characters (Which Many People Mistakenly Believe Are Essential for Such Languages), with One of Them Having Been Successfully Written with an Alphabet for Many Decades.

This issue comprises two studies:

  1. Implications of the Soviet Dungan Script for Chinese Language Reform, which has long been featured here on Pinyin.info, and
  2. Who Were the Gyámi?

This issue also contains “A Short Supplementary Note on the Name ‘Tibet.’” The subject of the essay probably sounds perfectly innocuous. But it set off a few rounds of polite but pointed dueling among scholars — in the pages of a journal, that is, not with pistols at forty paces or anything of that sort. The exchanges make for interesting reading. See, for example, SPP 35 (“Reviews IV,” pp. 32-37) and SPP 70 (“Reviews VI,” pp. 21, 79-84).

This was first published in May 1990 as issue no. 18 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

further reading:

Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is an enormous work (almost 300 pages) on the languages of the Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer, who are known in China by the Mandarin name of T?zú (??).

Some of the material was written for a television program, part of which is available online, which means that people can listen to native speakers reading the texts!

The Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer language materials presented here are from Huzhu Mongghul Autonomous County and Minhe Hui and Mangghuer Autonomous County in eastern Qinghai Province, the People’s Republic of China. Other Monguor areas, that is Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, Gansu Province and, in Qinghai, Datong Hui and Mongghul Autonomous County and Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, are not represented. We employ “Mangghuer” to refer to Minhe Monguor and “Mongghul” to refer to Monguor residents of Huzhu, for these are the terms the people themselves employ. When we are unsure how people refer to themselves, we use “Monguor,” which we also employ as a collective term to refer to all those classified as “Tu” by the Chinese government in the 1950s.

The material is in the form of the alphabet, numbers, and the calendar; 300 sentences rendered in English, Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer; 900 sentences in English and Minhe Mangghuer; Huzhu Mongghul readings, language points, the text of a television program that taught English in Huzhu Mongghul in Huzhu County and a word list.

The Mongghul/Mangghuer materials are given in a modified Chinese pinyin….

The dictionary at the back of the work is larger and more comprehensive than might be expected. Here are some sample entries:

  • frontier — jiixan
  • frost — xuutira, {SHOUDIERE}
  • froth — kusizi, {MOMOZI}
  • fruit — alimaa, {ALIMA, AMULA}
  • fry — tuusila qina, {TUOSILA CHINA}
  • fuck — mule, {MULI}
  • fuel — shdajin, shdaghua, {XIDAKUNI, GHAR JIALAKUNI}
  • fulfill — banki, gi, {GE}
  • full — diuri, {DURAN, YIGUA}
  • fumigate — funiidigha, {XUNKE}
  • fun — natigu, {NADUJI} (to make fun of)
  • funeral — rgai, {ERGU}
  • fur — ghuasi, {ARASI}
  • fury — ruari, {SHUGUO WERKURJIANG}
  • future — huina, {NINSA KHUONO}

Here’s the link to the SPP 69: Language Materials of China’s Monguor Minority: Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer (15 MB PDF).

The video, which is a massive 528 MB, begins with lesson 26, no. 98 (SPP p. 152, PDF p. 166), and stops abruptly about two-thirds of the way through no. 110 (SPP p. 159, PDF p. 173).

Here are a few internal points of reference in the video:

  • no. 100, p. 153, begins at 5:36
  • no. 103, lesson 27, p. 155, begins at 21:30
  • no 105, p. 156, begins at 29:50
  • no 109, lesson 28, p. 158, begins at 44:50

More of the video may be available later.

angling through dictionaries

The most recent rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Tiao-Fish through Chinese Dictionaries (4.3 MB PDF), by Michael Carr.

The tiáo < d’ieu < *d’iôg fish, a classical Chinese happiness metaphor, has been contradictorily identified as a chub, culter, dace, eel, goby, hairtail, hemiculter, loach, mullet, paddlefish, and pike. This paper illustrates the history of Chinese lexicography by comparing tiáo definitions from thirty-five Chinese monolingual dictionaries with tiáo translation equivalents from sixteen Japanese and seventeen Western language bilingual ones.

As Carr explains, “The tiáo fish provides a historical microcosm of Chinese lexicography because every principal dictionary defines it, and because *DZIOG‘s multifarious pronunciations and writings illustrate some unique linguistic problems in Chinese dictionaries.”

This was first published in September 1993 as issue no. 40 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

some tiao fish

Writing Taiwanese: 1999 study

This seems as good an announcement as any to end my hiatus from posting. Sino-Platonic Papers has just rereleased a popular issue of likely interest to many readers of Pinyin News: Writing Taiwanese: The Development of Modern Written Taiwanese (2.2 MB PDF), by Alvin Lin.

The table of contents gives a pretty good picture of what’s inside:

Preface
Introduction
The Status Quo: Characters and Taiwanese writing

  1. The Roots of Writing in Taiwanese: Wenyan, baihua and academic Taiwanese
  2. The Missing 15 Percent: Developing a written vernacular
  3. One Attempt at Finding the Missing 15 Percent: Yang Qingchu’s Mandarin-Taiwanese Dictionary

Writing Romanized Taiwanese

  1. The Roots of Romanized Taiwanese: Church Romanization
  2. Church Romanization Today: The Taigu listserver
  3. An Indigenous System: Liim Keahioong and Modern Literal Taiwanese

Linguistic and Social Considerations

  1. Some Linguistic Classifications
  2. Dealing with Homonyms: Morphophonemic spelling
  3. Tones in Taiwanese: Surface vs. Lexical tones
  4. Representing Dialects: Picking a standard written form or representing all dialects
  5. Summary of Linguistic Concerns: Deciding the degree of coding
  6. Writing, Reading, Printing, Computing, Indexing and other Practical Concerns
  7. Social Concerns: Tradition and Political Meaning
  8. Conclusion: Future Orthography Policy on Taiwan

Bibliography
Appendices:

  • Email Survey
  • Pronunciation guide to church romanization

List of Tables and Illustrations:

  • Table 1: Suggested Characters for Taiwanese Morphemes from Three Sources
  • Figure 1: Yang Qingchu’s Taiwanese-Mandarin Dictionary
  • Figure 2: Church romanization
  • Figure 3: Modern Literal Taiwanese
  • Figure 4: Sample e-mail from Taigu listserver

This was first published in 1999 as issue number 89 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Sino-Tibetan, Indo-European, and the word for ‘wheel’

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is “Sino-Tibetan *kolo ‘Wheel‘” (800 KB PDF), by Robert S. Bauer. Those of you who like historical linguistics should be sure to read this one.

Abstract:

That the horse-drawn chariot appeared suddenly in China in the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1500-1066 BC) has led some Western scholars to believe that it was not independently invented by the Chinese but was introduced there by Western invaders. This paper is based on the premise that there is a connection between the transmission of the horse-drawn chariot from the West into China and the origin of some words meaning “wheel” and “wheeled-vehicle” in Sino-Tibetan languages. In particular, the paper proposes that words for “wheel” in some northern Chinese dialects and Bodic (Tibetan) languages are ultimately derived from an Indo-European source. On the basis of the comparison of words for “wheel” from various Sinitic and Bodic languages, the author has reconstructed the Proto-Sino-Tibetan root *kolo “wheel” which is itself an Indo-European contact loanword.

This was first published in August 1994 as issue no. 47 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

The Art of War: a companion volume

Sonshi, the largest website dedicated to Sun Zi’s (Sun Tzu’s) Art of War, recently selected Victor H. Mair’s new translation as “the #1 Art of War edition.”

In announcing its judgment, the site stated, “how rare a book that courageously stands up to centuries of established thought, proceeds to knock it down with sound logic and proof, and succeeds in convincing even the Old Guard to change their views.”

Professor Mair has just published a free, book-length companion to his translation: Soldierly Methods: Vade Mecum for an Iconoclastic Translation of Sun Zi bingfa, with a complete transcription and word-for-word glosses of the Manchu translation by H. T. Toh (1 MB PDF).

Yes, all that and Manchu too. The appendixes might well supply the longest text in romanized Manchu available online — not to mention the longest one with English translation. (Perhaps someone from Echoes of Manchu can comment.)

And I’d like to note the introduction to the transcription offers a cool word I hadn’t come across before: Mandjurist, which is German for “Manchu philologist.”

Here’s the table of contents:

  • Preface
  • Principles of Translation
  • Guide to Pronunciation
  • Key Terms
  • Abbreviations
  • Discussion
    • The Book and Its Title
    • Authorship
    • Historical Background
    • Dating
    • Stylistics and Statistics
    • Techniques and Technology
    • Taoistic Aspects
    • Eurasian Parallels
    • On the World Stage
    • Notes
  • Appendix I: The Pseudo-Biography of Sun Wu
  • Appendix II: Further Notes on Selected Key Terms
  • Appendix III: Transcription of the Manchu Translation of the Sun Zi with Word-for-Word English Glosses by Hoong Teik Toh
  • Appendix IV: Transcription of the Manchu Translation of the Sun Zi by Hoong Teik Toh
  • Bibliography

This is issue no. 178 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Book reviews, vol. 6

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free its sixth volume of reviews, mainly of books about China and its history and languages (5.6 MB PDF).

The reviews are by David Utz, Xinru Liu, Taylor Carman, Bryan Van Nordan, and Victor H. Mair.

Contents

  • Review Article by David A. Utz of Ádám Molnár, Weather-Magic in Inner Asia. With an Appendix, “Alttürkische fragmente über den Regenstein,” by P. Zieme. Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, 158. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University, 1994.
  • Graham Parkes, ed., Heidegger and Asian Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987. Reviewed by Taylor Carman and Bryan Van Norden.
  • Beijing Daxue Nanya Yanjiusuo [Peking University Institute for South Asian Studies], ed. Zhongguo zaiji zhong Nanya shiliao huibian (Collection of South Asian Historical Materials from Chinese Sources). 2 vols. Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 1995. Reviewed by Xinru Liu.

The following 23 reviews are by the editor of Sino-Platonic Papers.

  • Ronald E. Emmerick and Edwin G. Pulleyblank. A Chinese Text in Central Asian Brahmi Script: New Evidence for the Pronunciation of Late Middle Chinese and Khotanese. Serie Orientale Roma, LXIX. Rome: lstituto ltaliano per ii Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1993.
  • YIN Binyong and SU Peicheng, eds. Kexuede pingjia Hanyu hanzi [Scientifically Appraise Sinitic and Sinographs]. Zhongguo yuwen xiandaihua congshu (Chinese Language Modernization Series), 1. Peking: Huayu Jiaoxue Chubanshe (Sinolingua), 1994.
  • WU Chang’an. Wenzi de toushi — Hanzi lunheng [A Perspective on Culture -- Balanced Discussions on the Sinographs]. Wenhua Yuyanxue Congshu [Cultural Linguistics Series]. N.p. (Changchun?): Jilin Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 1995.
  • ZHOU Shilie, comp. Tongxingci cidian [Dictionary of Homographs]. Peking: Zhongguo Guoji Guangbo Chubanshe, 1995. (Reviewed twice from different perspectives in the same issue.)
  • KANG Yin. Wenzi Yuanliu Qianshi (The Origin and Development of Chinese Ideographs) (sic). N.p.: Guoji Wenhua Chubanshe, 1992.
  • DUAN Kailian. Zhongguo minjian fangyan cidian [A Dictionary of Chinese Folk Topolecticisms]. Haikou: Nanhai chuban gongsi, 1994.
  • CHANG Xizhen, comp. Beiping tuhua [Peking Colloquialisms]. Taipei: Shenge Shiye Youxian Gongsi Chubanshe, 1990.
  • ZHANG Xunru. Beiping yinxi xiaoche bian [A Compilation of Words with "er" Suffix in Pekingese]. Taipei: Taiwan Kaiming, 1991; 2nd Taiwan ed.; 1956, first Taiwan ed.
  • LI Sijing. Hanyu “er” [] yin shi yanjiu [Studies on the History of the "er" [] Sound in Sinitic]. Taipei: Taiwan Shangwu, 1994.
  • Erdengtai, Wuyundalai, and Asalatu. Menggu mishi cihui xuanshi [Selected Explanations of Lexical Items in The Secret History of the Mongols]. Mengguzu lishi congshu [Series on the History of the Mongolian People]. Hohhot: Neimenggu Renrnin Chubanshe, 1980; 1991 rpt.
  • Matthews, Stephen and Virginia Yip. Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge Grammars. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • Killingley, Siew-Yue. Cantonese. Languages of the World / Materials 06. München-Newcastle: Lincom Europa, 1993.
  • ZHONG Jingwen, chief ed. Yuhai (An Encyclopedia of Chinese Folk Language), Vol. 1: Mimiyu (Chinese Secret Language). Vol. editors ZHENG Shuoren and CHEN Qi. Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 1994.
  • Harrell, Stevan, ed. Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1995.
  • Woo, Henry K. H. The Making of a New Chinese Mind: Intellectuality and the Future of China. Hong Kong: China Foundation, 1993.
  • Miller, Lucien, ed. South of the Clouds: Tales from Yunnan. Translated by GUO Xu, Lucien Miller, and XU Kun. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1994.
  • Hoizey, Dominique and Marie-Joseph Hoizey. A History of Chinese Medicine. Tr. by Paul Bailey. Vancouver: UBC Press; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993.
  • Crystal, David. An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Language and Languages. London: Penguin, 1992, 1994.
  • Day, Gordon M. Western Abenaki Dictionary. Vol. 1: Abenaki-English. Vol. 2: English-Abenaki. Mercury Series, Canadian Ethnology Service, Papers 128 and 129. Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994-95.
  • Hassrick, Peter H. The Frederic Remington Studio. Cody, Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Historical Center, in association with University of Washington Press (Seattle, London), 1994.
  • Jonaitis, Aldona, ed. Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press; New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1991.
  • Jerry L. Norman and W. South Coblin. “A New Approach to Chinese Historical Linguistics.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 115.4 (1995),576-584.

Bits and Pieces

  • Letter concerning An Zhimin’s views on the origins of bronze metallurgy in China.
  • “Yet again on Tibet.” This is one in a continuing series of discussions with Edwin G. Pulleyblank, W. South Coblin, and others on the origins of the name “Tibet”.

This was first published in February 1996 as issue no. 70 of Sino-Platonic Papers.