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:

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.


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.

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.


  • 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.

Tibetan-English sample sentences

It seems like a good time for something related to Tibet.

The newest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers comprises 900 sample sentences in romanized Tibetan and English, the Tibetan being specifically Kham Tibetan.

From the introduction:

The reader is undoubtedly aware that written Tibetan radically differs from what is spoken and that there are also many differences in, for example, written Tibetan in Amdo regions and that of Lhasa. The value of this material is that it presents one of the most widely used Tibetan dialects as it is actually spoken.

Renchin-Jashe, a native of Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province where Kham is spoken, wrote these sentences using a system that he devised. I then edited the sentences…. We have tried throughout to present sentences that reflect Tibetan culture.

This issue is Kham Tibetan Language Materials (2.7 MB PDF), by Renchin-Jashe and Kevin Stuart.

Here are the first 15 of the 900 sentences.

  1. Qa e tel.
  2. Chou ghale-jiele en?
    Is your life well?
  3. Nga Norbu Sangbho yin.
    I’m Norbu Sangbho.
  4. Chou Doje e rei?
    Are you Doje?
  5. Nga yin.
    Yes, I am.
  6. Chou dhemo yin nam?
    How are you?
  7. Nga dhemo yin, tujeche.
    Fine, thanks.
  8. Droma dhele ghale e ree?
    How is Droma?
  9. Mo ni dhele ghale ree tujeche.
    She is very well, thank you.
  10. Chou dhehi eyou, Avo Qalsang?
    How are you, Mr. Qalsang?
  11. Ghongmo zang, Ashe Yudron.
    Good evening, Ms. Yudron.
  12. Ghong mo chou dhemo en?
    How are you this evening?
  13. Da do nub dhe mo jie Tshering.
    Good night Tshering.
  14. Ghashou, Dondrub.
    Good-bye, Dondrub.
  15. Sang nyin tutree zei.
    See you tomorrow.

The work also contains a guide to pronunciation and sentences for learners at the intermediate level.

It was first published in November 1993 as issue no. 42 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

The Gangou people of Qinghai / Koko Nor

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Interethnic Contact on the Inner Asian Frontier: The Gangou People of Minhe County, Qinghai (3.3 MB PDF), by FENG Lide and Kevin Stuart.

According to the authors, the Gangou people raise important questions as to the meaning of “Han” and indeed, to ethnic classification in China.

This work also contains a section on language in the area.

Here is the opening of the introduction, minus the Chinese characters:

China cultural studies have often pigeon-holed the subject in a convenient ethnic category giving cultural phenomena ethnic tabs. The preponderance of Han in China has meant that some minority groups or a substantial portion of the same have been sinicized to the extent that little remains of the original minority culture. Examples include the Manchu and nearly all minority people reared in urban areas.

Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to “Han” who have been much influenced by minority people, which this study focuses on. We have chosen a village in Qinghai that illustrates this. It is an area where multicultural contact and mingling have a history of more than 2,000 years. For example, in 202 BC, speakers of an eastern Iranian Indo-European language fled to Qinghai where they settled and were absorbed by Qiangh tribes. Succeeding centuries saw migrations of Xianbei, Xiongnu, Tuyuhun, Tibetans, Uygur, Mongolians, Han, and various Turkish stock into Qinghai, which formally became a province of China in 1928. Prior to that time, it was the Tibetan frontier district of the present Gansu Province (Schram 1954, 17-22).

The post-1949 period has seen a large influx of Han into Qinghai — particularly in urban areas.

This is issue no. 33 of Sino-Platonic Papers. It was first published in September 1992.

Indian influence on Chinese popular literature: a bibliography

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free another book-length back issue: A Partial Bibliography for the Study of Indian Influence on Chinese Popular Literature (10.8 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the contents:

  • Journals and Works Referred to in Abbreviated Fashion
  • Catalogs of Tun-huang Manuscripts and Bibliographies of Studies on Them
  • Chinese Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Japanese and Korean Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries; Southeast Asian Sinitic Dictionaries
  • South and Southeast Asian and Buddhicized Central Asian Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries (Includes Indic, Tibetan, Uighur, Indonesian, etc.)
  • Near and Middle Eastern Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Studies and Texts in European Languages (Other than Translations from the Above Groups)
  • Films, Performances, Lectures, Unpublished Manuscripts, and Personal Communications
  • Articles and Books Not Seen

The introduction is also online in quick-loading HTML format.

This was first published in March 1987 as issue no. 3 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

online books from the University of California Press

[Note: links revised July 2009.]

The University of California Press has made the full text of hundreds of its books available online. That’s right: hundreds.

Among these many books, twenty-four 29 are classified as pertaining to Asian studies, thirty-five 49 to Asian history, six to Asian literature, and five 10 to language and linguistics. (There is some overlap.)

Among these books is Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India, 1891-1970, by Sumathi Ramaswamy, which has the following intriguing description:

Why would love for their language lead several men in southern India to burn themselves alive in its name? Passions of the Tongue analyzes the discourses of love, labor, and life that transformed Tamil into an object of such passionate attachment, producing in the process one of modern India’s most intense movements for linguistic revival and separatism. Sumathi Ramaswamy suggests that these discourses cannot be contained within a singular metanarrative of linguistic nationalism and instead proposes a new analytic, “language devotion.” She uses this concept to track the many ways in which Tamil was imagined by its speakers and connects these multiple imaginings to their experience of colonial and post-colonial modernity. Focusing in particular on the transformation of the language into a goddess, mother, and maiden, Ramaswamy explores the pious, filial, and erotic aspects of Tamil devotion. She considers why, as its speakers sought political and social empowerment, metaphors of motherhood eventually came to dominate representations of the language.

Tibet to eliminate illiteracy by 2010, says Xinhua

Of course, I don’t believe a word of this. But I’m putting it up here for reference.

Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region intends to reduce its illiteracy rate to less than five percent in 2007 and to less than three percent in 2010, a senior regional education official announced on Friday.

The ongoing campaign to eliminate illiteracy in the region mainly targets people aged 15 to 50, the official said. Last year 15 percent of that group were illiterate, down from 39 percent in 2000, he added.

According to the regional education authorities, literacy in the region means knowing 30 Tibetan letters by heart and being able to read a phonetic transcript of the Tibetan or being able to read and write 1,500 Chinese characters.

And another article on a related topic:

Wǒguó shǎoshù mínzú wénmáng bànwénmáng lǜ 10 nián xiàjiàng 16 ge bǎifēndiǎn

Guójiā Mín-wěi Jiàoyùsī jīchǔ jiàoyù chù chùzhǎng zhōu lì rìqián biǎoshì, jìn shí niánlái, mínzú dìqū de sǎománg gōngzuò chéngjì xiǎnzhù. Zhōu lì shì zài Xīníng zhàokāi de 2006 niándù Zhōngxībù sǎománg gōngzuò huìbào huì shàng zuò shàngshù biǎoshì de. Gēnjù 1990 nián de rénkǒu pǔchá tǒngjì zīliào, shǎoshù mínzú 15 suì jí 15 suì yǐshàng wénmáng bànwénmáng rénkǒu bǐlì shì 30.83%, dàoliǎo 2000 nián, zhèige bǐlì yǐjing xiàjiàng dào 14.54%, qízhōng Xīzàng, Qīnghǎi, Yúnnán, Guìzhōu, Gānsù, Níngxià děng liù shěngqū wénmáng lǜ xiàjiàng de fúdù gāoyú quánguó píngjūn fúdù de 14.55%. Zhōu lì shuō, shǎoshù mínzú 15 suì jí 15 suì yǐshàng wénmáng bànwénmáng rénkǒu bǐlì zài shí niánjiān xiàjiàng 16 ge bǎifēndiǎn, yǔguó jiā de zhīchí yǔ mínzú dìqū zìshēn de nǔlì fēnbukāi.

They forgot to add that all the children of the world will join hands and sing songs of joy and peace….