Archive for Writing

Nomadic affinity with oracle bone divination

Anyone who has studied the history of writing in China is aware that the earliest manifestation of the Sinitic script dates to around the 13th century BC, under the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600- BC).  It is referred to as jiǎgǔwén 甲骨文 ("oracle bone writing") and was used primarily (almost exclusively) for the purpose of divination.  The most ideal bones for this purpose were ox scapulae, since they were broad and flat, and had other suitable properties, which I shall describe below.

The bones used for divination were prepared by cleaning and then having indentations drilled into their surface, but not all the way through.  A hot poker was applied to the declivities, causing cracks to radiate from the heated focal point.  This cracking was called bǔ卜, a pictograph of the lines that form in a heat-stressed bone.

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Devangari

No, that's not a mistake.

My son just called me about some Hindi books I wanted him to order for me.  He asked, "Do they have to be in Romanization, or is it all right if they are in Devangari?"

The way he said the word "Devangari" made me chuckle.  Of course, with a name like Thomas Krishna Mair, and having been around me and my Sanskrit and Hindi books for the first two decades of his life, he was familiar with the word and knew that it was the script in which those languages are written.

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The stupendous powers of memorization in the Indian tradition

Two days ago, I was going through past issues of Sino-Platonic Papers, all the way back to the first one in 1986.  I was pleasantly surprised to come across this one by my late, lamented colleague, Ludo Rocher:

"Orality and Textuality in the Indian Context," Sino-Platonic Papers, 49 (October, 1994), 1-3 of 1-28.  (free pdf)

As soon as I started reading it, I had a strong sensation that Ludo's paper speaks powerfully to the enigma of the overwhelming dominance of Indians in spelling bee competitions, about which we have so many times puzzled here on Language Log (see "Selected readings" below).

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Writing Taiwanese with Romanization

Persuasive 14:09 YouTube video of Aiong Taigi explaining why he doesn't use Chinese characters (Hàn-jī 漢字) on his channel, but instead sticks to Romanization (Lomaji) as much as possible:  A'ióng, lí sī án-chóaⁿ bô teh ēng Hàn-jī? 【阿勇,汝是安盞無塊用漢字?】:

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Women's writing: dead or alive

Article in BBC yesterday:

"Nüshu:  China's secret female-only language", by Andrew Lofthouse (10/1/20)

Here's what it looks like:


Nüshu is a women's-only script that was passed down from mothers to
their daughters in feudal-society China (Credit: CPA Mediat Pte Ltd/Alamy)

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Phonetic and orthographic confusion of Chinese characters

A protester holds a placard that reads "Do not forget 831 terror attack, truth needs to be seen on CCTV" during a demonstration at a Hong Kong mall on Aug. 30 on the eve of the first anniversary of the Prince Edward MTR station incident when police stormed the station to make arrests during massive anti-government protests. (Photo: AFP)


(Source)

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A Chinese character that is harder to write than "biang"

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Unknown Language #12

From Aman ur Rahman:


(Face)

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National Security Law eclipses Hong Kong

What the people of the former British colony dread:

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So borrowing and meaningless

As is my custom, I was zipping along merrily, letting my fingers dance on the keys to transfer my thought-flow into typed words.  Usually when I'm in a good mood and this happens — which is almost always — I'm thinking thoughts in my head (speaking the sounds of the words I want to type) and letting the neuro-muscular synapses and reflexes take care of the actual writing.  It's really quite a nice, pleasurable collaboration between mind and body.

So, my normal practice is to think thoughts, "let my fingers do the walking", and enjoy watching what appears on the computer screen.  But I do have to keep an eye on what my fingers are producing, because sometimes it is hilariously wrong and only tenuously connected to what was going on in my brain.

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More on "écriture inclusive"

Following up on "Écriture inclusive" (10/9/2017), Eloy Romero Muñoz sent in a link to a June 2019 "Édition augmentée" of the Manuel d'Écriture Inclusive.

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Nested calligraphy

Clément Pit-Claudel writes:

I was recently at the Boston antiquarian book fair, where I spotted a book titled The Battle of Foochow about the Fuzhou Uprising of November 8, 1911, in which revolutionaries defeated the Qing (Manchu) army, a significant step on the way to the fall of the last dynasty in traditional Chinese history, when the six-year-old Last EmperorPuyi, abdicated on February 12, 1912.  Here's a photograph of the cover:

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Kanji or not?

Stone artifact from around the beginning of the first century AD, excavated at the Tawayama remains in Matsue, capital of Shimane Prefecture:

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