Don't punctuate

Aleix Ruiz-Falqués wrote an interesting blog post about Pāli romanization called "Don’t punctuate":

I write this post because I find some problems with certain conventions in Pāli transliteration, and I think there should be at least the possibility of publishing Pāli texts following the traditional way of editing from manuscripts. What I will say here is the point of view of a simple student, a regular "user" of Pāli editions. I will first give a list of the conventions I would change, and afterwards I’ll give some reasons [...]

In the comments, Elisa Freschi points to her own post about Sanskrit punctuation and related matters. One of her commenters points out that it's not unusual to see question marks and the like in Indian editions, and she goes further into her motivation:

Much depends on what you are aiming at. If —as you seem to imply— your purpose is communicating in a modern world, question marks etc. (until emoticons) might be useful. Who has the time to read a sentence more than once? It is thus much easier to identify immediately questions and exclamations.

By contrast, the situation is quite different in case you are editing a classical text. This is probably enough obscure to demand time and energy from its readers. In these cases I would recommend avoinding redundancy (no question marks, then, if the sentence starts anyway with kiṃ or the like). This is also due to the fact that every edition is tentative and I would like to intrude as less as possible in the text, in order for future readers to be aware of other possible readings of the text.

I don't have the credentials to take sides in an argument about Indic languages, but the older I get, the more I prefer facsimiles to any kind of printed edition. So much information is lost in the transition to contemporary print — in Japanese, of course, with all that cursive and hentaigana going on, but in post-Gutenberg English too: spelling, punctuation, even layout. You'd think there could be a happy medium of modern book design with unchanged premodern content, but this is surprisingly rare. Even books that come very close don't dare to go all the way; for example, this is in the introduction of Brian Cummings' The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662:

While this is an original-spelling edition, it has been moderately modernized. The use of i/j and u/v has been regularized; initial and medial "long s" are modernized; abbreviations ("mm", "nn", etc.) and some numerals (".i.") have been silently filled out, as have contractions such as "the" for "ye" and "which" for "wch". [...] I have also occasionally amended the orthography where modern usage would create obvious confusion; wherever possible I have again followed a contemporary text. Examples of this are the use of "the" for "thee" in Grafton's 1599; and the practice of eliding the initial definite article, common in 1549 and frequent in 1559 (e.g. "thende" = "the ende"; "thepiphanie" = "the epiphanie", etc.).

I don't mean to pick on Cummings, exactly; the book is at least 95% what I want. Most of the spelling and capitalization in the book is left alone, and it even uses blackletter for headings! But, you know, that's exactly why it's so weird that it doesn't go all the way. Maybe long s would be asking too much for technical reasons, but surely "thepiphanie" could have been left alone. I think the overlap between people who would buy a book whose subtitle is The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1663 and people who are interested in quirks of historical orthography is much larger than anyone involved in this project realized.


Verses from a failed hermit-poet of the late Tang

I came to this mountain not long ago
I guess it's been a few months now
When people ask where I spend the chill nights
I tell them, "In that house over there, with double-glazed windows"
The people come and speak to me of the world
I'm quite interested in what they have to say
And what I say they often find quite convincing
It isn't like I'm an alien or anything
The mountain isn't as tall as some
And really not that steep either
More or less anyone could climb up here
Except maybe a very old person
I don't stay at the summit that long myself
The air's too thin, it's not good for you
So there I sleep, far below the clouds
With a pillow for my pillow and a nice soft blanket
I wouldn't say that only the rocks and birds are my friends
Although it's true that I don't get into town much
After all, birds can't actually talk
And to call a rock a friend is really more of a metaphor
We scholars, we like poetry an awful lot
But we have other interests too
Nothing beats a day with the wife and kids
And drinks with dinner, but always in moderation



Hey, Denshi Jisho is testing out a new beta version.

[... T]he ultimate goal is to make something more than just a dictionary of words. Something akin to Google Now or Wolfram Alpha for the Japanese language. Just paste what you want to understand into Jisho, be it English, romaji, a single word or an entire paragraph of Japanese text, and it will search a myriad of data to help you understand the words, kanji and even grammar patterns.

Completely unrelated, here's something I quite liked from Hellen Waddell's introduction to her bilingual collection Mediaeval Latin Lyrics:

[... I]n anthologies omission is a worse thing than inclusion: and the omissions here may well seem unaccountable. There are five lyrics from Fortunatus, but not the two that are his immortality: Hrabanus Maurus is here, but not his pupil and far greater poet, the ill-starred Gottschalk: there is no trace of the glorious rhythms of O Roma nobilis orbis et domina, nor of Hildebert who has the antique gravity, nor of Gautier de Châtillon, and only a single lyric from the tiny but precious collection of the Arundel MS. I tried to translate them, and could not. To those born with this kind of restlessness, this curiosity to transmute the beauty of one language into another, although this baser alchemy is apt to turn the gold to copper and at worst to lead, a great phrase in the Latin, something familiar in the landscape, some touch of almost contemporary desire or pain, may waken the recreative trouble; yet a greater phrase, a cry still more poignant, may leave the mind the quieter for its passing. A man cannot say "I will translate", any more than he can say "I will compose poetry". In this minor art also, the wind blows where it lists.

In one thing the translator is happy: he walks with good companions. He is a kind of Old Mortality, his business, like Radulfus Glaber when they harboured him at St. Germain d'Auxerre, to go about with hammer and chisel, reviving the defaced inscriptions on the tombs of his brethren. Places where men have once been and now are not are older and more sacred, but at the same time friendlier, than virgin soil that has no history. And these poems, preserved by the piety of old monastic houses now themselves decayed, and printed in the last hundred years by scholars as patient as the men who first transcribed them, Thomas Wright and Edelstand du Méril and Ernest Dümmler, Ludwig Traube and Wilhelm Meyer and Paul von Winterfeld (to make mention only of the dead), are after all but epitaphs of their first makers: and like all mediaeval epitaphs, they cry out for that remembrance that is itself a prayer. There is no longer either tomb or inscription in what was once the Abbey of St. Martin at Tours; but in his Lament for the Cuckoo, his Winter and his Epitaph, still "lieth the Lord Abbot Alcuin of blessed memory, who died in peace on the nineteenth of May".

Here's Alcuin's Epitaph in the original text she provides and her translation:

Hie, rogo, pauxillum veniens subsiste, viator.
  et mea scrutare pectore dicta tuo,
ut tua deque meis agnoscas fata figuris:
  vertitur o species, ut mea, sicque tua.
quod nunc es fueram, famosus in orbe, viator
  et quod nunc ego sum, tuque futurus eris.
delicias mundi casso sectabar amore,
  nunc cinis et pulvis, vermibus atque cibus.
quapropter potius animam curare memento,
  quam carnem, quoniam haec manet, illa perit.
cur tibi rura paras? quam parvo cernis in antro
  me tenet hie requies: sic tua parva fiet.
cur Tyrio corpus inhias vestirier ostro
  quod mox esuriens pulvere vermis edet?
ut flores pereunt vento veniente minaci,
  sic tua namque, caro, gloria tota perit.
tu mihi redde vicem, lector, rogo, carminis huius
  et dic: "da veniam, Christe, tuo famulo."
obsecro, nulla manus violet pia iura sepulcri,
  personet angelica donec ab arce tuba:
"qui iaces in tumulo, terrae de pulvere surge,
  magnus adest iudex milibus innumeris."
Alchuine nomen erat sophiam mihi semper amanti,
  pro quo funde preces mente, legens titulum.

Hie requiescit beatae memoriae domnus Alchuinus abba, qui obiit in pace XIV. kal. Iunias. quando legeritis, o vos omnes, orate pro eo et dicite, "Requiem aeternam donet ei dominus." Amen.
Here halt, I pray you, make a little stay,
O wayfarer, to read what I have writ,
And know by my fate what thy fate shall be.
What thou art now, wayfarer, world-renowned,
I was: what I am now, so shall thou be.
The world's delight I followed with a heart
Unsatisfied: ashes am I, and dust.

Wherefore bethink thee rather of thy soul
Than of thy flesh; &emdash; this dieth, that abides.
Dost thou make wide thy fields? in this small house
Peace holds me now: no greater house for thee.
Wouldst have thy body clothed in royal red?
The worm is hungry for that body's meat.
Even as the flowers die in a cruel wind,
Even so, O flesh, shall perish all thy pride.

Now in thy turn, wayfarer, for this song
That I have made for thee, I pray you, say:
"Lord Christ, have mercy on Thy servant here,"
And may no hand disturb this sepulchre,
Until the trumpet rings from heaven's height,
"O thou that liest in the dust, arise,
The Judge of the unnumbered hosts is here!"

Alcuin was my name: learning I loved.
O thou that readest this, pray for my soul.

Here lieth the Lord Abbot Alcuin of blessed memory, who died in peace on the nineteenth of May. And when ye have read this, do ye all pray for him and say, "May the Lord give him eternal rest." Amen.



A summer kyōka by Kikuga Zanmai 菊賀三昧, found in the Toku waka go-manzaishū 徳和歌後万載集:

san-sagari/ ai no te hiite/ hototogisu/ ima hitokoe no/ ni-agari wo matsu
I play the break in "lowered-three"/ then wait to hear the cuckoo sing once more in "raised-two"

"Lowered-three" and "raised-two" are shamisen tunings. The "default" tuning is hon-chōshi, literally "main/original tuning", and is a fourth plus a fifth, e.g. D-G-D. "Lowered-three" (san-sagari) has the third string lowered, so, D-G-C. "Raised-two" (ni-agari) has the second string raised, so D-A-D. "Lowered-three" is supposed to have an elegant and subdued sound, while "raised-two" is meant to be cheerful and lively, although obviously that depends on the song exactly and I don't know how relevant it is to this particular poem.

I guess this is a gentle reference to Minamoto no Kintada's famous cuckoo poem:

yukiyarade/ yamaji kurashitsu/ hototogisu/ ima hitokoe no/ kikamahoshisa ni
unable to go on, I stay on the mountain path all day/ longing to hear the cuckoo's voice one more time

... lowered to the comical level of a shamisen tunesmith, with number play added ("three", "on[c]e", "two").


Chinese and Indo-European Roots and Analogues

Here's some nuttiness for you: Chinese and Indo-European Roots and Analogues (1861), by Pliny Earle Chase.

The Chinese has usually been regarded as essentially different from the Indo-European languages, not only in its grammatical construction, but also in its radical etymology. Resemblances have been occasionally pointed out [...] but it has generally been assumed that the resemblances were merely accidental, and no systematic attempt appears to have been made to render this venerable idiom tributary to the fascinating though bewildering investigation of linguistic germs.

Spoiler: Chase would like to suggest that the Roman alphabet (and its sister scripts) are derived from the Chinese writing system. For example:

阝 [...] fa'u, a mound, numerous. The name and the hieroglyphic or phonetic value of this character, are retained precisely, and the form very nearly, in the German 𝔙.


日 [...] ɟi, sun ; day. 旦 [...] ta'u, sunrise. This hieroglyph has the form of Greek theta, and the ideas of warmth and power are found in θάλπω, θέρω, Ζέυς, dies, deus. If there is a radical connection between these several words, the primitive root was probably di. The several changes of di into dɟi and ɟi, θε and Ζε, are easy and natural.

To be fair, Chase shows an earlier, round form of 日 that really did look remarkably like a theta.

Comparisons to cursive forms are also made. ("It is hardly credible that so many resemblances to our guttural script are all accidental.") But the most interesting moments are the so-close ones. Are Cyrillic Ш, Hebrew ש and Greek Σ all related? Yes (was this really not known in 1861?), but they do not descend from the Chinese character 山 (mountain).

Similarly, Chase correctly notes that Chinese 三 and Roman III are structurally equivalent, as are 十 and X, more or less, if the "tally marks" hypothesis is correct — it's just the idea of direct influence that's unsupportable.

Incidentally, Victor Mair's Sino-Platonic Papers have published a couple of rather less freewheeling monographs on related ideas, except with the lines of influence going from Near East to Far: Julie Lee Wei's Correspondences Between the Chinese Calendar Signs and the Phoenician Alphabet, and Brian R. Pellar's The Foundation of Myth, On the Origins of the Alphabet, and On the Origins of the Alphabet: New Evidence.


Missionary linguistics

Toyoshima Masayuki 豊島正之's page on Missionary Linguistics

has been established in the hope of providing fundamental resources and tools of "Missionary Linguistics" for international cooperative researches [...]

The domain name "joao-roiz.jp" is named after the portuguese missionary Father João Rodriguez Tçuzu ("Tçuzu" meant "interpreter" in Japanese those days), who wrote the very first Japanese grammars in Latin grammatical tradition, Arte da Língoa de Japam (1604-) and Arte Breve da Língoa Japoa (1620), both published by the Jesuit Mission Press.

It has a dictionary search that includes not only the venerable Vocabulário da língoa de Japam but also the Dictionarium Latino Lusitanicum ac Japonicum.

Ecce, adu.
[P] Lus. Eis aqui, eisque.
[J] Iap. Suua, miyo.

Suwa isn't heard much these days, but it's in the Vocabulário too: "Interjeição de eſpãto." Their example is from the Taiheiki: "Suua core coſo vochǔto naretote" = "O que eſte certo he homẽ q̃ vẽ fugido." "Well! this must be the man who fled."