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Gong, Xun (2017) 'Verb stems in Tangut and their orthography.' SCRIPTA, 9. pp. 29-48.

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Abstract

Logographic writing systems for morphologically rich languages bring into sharp relief the inherent tension in all human writing systems between the lexico-morphemic and the phonetic tendencies. When the same lexical root has, by allomorphy, several different phonetic forms, the writing system cannot avoid either different graphemes for the same root or different readings for the same grapheme.  This essay examines the case of verb stem alternation in Tangut, an extinct Sino-Tibetan language mainly attested from the 11th to the 13th century, with a syllabic and logographic writing system modeled after the Chinese. It is shown that both the form and the distribution of the stems are closely related to Rgyalrongic languages, especially Zbu Rgyalrong and Gexi Horpa.  This essay proposes a typology of three possible strategies of logographic writing systems to represent root allomorphy, under which the Tangut case is analyzed: underdifferentiation, with all phonetic forms represented by the same grapheme, overdifferentiation, with different phonetic forms represented by different graphemes as if they are different roots, and categoriography, with systematic means of distinguishing between different allomorphs of the same root. Tangut predominantly prefers overdifferentiation, followed by an incipient form of categoriography. The Tangut orthography stands in stark contrast to other logographic writing systems (Sumerian, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Iranian), where underdifferentiation is predominant, followed by categoriography. The highly deviant nature of Tangut script is hypothesized as resulting from the imitation of the mature Chinese script, where one character has ideally one single reading

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Tangut, verb stem alternation, root allomorphy, logographic script
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics
Copyright Statement: © 2017 The Hunmin jeongeum Society
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2020 08:04
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/32128

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