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A Handbook of 'Phags-Pa Chinese

A Handbook of 'Phags-Pa Chinese

W. South Coblin
Copyright Date: 2007
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    A Handbook of 'Phags-Pa Chinese
    Book Description:

    Phags-pa Chinese is the earliest form of the Chinese language to be written in a systematically devised alphabetic script. It is named after its creator, a brilliant thirteenth-century Tibetan scholar-monk who also served as political adviser to Kublai Khan. 'Phags-pa's invention of an alphabet for the Mongolian language remains an extraordinarily important accomplishment, both conceptually and practically. With it he achieved nothing less than the creation of a unified script for all of the numerous peoples in the Mongolian empire, including the Central Asian Turks and Sinitic-speaking Chinese. 'Phags-pa is of immense importance for the study of premodern Chinese phonology. However, the script is difficult to read and interpret, and secondary materials on it are scattered and not easily obtained. The present book is intended as a practical introduction to 'Phags-pa Chinese studies and a guide for reading and interpreting the script. It consists of two parts. The first part is an introductory section comprising four chapters. This is followed by a glossary of 'Phags-pa Chinese forms and their corresponding Chinese characters, together with pinyin and stroke order indexes to those characters.The first introductory chapter outlines the invention of the 'Phags-pa writing system, summarizes the major types of material preserved in it, and describes the historical and linguistic contexts in which this invention occurred. Following chapters detail the history of 'Phags-pa studies, the alphabet and its interpretation, and the salient features of the underlying sound system represented by the script, comparing it with those of various later forms of Chinese that have been recorded in alphabetic sources. A Handbook of 'Phags-pa Chinese will be of special interest to Chinese historical phonologists and scholars concerned with the history and culture of China and Central Asia during the Yuan period (A.D. 1279–1368).

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6126-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    China is blessed with one of the oldest continuously used writing systems in the world. But this unique script has been the bane of historical phonologists, because it is logographic rather than alphabetic. Due to this peculiarity, the script effectively conceals from phonologists the pronunciations that underlie it. This is not to say that there is no field of Chinese historical phonology. Quite to the contrary, there has been such a field for well over a century. But it is a curious and often vexatious discipline. To pursue it certain complex and idiosyncratic textual materials, such as fănqiè 反切 collectanea,...

  6. I The ‘Phags-pa Chinese Script: Its Invention, Textual Attestation, and Historical Background
    (pp. 1-22)

    The ‘Phags-pa script is named for its creator, the ‘Phags-pa (lit., “excellent, glorious”) Lama, a Tibetan who was active in the court of the Mongol emperor Qubilai (i.e., Kublai Khan, Yuán Shìzǔ 元世祖, 1215-1294). The full name of the ‘Phags-pa Lama (which epithet is actually a title rather than a name) was ‘Gro-mgon ‘Phags-pa Blo-gros rgyal-mtshan. There exists a surprisingly large corpus of biographical information on him in Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian sources. A discussion of these, with a digest of their contents and a comprehensive list of translations and related studies, is given by Nakano (1971: 24-41). For a...

  7. II A Brief Review of ‘Phags-pa Chinese Studies
    (pp. 23-31)

    The single most informative source on the history of ‘Phags-pa studies in general and of the Chinese ‘Phags-pa field in particular is the introduction to Nakano (1971), especially pages 8-23. Also of considerable interest are the bibliographical notes and annotations in Ligeti (1956; 1961), Hashimoto (1978; 1978-79: 70-120), and Cheng (1985). For Japanese studies in particular, see Hashimoto (1978: 2, notes 4 and 8). For work done in China since the 1970s, see the notes and references in the various articles and books by Jūnast 照那斯圖 listed in the first section of the bibliography to the present work. The standard...

  8. III Analysis and Interpretation of the ‘Phags-pa Alphabet
    (pp. 32-68)

    The analysis and interpretation of the ‘Phags-pa alphabet involves four different but interrelated issues. Of these, the one about which there is the most agreement is the mechanical functioning of the script. The second area comprises the basic assumptions of the investigator about the historical and sociolinguistic nature of the underlying language. The third, concerning which there was in traditional times much discussion but about which there is now considerable agreement, is the paleographic origins of the individual graphemes. Fourth is the actual phonetic interpretation of the graphemes. This is the area of maximum disagreement among specialists, but even here...

  9. IV A Structural and Historical Consideration of the ‘Phags-pa Chinese Sound System
    (pp. 69-104)

    4.1.1 The Comparative and Historical Study of Standard Forms of Pronunciation. The types of language which serve as koines are invariably those which have some sort of wider application in an extended speech community. And of these, the ones which are reduced to writing and come to serve as standard written languages usually have not only broad currency but also social and/or political prestige of some sort. It is these traits of particular languages which have given rise to the majority of written records with which historical linguists deal. The extensive recording of specifically non-standard or regional vernaculars (i.e., “dialects”)...

  10. Glossary of ‘Phags-pa Chinese Forms
    (pp. 105-176)

    This Glossary contains a selection of Chinese characters from the MGZY, arranged according to the format of that text. The material is not intended as an actual edition of the MGZY. The facsimile editions already published by Luo and Cai (1959) and Jiinast and Yang (1987) should be used in formal textual studies. We have excluded certain characters for two reasons. The first is that many of the excluded items are rare or unusual characters which are mainly of philological or antiquarian rather than linguistic interest. The second is that the rare graphs do not occur in the Chinese font...

  11. Pīnyīn Index to Chinese Characters in the Glossary
    (pp. 177-212)
  12. Stroke Order Index to Chinese Characters in the Glossary
    (pp. 213-286)
  13. Index of Transliterated ‘Phags-pa Orthographic Forms in the Glossary
    (pp. 287-298)
  14. References
    (pp. 299-308)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-310)