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Thread: Extinct Sinoform Writing Systems from Chinese History1647 days old

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    Default Extinct Sinoform Writing Systems from Chinese History

    1. Tangut
      Tangut was a Sino-Tibetan language spoken in the Xixia Kingdom which eventually fell into disuse in the 1500's. The Tangut characters are similar in appearance to Chinese characters, with the same type of strokes, but the methods of forming characters in the Tangut writing system are significantly different from those of forming Chinese characters. As in Chinese calligraphy, regular, running, cursive and seal scripts were used Tangut writing.


      Tangut Coin minted in the "Chinese style"; Translated as "Bingde Baoqian" 稟德寶錢 in Chinese
    2. Jurchen
      The Jurchen script was used to write Jurchen, the Tungusic ancestoral language of Manchu during the Jin Dynasty. At the time, there was no written language for the Jurchen, and the script was modeled after Chinese and Khitan characters. Unfortunately, few manuscripts in the Jurchen language still exist.

      Semantic and phonetic borrowings came from both Chinese and Khitan. Jurchen characters thus may closely resemble Chinese characters, or may resemble distorted versions of them.

      Fascimile of a plate with Jurchen characters on it. Chinese translation: 明王慎德.四夷咸宾 ("When a wise king is heedful of virtue, foreigners from all quarters come as guests"); Some similarity can be seen between scripts.
    3. Khitan Large Script
      The Khitan scripts were the writing systems for the now-extinct Khitan language, used in the 10th-12th century by the Khitan people. who had created the Liao Empire in north-eastern China. There were two scripts, known as the large script and the small script. These were functionally independent and appear to have been used simultaneously. The Khitan scripts continued to be in use to some extent by the Jurchens for several decades after the fall of the Liao Dynasty, until the Jurchens have fully switched to a script of their own. Examples of the scripts appeared most often on epitaphs and monuments, although other fragments sometimes surface.

      Many scholars recognize that the Khitan scripts have not been fully deciphered, and that more research and discoveries would be necessary for a proficient understanding of them.

      Our knowledge of the Khitan language, which was written by the Khitan script, is quite limited as well. Although there are several clues to its origins, which might point in different directions, the Khitan language is most likely a descendant of Pre-Proto-Mongolic (and thus related to the Mongolic languages).

    4. Chu Nom
      Chữ Nm is an obsolete writing system of the Vietnamese language. It makes use of Chinese characters (known as Hn tự in Vietnamese), and characters coined following the Chinese model. The earliest example of chữ Nm dates to the 13th century. It was used almost exclusively by the Vietnamese elites, mostly for recording Vietnamese literature (formal writings were, in most cases, not done in Vietnamese, but in classical Chinese). It is almost completely deciphered due to its abundant examples, as well as the fact that the components are nearly completely Chinese

      In chữ Nm, characters borrowed from Chinese are used to represent Chinese loan words. Sometimes the character would have two pronunciations, one more assimilated into the Vietnamese phonological system, another reflecting more the original Chinese reading (that of Middle Chinese). For example, 本 ("root", "foundation") can be pronounced as either vốn or bản, the former being the more assimilated "Nm reading", while the latter the so-called "Sino-Vietnamese reading". A diacritic may be added to the character to indicate the "indigenous" reading. When 本 is meant to be read as vốn, it is written as 本㆑, with a diacritic at the upper right corner.

      Borrowed characters can also be used to represent native Vietnamese words, in which case they are only used phonetically.

      There are also invented characters which combine Chinese characters into semantic and phonetic compounds. As a result, there are actually far more of these coined characters than actual Han Chinese characters in existence, because often more than one combination was available.


      Vietnamese-Chinese dictionary
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    The tangut is fascinating. Is there somewhere a directory of Tangut characters with their meanings? I can only recognise a few keys/primitives from normal Chinese characters in it. It's quite incredible that a parallel system was created like this.
    Do we know how many characters the Tangut comprised?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loxias View Post
    The tangut is fascinating. Is there somewhere a directory of Tangut characters with their meanings? I can only recognise a few keys/primitives from normal Chinese characters in it. It's quite incredible that a parallel system was created like this.
    Do we know how many characters the Tangut comprised?
    Since Tangut is an extinct language (today the descendants of the Xixia either speak standard Mandarin or Tibetan), there are no dictionaries other than what has been compiled by scholars who specialize in this. The last "official" dictionary was, in fact written by Chinese bureaucrats in the 12th century.



    I believe there were about 5,000 Characters in total; which is few in comparison to Chinese.
    Last edited by DrDawud; 2010-01-27 at 11:30.
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    I can understand why Tangut didn't survive, the high number of strokes for each character in comparision with the Chinese equivalent must have made it quite impractical.
    If I understand well, the Tangut characters are put to the left of their 漢字 equivalent in the table, right?
    If yes, the Tangut for 七, 出, 白, 子, 百, 吾... are so complicated when compared to the simplicity of their 漢字 counterparts, it's hard to believe.
    Do we know if the construction of those characters are phonetic (like the Hangul), or if it's just another ideogram system?
    Last edited by Loxias; 2010-01-27 at 12:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrDawud View Post
    [*]Chu Nom
    Chữ Nm is an obsolete writing system of the Vietnamese language. It makes use of Chinese characters (known as Hn tự in Vietnamese), and characters coined following the Chinese model. The earliest example of chữ Nm dates to the 13th century. It was used almost exclusively by the Vietnamese elites, mostly for recording Vietnamese literature (formal writings were, in most cases, not done in Vietnamese, but in classical Chinese). It is almost completely deciphered due to its abundant examples, as well as the fact that the components are nearly completely Chinese

    In chữ Nm, characters borrowed from Chinese are used to represent Chinese loan words. Sometimes the character would have two pronunciations, one more assimilated into the Vietnamese phonological system, another reflecting more the original Chinese reading (that of Middle Chinese). For example, 本 ("root", "foundation") can be pronounced as either vốn or bản, the former being the more assimilated "Nm reading", while the latter the so-called "Sino-Vietnamese reading". A diacritic may be added to the character to indicate the "indigenous" reading. When 本 is meant to be read as vốn, it is written as 本㆑, with a diacritic at the upper right corner.

    Borrowed characters can also be used to represent native Vietnamese words, in which case they are only used phonetically.

    There are also invented characters which combine Chinese characters into semantic and phonetic compounds. As a result, there are actually far more of these coined characters than actual Han Chinese characters in existence, because often more than one combination was available.


    Vietnamese-Chinese dictionary
    [/LIST]
    It has nothing to do with Chinese history. Historically, Chinese people regardless of ethnicity had never used this script.

    If you want to include Chu Nom, you might also want to add Hangul, Hiragana/Katagana since they are sort of derived from Chinese character.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whitefan415 View Post
    If you want to include Chu Nom, you might also want to add Hangul, Hiragana/Katagana since they are sort of derived from Chinese character.
    Hiragana, Katakana an Hangul are not extinct.
    One could add Man'yogana though...

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    I mean Chu Nom are as foreign to Chinese as Hiragana/Katagana, Hangul although Chu Nom is easier to grasp for Chinese due to for each chu nom there is chinese character interpretation right next to it.

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    Maybe the thread title ought to be changed?
    Then I'll put some stuff about Man'yogana.

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    Nu Shu:





    N Shu (simplified Chinese: 女书; traditional Chinese: 女書; pinyin: Nǚshū; literally "women's writing"), is a syllabary writing system that was used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County in Hunan province of southern China [1].

    Unlike the standard written Chinese, which is logographic (with each character representing a word or part of a word), N Shu is phonetic, with each of its approximately 600-700 characters representing a syllable in the local Chngguān dialect (城关土话) [1] of the Yao nationality. This is about half the number required to represent all the syllables in Chengguan, including tonal distinctions; evidently digraphs are used for the remainder.

    It is not clear whether Chengguan is Mien of the Hmong-Mien languages, a Kadai language, or a local dialect of Xiang Chinese, all of which are spoken by people officially classified as Yao.

    Many N Shu characters are an italic variant form of Kaishu Chinese characters [1], as the name of the script itself appears to be, though many others appear to derive from embroidery patterns; the characters are formed from dots, horizontals, virgules, and arcs [2]. N Shu easily lends itself to being embroidered, and is (or was) often found in embroidered form.

    The script is written from top to bottom or, when horizontal, from right to left, as is traditional for Chinese. Also like Chinese, vertical lines are truly vertical, while lines crossing them are angled from the perpendicular. Unlike Chinese, N Shu writers value characters written with very fine, almost threadlike, lines as a mark of fine penmanship.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whitefan415 View Post
    It has nothing to do with Chinese history. Historically, Chinese people regardless of ethnicity had never used this script.

    If you want to include Chu Nom, you might also want to add Hangul, Hiragana/Katagana since they are sort of derived from Chinese character.
    Chu Nom consists directly of parts copied from Chinese Characters, so I thought to include it here as a "Sinoform" script, aka - a semantophonetic script which is in part derived from Chinese characters. Indirectly, it is related to Chinese history since China ruled Vietnam on and off from 111 BC - 938 AD. Chu Nom also incorporates expressions which are "pure Chinese"; that is completely unaltered Chinese characters.

    Personally, I don't think that Hangul and the Japanese alphabets would fit in as they are technically alphabets; the syllables themselves lack any sort of meaning.


    For example, in the above Chu Nom, the first character consists of the components 百 and 林; the second consists of the characters 年 and 南; etcetera, which themselves are "pure" Chinese but combined in such a way that one part represents a phonetic element in Vietnamese and the other represents its intended Chinese meaning. For example, 百 means "one hundred", but is pronounced "trăm", as derived from the Vietnamese pronunciation of 林 ("lăm"). 年 means "year" but is pronounced năm because of the Vietnamese pronunciation of 南.
    =========
    If I understand well, the Tangut characters are put to the left of their 漢字 equivalent in the table, right?
    If yes, the Tangut for 七, 出, 白, 子, 百, 吾... are so complicated when compared to the simplicity of their 漢字 counterparts, it's hard to believe.
    Do we know if the construction of those characters are phonetic (like the Hangul), or if it's just another ideogram system?
    Loxias,

    The first King of Tangut, Jingzong reorganized his country into an "Empire" with the help of Chinese advisors. As he was learned in both Chinese and Tibetan, he favored the Chinese as they were, at the time, the stronger military power. Nevertheless, Jingzong saw himself as a rival to the Song dynasty, and in part resisted adopting Chinese characters directly. The high complexity of Jingzong's system is thought to have arisen due to the fact that he not only wanted a system which was different than Chinese, but he also wanted to "outdo" the Song dynasty.

    From what I gathered reading Chinese sources, one of the characters in Tangut are meant to be pictographic. The script consists of both semantic and phonetic characters, and some semantic characters can be combined or altered to produce other characters. For example, the character for "finger" and the character for "toe" are mirror images of each other.
    Last edited by DrDawud; 2010-02-04 at 04:32.
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