Pictographs and the language of Naxi rituals

Abstract : This book chapter, aimed at a broad audience, presents the usefulness of linguistic tools in the study of the Naxi writing systems. In the field of Sino-Tibetan studies, there are few languages with a long-standing written tradition. Of these, the Naxi pictographic tradition encapsulates unique information about the Naxi and their language and holds special promise for research. The language of the Naxi rituals raises a range of issues, such as: How old are the characters of the Naxi script? What is the origin of the seemingly strange words and turns of phrase found in the rituals? The philological study of the Naxi tradition is greatly complicated by the fact that Naxi books were passed from one generation to the next as mnemonic summaries of the rituals rather than complete transcriptions, unlike Tibetan or Chinese texts. The absence of standardization of Naxi texts allowed the Naxi priests some freedom when copying books; this resulted in great diversification. The field of linguistics can contribute some evidence and provide some tools to address these complex topics. The approach adopted here consists in looking at the Naxi facts in the light of a comparison between several dialects of the Naxi language and, beyond Naxi proper, a comparison with other Sino-Tibetan languages that are closely related to Naxi.
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Alexis Michaud. Pictographs and the language of Naxi rituals. Christine Mathieu & Cindy Ho. Quentin Roosevelt's China. Ancestral Realms of the Naxi, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, pp.90-99, 2011. ⟨halshs-00613668⟩

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