Indo-Sinica

Historical and comparative linguistics started rather early in East and Mainland Southeast Asia, where a fledging Neogrammarian linguistics fruitfully cross-pollinated with sophisticated indigenous philology. It is uncontroversial, however, to declare the state of the field deeply unsatisfactory.

This slow progress is occasioned by closely related intrinsic and sociological factors. Faced with an objectively difficult situation, due to the radical pace of linguistic change in this part of the world and the paucity and ambiguity of ancient attestations, scholars flinched from the hope of eventual IE-level explanatory power to opt for less ambitious, “innovative” methodologies. The new methodologies do phylogenetics very well, but hardly explain any actual form in actual languages in a way which is customary for other families and regions. As a result, there is no etymological dictionaries for Sino-Tibetan and Mainland SEA languages of the same level of detail and rigour for any major languages of Europe, Near East or Northern America. Nor is it customary in the field to treat questions commonplace elsewhere, such as the evolution of particular vowel systems, the emergence of morphological patterns or the etymology of individual words.

It is the intention of this blog to publish my provisional research notes, in order to join the efforts of a new generation of Sino-Tibetanists and SEA linguists, and to promote a paradigmatic (counter-)revolution towards the rigour and sophistication of a classical comparative philology of grey-headed fuddy-duddy Frau (and Herr) Doktor Doktor’s.

竊唯比較語言學之興也、於東亞並東南亞諸部國之語言尤早。音韻文字之賢撰述乎其先、Junggrammatiker之徒繼踵乎其後、砥礪琢磨、大輅椎輪、逾百年矣。然前源固遠、今流不昌、此間學者、不得不擱筆感嘆。

徵其不得盛之由、雖在其學之本身、又不得謂無預於人事焉。此方之於四域、音變獨速。太古非無碑墨、少而難明。厥學堂奧、固難窺矣。學者心畏其難、遂不敢望其盡解、乃別立新法、名之曰方法論創新。然觀新法層出疊見者、於區別語言之親疏既善、第不能以推今音之由來耳。是以無能制詞源詞典之燭明微奧如西歐近東北美者也。四方皆精、泰東獨麤。四方學者皆考元音之源流、形態之遞變、以至雖一字之毫、猶得考其本末者、皆非東亞並東南亞之語言學者所慣爲也。

余少有志于嘉絨之學、兼及蕃華文字、閱數年始得其一二。感茲學之未極、希敵體乎四裔。故敢附說衆末、見笑大方、期得爲引玉之磚、或亦不無小補云。

minus273 識於二零一五年乙未冬


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