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The Transmission of Writing Technology between Korea and Japan in the 8th Century

March 22, 2024 at 8:00:00 PM


Porté Room (S250), Second Level, CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge St.

About the Event:

From their website:

Speaker: JOHN B. WHITMAN, Professor of Linguistics, Cornell University

Moderator: WESLEY JACOBSEN, Professor of the Practice of the Japanese Language and Director, Japanese Language Program, Harvard University

Brief summary: Discussions of the genealogy of writing systems – and more broadly of the transcultural spread of literacy – tend to focus on the lineage of graphs. More recent work emphasizes the nature of writing and reading as a system, and the role in early transmission of what Gershovich (1979) termed alloglottography, or vernacular reading (Whitman et al 2010): reading prestige language texts in the reader’s vernacular language. Research since Kobayashi (2002) makes a strong case for a major role of Korean, specifically Sillan models for the technology of kunten 訓點  that provides the scaffolding for vernacular reading in Japan, that is kanbun kundoku. This talk updates that case, and reopens the longer-standing and more vexed debate over abbreviated sinographs, specifically Korean kugyŏlcha 口訣字and katakana.

Reischauer Institute Japan Forum, co-sponsored by the Japanese Language Program and the Korea Institute at Harvard University

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