Why Wikcrit is soooo difficult

26 August 2009 at 3:30 AM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Here is the abstract of a paper entitled “Once Again on Khitan Words in Chinese-Khitan Mixed Verses” by Alexander Vovin (published in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae in 2003):

“The present paper deals with identification of the Khitan words preserved in Late Middle Chinese transcription in mixed language verses from the Qidan Guo Zhi. I argue that the only cogent way for identifying these Khitan words correctly is using the up-to-date version of Middle Chinese reconstruction, and not viewing them through the anachronistic prism of Modern and/or Early Mandarin readings of Chinese characters. On this basis I provide critical assessment of certain identifications proposed by my predecessors as well as several new identifications.”

It is so easy to use “the anachronistic prism of Modern” language to read texts done before our century. The New Critics had lots of fun pointing out how what we now view as colorless words used to be pregnant with other meanings in 17th century England (such as John Donne’s to die as to have an orgasm). Wikcritics find themselves in double trouble: they have to think in two or more languages at the same time, and they have to place themselves in another century.

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