Minim confusion

I found my first real case of minim confusion, which I previously said was theoretically possible in Manchu because medial “a”, pre-consonantal “n”, and one form of “k” are all made up of identical strokes.

By my “first real case”, I mean two words that are attested in dictionaries, having the same written form but different pronunciation, i.e. they are homographs.

First of all, the theory behind it.  Initial “a” looks like .  Initial “e” looks like .  Medial “n” when followed by a consonant looks like , so when you have a word that starts with “en” followed by a consonant, the “en” looks like , the same as initial “a” . Continue reading Minim confusion

Sunzi visualizes… (Manchu acquisition?)

Randy’s recent creation of the Tiny Little Corpus (TLC™) of Manchu from the Art of War provides a fine excuse to dump the data into the mind-blowing visualization tools at Many Eyes (h/t to Ideophone) and get a new perspective on what Sunzi says.

The screenshot below doesn’t really do it justice. Continue reading Sunzi visualizes… (Manchu acquisition?)

The Art of War — in Manchu!

It is with great fanfare that I announce Victor Mair‘s new addition to Sino-Platonic Papers: an expanded set of notes (1.03 MB download, PDF) on his 2007 translation of the Art of War.

The notes themselves are fantastic, but what made me practically fall out of my chair was what he has in the appendix: a complete Manchu version of the Art of War in romanized text.  And if that’s not enough, English glosses are given for each word/phrase!  The romanization and glosses are provided by Hoong Teik Toh at Academia Sinica in Taiwan.  Of all of the Manchu study materials that I’ve seen, this one has got to be the coolest!

And as Mark Swofford says in his announcement on, this is most probably the longest piece of romanized Manchu text on the web.  That makes it like a tiny little corpus (TLC™).  So I started playing around with it, doing things that one might do with a corpus…. Continue reading The Art of War — in Manchu!

Wall Mystery Solved!

I went to Wulajie again earlier this week.  A fellow school headmaster had arranged a trip there for his school so the students could learn about Manchu culture and spend part of the afternoon drawing.  His school is an art school, and he said he chose Wulajie partly because he was inspired by my interest in Manchu language and culture, and also that it makes sense for kids to know more about Manchu culture since this area (Northeast China) used to be their country.

He filled up two tour busses and hired two tour guides, one for each bus.  The tour guides talked about the usual things — Manchu people don’t eat dog meat, their chimneys run under their beds to provide a heated surface to sleep on, they are great archers, etc.  Not much linguistic stuff outside of the fact that there is only a handful of mother-tongue speakers left.

Our first stop was the same government outpost that I mentioned in an earlier post, where I saw a strange word in Manchu script on an outside wall.  The word is strange because it spells “kisi”, which is not in any Manchu dictionary that’s available to me.  So what is this word? Continue reading Wall Mystery Solved!