Modern Perspectives on Ancient East Asian Texts

Professor Moriyo Shimabukuro from the University of the Ryukyus, Japan, giving a lecture on "Omorosōshi" and Old Okinawa

On September 14-15, an international workshop entitled, Modern Perspectives on Ancient East Asian Languages, was held at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. It brought together four internationally renowned linguists from Canada (Professor Ross King), Germany (Dr. Stefan Georg), Okinawa (Professor Moriyo Shimabukuro), and Turkey (Professor Mehmet Ölmez), in addition to two local participants, Professor Haeree Park and Professor Alexander Vovin.

UH students attending one of the workshop's lectures

The workshop had three main goals: first, to bring together scholars who specialize in East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea) with scholars who specialize in Inner Asia and Okinawa; second, to demonstrate that the disciplines of philology and historical linguistics are not dead, but are thriving; and third, to introduce UH students to linguistic fields that are either underrepresented or not represented at UH.

One of the successes of the workshop includes that everyone, including the presenters, learned a great deal from each other. Professor King emphasized that philology is an “art of slow reading,” and this was echoed in Professor Ölmez’s presentation, where he demonstrated that careful examination of texts often lead to the elimination of hapax legomenon—words that are believed to occur only once in a written language. Dr. Georg demonstrated how language change influences the transmission of the text, an often poorly understood subject. Professor Shimabukuro demonstrated how the careful study of different chronological layers of a given text allows us to date a particular phonetic shift in the history of Okinawan language. Professor Park introduced new varieties of Confucian and Daoist classics preserved on bamboo strips. Professor Vovin offered a new interpretation of an enigmatic Classical Japanese poem, and demonstrated how our knowledge of early ethnolinguistic history of Japan could be significantly altered.

Professor Mehmet Ölmez from Istanbul Yildiz Teknik University, Turkey, giving a talk on Old Turkic.

Want more information? Please click here for the flyer and schedule of the event.