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Naxi writing

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


A member of the Lolo branch of Burmese-Lolo languages, Naxi (also Nakhi, Naqxi, Nasi) is spoken in Yunnan province by one of China's recognized ethnic minorities, called Moso by the Chinese. Three different writing systems have evolved for Naxi, one pictographic, one syllabic and one alphabetic. The pictographic script, known as ‘Tomba script’, is the oldest, dating from the twelfth century ce . It is attested in numerous manuscripts and stone monuments ( figure 3 ). Used primarily for Buddhist scriptures, it appears to be a limited system which functions as a memory aid in reciting texts that are already known. In excess of 90 per cent of its signs are pictographic, although some are occasionally employed as phonetic symbols in accordance with the rebus principle . Rather than being a systematic feature of the underlying system, rebus writing is sporadic and appears late in the history of the script, perhaps under the influence of the syllabic system. The second, syllabic Naxi script is called Geba ‘disciple’, a designation which is interpreted as an indication that this script was created later than pictographic Tomba. Some Geba symbols were derived from Chinese characters, others from Tomba symbols, but in contradistinction to the pictorial nature of Tomba, it is linear in appearance ( figure 4 ). This script is sparsely documented in only a few manuscripts and, accordingly, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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