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Human diversity and the genealogy of languages: Noah as the founding ancestor of the Chinese
Article from Journal - ilmiah internasional
Language Sciences (Full Text) vol. 30 no. 5 (2008)
Chinese writing system
Hutton_Christopher, p. 512-528.pdf
The characteristics which were held to define the Chinese language within the Western intellectual tradition placed it for a time at the centre in discussions of the genealogy of mankind. The dominant premodern paradigm for the explanation of human linguistic diversity was Biblical exegesis, as discussed and elaborated within the framework of ‘universal history’. A number of Western scholars argued that the Biblical patriarchs could be identified with legendary figures from Chinese history and that there was a direct link between the Chinese language and the pre-Babel linguistic order. The Chinese language, in particular its writing system, had universal characteristics, making it central in the quest for the restoration of the linguistic and conceptual unity of mankind. The rise of a modern linguistics marginalized universal projects of etymological speculation, and it was concluded that there was no cognate relationship between Chinese, Hebrew and the European languages. Both the language and the writing system were increasingly seen as anomalous and unnatural. Western understandings of the Chinese language and the Chinese writing system need to be contextualized within the evolution of conceptualizations of the natural and artificial.
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