Plurilingualism in Traditional Eurasian Scholarship

Thinking in Many Tongues


Was plurilingualism the exception or the norm in traditional Eurasian scholarship? This volume presents a selection of primary sources—in many cases translated into English for the first time—with introductions that provide fascinating historical materials for challenging notions of the ways in which traditional Eurasian scholars dealt with plurilingualism and monolingualism. Comparative in approach, global in scope, and historical in orientation, it engages with the growing discussion of plurilingualism and focuses on fundamental scholarly practices in various premodern and early modern societies—Chinese, Indian, Mesopotamian, Jewish, Islamic, Ancient Greek, and Roman—asking how these were conceived by the agents themselves. The volume will be an indispensable resource for courses on these subjects and on the history of scholarship and reflection on language throughout the world.
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Glenn W. Most, PhD (Yale/Tübingen, 1980) is a classicist and comparatist. He retired in November 2020 as Professor of Greek Philology at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and remains a regular Visiting Professor on the Committee on Social Thought (University of Chicago) and External Scientific Member of the MPIGW, Berlin. He has published numerous articles and books on Classics, philosophy, the history of religion, and comparative literature, among other fields.

Dagmar Schäfer, PhD (University of Würzburg, 1996) is a sinologist and historian of science. She is Director of Department 3 (Artifacts, Action, Knowledge) at the MPIWG, Berlin, and Honorary Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Author of The Crafting of the 10,000 Things (University of Chicago Press, 2011), she has published widely on the premodern history of China (Song–Ming) and the changing role of artifacts in the creation, diffusion, and use of scientific and technological knowledge.

Mårten Söderblom Saarela, PhD (Princeton University, 2015) is a historian of the Qing empire and Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taipei. He is the author of The Early Modern Travels of Manchu: A Script and Its Study in East Asia and Europe (Penn, 2020), and co-editor of Saksaha: A Journal of Manchu Studies.
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

Glenn W. Most, Dagmar Schäfer and Michele Loporcaro

Part 1 Language Diversity

1.1 Introduction
Glenn W. Most

1.2 The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9)
Joel S. Baden

1.3 A 5th-Century BCE Greek Historian Discusses the Pelasgians and the Origins of the Greek Language
Herodotus, Histories
Filippomaria Pontani

1.4 Language Arose from Spontaneous Feelings and Reactions to Nature
The Doctrine of Epicurus (4th Century BCE) and Lucretius (1st Century BCE)
Filippomaria Pontani

1.5 Language Diversity Is a Result of Social Interaction
Xunzi’s View on Plurilingualism in 3rd-Century BCE China
Dagmar Schäfer

1.6 Language Is a Collective Product of Mankind
Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History (1st Century BCE)
Filippomaria Pontani

1.7 A 1st-Century BCE/CE Greek Geographer Discusses What a “Barbarian” Language Is in Terms of Homer and the Carians
Strabo, Geography
Filippomaria Pontani

1.8 Plurilingualism in China and Inner Asia in the 12th Century CE
“Khitan Reciting Poetry”
Mårten Söderblom Saarela

Part 2 Etymology

2.1 Introduction
Glenn W. Most, Dagmar Schäfer and Michele Loporcaro

2.2 An Early Post-Vedic Treatise on the Etymological Explanation of Words
Yāska, Etymology
Johannes Bronkhorst

2.3 A 4th-Century BCE Greek Philosophical Analysis of the Methods and Limits of Etymology
Plato, Cratylus
Glenn W. Most

2.4 A 1st-Century BCE Roman Polymath’s Explanation of the Mysteries of Latin
Varro, On the Latin Language
Glenn W. Most and Michele Loporcaro

2.5 A 1st-Century CE Stoic Etymological and Allegorical Explanation of Greek Gods
Cornutus, Compendium of Greek Theology
Glenn W. Most

2.6 Zheng Xuan and Commentarial Etymology (2nd Century CE)
Dagmar Schäfer

2.7 Etymology in the Most Important Reference Encyclopedia of Late Antiquity (ca. 600 CE)
Isidore of Seville, Etymologies
Michele Loporcaro and Glenn W. Most

2.8 Buddhist Etymologies from First-Millennium India and China
Works by Vasubandhu, Sthiramati and Paramārtha
Roy Tzohar

2.9 An Influential Latin Dictionary and Its Etymologies (12th Century CE) in the Linguistic Landscape of Medieval Europe
Hugutio of Pisa’s Derivationes
Michele Loporcaro

Part 3 Lexicography

3.1 Introduction
Mårten Söderblom Saarela

3.2 Lexicality and Lexicons from Mesopotamia
Markham J. Geller

3.3 Translating Oriental Words into Greek
A Papyrus Glossary from the 1st Century CE
Filippomaria Pontani

3.4 The Making of Monolingual Dictionaries
The Prefaces to the Lexica of Hesychius (6th Century CE) and Photius (9th Century CE)
Filippomaria Pontani

3.5 A 10th-Century CE Byzantine Encyclopedia and Lexicon
Suda, Letter Sigma
Glenn W. Most

3.6 A Dictionary of the Imperial Capital
Shen Qiliang’s Da Qing quanshu (1683)
Mårten Söderblom Saarela

Part 4 Translation

4.1 Introduction
Dagmar Schäfer and Markham J. Geller

4.2 Translators of Sumerian
The Unsung Heroes of Babylonian Scholarship
Markham J. Geller

4.3 The Earliest and Most Complete Story of the Translation of the Pentateuch into Greek (2nd Century BCE)
The Letter of Aristeas
Benjamin G. Wright III

4.4 “Faithful” and “Unfaithful” Translations
The Greco-Latin Tradition in Jerome’s Letter to Pammachius (395/396 CE)
Filippomaria Pontani

4.5 A 4th-Century CE Buddhist Note on Sanskrit-Chinese Translation
Dao’an’s Preface to the Abridgement of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Sūtra
Bill M. Mak

4.6 An 8th-Century CE Indian Astronomical Treatise in Chinese
The Nine Seizers Canon by Qutan Xida
Bill M. Mak

4.7 Two 8th-Century CE Recensions of Amoghavajra’s Buddhist Astral Compendium, Treatise on Lunar Mansions and Planets
Bill M. Mak

4.8 Arabic and Arabo-Latin Translations of Euclid’s Elements
Sonja Brentjes

Part 5 Writing Systems

5.1 Introduction
Dagmar Schäfer, Markham J. Geller and Glenn W. Most

5.2 A 4th-Century BCE Greek Philosophical Myth about the Egyptian Origins of Writing
Plato, Phaedrus
Glenn W. Most

5.3 A Buddhist Mahāyāna Account of the Coming into Being of Language
The Descent into Laṅkā Scripture (Laṅkāvatārasūtra)
Roy Tzohar

5.4 Stories of Origin
Ibn al-Nadīm, Kitāb al-Fihrist
Sonja Brentjes

5.5 Inventing or Adapting Scripts in Inner Asia
The Jin and Yuan Histories and the Early Manchu Veritable Records Juxtaposed (1340s–1630s)
Mårten Söderblom Saarela

5.6 An Essay on the Use of Chinese and Korean Language in Late 18th-Century CE Chosŏn
Yu Tŭkkong, “Hyang’ŏ pan, Hwaŏ pan”
Mårten Söderblom Saarela

Anyone interested in the study of plurilingualism; translation studies; history of science, esp. scholarly practices; etymological practices; lexicography; writing systems; Greek and Roman classics, classical traditions; Sinology; Manchu studies; Buddhology; Korean studies; Islamic science; Religion Studies, Bible, Christianity, Judaism.
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