A Grammar of Manchu


We begin this classic reprint series with the publication of Grammatika man’chzhurskogo iazyka (A Grammar of the Manchu Language, 1879) by Ivan Il’ich Zakharov. Despite the fact that a number of grammars, sketches and textbooks of the Classical Manchu language appeared in the twentieth century, Zakharov’s grammar remains an important contribution to the study of the language and is frequently consulted by specialists. Unfortunately, in contrast to another major contribution by Zakharov, Polnyi man’chzhursko-russkii slovar’ (A Complete Manchu- Russian Dictionary, 1875), his Manchu Grammar was never reprinted and remains a bibliographical rarity. His grammar does not comply with modern methodology as regards language description; rather, he based his approach on the conventions of his day as found in Latin grammars. Despite this, and other minor shortcomings, Zakharov’s grammar contains a mine of valuable information. At the time Zakharov wrote his grammar, Manchu was still in use to a limited extent. This reprint of Zakharov’s grammar should continue to be seen as a useful resource by scholars for generations to come.

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Biographical Note

Ivan Il’ich Zakharov was born in 1817 in the village of Vislaia Poliana of Zemliansk County in the province of Voronezh, where his father was a sexton of the local church. After graduating from the seminary in Voronezh in 1837, he spent two years studying at the Ecclesiastical Academy, St. Petersburg, before joining the twelfth Russian Orthodox Mission in Beijing, where he studied both Manchu and Chinese from 1839 to 1850. While in residence in Beijing, he began compiling his Manchu-Russian dictionary. In 1851, he was appointed the first Russian consul in Kuldja. In 1858, Zakharov was instructed to investigate the burning of the Russian consulate in Chuchugak, which had taken place in 1855 during the Taiping rebellion (1850–1864). Zakharov successfully performed this difficult task, managing to force the Qing government to pay 200,000 rubles in reparations. He was subsequently appointed Consul-General in recognition of this achievement. In his capacity as a commissioner, with full authority to make decisions as he saw fit, Zakharov supervised the demarcation of the Russian-Chinese border in its western part; this resulted in a transfer of a significant portion of Chinese territory to Russia, and in recognition of this welcome outcome for Russia, Zakharov was promoted to the high rank of Actual state Councillor. On 13 June 1864, he was further promoted to the status of dragoman of the fifth class at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and served there in this capacity until 28 February 1868, when he retired with a hefty state pension of 1,200 rubles. In the same year, the College of Oriental Languages of the St. Petersburg Imperial University invited Zakharov to join the faculty as Professor of Manchu. Zakharov began his lectures on Manchu at the St. Petersburg University on 1 September 1869, and in 1875 he was awarded the Doctoral degree in Manchu Philology for his scholarly work. He became Associate Professor on 19 May 1879, and was promoted to the rank of Full Professor on 26 November 1884. The following September, he died of a heart attack. Zakharov is best known for his Grammar and Dictionary of Manchu, although he is also author of several articles and various unpublished materials.

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