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Title: Aural Texts and the Association of Sound and Meaning in Early China
Authors: Rominger, Gian Duri
Advisors: Peterson, Willard J.
Contributors: East Asian Studies Department
Subjects: Asian literature
Asian history
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the role of sound in language use in early Chinese texts. By focusing on developments of sound-based recurrences such as rhyme and paronomasia, focusing on the classical, foundational texts from the third to first centuries BCE, I offer a new understanding of how textuality, the writing system, and language itself were conceptualized during these centuries. Overall, I argue that these sound-based devices underwent transformative functional and structural changes, in which their primary focus shifted from composition to interpretation. I trace the importance of sound in language use from the Later Mohist textual material through other Warring States texts, including the “Masters’ literature” (zǐ shū 子書), all the way to Hàn dynasty material. Specifically, this dissertation highlights that sound recurrences in early Chinese texts occur both as a structuring element for longer material – whereby sound coordinates textual units – and as a means to express conceptual and ontological connections valid for ancient language users. Additionally, this dissertation proposes to computationally apply existing historical phonological data at scale to digitized early Chinese textual material in order to detect phonological recurrences. Key findings of this study include, firstly, that early Chinese rhymes and paronomasia did not only fulfill ornamental and mnemonic functions but could also form the basis for performative segments, arguments, and ontological connections postulated by and in texts. Secondly, functions of paronomasia shift over centuries, changing from compositional devices to decidedly interpretive tools.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:East Asian Studies

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