Writing and Sound in Old Japanese
Play • 1 hr 3 min
[Recorded 27 February 2019] Old Japanese is the name given to the stage of the Japanese language as it was spoken during the eighth century CE. The corpus of written text that is understood to encode this language is small but of considerable qualitative significance for students of language, literature and ancient history. My talk will first introduce, briefly, some visual materials which help to illustrate how Old Japanese literature was encoded in writing and transmitted through time to the present day. After this, it will explore one dimension of Old Japanese texts which, more than any other, ties them to the oral traditions by which they are underpinned – rhetoric. In particular, the discussion will focus on the role of repetitive sound textures in Old Japanese rhetoric and, in the process, will highlight one area in which historical linguistics may be fruitfully deployed in support of literary analysis.
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