[KS] formal question (which version of Chinese characters?)

Marion Eggert marion.eggert at rub.de
Thu May 28 08:35:53 EDT 2015

Dear Frank,

Good that you've found an (at least partial) solution with which you are 
happy, but lest my students - whom I encourage to seek answers to their 
questions on the KS list - confront me one day saying that your solution 
is the standard developed among KS scholars, I'd like to emphasize that 
I would handle this differently, using one writing style for all. (Of 
course, I am talking here of printed matter; I do recognize the problems 
involved in electronic researches.)

There are several points I find problematic. Firstly, I still can't 
subscribe to this argument:

>> traditional, Simplified and Japanese kanji are now - synchronically
> speaking - independent scripts used to represent different languages <<
Which different languages are represented by "traditional" and 
Not to speak of Taiwan, even in mainland China,  "traditional" 
characters can be used and are being used, depending on context, and 
while they may represent something politically and even culturally 
different, they certainly do not represent a different language. There 
have been publications in "traditional Chinese" from mainland China even 
in the 70s!

Secondly, I am not sure why you would insert characters at all if you 
think what they represent is nothing but that word in that language. 
"Denshō" would be completely sufficient to represent the Japanese word 
for "folklore". (And no, homonyms are not a problem. Context does the 
trick.) In my mind, the additional information that you give by 
inserting the Chinese characters is that the same word (or should we say 
"word root" so as to acknowledge the different pronunciations?) that is 
otherwise used for "transmission" or "tradition" (in other East Asian 
languages, and in Japanese as well) has come to take on the additional 
meaning of "folklore" in Japanese. This information is not lost or 
changed when you use non-Japanese forms of the characters.

Your "gut feeling" about personal names and discussion with Werner about 
Mr Kwôn points to the third problem: When applying your logic (which is 
basically one of doing justice to esthetically produced connotations) to 
romanization, we should romanize the Taibei palace museum as Ku-kung 
po-wu-yüan (or at least should have done so in the past when Taiwan had 
no use for pinyin).

And a final point: The usefulness and resilience of the Chinese script 
lies in its power as a transnational medium of communication. Among 
other things, it has served to re-integrate the divergences in 
signification that always take place when knowledge, language, concepts 
travel, into a realm of shared understanding. I'm pretty sure it will 
survive the nation state.


> To me this is plausible enough in order to now use each local variant
> of characters for terminology and for bibliographic references. What I
> am personally left with is the question about personal names though
> (more so than institutional names). Would it really be the best to,
> using another example, write the simplified version of the family name
> Kwŏn 權, which is 权, when we refer to some Chinese Korean person
> living in Jilin, China (while keeping the pronunciation at Kwŏn rather
> than Quan)? If we 'push' that a little, we then get sentences like: "In
> 1990 Mr. Kwŏn 权 xx visited his his nephew Mr. Kwŏn 權 yy in Seoul."
> Even without such rather seldom cases, my 'gut feeling' tells me we do
> not need that in case of personal names, simply because these are not
> related to cultural semantics. Am I not thinking this through? Any
> comments?
> Best,
> Frank
> --------------------------------------
> Frank Hoffmann
> http://koreanstudies.com

Prof. Dr. Marion Eggert
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Sprache und Kultur Koreas
GB 1/46
D-44780 Bochum

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list