[INDOLOGY] Question on Diacritical Marks

Matthew Kapstein mkapstei at uchicago.edu
Tue Sep 6 07:40:53 UTC 2016

Just a small note:

The reference to Chinese earlier in this thread seems to have been mistaken. Tonal accents are
not used to facilitate character recognition. The syllable 'ji' in Pinyin transcription, for instance, may
receive four tonal accents, but even each tonal variation corresponds to many different Chinese
logographs ('characters'). This is why Sinologists prefer to include the actual characters in their
work, either integrated with the text or in a final glossary. But obviously to insist on only 'original
script' would render Sinological scholarship totally inaccessible to those outside the area. Pinyin (or
Wade-Giles or other) transcriptions, without tonal accents, at least provide outsiders with an 
approximation. I think something similar holds in the case of Indic phonology, though in this
case the problem is less complicated than in Chinese.

Matthew Kapstein
Directeur d'études,
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies,
The University of Chicago


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