Revitalising Naxi dongba as a 'pictographic' vernacular script
Publication in refereed journal

Altmetrics Information

Other information
AbstractA script can be a window into a language and all the culture contained within it. China’s minority peoples have a multitude of scripts, but many are in danger of falling out of use, a decline spurred by the adoption and promotion of
standard Chinese across the country. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to preserve minority writing systems. This
article reveals how the primarily logographic Naxi dongba script (often labelled the world’s ‘last living pictographs’),
used in China’s southwestern Yunnan province to record the Naxi language, can be practically used as a modern
writing system alongside its more widely known traditional role as a means of recording religious rites, and what
exactly separates these two styles of writing. The efforts that have been made to achieve the goal of modernisation
over the past decades are reviewed, including the longstanding attempts at Unicode encoding. I make some suggestions
for the future development of the script, and employ plenty of examples from recent publications, alongside phonetic
renderings and English translations. It is hoped that overall awareness of this unique script can be raised, and that it can
develop into a vernacular script with everyday applications.
All Author(s) ListDuncan Poupard
Journal nameJournal of Chinese Writing Systems
Volume Number3
Issue Number1
Place of PublicationShanghai
Pages53 - 68
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsDongba script, minority writing, Naxi, pictographs, Unicode

Last updated on 2020-08-08 at 01:36