Some thoughts about grammar and translation between Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, from the stele of Sonin
(63rd Annual Meeting Ulaanbaatar, 2021)
The Manchu historical linguistics is an important, but still a relatively minor subbranch of the Manchu studies. While the spoken Manchu language and the Classical Manchu language of the manuscripts and xylographs are comparatively well researched, the Classical Manchu language of inscriptions remains completely neglected even in China, where the inscriptions were mainly utilised by historians.
By my field research in Beijing in 2016, I found and photographed twenty-six steles from Beijing Stone Carving Art Museum, two from Beihai Park, nine from Beijing Confucious Temple, and two from Beijing Imperial College. There are no monolingual Manchu inscriptions, most of them being Manchu-Chinese bilinguals, but also including four trilingual Manchu-MongolianChinese inscriptions, and four quadrilinguals in Manchu-Chinese-Mongolian-Tibetan.
One of these trilingual and quadrilingual inscriptions is very interesting, the stele of Sonin located in Beijing Stone Carving Art Museum, as it is the only one non Buddhism related stele with Mongolian inscription that I found from my field research. The reason is very probably that the father and the oncle of Sonin had been serving in the Manchu court as scholars in Mongolian, and also Sonin himself is well educated and proficient in Mongolian.
With the inscriptions of this stele of Sonin written in 1667 in Manchu, Chinese, and Mongolian, we could see some interesting techniques of translation by just reading the Manchu and Chinese part. Therefore, in my PIAC 2021 communication I intend to go through and compare these three languages of this stele, in order to map their grammatical analysis and translational techniques.