From Felt to Fabric: Transformative Processes in Manju Lexicology and Lexicography

Oliver Corff

From Felt to Fabric: Transformative Processes in Manju Lexicology and Lexicography

(64th Meeting Budapest, 2022)

The Han-i araha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe (Dictionary of Manju Words) of 1708, offering approx. 12,100 entries, is a major milestone in Manju lexicology and lexicography as it offers precise definitions of the meaning of Manju words, and beyond that, the concept and structure of knowledge and thought in the Manju world of the Qing empire.

Its successor by name is the Han-i araha nonggime toKtobuha Manju gisun-i buleku bithe (Enlarged and Revised Dictionary of Manju Words) of 1772, which offers approx. 18,655 entries, an apparent increase by more than 50% which seemingly confirms the word nonggime (“enlarged”) in the title of this dictionary.

A closer inspection of the dictionary of 1708 reveals that many entries have more than one definition. Next to A be, B sembi (“A is called B”), we find definitions like A be, B sembi. geli C be, inu B sembi (“A is called B. In addition, C is also called B”), while alternatives with the same meaning are given as geli D seme gisurembi (“also said as D”). In fact, the secondary definitions and alternatives comprise many of those lemmata which are found as entries in their own right in the Enlarged and Revised Dictionary of 1772.

The process of editing the Enlarged and Revised Dictionary thus did not exhaust itself in adding new words, but was very much an effort to deconvolute and restructure the semantic foundation of the lexicon without departing too far from the original concept of the dictionary of 1708, as captured in the word toktobuha (“revised”).

The author of this paper introduces quantitative measures to describe the “edit distance” between the two dictionaries. With the findings of this quantitative approach, it becomes possible to study the process of how convoluted homonyms and polysemes in the dictionary of 1708 unfold into the rigid fabric of the dictionary of 1772.