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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

International Workshop: Warp, Woof, Wen / Phoneme, Pattern, Pun - Structural Approaches to Early Chinese Texts

Time and Location

Thursday, April 12, 2018, 09:30 am - 06:30 pm; University of Zurich, Room KOL G 217, Rämistrasse 71, 8001 Zürich

Friday, April 13, 2018, 09:30 am - 06:30 pm; University of Zurich, Room KOL G 217, Rämistrasse 71, 8001 Zürich

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 9:30 am - 04:30 pm; University of Zurich, Room KO2 F 152, Karl-Schmid-Strasse 4, 8001 Zürich


Both in Chinese and in European sinology, traditional hermeneutic ap­proaches to Early Chinese texts have been prioritizing content over form in their attempts to unravel allegedly “true” or normative “original” meanings. However, a large amount of information is arguably lost or misread in this process that could im­prove our understanding of early forms of argument construction (Meyer 2012) in Classical Chi­nese literature. Recent archaeological manuscript findings have prompted a reassessment of our assumptions of Early Chinese culture and literature. Such findings have brought to the fore the necessity to broaden our interpretative horizons by adopting a more comprehensive ap­proach that takes the interactions between form, content, and material carrier into regular consideration (Richter 2013). It is against this background that renewed attention has been paid throughout the last decade to the study of different kinds of text-structuring devices in Early Chinese texts (Behr and Gentz 2005; Pohl and Wöhrle 2011; Gentz and Meyer 2015). Following this recent trend, the present workshop proposes to adopt a method of inquiry that focuses on the structure of a text at different levels, and, in particular, to explore the fundamental role played by two different kinds of text structuring devices – structural patterns and phonological patterns – at play in the make-up of Early Chinese texts. Individual contributions will address the use of one or more of the following devices and/or their interactions in per­tinent case studies:

  • Structural patterns, i.e. devices that help organize and formulate an effective argu­ment by establishing meaningful connections among its basic constituent elements, such as more or less complex cases of parallel­ism (Gentz 2007), intertextual and intra-textual cross-referencing (Schwermann 2005), transition terms or “linkers”(Gentz 2005, Nylan 2014, Gentz and Meyer 2015), poetry citation in argumen­tative or his­toriographical contexts (Long Yuchun 1962/63, Raphals 1994, Zeng Qin­liang 1993, Schaberg 2001, Kern 2016), systematic harnessing of lexical-semantic re­la­tionships and transpositions of metalinguistic formulae (Zádrapa 2014), or per­for­ma­tive text construction (Kern 2014).
  • Phonological patterns, i.e. techniques that play on the distribution and recurrence of sound patterns to establish connections between sound and meaning within differ­ent sections of a text, such as rhyming patterns or “rhyme nets” (Behr 2005), assonances, instances of paronomasia (Suter 2014, Behr forthc.), lexical and morphonological mirroring of linguistic and economic expenditure in epi­deictic rhyme-prose, and other “phonorhetoric” pat­terns (Tharsen 2015, Smith 2015).


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies – Department of Chinese Studies

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