Item description for Koguryo: The Language of Japan's Continental Relatives: An Introduction to the Historical-Comparative Study of the Japanese-Koguryoic Languages (Brill's Japanese Studies Library) by Christopher I. Beckwith...
This is the first in-depth study of the extinct Koguryo language, which was once spoken in Manchuria and northern Korea. It covers the ethnolinguistic history of the Koguryo nation, philological treatment of the sources for the language, Koguryo phonology, and a complete glossary of all Archaic Koguryo and Old Koguryo words. Special attention has been given to the theory and practice of lexically-based historical-comparative linguistics. The genetic relationship of Koguryo to Japanese is shown to be secure, unlike the non-relationship of either language to Korean or Altaic, and much light is shed on the ethnolinguistic origins of Japanese. The special phonological features of the underlying transcriptional language, the archaic northeastern Middle Chinese dialect once spoken in Korea, are also analyzed.
Readership: Anyone interested in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, historical linguistics, early East Asian history, or the comparative linguistics of East Asia and Central Eurasia. Academic libraries, research institutes, and large public libraries.
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Christopher I. Beckwith is professor of Central Eurasian studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include "Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present" and "The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages" (both Princeton).
Christopher I. Beckwith currently resides in the state of Indiana. Christopher I. Beckwith was born in 1945.
Reviews - What do customers think about Koguryo: The Language of Japan's Continental Relatives: An Introduction to the Historical-Comparative Study of the Japanese-Koguryoic Languages (Brill's Japanese Studies Library)?
A brilliant book on East Asian comparative linguistics Jul 3, 2006
First of all, let me say that this is a brilliant book. I am a linguistics student with a Russian and English background and am interested in East Asian languages. When I heard about the debate over who "owns" the legacy of the Koguryo Kingdom, I tried to find out about their language. I found this book, which seems to be the only major linguistic study of Koguryo in existence. Beckwith gives a model account of the surviving language material and shows Koguryo is definitely related to Japanese. He also has some very interesting theoretical chapters, especially the one on word frequency and retention rates.
Beckwith bashes the Altaic theory, the Sino-Tibetan theory, and traditional Chinese reconstructions, and shows that some words were borrowed into Japanese from Old Chinese, so some people are bound to be unhappy with him. But in my honest opinion Beckwith is right. How could the Japanese, Koguryo, and Chinese have so much interaction for so long, even before the medieval borrowing period, without sharing a good number of words? All languages I ever heard of have lots of loanwords, so certainly Japanese and Koguryo have them too. Non-linguist readers ought to know that phonological change is complex and later forms include mergers of more than one earlier form, so even a regular correspondence such as Ryuukyuu d and Japanese y does not cover all occurrences. For example, Beckwith points out that the Japanese word yama "mountain" is actually attested as yama, not *dama, in third century Japanese, before the Ryuukyuu dialects or languages even existed. Beckwith explains his reconstructions and his interpretations of the transcription characters very clearly, and as far as I noticed he does not create any ad hoc forms in the book, which in my opinion is a very careful scholarly work.
I feel Beckwith is courageous to challenge so many dogmatic theories that others get hot under the collar about. I found the book exciting.
The book on Koguryo and the origins of Japanese Feb 23, 2006
This is an important book. It is the first one on the Koguryo (Goguryeo) language and the relationship of Koguryo to Japanese. It is also the only serious, important book on the NON-relationship of the `Japanese-Koguryoic' languages to Korean or any other language or language family. People who are religiously devoted to amateurish mega-theories like `Altaic' will not like this book. It argues very strongly, clearly, and convincingly against their theories. I can't say it is an easy read. It is an intense, thoroughly scholarly book. But if you are interested in the origins of the Koguryo people (including their fascinating origin myth), the Koguryo language, the Japanese-Koguryoic languages, or historical-comparative linguistics in East Asia in general, this book is a must-read.
Truly not what I expected Sep 4, 2005
When I came to know that this book was published last year I was very excited by the idea of a linguistic work that approaches Japanese to the Northeast part of the continent at last with truthful proofs. At first I thought that would be a definitive proof for the link of Japanese to Altaic languages because I wrongly believed Koguryo was somehow an ancient pre-tungusic language (anyway, tungusic languages are spoken nowadays in that area). But I got rid of this idea just beginning the reading of it, and later I discovered Beckwith being a hard anti-altaicist linguist. That's not a problem, of course, it's just that I had recently read a book of Roy Andrew Miller who used Koguryo (saying that it was Old North Korean) to prove relationship between Korean, Japanese and Altaic (especially with the word for "garlic"). But Beckwith has made some considerably big mistakes in his comparative Japanese-Koguryo work (how could possibly "yama", mountain in Japanese, and γapma [ghapma], big mountain in Koguryo, be related? The proto-japanese word for mountain is "dama", as every y- in Japanese comes from d-, as noted in some Ryukyuan dialects), not to tell about his own inventions of readings of Chinese phonetic characters used to transcribe Koguryo, ad hoc reconstructions of Early Old Chinese words, etc.
He absolutely rejects the Altaic divergence theory and says: "Altaic is a distant relationship theory that a century of energetic effort has failed to demonstrate successfully" He compares Altaic theory with the Nostratic one. About the Altaic convergence theory he says that Tibetan, Burmese, and even some dialects of Mandarin Chinese should be included in that family, while some dialects of Turkish should not, not sharing many of the widely accepted rules for a language to be Altaic. However, he suggests many loanwords of Japanese from Old Chinese (reconstructing very improbable words) and Proto-Tibeto-Burmese, claiming those words to be ultimately of an Indoeuropean origin, showing the striking resemblances of those to PIE roots. For example: EOC *marga - IE *marko (horse), EOC *mare - IE *mori (sea), EOC *kwer - PTB *kwar - IE *kwel (wheel), PTB *dwa - IE *dwe (two), EOC *wer - IE *wer (water), EOC *wek < PCh *ok - IE *okw (eye), EOC *kweru - IE *gwel (yellow) He says: "Since many of the forms discussed in this chapter also seem to be shared with Indo-European, they should be examined by a careful but open-minded scholar trained both in Indo-European comparative-historical linguistics and in East Asian languages who is not crippled by reliance on HSR (Historical Sinological Reconstruction). Unfortunately, in East Asian linguistic circles weighty theories continue to be based on assumptions involving Austronesian, Taic, or other language families, all of which are (and were) distant from the ancient homeland of Chinese civilization in the Yellow river valley." It is not a bad book, as raw material, and as a corpus of Koguryo lexicon, and many words are clear cognates between Japanese and Koguryo, that's undeniable, but those cognates do also exist in Korean and Tungusic-Altaic languages, although Beckwith does not want to see it. And finally, yes, this book is extremely overpriced.
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