“New Scripts for All Sounds: Cosmology and Universal Phonetic Notation Systems in Late Imperial China"

I argue that cosmological methods, and the debates they inspired, were a major source of innovation in phonological scholarship during the late Ming. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholars strove to document the scope of possible sounds existing in the universe. Realizing the Chinese script was insufficient to fully record them, they explored new notation systems to comprehensively describe sound. Although competing contemporaneous approaches called for analyzing phonology according to regional or historical differences, Ming cosmologists asserted a significant alternative that they believed overcame limits of place and time. This case study suggests a need to rethink the impact of Ming scholars on Chinese intellectual history and on the history of writing in China.

The abstract above is courtesy of Project Muse.