GENGO KENKYU (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan)
Online ISSN : 2185-6710
Print ISSN : 0024-3914
Philology and Linguistics
Ondoku and Kundoku in Old Uighur
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2003 Volume 2003 Issue 124 Pages 1-36


The author found fragments of Chinese texts in Uighur script at the St. Petersburg Branch for Oriental Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences and identified their corresponding Chinese originals. The phonological system of the Chinese written in Uighur is basically the same as that of the northwestern dialects of Tang and Five Dynasties. Although the fragments were composed later during the period of Yuan Dynasty, its phonological system is undoubtedly quite different from that of colloquial Chinese used in Yuan Dynasty. As a result of detailed examination of the texts, it has become clear that the phonological system behind the texts is well reflected by the Uighur inherited reading of Chinese characters similar to the Japanese Ondoku system, i.e., Chinese reading of Chinese characters.
On the other hand, it is occasionally observed that Chinese characters are sporadically inserted between Uighur lines in the above texts. These inserted Chinese characters must have been read in Uighur. These Chinese characters appear not only as words, but also as phrases and sentences. An interesting fact is that in some bilingual texts such as ″Thousand Character Essay″the Uighur inherited, reading of Chinese is followed by its corresponding Uighur translation. Furthermore, in other texts represented by ″Abhidharmakosabhasya-tika Tattvartha″, it is recorded how Uighur speakers read Chinese texts in Uighur pronunciation, translating the contents into the Uighur language. Taking these facts into consideration, a conclusion is inevitable that Uighurs had their own way of reading Chinese texts which is typologically comparable to the Japanese Kundoku system, i.e., Japanese reading of Chinese characters.
Japanese is known as a language in which Ondoku and Kundoku are well developed. It is extremely difficult to understand the contents of Chinese texts merely by listening to Ondoku reading, where a large number of homonyms are created by the loss of many phonological distinctions. Japanese Buddhist monks recite Chinese Buddhist texts following the Ondoku system, but at the same time they understand the contents by Kundoku reading utilizing ideographic nature of Chinese characters. The author would like to argue that Uighur monks of the Yuan dynasty period employed the same kind of method when reciting Chinese texts.

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