Literary Sinitic (written Chinese, hereafter Sinitic) functioned as a ‘scripta franca’ in sinographic East Asia, which broadly comprises China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea, and Vietnam today. It was widely used by East Asian literati to facilitate cross-border communication interactively face-to-face. This lingua-cultural practice is generally known as bĭtán 筆談, literally ‘brushtalk’ or ‘brush conversation’. While brushtalk as a substitute for speech to conduct ‘silent conversation’ has been reported since the Sui dynasty (581–619), in this paper brushtalk data will be drawn from sources involving transcultural, cross-border communication from late Ming dynasty (1368–1644) until the 1900s. Brushtalk occurred in four recurrent contexts, comprising both interactional and transactional communication: official brushtalk (公務筆談), poetic brushtalk (詩文筆談), travelogue brushtalk (遊歷筆談), and drifting brushtalk (漂流筆談). For want of space, we will exemplify brushtalk using selected examples drawn from the first three contexts. The use of Sinitic as a ‘scripta franca’ seems to be sui generis and under-researched linguistically and sociolinguistically. More research is needed to unveil the script-specific characteristics of Sinitic in cross-border communication.
|Number of pages||23|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Apr 2020|