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Grant number like: FT-59732-12

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Jane M. Geaney
University of Richmond (Richmond, VA 23173-0001)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2012 – 7/31/2012

Concepts of Speech and Writing in Early China

My book project, "A Chinese Grammatology," documents and interprets the development of ideas about language in Early China (c. 500 B.C.E.-220 C.E.). The period is important because the inhabitants the Yellow River valley formed concepts of language without being aware of any type of writing other than their own non-alphabetic script. Sometime around the second century C.E., early Chinese assumptions about the nature of language collided with unfamiliar counterparts in Buddhist texts transmitted through Central Asia. By examining this elusive encounter, my project shows how non-alphabetic scripts can shape a culture's ideas about the nature of language. Pre-Buddhist concepts of language differ not only from those in the first Buddhist translations, but also from those of the dominant Western philosophical tradition. Thus, my project also reveals how Western philosophy's ontological dualisms drawn from a hierarchy of speech over writing continue to mislead scholarship on Early China.