Naxi (aws: Re: 100%)

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Wed Jan 26 2000 - 16:58:14 EST

John Cowan wrote:

> Rick McGowan wrote:
> > Oh you mean NAXI!
> The "x" represents IPA [x], so "kh" is also a plausible representation
> that cannot be confused with Pinyin "x" (IPA [\u0255]).

Well, possibly. The transcription Ramsey uses in the nice selection that
John made available uses "x" for IPA [x] in citations of Naxi syllables.
But the *Chinese* name for the language is Naxiyu (in Pinyin), and "Naxi"
is also occasionally seen transliterated as "Nahsi".

contains a brief but presumably up-to-date page about the Naxi, including
the claim that the population of ethnic Naxi people is about 250,000,
mostly living in Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County in Lijiang Prefecture
(northern Yunnan Province).

> > or "Moso" as it's also called.

An older, pre-PRC ethnic name, also cited as "Moxie" or "Mosha" or "Mosu",
and may actually consist of a localized subgroup of the Naxi "nationality"
in Lijiang.
> > This is a non-Han
> > ideographic script that is in current use. The scholars in China should
> > probably propose it for encoding
> I think it should not be encoded; see previous posting.
> The Naxi syllabary (about which I have
> essentially no information) might be a candidate.

I concur with John's assessment here. Naxi pictographs appear to be
functionally akin to very early hieroglyphs, before a well-established
relationship is made to language to turn them into a true writing
system. Instead, Naxi texts apparently consist mostly of conventional
mnemonic pictographic sequences that serve as anchoring points for the
retelling of traditional religious/mythic stories of the Dongba
(shamanistic) religion. This would seem to
lie outside just outside the pale of systems appropriate for encoding
via characters in Unicode. A Naxi syllabary *would* be appropriate,
however, if it can be sufficiently documented for encoding.

By the way, some published Naxi scholars in China include Fu Maoji,
He Zhiwu, and Yang Huan-dian (the latter primarily a linguist of the
Naxi language, rather than a scholar of the Naxi pictographs). And some
work on the Naxi script was done by the American scholar Michael McCaskey
(not the same as the former president of the Chicago Bears) in the early 80's.


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