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April 1, 2023

The limits of his Emperie (full manye dyuerse contrees):
Paths of enlightenment written eastward through Inner Asia


Peter T. Daniels
Past President, International Linguistic Association

Time: April 1, 2023. 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Zoom Link: https://bmcc-cuny.zoom.us/j/85103409163
Meeting ID: 851 0340 9163
Passcode: 116215

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Peter T. Daniels was probably the first linguist whose specialization has been entirely in the writing systems of the world. He holds degrees in linguistics from Cornell University and the University of Chicago – where he came under the influence of the Assyriologist I. J. Gelb, whose Study of Writing (1952, 1963) was the first linguistically informed treatment of the subject. Daniels's first publications were on ancient calligraphy and on the little-known decipherments that were less spectacular than those of Egyptian and Linear B, but in 1987 he turned to the theoretical investigation of writing. His innovative typology of writing has prevailed in the field; his approach to the origins of writing in syllabically organized languages has led to a variety of invitations to contribute to survey volumes and to international conferences. He co-edited the standard reference work The World's Writing Systems (Oxford, 1996), and his Exploration of Writing was published in 2018 by Equinox. An introductory textbook is in preparation for Cambridge University Press.

In 2018, he was asked to present a popular talk at Oxford University's Bodleian Library, focusing on a unique manuscript housed there bearing a text in Tibetan, Mongolian, and Sanskrit. He took the opportunity to describe the progress of writing as it developed across the continent of Asia in dual streams of scholarship, tradition, and innovation – in effect, a history of writing. Along the way he also took into account several other treasures from the Bodleian (with the expectation that they could be displayed at the venue; as it happened, the display area was entirely occupied by a show of the art of J. R. R. Tolkien), including the first printing of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, an early version of Sir John Mandeville's Travels, and several others. The talk is being repeated here for the first time.

The announcement of the Oxford event read as follows:
From Mandeville to Marlowe, and before and beyond, the Orient fascinated Europe; and perhaps Inner Asia did so most of all. Tibet remained inscrutable, but the Mongol Hordes were storied and feared. Among the most important but least known achievements of both Tibetans and Mongols were writing systems of their very own. To look at them, a common origin might scarcely be suspected; but they are but two way-stations of the dual journey of writing, by a southern and a northern path, not from the Chinese East, but from the Aramaic West. Not lux ex oriente, but littera ex occidente.

Monthly Lectures 2022 - 2023

2023

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
February 04 Recruiting syntax (and more) to learn the meaning of adjectives Dr. Kristen Syrett (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
March 04 Multilingualism and heritage language practices amongst third generation Australian Italians Dr. Antonia Rubino (The University of Sydney)
April 01 The limits of his Emperie (full manye dyuerse contrees): Paths of enlightenment written eastward through Inner Asia Peter T. Daniels (Past President, International Linguistic Association)
May 06 Benjamin Lee Whorf and the Maya Rosetta Stone Dr. Kathleen O'Connor-Bater (SUNY at Old Westbury)

2022

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
March 05 'Talk to (and with) the hand': African American Language, gestures and the Black body Dr. Renee Blake (New York University)
April 09 Toward an Integrated Framework for Studying the Relationship between Bilingual Language Experience and Cognitive Reserve Dr. Laura Spinu (Kingsborough Community College, CUNY)
May 07 A (class)room of our own: Towards a multimodal grammar of pedagogical conversation on the WhatsApp messaging platform Dr. Cecilia Magadán (National University of San Martin, Argentina)
October 01 Singaporean English in Action Dr. K. K. Luke (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
November 05 15 Years of Chirila Dr. Claire Bowern (Yale University)
December 03 Nepali Migrant Workers' Use of Tamizh in Chennai: Insights into Adult Naturalisitic Acquisition in a Multilingual Context Dr. Usha Lakshmanan (Southern Illinois University at Carbondalea)