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Gerard Clauson’s Skeleton Tangut (Hsi Hsia) Dictionary

A facsimile edition

(Corpus Textuum Tangutorum: 1)

With an introduction by Imre Galambos. With Editorial notes and an Index by Andrew West. Prepared for publication by Michael Everson. Second corrected edition. Dundee: Evertype, 2019. ISBN 978-1-78201-247-4. Price: €79.95, £69.95. $89.95.
First edition. Portlaoise: Evertype, 2016. ISBN 978-1-78201-167-5. OUT OF PRINT

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Clauson's Skeleton Tangut Dictionary

Sir Gerard Clauson’s Skeleton Tangut (Hsi Hsia) Dictionary survives as an unpublished manuscript because the author felt that he could not complete it without additional Tangut material. He began compiling the dictionary around 1938 but had to abandon the idea when it became clear that no more Tangut texts held in the USSR would be accessible in the foreseeable future. In the 1950s he deposited the manuscript and his other notes on Tangut studies in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, with the aim of making them available to anyone engaged in the study of Tangut. He believed that the dictionary represented a solid structure which could be enriched with more lexical data once more Tangut texts were published. This facsimile edition makes his work accessible to a wider audience, in order to stimulate further research on the Tangut language.

Corpus Textuum Tangutorum is a series presenting a variety of resources relevant to the study of Tangut, also known as Xixia, the north­eastern Tibeto-Burman language of the Western Xia empire, attested from 1036–1502.


From the Introduction by Imre Galambos

Sir Gerard Leslie Makins Clauson (1891–1974) worked most of his life as a civil servant and conducted academic research in his spare time. Only after retiring in 1951 at the age of 60 was he able to devote his full attention to scholarly endeavours, which were primarily focussed on Turkic languages. Thus as a scholar, today he is primarily remembered for his contribution to Turkic studies, and his Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish is still an essential reference tool in the field. Yet in addition to his study of Turkic and Mongolian linguistics, he also worked on a number of other Asian languages, including Tangut. Even though his extensive list of publications includes only a small number of items related to Tangut studies, he devoted an incredible amount of time and effort to studying the language and to compiling a dictionary. He never finished the dictionary but deposited a draft version along with his notes in seven large volumes at the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), so that they would be available to anyone who wished to study Tangut and perhaps continue his research. Eric Grinstead, who used the dictionary when working on the Tangut manuscripts at the British Museum, called it “a paragon of excellence” in comparison with high level of errors in dictionaries available at the time. Indeed, the erudition of Clauson’s dictionary is obvious even upon a cursory look at the manuscript version and had it ever been published, it would have undoubtedly made a major impact on scholarship. This introduction presents the available material in an attempt to shed some light on an unknown episode in the history of Tangut studies, a promising start that due to a variety of reasons never reached its potential.

From the Editorial notes by Andrew West

Clauson’s Skeleton Tangut Dictionary consists of two large notebooks. Part I (pp. 1–446 in this edition) originally comprised 222 folios: an originally unnumbered folio headed “Table of number of characters in the ‘Homo­phones’” followed by 221 folios numbered 1 through 221. A blank folio and a folio for Clauson’s introductory note were inserted at the beginning of the notebook at a later date, presumably in 1963 when he wrote the introductory note, and the folio with the introductory note and the following folio with the table of number of characters were numbered as i and ii. Part II (pp. 447–892 in this edition) comprises 222 folios numbered 222 through 441, with folios 284A and 284B, two folios numbered 315 (numbered 315A and 315B in this edition), two folios numbered 321 (321A and 321B here), and no folio 323, as well as an extra sheet inserted after folio 247 (the two being numbered 247A and 247B here). Folios originally numbered 352–370 in ink (preceded by 350, and followed by 370) were renumbered as 351–369 in faint pencil; in the headers the pencil numbers have been used. The dictionary entries are written on the recto side of each folio only; on the verso of each folio, supplementary data relevant to the following recto is given.

Clauson wrote out the draft of his dictionary into these two notebooks between October 1938 (note in top margin of f. 1r) and 27 March 1939 (note on f. 441r). Six months is surely far too short a period of time for him to have written the dictionary from scratch, and the fact that the entries appear to have been written out sequentially in component order with no gaps between them strongly suggests that there must have been earlier rough drafts or a set of index cards which allowed him to order the characters to be included in his dictionary before he wrote the entries for them into his notebooks. As discussed below, the major sources for Tangut characters used by Clauson were published in 1935 (and none of his sources are later than this date), so it is likely that he did preliminary work on the compilation and ordering of characters for two or three years before he started to write up the actual dictionary entries in October 1938.

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 19A Corso Street, Dundee, DD2 1DR, Scotland, 2016-12-09

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