I know this message has spawned quite a discussion on the nature of scripts
(writing systems?), but I have some specific factual information on the
suuchuma numerals that may be of use. There is an interesting if very
outdated article on the suuchuma numerals:
Chamberlain, Basil Hall. 1898. A quinary system of notation employed in
Luchu on the wooden tallies termed sho-chu-ma. Journal of the
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 27: 383-395.
As far as I can tell, this is the only paper on the subject in any Western
language (I have no Japanese). Chamberlain indicates that he was told that
even then, the system was no longer in use.
I include a section on these numerals in my dissertation, "The Comparative
History of Numerical Notation". However, my only real source is
Chamberlain. If anyone has additional information, I'd be very interested
in learning more about this very peculiar notation system.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2003 11:15 PM
Subject: "kaida" pictographic script and "suuchuuma" numerals
I was just wondering if anybody had any info about the KAIDA script
[formerly] used in the westernmost Ryukyuan Island of Yonaguni (and
perhaps in all of Japan) to write the Yonaguni language (SIL code
YOI) of the islanders, or on the "suuchuuma" numerals also (formerly)
used on the island.
It seems that there is a great hole that needs to be filled with
information about this script, because as of yet the only resources I
have been able to access were things that either 1. mentioned the
script or 2. had pictures of the two characters found on a rock near
the undersea castle off the coast of Yonaguni [those for "horse"
and "goat", iirc], as well as a book on something almost completely
unrelated with a single page illustrating about 12 glyphs (I don't
have it on hand ATM)
I have been able to find (by looking through bibliographies on the
Ryukyus) one book with 16 pages of illustrations of the script and a
whole chapter written about it, although it seems that it's only
availible in Japan and even there only at a couple of institutions.
I've also been able to find a few _extremely_ old journal articles
about it that don't seem to be in anybody's archives anymore and seem
to have been written more about the people who used the script than
the script itself (these were written when the script was still used,
over 100 years ago).
Supposedly the Yonaguni Ethnographic Museum is able to provide more
information, however I haven't the Japanese skills to write a formal
letter requesting information on the script.
I have also been looking for information on the quipus of Miyako
Island, a bit further north in the Ryukyus than Yonaguni, which AFAIK
some think to be actual writing, as well as the different scripts
that are discussed in the book KO RYUUKYUU ("old ryukyu") by the most
famous and arguably the first Ryukyuanist, the late Iha Fuyu (himself
a Ryukyuan from Okinawa)
Any help is greatly appreciated.
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