Etienne Fourmont (1683-1745)

Oriental and Chinese Languages in Eighteenth Century France

Cecile Leung (Author),

Series: Leuven Chinese Studies 13

Category: History, History 1500-1800

Language: English

ISBN: 9789058672483

Publication date: October 8, 2002

€27.00 (including 6% VAT)

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Number of pages: 314

Size: 240 x 160 x mm

Stock item: 45760

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Fourmont was the first scholar in France to deal with Chinese matters. He started his career in the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres as an Hebraist, but he left this discipline and turned to Chinese in 1711. At that time he met Arcadio Huang, a young French-speaking Chinese man in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Fourmont seized the opportunity to be introduced to Chinese. Huang taught him the pronunciation of Chinese syllables, and quite particularly, he introduced him to the 214 radicals. Fourmont’s first book on the Chinese language, the Meditationes Sinicae , was published in 1737. His second work, Linguae Sinarum Mandarinicae Hieroglyphae , in 1742. Both these works are analyzed in detail in the present monograph. The presentation of the Chinese language in these publications was based on the Latin Grammar. One of the most fascinating points of Fourmont’s studies was the way he dealt with the Chinese radicals. In the dictionaries, the Chinese characters are arranged according to a number of simple characters that enter obligatorily into more complex characters. In the course of the centuries the number of radicals varied from 60 to 600, but since 1615 it was settled at 214. This system of 214 radicals, which Fourmont saw in the dictionaries of the Bibliothèque Nationale, and which Huang taught him, was known to very few scholars in Europe. Fourmont’s greatest feat was having 80,000 fine Chinese characters engraved in Paris for his many proposed dictionaries. He must have visited his engravers each day for many years to inspect and correct their work. The petits chinois , as these engravings were called, are still on display today at the Imprimerie Nationale in Paris.

by Professor Knud Lundbaek


Chapter 1:
From Herblay to Paris: Education in Latin and Greek

Chapter 2:
The Académie des Inscriptions et belles-lettres and the Parisian orientalist

Chapter 3:
Beyond the confines of the Mediterranean basin: Arabic scholarship in Paris

Chapter 4:
Hebrew Studies and Biblical Polemics Chinese Antiquity

Chapter 5:
Fourmont’s Encounter with Chinese Books: Jean-Paul Bignon the Enlightened Leader

Chapter 6:
Chinese Language in the European Context

Chapter 7:
The Making of a Chinese Grammar: Meditationes Sinicae

Chapter 8:
Grammatica Duplex and the Reception of Fourmont’s Grammars

Chapter 9:
Data for a Chinese-French Dictionary. The Printing and Teaching of Chinese in Paris


Appendix 1: Etienne Fourmont’s Testament
Appendix 2: Extreact from the Inventory of Fourmont’s Property concerning the Chinese Books of the Bibliothèque du Roi
Appendix 3: Extract from the Preface of Etienne Fourmont’s Grammatica Duplex, translated by F. Jean Fernet S.J.
Appendix 4: Du Molard’s Letter to Fourmont concerning a “Chinese” Community in Naples
Appendix 5: Extracts from the “Registre Journal des Assemblées et délibérations de l’Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Médailles” 1713-1742
Index of Persons

Cecile Leung

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