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Old Chinese Phonology

(4,463 words)

Author(s): Laurent SAGART | William H. BAXTER
1. Background Broadly speaking, Old Chinese phonology ( Shànggǔ yīn 上古音) is the sound system of Old Chinese, the language of the early first millennium BCE that underlies the rhymes (=rimes) of the Shījīng 詩經 (the Book of Odes) and the system of phonetic elements in the early Chinese script. An early stage of this language can be assumed to be the ancestor of all later attested forms of Chinese. Scientific investigations into the phonology of Old Chinese began in China as early as the Sòng period (960–1279), undergoing b…
Date: 2017-03-02

Reconstruction, Methodology

(5,965 words)

Author(s): William H. BAXTER
Linguistic reconstruction is the process of making inferences about languages that are no longer spoken. Sometimes the goal is primarily to reconstruct some particular synchronic linguistic state: the language of a certain body of texts, or the language ancestral to a certain group of later languages. But in a broader sense, linguistic reconstruction involves the reconstruction of entire linguistic histories: not only what a particular language was like at a certain point in time, but also how i…
Date: 2017-03-02

Chóngniǔ 重紐 (Repeated Buttons)

(1,850 words)

Author(s): William H. BAXTER
The term chóngniǔ 重紐, literally “repeated initial consonants”, refers to situations where certain rhymes (=rimes) in the Middle Chinese rhyming dictionaries of the Qièyùn 切韻 tradition (Traditional Chinese phonology) include separate homophone groups that seem to have the same initial consonant (based on fǎnqiè 反切 spellings and on placement in the rhyme tables), which cannot be distinguished as kāikǒu 開口 versus hékǒu 合口, and which the later rhyme-table tradition distinguished by placing one in the third row of the tables ( sānděng 三等) and one in the fourth row ( sìděng 四等). The syllab…
Date: 2017-03-02