How to reconstruct Old Chinese

Abstract : The reconstruction of Chinese raises special difficulties due to the nature of the writing system, which only provides indirect evidence concerning pronunciation. The reconstructions proposed by Karlgren and Maspero are revisited systematically. Comparative data from other East Asian languages are adduced, with special attention to early loans from Chinese into Vietnamese and Tai languages, which provide decisive evidence on Old Chinese, i.e. Chinese as it was spoken before the Tang dynasty. The paper argues against reconstructing a contrast between two series of voiced stops (plain vs. aspirated) in Old Chinese. It provides evidence for the reconstruction of a labiovelar series in Old Chinese, and, taking as a model the development of tonal oppositions from syllable finals in Vietnamese, proposes to reconstruct an Old Chinese derivational suffix *s to account for a series of tonal alternations in Middle Chinese. [This is a translation of the article originally published as: Comment reconstruire le chinois archaïque, Word 10(2/3). 351–364 (1954).]
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Submitted on : Thursday, November 9, 2017 - 12:32:04 PM
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André-Georges Haudricourt. How to reconstruct Old Chinese. 2017. ⟨halshs-01631479⟩

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