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Old ChineseA New Reconstruction$
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William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199945375

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199945375.001.0001

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Old Chinese onsets

Old Chinese onsets

(p.68) 4 Old Chinese onsets
Old Chinese

William H. Baxter

Laurent Sagart

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a systematic treatment of Old Chinese word onsets. Following a definition of the notion of onset within Old Chinese word structure and a presentation of the consonant system, it reviews general processes that affected the history of Chinese: pharyngealization, palatalization, retroflexion, and secondary voicing. The comparative evidence about Old Chinese phonology coming from archaic dialects and contact languages is discussed. A new account of Proto-Mĭn initial consonants and of their evolution to modern dialects is presented, which assumes two separate episodes of initial devoicing. A general scheme showing what inferences can be drawn from the combined evidence of archaic dialects and contact languages is laid out. Then the different types of onsets are discussed: singleton onsets, onsets with tightly attached preinitials, and onsets with loosely attached preinitials. Onsets are classified according to their preinitial material and their manner of articulation. Examples for each reconstructed onset are presented. The sound correspondences between Old Chinese onsets and their Middle Chinese, Proto-Mĭn, Proto-Hmong-Mien, and Vietnamese reflexes are tabulated according to onset type.

Keywords:   onsets, preinitials, Middle Chinese, Proto-Mĭn, devoicing, Hmong-Mien, Proto-Hmong-Mien, Vietnamese, sound correspondences

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