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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 rhymes

Old Chinese rhymes

(p.194) 5 Old Chinese rhymes
Old Chinese

William H. Baxter

Laurent Sagart

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 gives a systematic treatment of Old Chinese rhymes. After an overview of rhyme structure (main vowel, coda, and post-coda) in section 2.1, section 2.2 introduces the six-vowel system of Old Chinese. This involves two main hypotheses: (1) the rounded-vowel hypothesis, which assigns rounded-vowel origins to certain rhymes that have unrounded main vowels in Middle Chinese, and (2) the front-vowel hypothesis, which asserts that the Middle Chinese “division-IV” rhymes come from the front vowels *e and *i. Rhyming evidence which apparently contradicts these claims is discussed. Section 5.3 discusses several processes with wide-ranging effects on rhyme development: pharyngealization of initial consonants and the presence of prevocalic -r-, as well as various assimilation and dissimilation processes. Reconstructed Old Chinese rhymes are then systematically presented, classified by coda type (back; acute; with -w; labial) and vowel. As with the onsets, all reconstructed rhymes are illustrated by examples. Their sound correspondences with Middle Chinese (though not, in this case, with Proto- Mĭn, Proto-Hmong-Mien, or Vietnamese) are tabulated. The reconstruction of the *-r coda is supported by evidence from Chinese transcriptions of foreign words. It is also shown that a dialect development which treated final *-r as -j was characteristic of the region in and near the Shāndōng peninsula, in contrast to other regions, where *-r evolved to -n.

Keywords:   rhymes, six-vowel system, front-vowel hypothesis, rounded-vowel hypothesis, Old Chinese dialects, Shāndōng

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