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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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(p.316) 6 Conclusion
Old Chinese

William H. Baxter

Laurent Sagart

Oxford University Press

Chapter 6 is the conclusion to the entire book. It argues that traditional characterizations of Chinese as a primitive and unevolving language without a syntax or a morphology (by such figures as Hegel, Schlegel, and William Dwight Whitney) have no basis in fact. Old Chinese was a language not yet tonal, not monosyllabic, and with considerable derivational morphology, which places it comfortably into a well-known typological pattern, similar to that of modern Khmer. The chapter also reviews the evidence for dialectal distinctions within Old Chinese assembled in the book: evolution of *-r, of initial *lº()- and *nº()-, and of presyllabic elements. A list of “known issues”- problems with the proposed reconstruction that the authors are aware of-is included. The chapter suggests directions for future research that may lead to improvements in our understanding of Old Chinese, especially regarding the reconstruction of complex onsets. Finally, this chapter examines some cases where the new reconstruction has improved the phonological fit of individual items-‘water’, ‘egg’, ‘stream’, ‘take’, ‘carry on the back’-with corresponding forms in other Sino-Tibetan languages, thereby contributing to a better understanding of phonological evolutions within the family.

Keywords:   typology, Hegel, August von Schlegel, William Dwight Whitney, Sino-Tibetan comparison

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