The Chinese Language - or, ideas to steal

Posted by ranskaldan on 10:18 8/2/02

In reply to: The Chinese Language - or, ideas to steal posted by John Minot on 22:00 7/29/02

Actually, I'm pretty sure that "Leyan" is simply a result of the transcription of a difficult vowel - most possibly of a variety of Chinese other than Mandarin. There are a lot of weird vowels in other Chinese varieties (e.g. /i~/ in Hokkien), but as far as I know, none has ever taken two syllables and combined them in that way. The "-r" suffixation is a rarity among Chinese varieties, and even in Mandarin, it is the only example of a recently merged syllable.

As for cross-syllable features in Chinese:

yes you're right about tone sandhi and the -r suffix, but as for the "merged syllables", my understanding is that it is the *other* way around. Most non-foreign disyllabic lexemes (e.g. jiao3luo4 "corner" ) are believed to be originally monosyllables with consonant clusters that "split up" to create the CV and CVC language that Chinese is today.

You could be right. There aren't any consonant clusters in Chinese however, so I have a hard time imagining how it would work.

Mark responds:

The examples I can easily find in Norman's book are all from Old Chinese.

bu3 (OC pj@g) 'not' + zhi1 (OC tj@g) '3p pron.' = fu2 (OC pj@t)
wu2 (OC mjag) 'neg. imper.' + zhi1 = wu4 (OC mj@t) 'neg. imper. marker'
yu2 (OC gwjan) prep. + n- (unattested pronoun) = yan1 (OC gwjan)

Here's a few Middle Chinese ones:

zuo4 (MC tsuo-) 'do' + mo4 (MC mu@t) = zen3 (MC zem), found in modern zen3me 'how'
mei3 'each' + ren2 'person' = men 'pluralizer'
zi4 (MC dzi-) 'self' + jia1 (MC ka) 'family' = za2, found in za2men 'inclusive we'
ni3 'you' + men 'pluralizer' = nin2 'you' (now a polite form)
bu2 'not' + yong4 'need' = beng2 'neg. imper.'

Note that the fusions are all (naturally enough) normal Chinese syllables, so they're not evident in any way from studying the modern language. They have to be recognized by historical studies.

To make a reply, or see replies, see the index page.