Middle Chinese: A Study in Historical Phonology

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UBC Press, Nov 1, 2011 - Foreign Language Study - 290 pages

Published in the early part of this century, Bernhard Karlgren's classic work Etudes sur la phonologie chinoise laid the foundation in western sinology for the scientific reconstruction of Chinese pronunciation. In this present study E.G. Pulleyblank gives the first full-scale review of Karlgren's work, taking into account advances in knowledge over the past fifty years in both the history of the Chinese language and in general linguistic theory.

The introductory chapter gives a brief history of "Standard Chinese" and defines the author's own phonological theory based on the concept of distinctive features. Pulleyblank then applies this theory to a detailed analysis of Pekingese, the dialect base for contemporary Chinese. He follows this with a reconstruction of Late Middle Chinese (LMC) which depends on a new interpretation of the Four Grades (si deng) of the rhyme tables. This interpretation provides the key to the correct phonological structure of LMC and to an understanding of subsequent developments.

Further chapters deal with the pre-Tang language, Early Middle Chinese (EMC). They contain a discussion of its sources as well as an actual reconstruction -- one which departs in fundamental ways from the traditional Karlgren system. A comparison of both EMC and LMC with Karlgren's "Ancient Chinese," as he called the Qieyun language, is given in one of the appendices to the book. A second appendix gives a new reconstruction of Early Mandarin (EM) of the 13th and 14th century as presented in the Zhongyuan yin yun, a rhyme dictionary of the early 14th century.

This book constitutes the most comprehensive and challenging treatment of its subject since the pioneering work of Karlgren. It will be welcomed by specialists as an up-to-date and definitive statement of the views of one of the world's leading sinologists.


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Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 The Phonology of Pekingese
Chapter 3 Late Middle Chinese
Chapter 4 The Sources of Early Middle Chinese
Chapter 5 Reconstruction of Early Middle Chinese
A Comparison of EMC and LMC with Karlgrens Ancient Chinese
Reconstruction of Early MandarinThe Zhongyuan yinyun

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About the author (2011)

Edwin G. Pulleyblank is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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