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Discussion on the Origin of the Middle Chinese Rising Tone

In this paper, I discuss the issues about Tsu-lin Mei’s well-accepted proposal that the final glottal stop is the origin of the MC rising tone.

Most scholars in Chinese historical phonology believe that Old Chinese (OC) is a non-tonal language, and the four tones in the Middle Chinese (MC) can find their respective origins from the syllable-codas in OC. (Of course, this assumption is made possible based on the agreement that MC is the descendant of OC.) Over the last decades, scholars have strived to explore the origins, and some proposals have been widely accepted. This paper discusses one of them-the glottal stop final in OC as the origin of the MC rising tone (上聲shǎng shēng). The discussion will begin with a background introduction of the issue and then summarize the hypothesis’s development. Then, I will discuss questions and issues regarding the major papers. The next section reviews Li Fang-kuei 李方桂 (1902-1987 C.E.) and Baxter and Sagart’s views towards the hypothesis. Lastly, I will share some observations based on the OC reconstruction of five poems, which give possible research angles for OC tones. Background Thanks to the abundant resources from medieval times, we have developed a rather comprehensive knowledge of the MC tones. The four tones, the level tone (平聲píng shēng), the rising tone, the departing tone (去聲 qù shēng), and the entering tone (入聲rù shēng), were recorded in rime books and used in poetry. The term shēng in the meaning “tone” has been in use since the fifth century C.E. The Nán shǐ 南史–the official history of the Southern Dynasties– credits Shěn Yuē 沈約 (441-513 C.E.) and Zhōu Yóng 周顒 (d. 493 C.E.) with the theory that Chinese had four tones. As Li Fang-guei recognizes, the active discussion of OC tones started from the Qing 清 dynasty phonologist Duàn Yùcái’s 段玉裁 (1735-1815 C.E.) innovative proposal. In his Liù shū yīn jūn biǎo 六書音均表, Duàn argued that there was no entering tone in OC based on his investigation of the rhyming patterns in the Shījīng 詩經. Since then, a hypothesis emerged that the entering tone in MC was originated from the disappearance of the final consonant in OC syllables. Subsequently, the issue extended to other tones, and attempts were made to prove that other MC tones might also come from certain types of syllable coda in OC. (Li 1980, 32) The origin of the rising tone The French scholar André-Georges Haudricourt (1911-1996 C.E.) published an influential paper, titled “De l’origine des tons en vietnamien” (“The origin of tones in Vietnamese”), in 1954. In this paper, he revisited H. Maspero’s (1883-1945 C.E.) 1912 paper about the Vietnamese tone system and its link with consonant types. Maspero believed that Vietnamese belonged to the same language family as Siamese based on the structural similarities between the tone system of Vietnamese and Tai. Haudricourt proposed that Vietnamese was originally a toneless Austroasiatic language, it developed tones as other proto-languages such as Chinese, Tai, and Miao-Yao (Hmong-Mien). The development of the tonal system happened in historical times through the loss of certain final consonants. The departing tone of Middle Chinese corresponds to the hỏi-ngã tones of Vietnamese, which, as Maspero has shown, are reflexes of an earlier -h representing an original -s. The rising tone words in MC correspond to words with sắc-nặng in Vietnamese, and the origin of the sắc-nặng tones was a glottal stop. This argument was supported by data of other Austroasiatic languages including the Mon-Khmer group in the south and the Palaung-Wa languages in the north. Specifically, Haudricourt cited three languages: Riang, spoken in the Shan states, Lamet, and Khmu. From a phonetic perspective, Haudricourt explained the development as follows: “A glottal stop following a vowel is produced by an increase in vocal fold tension (the opposite of what we have seen for final h). During the articulation of the vowel, the increase in vocal fold tension in anticipation of the coda glottal stop produces a rising tone. This tone, a phonetic consequence of the glottal stop, becomes a truly phonological tone used to distinguish the word when the glottal stop disappears.” (Haudricourt 1954, 16) In a 1963 paper, Pulleyblank proposes antecedents for two other tones: -ɦ and for later level tone, and -ʔ for later rising tone. He argues that “since there is such a high degree of parallelism between the Vietnamese and Chinese tonal systems, and since the hypothesis of final *-s as the source of the falling tone (translates as departing tone in this paper) has proved so successful, it is natural to consider the possibility that a final glottal stop may have been the source of the rising tone in Chinese also.” (Pulleyblank 1963, 225) In this paper, he cites a few transcriptions of foreign words as evidence. For example, he notes the possibility that the character 史 shǐ M. ṣḭə/<*slə·, the Chinese surname given to natives of Kesh who came to China,[1] may be based on a phonetic similarity to Sulik “Sogdian.” The final glottal stop may represent a foreign stop consonant. These examples, according to Mei Tsu-lin, are “few in number and not uniformly convincing.” (Mei 1970, 88) In his paper “Tones and Prosody in Middle Chinese and the Origin of the Rising Tone,” Mei supported the idea that the MC rising tone developed out of an earlier glottal stop ending. Instead of adopting the argument from analogy like Pulleyblank, which is purely suggestive, he offered three kinds of evidence: modern dialects, Buddhist sources bearing upon MC, and old Sino-Vietnamese loans. Frist, Mei discusses several dialects of the southeastern coastal area that preserve a glottal stop ending in the rising-tone words. These dialects include Wēnzhōu 溫州 of Zhèjiāng 浙江,[2] Púchéng 蒲城 and Jiànyáng 建陽 of Fújiàn福建, Dìng’ān 定安 and Wénchāng 文昌 of Hǎinán 海南. Because it is generally accepted that the Mǐn 閩 dialects branched off directly from OC, it is probable that the glottal stop ending in these dialects is a feature that descends from OC. (Mei 1970, 89) Mei’s second evidence comes from the Buddhist sources. He cites the fact that the Chinese rising tone served preferentially to note Sanskrit short vowels in Hàn-time Buddhist transcriptions. The phenomenon can be explained if it is assumed that the rising tone was shortened by a final glottal stop. In support of it, he discusses in detail the sound qualities of the four tones in MC based on the studies of Buddhist sources such as Buddhist texts written by the Táng 唐 dynasty monk Yìjìng 義淨 and a Japanese monk Annen 安然, and the Japanese tradition of bomba 梵唄.[3] The studies show that the rising tone is short and high. The feature “high” means either a level high pitch or a rising contour. Since a syllable is high and short if it ends in a voiceless stop, the reflex of a final glottal stop, which presumably existed in OC, should make the perfect match. Lastly, Mei uses old Sino-Vietnamese loans (words borrowed into Vietnamese during the Hàn dynasty) as the third evidence. According to Haudricourt's theory, the sắc-nặng tones of Vietnamese originated from the loss of a final glottal stop. Since the rising tone corresponds to the sắc-nặng tones in old Sino-Vietnamese loans and at the time of borrowing these two Vietnamese tones had a final glottal stop, it is reasonable to infer that the Chinese rising tone also had a final glottal stop at that time. Therefore, Mei gave sixteen characters, whose Chinese entries are all in the rising tone, and their Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation, together with their old Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation to illustrate the systematic change. On a final note, Mei also points out that the development of a tone from a final glottal stop can be found in other languages. The Modern Burmese developed from Jǐngpō 景頗 (also called Kachin) could be one example. In the early 1990s, Sagart presented evidence correlating the final glottal stop of OC and final -q in Proto-Austronesian, perhaps a uvular stop. For example, the word 土 ( earth, dirt) is reconstructed as *athaʔ >thuX, and its Proto-Austronesian cognate is -taq (blust, root). (Sagart 1993, 47) In this paper, Sagart also tries to answer a remaining question from Haudricourt’s paper. The rising tone in words ending in sonorants, especially nasals: word-final clusters of nasal-plus-glottal stop must be assumed: -mʔ, -nʔ, -ŋʔ. Haudricourt assumed that such clusters were the source of the Vietnamese tone sắc-nặng in words with nasal ending, for example Vietnamese bon (sắc-nặng) ‘4,’ even though other Mon-Khmer languages do not show a final glottal stop in this word. Haudricourt observed that such clusters are not unnatural since they occur in Lushai. Sagart notes that the same issue is found in Chinese and suggests that the source of the glottal stop in words of the nasal-ending series is to be found in an earlier series of voiced stop endings, developing to nasal plus glottal stop: *-b, *-d, *-g > -mˀ, -nˀ, -ŋˀ. (Sagart 1993, 51) Questions and issues Although Mei’s proposal that the final glottal stop is the origin of the MC rising tone has been well accepted, the methodology and evidence are by no means unassailable; questions, whether Mei was aware or not, remain to be answered. Some issues are also worth discussing. The first question is fundamental to the rising tone hypothesis. We shall start with Eugénie Henderson’s discussion on the Southeast Asian tone system, which can be applied universally: “It is important to recognize that pitch is frequently only one of the phonetic components of ‘tone’ as a phonological category. A phonological tone is in our area very frequently a complex of other features besides pitch-such as intensity, duration, voice quality, final glottal constriction and so on.” (Henderson 1967, 171) Thurgood comments, “Such configurations…making standard definition of tones as the lexical phonemicization of pitch distinctions at best a misleading simplification, at worst a serious impediment to understanding. Even a cursory examination of tone systems in the Americans, in Africa, and even in Europe makes it clear that most, if not all, tone systems contain similar clusters of features.” (Thurgood 2007, 274) With this in mind, we can come back to OC with this question: what do we mean when describing OC as a non-tonal language? In the 1930s, Y.R. Chao 趙元任 devised the phonetic notation for the pitch component of Mandarin Chinese tone, which is conveniently used in the Chinese literature on tone. In Mei’s paper, he thoroughly studies Annen’s account to clarify the characteristics of the MC tonal system. From Chao’s numeral measuring system to Mei’s abstract textual descriptions, it is a transition from tangibility to intangibility. If the MC tonal system is still describable, then the one of OC is at most deducible. It is known that the rhyming words in the Shījīng show a strong tendency to belong to the same tone-category. It means that OC words would fall into three or four categories; these categories are intimately related to the four tones in MC. Nevertheless, it does not inform us of any specific phonetic basis of these categories in OC. For this reason, Mei uses the word “tone-category” to substitute “tones.” He further notes, one may make the assumption that tonal contrast is an intrinsic characteristic of the language, not derivable from any non-tonal contrast. In this way, it can be concluded that tones are coeval with the Chinese language. (Mei 1970, 87) Li Fang-kuei was also aware of the uncertainty. He said: “the use of rimes in the Shījīng is generally based on tone-categories…but whether the use of rimes in the Shījīng reflects the fact that OC has tones, or it has different final consonants, it is a question that is hard to solve.” (Li 1980, 32) The question above is not to criticize the mislabeling of OC as toneless. Instead, it intends to relook at the definition of “tone” in a broader context. Shěn Yuē recognized the tonal distinction in MC and applied it to prosody. His discussion on the four tones was based on an observation of the acoustic characteristics, but he did not invent phonetic rules by which his contemporaries obey to distinguish words. In other words, the level tone word shī詩 (poetry) and the rising tone word shǐ 史 (history) had been distinguishable in the language before Shěn’s argument. The difference between the Emperor Wu of Liang 梁武帝 (r. 561-578 C.E.), who innocently inquired of the four tones, and Shěn Yuē is purely on the level of linguistic awareness. If we accept that finals -p, -t, -k equal to the entering tone in MC, we should agree that a final glottal stop, which set the MC rising-tone words apart from the rest, made a tonal difference. It is convenient to call OC toneless because it reminds us of the phonetic symbols like “-ʔ,” but it is also dangerous. Before we adopt the term “toneless” for OC, or discuss tonogenesis, the definition of “tone” should be aligned for OC, MC, and Mandarin Chinese. The second and one of the most notable issues relates to the date of the final glottal stop. The evidence from Mǐn dialects and old Sino-Vietnamese loans only point to the Hàn dynasty when the glottal stop coda was still preserved. It is unclear about the pre-Hàn period. According to Chang Jih-sheng 張日昇, whenever the rhyming words in the Shījīng belong to both the rising and entering tone categories, the rime-categories involved invariably end in a velar, specifically -ək, -əg, -ok, -uk (in Kalgren’s reconstruction).[4] (Chang 1968, 117) Mei thinks that it is tempting to regard Chang’s observation as indicating that the rising tone had a glottal stop final during the Shījīng period since -k is phonetically similar to -ʔ. Still, the argument is not supported by enough examples. Also, there is no general agreement on the tone of a character in OC, nor on the rime scheme of a given poem. (Mei 1970, 97) Mei also reminds us of an uncertainty of his second evidence-the Buddhist texts. If the hypothesized glottal stop was lost early and the date of the source (the Hàn-time Buddhist transcriptions) is late, the hypothesis is unfavorable. In that event, there would be ample time for the features of the rising tone to change-from the immediate reflexes of the lost glottal stop to those of a much later date. (Mei 1970, 97) The issues raised above seem distinctive, but all of them direct us back to the fundamental concern of the methodology of the OC reconstruction. After all, we are bringing back to life an ancient language based on lots of indirect evidence, and the results are impossible to be tested in a laboratory. The limitations of employing data from each type of sources like the Shījīng, the MC, the xiéshēng 諧聲 series, modern Chinese dialects, loan words, the Proto-Tibetan languages have long been realized by scholars. So, are all the efforts worthwhile? When Duàn Yùcái proposed that there was no departing tone in OC, it was a simple claim based on his observation of the Shījīng rimes. From a daring hypothesis to the general acceptance that the MC rising tone comes from a glottal stop final in OC, more and more evidence has been incorporated. Haudricourt’s proposal to regard the final -s as the origin of the departing tone in MC and the hỏi-ngã tones of Vietnamese set the stage, and then scholars like Pulleyblank advanced the hypothesis. When Mei came in, different sorts of data were added to support it. When different evidence starts to suggest a common pattern, it would be stubborn to dwell on the uncertainty (which will always remain but lead us nowhere). Furthermore, what have not been mentioned in the paper are the opposing views. For instance, Wáng Lì’s 王力 theory explains the origin of Chinese tones by categorizing the syllables according to two sets of criterion: long and short, checked and unchecked (ending in a stop vs. ending in a sonorant). Though rejected, these views contributed much to the development of the field. On the one hand, the rejection requires careful examination of the proposal and the data; on the other hand, the unconventional views are inspiring and may invite revisit. Criticism often has the same effect. In a review of Baxter & Sagart’s 2014 book, Ho Dah-an 何大安 harshly criticized the authors’ misuse of data from a modern Chinese dialect-Xiàoyì 孝義. Ho points out that what the rising tone carries is an accompanying element of the contour tone 312 in the Xiàoyì dialect, which can be found in other tones as well. Thus, it is wrong to use the Xiàoyì dialect to support the view that a final glottal stop in OC is the origin of the MC rising tone. Ho’s criticism does not alter the rising tone theory holistically, but it should not be dismissed. It often happens that when a promising proposal comes along, many efforts will be made to prove it right. It is vital to step back and evaluate the efforts to make good progress. Li and B&S It is mentioned that Li was aware of the difficulty in deciding if OC had tones or different final consonants. Still, based on the non-ignorable tonal pattern in the Shījīng, he assumed that OC had tones and wrote an “x” at the end of a syllable to mark the MC rising-tone words. It should be noted that Li did not object that final consonants could be the origin of the four tones, but he believed that their existence was before the time of the Shījīng. (Li 1980, 34) Baxter and Sagart, on the contrary, fully accept the idea that loss of glottal stop final produced the rising tone. They also think that OC was not tonal. Tones developed after the OC period, when consonants were lost, and the accompanying pitch differences became phonologically distinctive. (B&S 2014, 318) Additionally, they argue that the glottal stop final can occur after all codas (including zero *-∅) except voiceless stops. The hypothesis is that while the glottal stop was still present, there would have been a tendency for the glottis to become tenser in anticipation of the closure of the glottis, resulting in a rise in pitch; subsequently, the glottal stop disappeared (in most dialects, at least), and the rise in pitch became phonologically distinctive, creating shǎng shēng, the ‘rising’ or ‘up’ tone of Middle Chinese. (B&S 2014, 196) The issue of date is also worth noting in B&S’s view. In the introduction, it is said: “We use the term ‘Old Chinese’ in a broad sense to refer to varieties of Chinese used before the unification of China under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C.E.” (B&S 2014, 1) In this claim, they dismissed Mei’s concern that his evidence does not suggest any fact before the Hàn. In the discussion of the origin of the rising tone, they only credited Haudricourt for “developing the general scheme”, although Sagart made it clear in his 1998 paper that Mei proposed it. It seems that Baxter and Sagart realize the periodization difference between Mei’s and theirs, hence the dismissal. As can be seen, the date of OC has become problematic; or rather, the problem has become salient. When more evidence becomes available, it is unfair to date OC according to the most traditional source-Shījīng. If we can distinguish Early MC from Late MC based on differences in the Suí-Táng 隋唐 source and the Sòng 宋 source, it should also be the goal to build a tidier system for OC. Reconstruction exercise Baxter and Sagart reconstruct a glottal stop final (or “post-coda”) for pre-Qín 秦 OC words in rising tone in MC, and they believe that the glottal stop final had changed to the rising tone in MC by medieval times. In other words, the transition happened roughly between the third century B.C.E. Qín to the sixth century C.E. Suí. According to Mei, the glottal stop final still existed during the Hàn, but its existence in the Shījīng era is unknown. In this section, I selected five poems from the “Nineteen Old Poems” 古詩十九首, which are generally believed to be collected during the Hàn dynasty,[5] to study the tonal patterns in their rhyming words. As we know, the prosody had become systematic since the Six Dynasties 六朝. The four tones were required to be incorporated in the composition of poems. How ancient Chinese wrote poems in a non-tonal language is unknown; a study of Shījīng rimes shows us the complexity. From this exercise, I intend to find out the Hàn method. If tones were in the course of emerging during the period, how tidily were they implemented in prosody? If the tones were not yet formed, how much were the post-codas taken into account in rhyming? The five poems and the OC reconstruction of each line’s final words are presented below. Each of the poems reads from the left top to the left bottom, and then move to the right. Different sets of rimes are marked in different colors.

Poem 1

行行重行 *Cə.[g]ˤraŋ 與君生別離 *[r]aj 相去萬餘裏 *m.rəʔ 各在天一涯 *ŋˤrar 道路阻且 *Cə-[N]-traŋ 會面安可*tre 胡馬依北風 *prəm 越鳥巢南*ke 相去日已 *C.ɢʷanʔ 衣帶日已 *[ɢ]ʷˤa[n]ʔ 浮雲蔽白日 *C.nik 遊子不顧 *Cə.panʔ 思君令人 *C.rˤuʔ 歲月忽已晚 *m[o][r]ʔ 棄捐勿復 *[kə.l]ˤuʔ 努力加餐飯 *bo[n]

Poem 2

青青陵上 *pˤrak 磊磊澗中*dAk 人生天地間 *kˤre[n] 忽如遠行 *kʰˤrak 鬥酒相娛樂 *[r]ˤawk 聊厚不為 *[b]ˤak 驅車策駑馬 *mˤraʔ 遊戲宛與[6] *kə.rˤak 洛中何鬱鬱 *qut 冠帶自相 *[s]ˤak 長衢羅夾巷 *C.[g]ˤroŋ-s 王侯多第 *m-tˤ<r>ak 兩宮遙相望 *maŋ 雙闕百餘*tʰAk 極宴娛心意 *ʔ(r)ək-s 戚戚何所 *Cə.pˤrak

Poem 3

青青河畔 *[tsʰ]ˤuʔ 鬱鬱園中 *([m]ə.)ruʔ 盈盈樓上 *nraʔ 皎皎當窗 *[l]uʔ 娥娥紅粉妝 *[ts]raŋ 纖纖出素 *n̥uʔ 昔為娼家 *nraʔ 今為蕩子夫 *p(r)a 蕩子行不歸 *[k]ʷəj 空床難獨 *s-tuʔ

Poem 4

今日良宴會 *m-kˤop-s 歡樂難具 *lri[n] 彈箏奮逸響 *qʰaŋʔ 新聲妙入 *Cə.li[n] 令德唱高言 *ŋa[n] 識曲聽其 *ti[n] 齊心同所願 *[ŋ]o[n]-s 含意俱未 *l̥i[n] 人生寄一世 *l̥ap-s 奄忽若飆塵 *[d]rə[n] 何不策高足 *[ts]ok 先據要路 *[ts]i[n] 無為守貧賤 *[dz][a][n]-s 坎軻長苦 *[s]i[n]

Poem 5

明月皎夜光 *kʷˤaŋ 促織鳴東 *C.pˤek 玉衡指孟冬 *tˤuŋ 眾星何歷 *[r]ˤek 白露沾野草 *[tsʰ]ˤuʔ 時節忽復 *lek 秋蟬鳴樹間 *kˤre[n] 玄鳥逝安 *s-tek 昔我同門友 *[ɢ]ʷəʔ 高舉振六[7] *[g]ˤrek 不念攜手好 *qʰˤuʔ 棄我如遺 *[ts]ek 南箕北有鬥 *tˤok-s 牽牛不負*qˤ<r>[i]k 良無盤石固 *[k]ˤa-s 虛名復何*q[i]k (dialect: *-ik > *-ek)

Base on the reconstructions above, we will notice that, in all cases, within each set of rime, the rhyming words share the same post-coda, if any. Also, all final consonants are identical to accommodate the rime. For example, in poem 1, 遠 *C.ɢʷanʔ, 緩 *[ɢ]ʷˤa[n]ʔ, 返 *Cə.panʔ rime together, and all of them have a glottal stop final. In the same poem, 老 *C.rˤuʔ and 道 *[kə.l]ˤuʔ also rime with the glottal stop. In poem 3, the rhyming words 草 *[tsʰ]ˤuʔ, 柳 *([m]ə.)ruʔ, 牖 *[l]uʔ,手 *n̥uʔ, 守 *s-tuʔ all have a final glottal stop. In poem 2, a -k ending can be found in all the -a- rime words: 柏 *pˤrak, 客 *kʰˤrak, 薄 *[b]ˤak, 洛 *kə.rˤak, 索 *[s]ˤak, 宅 *m-tˤ<r>ak, 迫 *Cə.pˤrak. The same -k ending is also found in poem 5. The -e- rime words 壁 *C.pˤek, 歴 *[r]ˤek, 易 *lek, 適 *s-tek, 翮 *[g]ˤrek, 迹 *[ts]ek.

Regardless of the tone development progress during the Hàn period, the observation seems to suggest the following: at that time, the coda or post-coda made a clear acoustic difference, so much so that the poets, intentionally or unintentionally, incorporated them into rimes. If the tones were already formed by then, the tonal contrast should also be noticeably enough to encourage the poets to faithfully follow the rules. Compared to the Level-Oblique rules later, the earlier prosody seems even more strict. If we examine the modern Chinese poems, the báihuà 白話 poems composed by Xú Zhìmó 徐志摩 (1897-1931 C.E.), Guō Mòruò 郭沫若 (1892-1978 C.E.), or Hú Shì 胡適 (1891-1962 C.E.), the tones were never a consideration, even though the rhyming was still somewhat intact. It is tempting to argue that from the Hàn onwards, the attention to tonal categories in poetic rimes has decreased. It may be because the acoustic distinction between each tonal category has become less and less salient, or the distinction has become less relevant to poetry. (It could also mean a poetic style change in the literary sense.) The trend makes it hard to believe the messiness in the tonal categories in Shījīng rimes; it leads to so many questions and conjectures. One can explore dialectal differences, the source of the Shījīng, or even a different understanding of the OC in the pre-Qín era.

Surely, the examples under investigation do not form a big data set, and a different OC reconstruction method may break the pattern. The rimes in the examples also lack those of the departing tone. Nevertheless, the neatness of the tonal pattern in rhyming suggests no accidentalness; the exercise can lead to a broad research area. Understanding the prosody of Hàn dynasty poems or rhapsody ( 賦) should tell us more about the transitional period from OC to MC.

My final note:

When writing this paper, I feel all my views are vulnerable to faults. Whatever idea I can offer is based on the very few papers I have read and some basic knowledge I managed to get from the course. I can imagine scholars dealing with all the issues I brought up in other works, or my arguments being logically or factually wrong. Still, writing this paper was a fun exercise and an enjoyable experience. Hopefully, I can get some corrections and comments.

[1] Kesh seemed to have the main center of the kingdom of Sogdiana in the Hàn 漢 period and was probably the place meant by the various forms of that name that appear in Chinese in early times. The use of this surname is only attested much later towards the end of the sixth century, but other “Sogdian surnames,” especially 安 Ān and 康Kāng, were already being used in the second century in the names of foreign monks and it is quite likely that 史 originated at the same period. [2] It should be noted that the Wēnzhōu dialect, classified as a Wú 吳 dialect, differs much from other Wu dialects and contains lots of Mǐn dialect features. [3] It is a Sanskrit psalmody transliterated into Chinese, and brought over in this form to Japan, probably during the Táng dynasty. [4] There are two implications in this statement. First, the Shījīng has rimes predominantly in the entering tone category (-ək, -ok, or -uk) which also include words in the rising tone category (respectively -əg, -og, or -ug), and rimes predominantly in the rising tone category (-əg) which also include words in the entering tone category (-ək). Second, these rime categories are the only ones in which the rising and entering tone categories co-occur. [5] The date and authorship of the “Nineteen Old Poems” are, of course, problematic. Their present form can be traced back to about 520 C.E. in the famous literary analogy Wén xuǎn 文選, a compilation of literature attributed to the Liang Crown Prince Xiāo Tǒng 蕭統 (501-531 C.E.). The heterogeneous nature and ballad-style language make it comparable to the Shījīng. For the purpose of this exercise, I adopt the view that it is a set of Hàn dynasty poems. A detailed discussion of the “Nineteen Old Poems” can be found in Burton Watson’s 1971 book. (See bibliography) My selection of the five poems is according to the sequence in which they appear in the Wén xuǎn. I have excluded those whose rhyming words may have a later origin and thus are not reconstructed by B&S. The reconstructions are taken from [6] The reconstruction of 洛 is not provided, so I used the reconstruction of 落. [7] Reconstruction done by me based on B&S system.


Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. Old Chinese: a new reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Chang, Jih-sheng 張日昇. “Shi lun shanggu si sheng” 試論上古四聲. The Journal of the Institute of Chinese Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong 1968, Vol. 1: 113-170.

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