吳實錄

Annals of Wu

漢藏緬語々言研究ㄟ博客
a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog
2012-10-22

Preservation Of Entering Tones discussion

I've made the somewhat controversial comment before that living in Korea, after learning Mandarin and becoming familiar with Wu, a lot of spoken Korean was much more accessible to me than had I not worked with Wu. The specific example I'd given at the time was actually Cantonese, and how my friend who grew up speaking Cantonese to friends and Mandarin to family had little trouble making sense of spoken Korean in the earliest stages of her first semester in Seoul as a language student.

I made this argument based on cognates and the fact that, while producing Korean grammar is incredibly complex for the speaker, day to day conversations between casual acquaintances follow more or less the same pattern. The reason Wu proved useful has to do with the large number of Sinokorean words, the pronunciation of which being borrowed at a time when the entering tone (入聲) was still important. Now of course it's gone from Mandarin, though easily uncovered in Southern dialects.

It's not flawless, but a lot of words that were once entering tones now have consonants in the syllable final position. 立 and 李 are both family names, and while they're both "Li" in Mandarin, in Korean the first is Yip and the second is Yi. In Mandarin 立 was reassigned but its origins as 入聲 remain in Korean. For this reason Sinokorean pronunciation has been useful in various reconstructions of Middle Chinese phonology.

Shanghainese, despite being far more tonally stripped down than other Wu dialects (Changzhou still has all 8 tones), has managed to preserve all the entering tones, both yin and yang. So 立 and 李 are /liɪʔ/ and /li/.

I've once again been hard at work organising the Phonemica database and implementing some features, one of which has to do with how we handle tones in fangyan. I had a handful of characters that were originally entering tones but now (in Mandarin) are not. I thought I'd check them against Korean and Shanghainese and just see how they held up.

For reference, the four tones of Mandarin are 阴平, 阳平, 上声, 去声. The pinyin tome markers refer to those, in order.

一 七 乐 勿 日 发 白 百 舌 色 节 约
一 七 樂 勿 日 發 白 百 舌 色 節 約
yī qī lè wù rì fā bái bǎi shé sè jié yuē
일 칠 락 물 일 발 백 백 설 색 절 약
iɪˀ ʨʰiɪˀ ɦiɑˀ vəˀ ɲiɪˀ fɑˀ bɑˀ pɑˀ zəˀ səˀ ʨiɪˀ iɑˀ

Korean 白 百 色 約 and 樂 all have a /k/ ending, while the rest have what we'll call /l/. In Shanghainese, every single one ends in /ʔ/. I actually checked about 500 entering tone characters against my phonetic corpus, and almost all of them checked out.

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    A semi-academic linguistics blog about Sinotibetan, previously focused primarily on Wú, a Sinitic language spoken in the Yangtze Delta region. Topics now include historical linguistics, documentation, language rights, sociolinguistics and learning materials, as well as acting as the dev blog for Phonemica from time to time.

    I'm a linguist based in Asia, working on documentation and historical development of Sinotibetan. In addition to academic research, I'm heavily involved in Phonemica, an organisation that promotes crowd-sourced preservation of local languages.

    I'm currently in the field, so getting in touch isn't easy. However you can try to email me at the following address and I'll respond as soon as I'm able:

    yhilan.ko@gmail.com
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