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Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...
recorded in the ''
Qieyun The ''Qieyun'' () is a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most ...
'', a
rime dictionary A rime dictionary, rhyme dictionary, or rime book () is an ancient type of Chinese dictionary Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dy ...
first published in 601 and followed by several revised and expanded editions. The Swedish linguist Bernard Karlgren believed that the dictionary recorded a speech standard of the capital
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between th ...
of the
Sui
Sui
and Tang dynasties. However, based on the more recently recovered preface of the ''Qieyun'', most scholars now believe that it records a compromise between northern and southern reading and poetic traditions from the late
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
period. This composite system contains important information for the reconstruction of the preceding system of
Old Chinese phonology Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese from documentary evidence. Although the writing system does not describe sounds directly, shared phono-semantic, phonetic components of the most ancient Chinese characters are bel ...
(early 1st millennium BC). The ''
fanqie ''Fanqie'' ( zh, t= 反切, p=fǎnqiè) is a method in traditional Chinese dictionary, Chinese lexicography to indicate the pronunciation of a monosyllabic Chinese characters, character by using two other characters, one with the same initial conso ...
'' method used to indicate pronunciation in these dictionaries, though an improvement on earlier methods, proved awkward in practice. The mid-12th-century ''
Yunjing The ''Yunjing'' () is one of the two oldest existing examples of a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries a ...

Yunjing
'' and other
rime tableA rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to ...
s incorporate a more sophisticated and convenient analysis of the ''Qieyun'' phonology. The rime tables attest to a number of sound changes that had occurred over the centuries following the publication of the ''Qieyun''. Linguists sometimes refer to the system of the ''Qieyun'' as Early Middle Chinese and the variant revealed by the rime tables as Late Middle Chinese. The dictionaries and tables describe pronunciations in relative terms, but do not give their actual sounds. Karlgren was the first to attempt a reconstruction of the sounds of Middle Chinese, comparing its categories with modern
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, w ...
and the
Sino-Xenic pronunciations Sino-Xenic or Sinoxenic pronunciations are regular systems for reading Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or g ...
used in the reading traditions of neighbouring countries. Several other scholars have produced their own reconstructions using similar methods.By convention, Middle Chinese reconstructions are regarded as well enough established that pronunciations are shown without an
asterisk The asterisk , from Late Latin , from Ancient Greek , ''asteriskos'', "little star", is a Typography, typographical symbol. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star (heraldry), star. Computer scientists and mathem ...

asterisk
(the linguistic symbol for unattested forms or hypothetical reconstructions), while Old Chinese reconstructions are almost always shown preceded by an asterisk.
The Qieyun system is often used as a framework for the study and description of various modern varieties of Chinese. With the exception of the Min dialects (including
Hokkien Hokkien () is a Southern Min Southern Min (), Minnan (Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucr ...
), which show independent developments from Old Chinese, the primary branches of the Chinese family such as
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
(including
Standard Chinese Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin and other varieties of C ...
, based on the speech of Beijing), Yue (including
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
) and Wu (including
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily i ...
) can be largely treated as divergent developments from it. The study of Middle Chinese also provides for a better understanding and analysis of
Classical Chinese poetry Classical Chinese poetry is traditional Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of ...
, such as the study of
Tang poetry Tang poetry () refers to poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, ...
.


Sources

The reconstruction of Middle Chinese phonology is largely dependent upon detailed descriptions in a few original sources. The most important of these is the ''Qieyun''
rime dictionary A rime dictionary, rhyme dictionary, or rime book () is an ancient type of Chinese dictionary Chinese dictionaries date back over two millennia to the Han Dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dy ...
(601) and its revisions. The ''Qieyun'' is often used together with interpretations in
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
rime tableA rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to ...
s such as the ''
Yunjing The ''Yunjing'' () is one of the two oldest existing examples of a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries a ...

Yunjing
'', '' Qiyinlue'', and the later ''Qieyun zhizhangtu'' and ''Sisheng dengzi''. The documentary sources are supplemented by comparison with modern
Chinese varieties Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China * Chinese people, people of Chinese nationality, citizenship, or ethnicity **''Zhonghua minzu'', the supra-ethnic Chinese nationality ** Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in Mainland China, ...
, pronunciation of Chinese words borrowed by other languages (particularly
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
and
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...
),
transcription into Chinese characters Transcription into Chinese characters is the use of traditional or simplified Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write oth ...
of foreign names, transcription of Chinese names in alphabetic scripts (such as
Brahmi Brahmi (; ISO 15919 ISO 15919 "Transliteration of Devanagari and related Indic scripts into Latin characters" is one of a series of international standards for romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of ...

Brahmi
,
Tibetan Tibetan may mean: * of, from, or related to Tibet * Tibetan people, an ethnic group * Tibetan language: ** Classical Tibetan, the classical language used also as a contemporary written standard ** Standard Tibetan, the most widely used spoken dialec ...

Tibetan
and Uyghur), and evidence regarding rhyme and tone patterns from classical
Chinese poetry Chinese poetry is poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and ...
.


Rime dictionaries

Chinese scholars of the
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
period were concerned with the correct recitation of the classics. Various schools produced dictionaries to codify reading pronunciations and the associated rhyme conventions of regulated verse. The ''
Qieyun The ''Qieyun'' () is a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most ...
'' (601) was an attempt to merge the distinctions in six earlier dictionaries, which were eclipsed by its success and are no longer extant. It was accepted as the standard reading pronunciation during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
, and went through several revisions and expansions over the following centuries. The ''Qieyun'' is thus the oldest surviving rhyme dictionary and the main source for the pronunciation of characters in Early Middle Chinese (EMC). At the time of
Bernhard Karlgren Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren (; 15 October 1889 – 20 October 1978) was a Swedish sinologist and linguist who pioneered the study of Chinese historical phonology using modern comparative methods. In the early 20th century, Karlgren conduct ...

Bernhard Karlgren
's seminal work on Middle Chinese in the early 20th century, only fragments of the ''Qieyun'' were known, and scholars relied on the ''
Guangyun The ''Guangyun'' (''Kuang-yun''; ) is a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by popula ...
'' (1008), a much expanded edition from the Song dynasty. However, significant sections of a version of the ''Qieyun'' itself were subsequently discovered in the caves of
Dunhuang Dunhuang () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a county-level administrative division of the Peo ...
, and a complete copy of Wang Renxu's 706 edition from the Palace Library was found in 1947. The rhyme dictionaries organize Chinese characters by their pronunciation, according to a hierarchy of tone, rhyme and homophony. Characters with identical pronunciations are grouped into homophone classes, whose pronunciation is described using two ''
fanqie ''Fanqie'' ( zh, t= 反切, p=fǎnqiè) is a method in traditional Chinese dictionary, Chinese lexicography to indicate the pronunciation of a monosyllabic Chinese characters, character by using two other characters, one with the same initial conso ...
'' characters, the first of which has the initial sound of the characters in the homophone class and second of which has the same sound as the rest of the syllable (the final). The use of ''fanqie'' was an important innovation of the ''Qieyun'' and allowed the pronunciation of all characters to be described exactly; earlier dictionaries simply described the pronunciation of unfamiliar characters in terms of the most similar-sounding familiar character. The ''fanqie'' system uses multiple equivalent characters to represent each particular initial, and likewise for finals. The categories of initials and finals actually represented were first identified by the Cantonese scholar Chen Li in a careful analysis published in his ''Qièyùn kǎo'' (1842). Chen's method was to equate two ''fanqie'' initials (or finals) whenever one was used in the ''fanqie'' spelling of the pronunciation of the other, and to follow chains of such equivalences to identify groups of spellers for each initial or final. For example, the pronunciation of the character was given using the ''fanqie'' spelling , the pronunciation of was given as , and the pronunciation of was given as , from which we can conclude that the words , and all had the same initial sound. The ''Qieyun'' classified homonyms under 193 rhyme classes, each of which is placed within one of the four tones. A single rhyme class may contain multiple finals, generally differing only in the medial (especially when it is /w/) or in so-called ''
chongniu''Chóngniǔ'' () or rime doublets are certain pairs of Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese language, Chinese recorded in the ''Qieyun'', a rime dictiona ...
'' doublets.


Rhyme tables

The ''
Yunjing The ''Yunjing'' () is one of the two oldest existing examples of a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries a ...

Yunjing
'' (c. 1150 AD) is the oldest of the so-called
rime tableA rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to ...
s, which provide a more detailed phonological analysis of the system contained in the ''Qieyun''. The ''Yunjing'' was created centuries after the ''Qieyun'', and the authors of the ''Yunjing'' were attempting to interpret a phonological system that differed in significant ways from that of their own Late Middle Chinese (LMC) dialect. They were aware of this, and attempted to reconstruct ''Qieyun'' phonology as well as possible through a close analysis of regularities in the system and co-occurrence relationships between the initials and finals indicated by the ''fanqie'' characters. However, the analysis inevitably shows some influence from LMC, which needs to be taken into account when interpreting difficult aspects of the system. The ''Yunjing'' is organized into 43 tables, each covering several ''Qieyun'' rhyme classes, and classified as: * One of 16 broad rhyme classes (''shè''), each described as either "inner" or "outer". The meaning of this is debated but it has been suggested that it refers to the height of the main vowel, with "outer" finals having an
open vowel An open vowel is a vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system ...
( or ) and "inner" finals having a mid or
close vowel A close vowel, also known as a high vowel (in U.S. terminology), is any in a class of vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech ...
. * "open mouth" or "closed mouth", indicating whether lip rounding is present. "Closed" finals either have a rounded vowel (e.g. ) or rounded glide. Each table has 23 columns, one for each initial consonant. Although the ''Yunjing'' distinguishes 36 initials, they are placed in 23 columns by combining palatals, retroflexes, and dentals under the same column. This does not lead to cases where two homophone classes are conflated, as the grades (rows) are arranged so that all would-be minimal pairs distinguished only by the retroflex vs. palatal vs. alveolar character of the initial end up in different rows. Each initial is further classified as follows: *
Place of articulation In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
: labials,
alveolars
alveolars
, velars,
affricates An affricate is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pr ...
and
sibilants In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pr ...
, and laryngeals *
Phonation The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—lingu ...
: voiceless, voiceless aspirated, voiced, nasal or
liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible In fluid mechanics Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the mechanics Mechanics (Ancient Greek, Greek: ) is the area of physics concerned with the motions of physical objects, ...
Each table also has 16 rows, with a group of 4 rows for each of the 4 tones of the traditional system in which finals ending in , or are considered to be
entering tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
variants of finals ending in , or rather than separate finals in their own right. The significance of the 4 rows within each tone is difficult to interpret, and is strongly debated. These rows are usually denoted I, II, III and IV, and are thought to relate to differences in palatalization or
retroflexion A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminal () consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral c ...
of the syllable's initial or medial, or differences in the quality of similar main vowels (e.g. , , ). Other scholars view them not as phonetic categories but formal devices exploiting distributional patterns in the ''Qieyun'' to achieve a compact presentation. Each square in a table contains a character corresponding to a particular homophone class in the ''Qieyun'', if any such character exists. From this arrangement, each homophone class can be placed in the above categories.


Modern dialects and Sino-Xenic pronunciations

The rime dictionaries and rime tables identify categories of phonetic distinctions, but do not indicate the actual pronunciations of these categories. The varied pronunciations of words in modern
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, w ...
can help, but most modern varieties descend from a Late Middle Chinese
koine Koine Greek (;. Modern , ), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Gre ...
and cannot very easily be used to determine the pronunciation of Early Middle Chinese. During the Early Middle Chinese period, large amounts of Chinese vocabulary were systematically borrowed by Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese (collectively known as
Sino-Xenic vocabularies Sino-Xenic or Sinoxenic pronunciations are regular systems for reading Chinese characters in Japan, Korea and Vietnam, originating in medieval times and the source of large-scale borrowings of Chinese words into the Japanese, Korean and Vietnames ...
), but many distinctions were inevitably lost in mapping Chinese phonology onto foreign phonological systems. For example, the following table shows the pronunciation of the numerals in three modern Chinese varieties, as well as borrowed forms in Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese:


Transcription evidence

Although the evidence from Chinese transcriptions of foreign words is much more limited, and is similarly obscured by the mapping of foreign pronunciations onto Chinese phonology, it serves as direct evidence of a sort that is lacking in all the other types of data, since the pronunciation of the foreign languages borrowed from—especially
Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
and Gāndhārī—is known in great detail. For example, the nasal initials were used to transcribe Sanskrit nasals in the early Tang, but later they were used for Sanskrit unaspirated voiced initials , suggesting that they had become prenasalized stops in some northwestern Chinese dialects.


Methodology

The rime dictionaries and rime tables yield phonological categories, but with little hint of what sounds they represent. At the end of the 19th century, European students of Chinese sought to solve this problem by applying the methods of
historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including s ...
that had been used in reconstructing
Proto-Indo-European Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
. Volpicelli (1896) and Schaank (1897) compared the rime tables at the front of the ''
Kangxi dictionary#REDIRECT Kangxi Dictionary The ''Kangxi Dictionary'' () is the standard Chinese dictionary during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last History of Chin ...
'' with modern pronunciations in several varieties, but had little knowledge of linguistics.
Bernhard Karlgren Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren (; 15 October 1889 – 20 October 1978) was a Swedish sinologist and linguist who pioneered the study of Chinese historical phonology using modern comparative methods. In the early 20th century, Karlgren conduct ...

Bernhard Karlgren
, trained in transcription of Swedish dialects, carried out the first systematic survey of modern varieties of Chinese. He used the oldest known rime tables as descriptions of the sounds of the rime dictionaries, and also studied the ''Guangyun'', at that time the oldest known rime dictionary. Unaware of Chen Li's study, he repeated the analysis of the ''fanqie'' required to identify the initials and finals of the dictionary. He believed that the resulting categories reflected the speech standard of the capital
Chang'an Chang'an (; ) is the traditional name of Xi'an Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between th ...
of the
Sui
Sui
and Tang dynasties. He interpreted the many distinctions as a
narrow transcription Phonetic transcription (also known as phonetic script or phonetic notation) is the visual representation of speech sounds (or Phone (phonetics), phones) by means of symbols. The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, ...
of the precise sounds of this language, which he sought to reconstruct by treating the Sino-Xenic and modern dialect pronunciations as reflexes of the ''Qieyun'' categories. A small number of ''Qieyun'' categories were not distinguished in any of the surviving pronunciations, and Karlgren assigned them identical reconstructions. Karlgren's transcription involved a large number of consonants and vowels, many of them very unevenly distributed. Accepting Karlgren's reconstruction as a description of medieval speech, Chao Yuen Ren and Samuel E. Martin analysed its contrasts to extract a
phonemic In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any partic ...
description. Hugh M. Stimson used a simplified version of Martin's system as an approximate indication of the pronunciation of Tang poetry. Karlgren himself viewed phonemic analysis as a detrimental "craze". Older versions of the rime dictionaries and rime tables came to light over the first half of the 20th century, and were used by such linguists as Wang Li, Dong Tonghe and Li Rong in their own reconstructions.
Edwin Pulleyblank Edwin George "Ted" Pulleyblank (August 7, 1922 – April 13, 2013) was a Canadian sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (P ...
argued that the systems of the ''Qieyun'' and the rime tables should be reconstructed as two separate (but related) systems, which he called Early and Late Middle Chinese, respectively. He further argued that his Late Middle Chinese reflected the standard language of the late Tang dynasty. The preface of the ''Qieyun'' recovered in 1947 indicates that it records a compromise between northern and southern reading and poetic traditions from the late
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
period (a
diasystem In the field of dialectologyDialectology (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its populati ...
). Most linguists now believe that no single dialect contained all the distinctions recorded, but that each distinction did occur somewhere. Several scholars have compared the ''Qieyun'' system to cross-dialectal descriptions of English pronunciations, such as John C. Wells's
lexical set A lexical set is a group of word In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, si ...
s, or the notation used in some dictionaries. Thus for example the words "trap", "bath", "palm", "lot", "cloth" and "thought" contain four different vowels in
Received Pronunciation Received Pronunciation (often abbreviated as RP) is the accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent (phonetics), prominence given to ...
and three in
General American General American English or General American (abbreviated GA or GenAm) is the umbrella accentAccent may refer to: Speech and language * Accent (sociolinguistics), way of pronunciation particular to a speaker or group of speakers * Accent ( ...

General American
; both these pronunciations (and many others) can be specified in terms of these six cases. Although the ''Qieyun'' system is no longer viewed as describing a single form of speech, linguists argue that this enhances its value in reconstructing earlier forms of Chinese, just as a cross-dialectal description of English pronunciations contains more information about earlier forms of English than any single modern form. The emphasis has shifted from precise sounds (
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lang ...

phonetics
) to the structure of the
phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the I ...

phonological
system. Thus
Li Fang-Kuei Li Fang-Kuei (20 August 190221 August 1987) was a Chinese linguist known for his studies of the varieties of Chinese, and for his reconstructions of Old Chinese and Proto-Tai. Biography Li Fang-Kuei was born on 20 August 1902 in Guangzhou ...
, as a prelude to his reconstruction of
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
, produced a revision of Karlgren's notation, adding new notations for the few categories not distinguished by Karlgren, without assigning them pronunciations. This notation is still widely used, but its symbols, based on Johan August Lundell's Swedish Dialect Alphabet, differ from the familiar
International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest s ...
. To remedy this, William H. Baxter produced his own notation for the ''Qieyun'' and rime table categories for use in his reconstruction of Old Chinese. All reconstructions of Middle Chinese since Karlgren have followed his approach of beginning with the categories extracted from the rime dictionaries and tables, and using dialect and Sino-Xenic data (and in some cases transcription data) in a subsidiary role to fill in sound values for these categories. Jerry Norman and
Weldon South Coblin Weldon South Coblin, Jr. (born February 26, 1944) is an American Sinologist, linguist, and educator, best known for his studies of Chinese linguistics and Tibetan Tibetan may mean: * of, from, or related to Tibet * Tibetan people, an ethnic group ...
have criticized this approach, arguing that viewing the dialect data through the rime dictionaries and rime tables distorts the evidence. They argue for a full application of the
comparative method In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
to the modern varieties, supplemented by systematic use of transcription data.


Phonology

The traditional analysis of the Chinese
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
, derived from the ''fanqie'' method, is into an initial consonant, or "initial", (''shēngmǔ'' ) and a final (''yùnmǔ'' ). Modern linguists subdivide the final into an optional "medial" glide (''yùntóu'' ), a main vowel or "nucleus" (''yùnfù'' ) and an optional final consonant or "coda" (''yùnwěi'' ). Most reconstructions of Middle Chinese include the glides and , as well as a combination , but many also include vocalic "glides" such as in a diphthong . Final consonants , , , , , , and are widely accepted, sometimes with additional codas such as or . Rhyming syllables in the ''Qieyun'' are assumed to have the same nuclear vowel and coda, but often have different medials. Middle Chinese reconstructions by different modern linguists vary. These differences are minor and fairly uncontroversial in terms of consonants; however, there is a more significant difference as to the vowels. The most widely used transcriptions are Li Fang-Kuei's modification of Karlgren's reconstruction and William Baxter's typeable notation.


Initials

The preface of the ''Yunjing'' identifies a traditional set of
36 initials A rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin La ...
, each named with an exemplary character. An earlier version comprising 30 initials is known from fragments among the
Dunhuang manuscripts The Dunhuang manuscripts are a cache of important religious and secular documents discovered in the Mogao Caves The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes or Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, form a system of 500 temples southea ...
. In contrast, identifying the initials of the ''Qieyun'' required a painstaking analysis of ''fanqie'' relationships across the whole dictionary, a task first undertaken by the Cantonese scholar Chen Li in 1842 and refined by others since. This analysis revealed a slightly different set of initials from the traditional set. Moreover, most scholars believe that some distinctions among the 36 initials were no longer current at the time of the rime tables, but were retained under the influence of the earlier dictionaries. Early Middle Chinese (EMC) had three types of stops: voiced, voiceless, and voiceless aspirated. There were five series of
coronal Coronal may refer to: * a nuptial crown * anything relating to a Corona (disambiguation), corona * Coronal plane, an anatomical term of location * The Commonly used terms of relationship and comparison in dentistry, coronal direction on a tooth * Co ...
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
s, with a three-way distinction between
dental Dental may refer to: * Having to do with teeth * Dentistry, a medical profession dealing with teeth * Dental consonant, in linguistics * Dental Records, an independent UK record label * Dental_hygienist, Dental Hygienist, a person who cleans teeth ...

dental
(or
alveolar Alveolus (pl. alveoli, adj. alveolar) is a general anatomical term for a concave cavity or pit. Alveolus may refer to: In anatomy and zoology in general * Pulmonary alveolus A pulmonary alveolus (plural: alveoli, from Latin ''alveolus'', "littl ...

alveolar
),
retroflex A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminal () consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral c ...
and
palatal The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of ma ...

palatal
among
fricative Fricatives are consonants manner of articulation, produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two Place of articulation, articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the bac ...
s and
affricate An affricate is a consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech s ...
s, and a two-way dental/retroflex distinction among
stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ev ...
s. The following table shows the initials of Early Middle Chinese, with their traditional names and approximate values:
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
had a simpler system with no palatal or retroflex consonants; the more complex system of EMC is thought to have arisen from a combination of Old Chinese obstruents with a following and/or .
Bernhard Karlgren Klas Bernhard Johannes Karlgren (; 15 October 1889 – 20 October 1978) was a Swedish sinologist and linguist who pioneered the study of Chinese historical phonology using modern comparative methods. In the early 20th century, Karlgren conduct ...

Bernhard Karlgren
developed the first modern reconstruction of Middle Chinese. The main differences between Karlgren and recent reconstructions of the initials are: *The reversal of and . Karlgren based his reconstruction on the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
rime tableA rime table or rhyme table () is a Chinese phonological Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to ...
s. However, because of mergers between these two sounds between Early and Late Middle Chinese, the Chinese phonologists who created the rime tables could rely only on tradition to tell what the respective values of these two consonants were; evidently they were accidentally reversed at one stage. *Karlgren also assumed that the EMC
retroflex A retroflex, apico-domal, or cacuminal () consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral c ...
stops were actually
palatal The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'breast') are a group of vertebrate animals constituting the class (biology), class Mammalia (), and characterized by the presence of ma ...

palatal
stops based on their tendency to co-occur with front vowels and , but this view is no longer held. *Karlgren assumed that voiced consonants were actually
breathy voiced Breathy voice (also called murmured voice, whispery voice, soughing and susurration) is a phonation in which the vocal folds vibrate, as they do in normal (modal) voicing, but are adjusted to let more air escape which produces a sighing-like s ...
. This is now assumed only for LMC, not EMC. Other sources from around the same time as the ''Qieyun'' reveal a slightly different system, which is believed to reflect southern pronunciation. In this system, the voiced fricatives and are not distinguished from the voiced affricates and , respectively, and the retroflex stops are not distinguished from the dental stops. Several changes occurred between the time of the ''Qieyun'' and the rime tables: * Palatal sibilants merged with retroflex sibilants. * merged with (hence reflecting four separate EMC phonemes). * The palatal nasal also became retroflex, but turned into a new phoneme rather than merging with any existing phoneme. * The palatal allophone of () merged with () as a single laryngeal initial (). * A new series of labiodentals emerged from labials in certain environments, typically where both fronting and rounding occurred (e.g. plus a back vowel in William Baxter's reconstruction, or a
front rounded vowel A front rounded vowel is a particular type of vowel that is both front vowel, front and roundedness, rounded. The front rounded vowels defined by the IPA include: * , a close front rounded vowel (or "high front rounded vowel") * , a near-close fr ...
in Chan's reconstruction). However, modern Min dialects retain bilabial initials in such words, while modern
Hakka The Hakka (), sometimes also referred to as Hakka Han, or Hakka Chinese, are a Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The fou ...
dialects preserve them in some common words. * Voiced
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
s gained phonetic
breathy voice Breathy voice (also called murmured voice, whispery voice, soughing and susurration) is a phonation The term phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, ''phonation'' is the p ...
(still reflected in the
Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily in Shanghai Shanghai (, , Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ) is one of the four ...
varieties). The following table shows a representative account of the initials of Late Middle Chinese. The voicing distinction is retained in modern Wu and
Old Xiang Old Xiang, also known as Lou-Shao (娄邵片 / 婁邵片), is a conservative Xiang Chinese Xiang or Hsiang (; ); Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known a ...
dialects, but has disappeared from other varieties. In Min dialects the retroflex dentals are represented with the dentals, while elsewhere they have merged with the retroflex sibilants. In the south these have also merged with the dental sibilants, but the distinction is retained in most
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
dialects. The palatal series of modern Mandarin dialects, resulting from a merger of palatal allophones of dental sibilants and velars, is a much more recent development, unconnected with the earlier palatal consonants.


Finals

The remainder of a syllable after the initial consonant is the final, represented in the Qieyun by several equivalent second ''fanqie'' spellers. Each final is contained within a single rhyme class, but a rhyme class may contain between one and four finals. Finals are usually analysed as consisting of an optional medial, either a
semivowel In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ever ...
, reduced vowel or some combination of these, a vowel, an optional final consonant and a tone. Their reconstruction is much more difficult than the initials due to the combination of multiple phonemes into a single class. The generally accepted final consonants are semivowels and , nasals , and , and stops , and . Some authors also propose codas and , based on the separate treatment of certain rhyme classes in the dictionaries. Finals with vocalic and nasal codas may have one of three
tone Tone may refer to: Color-related * Tone, mix of tint and shade, in painting and color theory * Tone, the lightness Lightness is a visual perception of the luminance (L) of an object. It is often judged relative to a similarly lit object. ...
s, named level, rising and departing. Finals with stop codas are distributed in the same way as corresponding nasal finals, and are described as their
entering tone A checked tone, commonly known by the Chinese calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. ...
counterparts. There is much less agreement regarding the medials and vowels. It is generally agreed that "closed" finals had a rounded glide or vowel , and that the vowels in "outer" finals were more open than those in "inner" finals. The interpretation of the "divisions" is more controversial. Three classes of ''Qieyun'' finals occur exclusively in the first, second or fourth rows of the rime tables, respectively, and have thus been labelled finals of divisions I, II and IV. The remaining finals are labelled division-III finals because they occur in the third row, but they may also occur in the second or fourth rows for some initials. Most linguists agree that division-III finals contained a medial and that division-I finals had no such medial, but further details vary between reconstructions. To account for the many rhyme classes distinguished by the ''Qieyun'', Karlgren proposed 16 vowels and 4 medials. Later scholars have proposed numerous variations.


Tones

The four tones of Middle Chinese were first listed by
Shen Yue Shen Yue (; 441–513), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and ...
around 500 AD. The first three, the "even" or "level", "rising" and "departing" tones, occur in open syllables and syllables ending with
nasal consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical ...
s. The remaining syllables, ending in
stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of ev ...
s, were described as the " entering" tone counterparts of syllables ending with the corresponding nasals. The ''
Qieyun The ''Qieyun'' () is a Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most ...
'' and its successors were organized around these categories, with two volumes for the even tone, which had the most words, and one volume each for the other tones. Karlgren interpreted the names of the first three tones literally as level, rising and falling pitch contours, respectively. However, the pitch contours of modern reflexes of these categories vary so widely that it is impossible to reconstruct Middle Chinese contours. The oldest known description of the tones is found in a Song dynasty quotation from the early 9th century ''Yuanhe Yunpu'' (no longer extant): "Level tone is sad and stable. Rising tone is strident and rising. Departing tone is clear and distant. Entering tone is straight and abrupt." In 880, the Japanese monk Annen described the even tone as "straight and low", the rising tone as "straight and high", and the departing tone as "slightly drawn out". The tone system of Middle Chinese is strikingly similar to those of its neighbours in the
Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area The Mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area is a sprachbund A sprachbund (, lit. "language federation"), also known as a linguistic area, area of linguistic convergence, diffusion area or language crossroads, is a group of language A languag ...
proto-Hmong–Mien,
proto-Tai Proto-Tai is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), ...
and early
Vietnamese Vietnamese may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Vietnam, a country in Southeast Asia ** A citizen of Vietnam. See Demographics of Vietnam. * Vietnamese people, or Kinh people, a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to Vietnam ** Oversea ...
—none of which is genetically related to Chinese. Moreover, the earliest strata of loans display a regular correspondence between tonal categories in the different languages. In 1954,
André-Georges Haudricourt André-Georges Haudricourt (; January 17, 1911 – August 20, 1996) was a French botanist Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a ...
showed that Vietnamese counterparts of the rising and departing tones corresponded to final and , respectively, in other (atonal)
Austroasiatic languages The Austroasiatic languages , also known as Mon–Khmer , are a large language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken lan ...
. He thus argued that the Austroasiatic proto-language had been atonal, and that the development of tones in Vietnamese had been conditioned by these consonants, which had subsequently disappeared, a process now known as
tonogenesis Tone is the use of pitch in language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing system compo ...
. Haudricourt further proposed that tone in the other languages, including Middle Chinese, had a similar origin. Other scholars have since uncovered transcriptional and other evidence for these consonants in early forms of Chinese, and many linguists now believe that
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
was atonal. Around the end of the first millennium AD, Middle Chinese and the southeast Asian languages experienced a
phonemic split In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed chang ...
of their tone categories. Syllables with voiced initials tended to be pronounced with a lower pitch, and by the late
Tang Dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
, each of the tones had split into two registers conditioned by the initials, known as the "upper" and "lower". When voicing was lost in most varieties (except in the Wu and
Old Xiang Old Xiang, also known as Lou-Shao (娄邵片 / 婁邵片), is a conservative Xiang Chinese Xiang or Hsiang (; ); Changsha Changsha (; ; ; Changshanese pronunciation: (), Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known a ...
groups and some
Gan The word Gan or the initials GAN may refer to: Places * Gáň, a village and municipality in Galanta District, Trnava Region, south-west Slovakia * Gan Island, an island in the Addu Atoll in the Indian Ocean that used to be an RAF airbase * Ga ...
dialects), this distinction became phonemic, yielding up to eight tonal categories, with a six-way contrast in unchecked syllables and a two-way contrast in checked syllables.
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, Brit ...
maintains these tones and has developed an additional distinction in checked syllables, resulting in a total of nine tonal categories. However, most varieties have fewer tonal distinctions. For example, in Mandarin dialects the lower rising category merged with the departing category to form the modern falling tone, leaving a system of four tones. Furthermore, final stop consonants disappeared in most Mandarin dialects, and such syllables were reassigned to one of the other four tones.


Changes from Old to Modern Chinese

Middle Chinese had a structure much like many modern varieties (especially conservative ones such as
Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale Yale University is a private Ivy League The Ivy League (also known as The Ancient Eight) is an American collegiate athletic conference comprising eight private research un ...

Cantonese
), with largely monosyllabic words, little or no derivational morphology, three tones, and a syllable structure consisting of initial consonant, glide, main vowel and final consonant, with a large number of initial consonants and a fairly small number of final consonants. Without counting the glide, no clusters could occur at the beginning or end of a syllable.
Old Chinese Old Chinese, also called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It i ...
, on the other hand, had a significantly different structure. There were no tones, a smaller imbalance between possible initial and final consonants, and many initial and final clusters. There was a well-developed system of derivational and possibly inflectional morphology, formed using consonants added onto the beginning or end of a syllable. The system is similar to the system reconstructed for
proto-Sino-Tibetan Sino-Tibetan, also known as Trans-Himalayan in a few sources, is a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationsh ...

proto-Sino-Tibetan
and still visible, for example, in
Classical Tibetan Classical Tibetan refers to the language of any text written in Tibetic The Tibetan languages are a cluster of Tibeto-Burman languages descended from Old Tibetan, spoken across the Himalayan Massif, including the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya ...
; it is also largely similar to the system that occurs in the more conservative
Austroasiatic languages The Austroasiatic languages , also known as Mon–Khmer , are a large language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken lan ...
, such as modern
Khmer
Khmer
(Cambodian). The main changes leading to the modern varieties have been a reduction in the number of consonants and vowels and a corresponding increase in the number of tones (typically through a pan-East-Asiatic tone split that doubled the number of tones and eliminated the distinction between voiced and unvoiced consonants). That has led to a gradual decrease in the number of possible syllables.
Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese (), in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bri ...
has only about 1,300 possible syllables, and many other
varieties of Chinese Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, w ...
even fewer (for example, modern
Shanghainese Shanghainese, also known as the Shanghai language, Shanghai dialect, or Hu language, is a Wu Chinese Wu (Chinese character: , , Mandarin: ) is a group of linguistically similar and historically related Sinitic languages spoken primarily i ...
has been reported to have only about 700 syllables). The result in Mandarin, for example, has been the proliferation of the number of two-syllable compound words, which have steadily replaced former monosyllabic words; most words in Standard Mandarin now have two syllables.


Grammar

The extensive surviving body of Middle Chinese (MC) literature of various types provides much source material for the study of MC grammar. Due to the lack of morphological development, grammatical analysis of MC tends to focus on the nature and meanings of the individual words themselves and the
syntactic rules
syntactic rules
by which their arrangement together in sentences communicates meaning.


See also

* Karlgren–Li reconstruction of Middle Chinese *
Baxter's transcription for Middle Chinese William H. Baxter's transcription for Middle Chinese Middle Chinese (formerly known as Ancient Chinese) or the Qieyun system (QYS) is the historical variety of Chinese language, Chinese recorded in the ''Qieyun'', a rime dictionary first publ ...


Notes


References


Citations


Works cited

* * * See als
List of Corrigenda
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * *


External links


Introduction to Chinese Historical Phonology
Guillaume Jacques Guillaume Jacques (, b. 1979) is a French linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belong ...

Guillaume Jacques

Traditional Chinese Phonology
Guillaume Jacques Guillaume Jacques (, b. 1979) is a French linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belong ...

Guillaume Jacques

Historical Chinese Phonology/Philology at Technical Notes on the Chinese Language Dialects
Dylan W.H. Sung

in
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology Technical standard, standard for the consistent character encoding, encoding, representation, and handling of Character (computing), text expressed in most of the world's wri ...

Unicode
, using the simplification of Karlgren's system used by Hugh M. Stimson in his ''Fifty-Five T'ang Poems''
Middle Chinese readings for 9000 characters in Baxter's notation

StarLing website reconstructing Middle Chinese and Old Chinese as well as intermediate forms
*
EastLing form yielding Middle Chinese from character search


{{Authority control Middle Chinese,