吳實錄

Annals of Wu

漢藏緬語々言研究ㄟ博客
a sinotibetoburman linguistics blog
2012-12-25

Sometimes 入声 Isn't 入声 discussion

I've working with some data on Changzhou Wu these days. It's interesting because aside from the merger of 上 tones into one the redistribution of some shang tones, Changzhou preserves the rest of the 8 tones*. This is true for most Northern Wu dialects, including some Pudong varieties of Shanghainese which has otherwise merged itself into 5 tones which are mostly disregarded anyway.

In an oversimplification of the relationship between dialects, we can pretty much say that two dialects of two different Sinitic languages (ignoring Mandarin and maybe Min as well for different but comparably significant reasons) which preserve the two registers of the four tones, what is a yang ru tone in one dialect will be a yang ru in the other. What's more, an entering tone will end in p,t,k in Cantonese, p or k in Korean and -ʔ in Shanghainese or Changzhou dialect.

Except when it doesn't. It's an oversimplification because language contact is a thing, and words get borrowed from neighbouring dialects of dissimilar languages, thus /ŋ/ is quickly becoming /ʋu/ or /wu/ along the shores of the Yangtze.

Two cases have come up in my recent work that show this, but in a somewhat baffling way.

1) 昨 zuó is jok3 in Cantonese, 작 jak in Korean, tạc in Vietnamese, and ought to be zɔʔ8 in Changzhou, but instead it's zo2, yang ping, corresponding to Mandarin's zuó, also yang ping.

2) 幕 mù is mok6 in Cantonese, 막 mak in Korean, mạc in Vietnamese, and I'd expect it to be mɔʔ8 in Changzhou but actually it's mɤʊ6, yang qu, which also corresponds to the tone of the syllable in Mandarin, yin and yang having merged into what is now Mandarin's fourth tone.

I don't have an answer, except to speculate that it is exactly what I mentioned before: These have been borrowed from across the River. The borrowing preserved the tone, and in the case of the qu sheng, assigned yin/yang based on voicing. I hope this is what happened, because it's downright fascinating if that's the case.

If anyone has some insight into this I'd love to hear it.

- - -
* more on shang distribution in a future post

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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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