Studies in Old Northwest Chinese
W. South Coblin 柯蔚南 著
Sui-Tang phonological reconstructions, which are nowadays usually called “Ancient Chinese” or “Middle Chinese”, tend to take as their basis the Qieyun 切韵system (QYS), as viewed through the structural framework of rime tables such as the Yunjing 韵镜. There has been relatively little consensus over the years regarding the linguistic basis of the QYS. On the one extreme, there are those who have held that it represents an actual spoken dialect. Bernhard Karlgren to the end of his life considered it to have been based on the early Tang dialect of Chang-an 长安. Certain scholars today believe that it reflects the pronunciation of Luoyang 洛阳. On the other hand there are those who view the QYS as a maximally differentiated amalgam or conflation of the standard or upper-class dialects of various important sixth century cities of east-central China, such as Jinling 金陵, Ye 邺, and Luoyang. And there are some who feel that this conflation encompasses certain already obsolete sound distinctions inherited from earlier rime books, poetic rime traditions, etc. There is in addition a further cleavage between those who think the QYS represented an actually utilized, if admittedly artificial, reading pronunciation and others who believe it was an abstract system, which was never really verbalized in all its complexity by anyone. Given this range of views on the nature of the QYS, it is clear that there must be fairly marked differences of opinion today regarding what the terms “Ancient Chinese” or “Middle Chinese” really mean. That the charts in the rime tables are in some way connected with the Qieyun is clear because they explicitly incorporated the Qieyun rime categories into their structural nomenclature. But when, why, where, and by whom they were compiled is unknown. The currently popular hypotheses, regarding these questions are really no more than conjectures. What does seem fairly clear is that the rime tables date from after the completion of the Qieyun and cannot have been written by anyone who actually lived in Qieyun times or heard with his own ears any language spoken in those times.
There are in print today no fewer than a dozen different systematic reconstructions based on the QYS. The extent to which any of these really represents the phonology of any form of actual speech of ca. 600 A.D. can be no more certain than the likelihood that the QYS reflects such speech. And this question, as we have seen, is a moot one as of the present time at least. Qieyun studies may thus be said to constitute a special field within sinology, which deals in essence with the internal structures of particular texts and with the traditions deriving from those texts. This field actually lies primarily within the realm of philology rather than linguistics.
In the present monograph, we undertake investigations, which deal with phonology of Tang and pre-Tang times but are not viewed as part of the field of Qieyun studies. Our concern is on the contrary with the dialects of northwest China, ranging from the modern vernaculars of Gansu, Qinghai, and Shananxi to the ancient dialects of the Chang-an and Dunhuang areas in the fifth and sixth centuries. In the present chapter, we survey the materials, which will serve as the primary basis for our reconstructions. In Chapter II, we deal with syllable initials. In Chapter III, we proceed to a discussion of various topics, which are of general import for the reconstruction of the syllable finals. In Chapter IV, we present a group-by-group discussion of these finals. The reconstructed system at this point will be semi-phonemic, in that certain sounds, which were probably allophones of the same phoneme, will still be distinguished in the provisional transcription. In Chapter V, the systems will be more rigorously phonemicized, and a synoptic table will be given for the reconstruction as a whole.
1.1 The Northwest dialects of late Tang and Five Dynsties time 1.2The Amoghavajra transcriptions 1.3 Early Tibetan transcriptions 1.4 The Yan Shugu Fanqie ……