- Series: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory (Book 184)
- Hardcover: 266 pages
- Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company (September 15, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1556199619
- ISBN-13: 978-1556199615
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,067,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Roots of Old Chinese (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory)
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Top customer reviews
The book is radical also in the stricter sense, that it operates with a principled and constrained theory of the OC root (minimally: *CV(C)(q)), which holds that, with the possible exception of final resonant + glottal stop clusters, lexical clusters were not licensed in OC at all, so that structural positions extending the root (prefixes, infixes, suffixes; maximal word: *[(P)(-I-)C(-I-)V(C)(q)(-s)]A/B) did invariably encode grammatical, paradigmatic-semantic, or functional information. Moreover, it is possible that a limited number of single final consonants (besides suffixal *-s) did also have derivational functions (*-ng, *-n ?), and even the idea of apophonic nuclei is occasionally entertained (cf. pp. 134-36). Sagart remedies the skewed distributions of initial *h-, *hj-, *z- and *h~- in Baxter's (1992) reconstruction, and rejects Benedict's (1996) *sK- clusters, Pulleyblank's (1991) initial *ngj-, as well as the lateral affricate series posited by Starostin (1989), in favor of various new prefix interpretations. Crucially, he proposes a new theory of initial cluster simplification, along the lines attested in several Mon-Khmer languages, which distinguishes between 'fused' and 'iambic' clusters. The latter loosely attaching type is characterized by epenthesis of a reduced vowel (schwa) into the prefixal template, thereby creating a moraic slot extending the monosyllable. Ample evidence for this type of development from word-families and xiesheng-series, variant readings and remnants in several peripheral modern dialects is supplied. The enigmatic origins of the MC division distinction are not finally settled. Sagart notationally assigns a/b superscripts to Pulleyblank's 'A/B' syllable types, whatever suprasegmental interpretation they might have entailed. He adds the observation that several homo(io)phonophoric series are strictly A/B-segregating, which is sterling evidence for the further study of the phonetics involved. In the realm of rhymes, he argues against positing rounded vowels before labial endings, and offers several other important readjustments of Baxter's system.
The core of the book is a very detailed analysis of the 12 affixes (*s-, *n-, *m-, *p-, *t-, *N-, *k-, *q- // *-r- // *-s, *-n, *-N) proposed and their 25 odd functions in OC (pp. 63-138). The new theory of OC morphonology thus provided is then applied to an extremely interesting lexical testing ground, including personal pronouns, numerals, body parts, the physical world, wild animals, mankind & kinship, cereal names and other cultivated plants, domesticated animals, food, metals, transportation commerce, and writing. This long section (pp. 139-215) is a treasure trove for everyone interested in Chinese culture history, and the implications of ancient loanwords for early connetions of China with the outside world. The book is rounded off with an index verborum, a general index and a copious list of reconstructions.
This is easily the most important book on the OC lexicon since Karlgren's Word-Families (BMFEA 1934), and the most challenging contribution on OC morphology ever written. It deserves to be taught and tested, applied or amended, by whoever reads Old Chinese texts.