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Common Chinese and early Chinese morphology.


THIS PAPER CONSIDERS some modern dialect data that is relevant to the question of morphology in early Chinese. (1) Morphology consists of the principles governing word formation, especially the processes of inflection (regular changes a word undergoes) and derivation (affixation). The distinction between inflection and derivation originates with Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27 8.C.E.), who called them "natural declension" and "voluntary declension" (Taylor 1995). That distinction may, however, be somewhat artificial in languages not of Greco-Roman origin. While these processes, especially inflection, are not usually considered present in Chinese on any large scale, a number of morphological functions have been posited for early Chinese and incorporated into reconstructions. Serious work was pioneered by French-trained sinologists, above all Henri Maspero (1883-1945). An early attempt, and the one perhaps best known to the greater linguistic world, is the ablaut case-system that Bernhard Karlgren proposed for early Chinese personal pronouns (1920), although that hypothesis was decisively demolished on philological grounds by George Kennedy (1956). Laurent Sagart's innovative Roots of Old Chinese (1999) is a recent effort to assemble evidence for the larger question of early morphology, and I shall examine here the two of Sagart's proposals that I consider the best supported.

In another paper (Branner 1998) I have attempted to document the different backgrounds of the Western and native Chinese approaches to the evidence for early morphology. Premodern Chinese scholars, of course, historically treated nearly all grammatical issues within the restrictively lexicographic model inherited from the Han scholia. A number of early Manchu-period scholars took this model to an extreme degree, which I have termed "purist." The Western treatment of early Chinese, in contrast, seems from earlier times to have viewed the absence of an obvious derivational system as a kind of defect, to be remedied by the reconstruction of "lost" morphology. The "purist" and "reconstructionist" models are treated in detail in my 1998 paper, but I shall have a few words to say about them at the end of this one.

The reconstruction of early Chinese has depended most heavily on coordinating medieval phonology with early rhyming and xiesheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] character structure. Although a certain number of reconstructed early Chinese features find support in the most conservative modern dialects, dialect evidence has been no more than a peripheral element in the study of early Chinese. In the case of early Chinese morphology, however, the usual sources can contribute very little, and scholars tend to turn for support to Tibeto-Burman languages and their reconstructed ancestor, proto-Tibeto-Burman. Reconstructed proto-Tibeto-Burman is not thought to be Chinese, however, nor any form of Chinese; it is a sister language to early Chinese, believed by its proponents to share a common ancestor with Chinese. For this reason, morphology in reconstructed Tibeto-Burman might be projected backwards into proto-Sino-Tibetan, but it makes relatively weak evidence for morphology in early Chinese itself. Even when comparable phonetic tokens can be identified in early Chinese, there is a methodological problem in interpreting them by way of Tibeto-Burman, moving as it were first backward to the putative ancestor and then forward into early Chinese. Much stronger would be native morphology in established forms of Chinese. It is with such internal Chinese evidence that this paper is concerned.

For the purposes of discussion here I introduce the concept of "Common Chinese," meaning a notional metasystem comprising all modern varieties of Chinese (also Branner 2000: 160-66). True morphology, if it did once exist, is no longer productive in Common Chinese. That is, productive examples of morphology may easily be identified in many individual varieties of Chinese, but no such system has been found in a wide variety of dialects, nor does any appear relatable to a single, ancestral system. It is simplest to view them as having arisen independently or preserving older systems that were always regional. Examples that can be related to mainstream Classical evidence, on the other hand, are vanishingly rare. For instance, diminution and nominalization in many varieties of Northern Chinese are accomplished by rhotacization:
 plain form: huh [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'to paint';
 "painting" as a bound form

 nominalized: huar [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'painting'

 plain form: mri qi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'to be winded,
 out of breath'

 diminuted: mei qir [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'to have
 died, passed one's last breath' (2)

No phonologically comparable diminutive process is found in Classical evidence or reported for the other major dialect groups, so diminution and nominalization by rhotacization cannot be assigned to "Common Chinese" as I have defined it, only to the Northern group. (3)

Morphology in early Chinese is studied using three principal kinds of data. They are essentially different, though scholars agree that they should be seen as ultimately interdependent: A) internal evidence from the written phonological tradition; B) comparisons with Tibeto-Burman morphology; C) evidence internal to spoken Chinese languages, if possible apart from influence by the written phonological tradition, that is, lower diglossic registers or styles of Chinese. (4)

The best-known Classical example of morphology belongs to both types A and B, but not C--the derivation by tone change treated by Zhou Zumo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1966[1946]), Gordon Downer (1959), and Tsu-lin Mei (1980). There are several different processes evident in the medieval sources, apparently not all of the same date, but the best known is the case of verbs that become nominalized when they change from their original tone into the qusheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] tone category; that is an example of category A, above. The qusheng tone category is thought to have originated in an early Chinese final *-s. It is this *-s that would have had the actual derivational function. (5)
 plain verbal form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] zhi
 {[tri.sub.3b]}<*trje 'to know'

 nominalized form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] zhi
 {tri[H.sub.3b]}<*trjes 'knowledge'

 plain verbal form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] cheng
 {[zyeng.sub.3]}<*zying 'to ride'

 nominalized form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] sheng
 'carriage with team of horses'

 plain verbal form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] chuan
 {[druan.sub.3b]}<*drjon 'to transmit'

 nominalized form: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] zhuan
 {druan[H.sub.3b]}<*drjons 'a record'

A similar suffix -s is found in some Tibeto-Burman languages, an example of category B, above. Across Common Chinese as a whole this feature may be said to survive, but evidently only where lexicalized; it is no longer productive and may not have been since as early the late sixth century, if Yan Zhitui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (531-591?) is to be believed. That is, even if it was productive at one time, it no longer is. Many individual examples survive in various forms of Chinese merely because they were entrenched, as solitary words, in canonical lexicographic sources. And so this example does not have evidence in category C.

In this paper I am chiefly concerned with evidence belonging to category C, which seems to me the most neglected and most difficult to find of the three types. A morphological system that remains productive today and is not restricted to a single, cohesive dialect group would be powerful evidence of its presence in the early language.

Few clear examples of the modern survival of early Chinese morphology have been described in print until recently. (Of course, material of this kind has scarcely been a prominent target of field research in Chinese before now, so other cases may simply be waiting to be noticed.) One example was proposed by Edwin Pulleyblank in his article on word families: he proposed relating the Min [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] contrast between aspirated and unaspirated obstruent initials in lower register tones to the Tibetan 'a-chung or "voiced h" prefix (1973:114). However, although the Min contrast may perhaps be the relic of an earlier morphological process, that process is certainly no longer active in attested Min dialects. Note, too, that South Coblin (1995) has shown the 'a-chung symbol in Tibetan itself to have been a diacritic of varying usage, and not by any means simply a laryngeal sound, prefix or otherwise, so that this example may not be viable without further evidence.

Another example was proposed by Chang Song-hing and Li Rulong (1992). They cite some twenty pairs of words in which nasal and stop endings alternate in colloquial Minnan words of related meanings. For instance:
 /[uan.sup.1]/ ~ /[uat.sup.7]/ 'to turn, bend';
 /[khim.sup.2]/ ~ /[khip.sup.8]/ 'to catch in the hand'.

They consider this alternation to be an example of "derivation" (paisheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) but do not explain the nature of the semantic relationship involved. They also do not say whether it is productive, but my field experience leads me to think it is not. There are many comparable examples in medieval and early Chinese, and that would seem to hold promise for the recovery of a true Common Chinese morphological pattern, except that the nature of the semantic relationship has never been pinned down satisfactorily. The term Chang and Li use for the relationship between nasal and stop endings is yang-ru duizhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "interchange between nasal and stop codas," introduced by the philologist Kong Guangsen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1752-1786) in his study of early Chinese rime groups (1966[1800: 1.2b]). In early Chinese, too, the semantic relationship between forms displaying this alternation has never been pinned down. Without knowing the nature of the relationship, it is hard to settle an opinion on the significance of Chang and Li's data. Perhaps future fieldwork will give us more complete data with which to advance that investigation.

Let us return to the question of comparative evidence for morphology. To date, the feature cited by Pulleyblank is found in Chinese only within Min, and the specific forms cited by Chang and Li only within Minnan. The goal of genetic classification demands, to my mind, that relics ought to be attested in at least two different sources of evidence, otherwise what we suspect to be reliquary may well be a local development or borrowing that ought not to be reconstructed into earlier forms of the common language. Two different sources of evidence could mean two significantly different dialect groups, or it could imply clear, mainstream ancient evidence as well as evidence from a modern dialect.

Among the many features proposed by Laurent Sagart, two meet this criterion. As it happens, each of them appears in the Min and Jin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] dialect groups. These two groups are remote from each other in geography and typology, and so fulfill the requirement of a genetic interpretation (even though Sagart is a proponent of cladistics, which in principle views shared innovations rather than shared relics as the basis of classification). Because Jan and Min are at opposite ends (north and south) of the Chinese linguistic area, we can believe that they represent the shell of an older spoken language replaced in the intervening areas by a more newly formed and less conservative kind of Chinese.

It is the purpose of this paper to consider other dialect evidence pertaining to these two relics. The first is a reconstructed prefix *k- assigned a number of functions having at their core the meaning "discreteness" (Sagart 1999: 98-107). The second is what Sagart reconstructs as early Chinese infixed *-r-, which he identifies as connoting "distribution" of an action or object (1999:117). Prior to the publication of Sagart's book I had collected examples of both features in my own fieldwork. Since he has now described them in print, I shall key my presentation to his, discussing first prefix *k-, then reduplicated forms with initial l in the second syllable.


Sagart's 1999 book argues for the reconstruction of a morphological prefix *k- in early Chinese. Although clusters with *kl- had long been reconstructed, it was not until Maspero's 1930 article that a derivational function was proposed for them. There is a well-described verbal prefix [k??] in various Jin dialects that frequently involves momentary, repeated, or continuous action. Sagart observes that an identical syllable occurs with count-nouns in some forms of Jin and that it is similar to a syllable/[ka.sup.1]/ appearing in some count-nouns and verbs of repeatable action in the Minnan dialect of Amoy [Xiamen] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Based on this parallel appearance in widely separated varieties of Chinese, Sagart proposes that they represent the survival of an initial *k- that had similar morphological functions. He adds some evidence from early Chinese texts, but I think it is insignificant by comparison to the dialect evidence.

Sagart's prime Min evidence for *k- is Amoy /[ka.sup.1]/, which appears as what he considers a prefix in a variety of colloquial words, some of them relating to innocuous wild animals and vermin: (6)
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsua?.sup.8]/'cockroach';
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsau.sup.3]/ 'flea';
 /[ka.sup.1] [tse.sup.2]/ 'cicada' (7);
 /[ka.sup.1] [tshio.sup.2]/ 'a kind of small, boneless sea creature';
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsui.sup.1]/ 'turtledove';
 /[ka.sup.1] [len.sup.6]/ 'the black and white mynah bird'.

An initial syllable/[ka.sup.1]/also occurs in other native-looking words, including plants and tools as well as some verbs (discussed below).

It would be natural to identify /[ka.sup.1]/ as a type of prefix for wild or feral plants and animals, of the same basic kind as lao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] huang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], hu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], etc. (see Branner ms.) Hu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in fact, would be the most appropriate candidate to write /[ka.sup.1]/ as a benzi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or "etymological character," since its phonological value in the early Chinese formal system is *ga, which must have sounded not unlike Amoy /[ka.sup.1]/. (8) But in point of fact, within the Minnan lexicographic tradition /[ka.sup.l]/ is not assigned a regular character, indicating that it has not been felt to be a unitary morpheme.

That is no serious obstacle to Sagart's theory. Colloquial words in general are often represented very inconsistently in the traditional Minnan character dictionaries (such as those collected by Ang 1993a, b). For instance, the well attested words for "cockroach" and "flea" are represented in Table 1.

2.1. Longer List of Amoy Forms

Below are the characters supplied in Campbell (1913) for a large number of Amoy words containing /[ka.sup.1]/. Campbell's character assignments were made with native assistance in Japanese-governed Formosa, the literary characters having been based perhaps on Mackay (1876). They are compatible with the earlier assignments that clearly underlie Douglas' work and with material in older dialect rime-books. I observe that in Campbell it is most often nouns for which characters have been assigned. (The glosses below are mainly from Douglas 1899: 186-87 except where noted; I have converted the forms from Douglas's transcription following Branner 2000: 422.)
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tse.sup.6]/,
 /[tu?.sup.7] [ka.sup.1] [tse.sup.6]/ 'to nod in sleep'
 (Campbell 1913: 728, 289, 41 ka-che,

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [ia?.sup.8]/
 'to take well in the market' (Campbell 1913: 289, 248 ka-iah);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [1a?.sup.8]/ 'a
 fish that tastes slightly like salmon' (Douglas 1899: 289
 ka-lah; Campbell 1913: 289, 417);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [ban.sup.6]/ 'a
 kind of fish, not considered good eating' (Campbell 1913:289
 ka-bang; gloss from Barclay 1923: 89);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [len.sup.6]/ 'the
 magpie; more properly the black and white mina[h]: it can
 learn to speak a little" (Douglas 1899: 301
 ka-leng; Campbell 1913: 289, 439);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [bua?.sup.8]
 [tshai.sup.5] / 'a sort of vegetable' (Campbell 1913: 289, 28,
 79 ka-boah-chhai; first syllable also given
 as ka, (Campbell 1913: 291);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tsau.sup.3]/
 'flea' (Campbell 1913: 289, 776 katsau);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tsua?.sup.8]/
 'cockroach' (Campbell 1913: 289, 782 ka-tsoah);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lo.sup.3]/
 'half globular bamboo wicker vessel for holding rice' (also
 Douglas 1899:315 ka-lo; Campbell 1913: 289;
 Barclay 1923:89 has a compound kong ka-lo
 "to talk recklessly and foolishly," the
 empty basket representing empty talk);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLEIN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tshio.sup.2]/
 'a small edible shell-fish" (Douglas 1899:82 ka-chhio;
 Campbell 1913: 289, 101);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tsui.sup.1]/
 'the dove' (Campbell 1913:289 katsui);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tan.sup.1]
 [tshiu.sup.6]/ 'a large tree with useless wood' (Campbell
 1913: 289, 671, 110 ka-tang-chhiu);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [ki.sup.6]/
 'oneself' (Campbell 1913: 318 ka-ki; Douglas 1899: 187 also
 lists /[ka.sup.1] [ti.sup.6]/ ka-ti for

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [nn.sup.2]/
 'entire, complete' (Campbell 1913: 289, 520 ka-nng; Douglas
 1899: 338 has an alternate form kui-nng,
 which explains the graph used for the first
 syllable in Campbell);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lia?.sup.8]/
 'a very large round bamboo wickerwork tray, used for drying
 things, or exposing them for sale' (Campbell
 1913: 289, 442 kaliah; Douglas 1899: 187
 gives a second form

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lue.sup.2]/
 ka-loe, preferred in Tongan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lau?.sup.8]/
 'to fall, to drop, as an inanimate object' (Campbell 1913: 289,
 427 ka-lauh);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [pua.sup.5]/
 'cotton' (Campbell 1913:290 ka-poa; Douglas 1899:380 explain
 the name as "imitation of the Indian or
 Persian name karpasi"; cf. Laufer
 1967[1919]: 488-492);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tsia?.sup.7]/,
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsi.sup.7] [phia.sup.1]/'the back'
 (Campbell 1913: 290, 56, 576 ka-chiah,
 ka-chiah [phia.sup.n]);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [le.sup.3] [hi.sup.5]/
 'puppet show' (Campbell 1913: 290, 427 ka-le-hi;
 Barclay 1923:89 lists a number of compounds
 in which ka-le refers contemptuously
 to the aborigines of Taiwan).

In the following examples, no character is assigned to /[ka.sup.1]/:
 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [tse.sup.2]/
 'cicada' (Douglas 1899: 30 ka-che indicates this is a Quanzhou
 equivalent to Amoy am-po-che and Zhangzhou
 Campbell 1913: 41);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [li.sup.3]
 [lo.sup.2]/ 'not yet; not yet finished; yet distant; wide of the
 mark' (Campbell 1913: 290, 440, 465
 ka-li-lo; Douglas lists many variant forms;
 Barclay 1923:89 writes iau-be ka-li-lo,
 which makes ka-li-lo appear to mean

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lio.sup.2]/
 'words used in calling a dog' (Campbell 1913: 290, 455

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [iam.sup.1]/
 'shivering; chilled' (Campbell 1913: 290, 248 ka-iam);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[ka.sup.1] [lun.sup.3]
 [sun.sup.3]/ 'to shiver with cold or fear; shivering feeling
 from eating something sour' (Campbell 1913:
 290, 485, 660 ka-lun-sun);

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[pha?.sup.7] [ka.sup.1]
 [tshiu.sup.5]/ 'to sneeze' (Campbell 1913: 566, 290, 110

 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[tio?.sup.8] [ka.sup.1]
 [tsak.sup.8]/ 'slight obstruction in throat or nostrils' (Campbell
 1913:290 tioh-ka-tsak).

Plainly, the late premodern native tradition has not considered these /[ka.sup.1]/ forms related. Rather, it is characteristic of Western reconstructionism to do so.

2.2 Diversity of the Dialect Evidence

In the great majority of attested cases, Amoy /[Ka.sup.1]/ precedes a dental initial (including semi-vowel i); it rarely precedes a labial or velar-laryngeal initial. So it may represent the relic not simply of *k- but of an old dimidiated initial cluster such as *kt- > *ket-. Surely relevant is the fact that that Longyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a Minnan dialect related to Amoy, has the short syllable /[kat.sup.8]/ for similar forms, in which the second syllable is in all cases dental: (9)
 /[kat.sup.8] [tsua.sup.4]/ 'cockroach';
 /[kat.sup.8] [tsau.sup.3]/ 'flea';
 /[kat.sup.8] [ni.sup.17] + a/ 'parrot';
 /[kat.sup.8] [in.sup.17] + a/ 'kind of predatory bird that eats
 chickens (hawk?)';
 /[kat.sup.8] [li.sup.1247] [ie.sup.4]/ 'armpit'. (10)

In extensive fieldwork in Longyan I have found only these five examples of the specific prefix /kat-/. Longyan has a few other suggestive forms from the Amoy list.
 /[phat.sup.7] [at.sup.7]/ [tshi.sup.7]/ 'to sneeze', using a
 morpheme /at/ instead of the expected */kat/;
 /[kat.sup.8] lo [liI.sup.2/ [kat ?? lo ?? liI ??]
 'to fall', presumably related to
 Amoy ka-lauh; glossed by my informant as "to fall from
 a high place" (diaoxialai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Note
 that the first syllable has a full tone value, and the second
 syllable, presumably the "etymological" syllable corresponding
 to Common Chinese [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], is unstressed.
 The informant identifies the isolation tone of /kat/ as /8/, but
 says that it cannot be used in isolation. His back-formation matches
 my conclusion about the noun-prefix, described in footnote 9.

Two other Longyan forms suggest the Amoy forms, but without evidence of */ka-/ or */kat-/:
 /[lun.sup.3]/ 'to be afraid of' (cf. Amoy /[ka.sup.1] [lun.sup.3]
 /[lia.sup.4]/ 'large, shallow basket for drying rice' (congruent
 phonologically to Amoy /[lia?.sup.8]/, cf.

Indeed, in the larger Minnan region many of the Amoy forms of Douglas are now difficult to elicit in fieldwork, and comparable forms rare in published dialect data. In Taiwan, some of them appear in recent missionary dictionaries (Sprinkle et al. 1976, Marsecano and O. et al. 1979, Embree et al. 1984), but as these works are part of a continuous lexicographic tradition it is impossible to know how many of the words were attested descriptively and how many copied from earlier missionary sources. In actual Taiwanese speech today I observe the verbal forms ("to sneeze" "to shiver," "to drop") to be more prevalent than the nouns, perhaps because of the extensive modernization of language and society, even rurally. Apart from the Longyan forms cited above, there are fewer examples attested in Min dialects other than the Minnan of the Amoy area. Below are the Teochew [Chaozhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] forms I have identified as suggesting Amoy /[ka.sup.1]/, from a recent source (Choy 1991: 143-145):
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsau.sup.3]/ 'flea';
 /[ka.sup.1] [tsua?.sup.8]/ 'cockroach';
 /[ka.sup.1] [lau?.sup.8]/ 'to drop';
 /[ka.sup.1] [thi.sup.5]/ 'to sneeze';
 /[ka.sup.1] [lo.sup.2]/, /[ka.sup.1] [li.sup.3] [lo.sup.2]/ 'far
 off' (cf. Longyan /[ka.sup.1] [lo.sup.2]/ 'to have
 done well, to have come a long way');
 /[ka.sup.1] [nn.sup.2]/ 'whole, entire, intact';
 /[ka.sup.1] [ki.sup.6]/ 'onself';
 /[ka.sup.1] [pua.sup.5]/ 'cotton';
 /[ka.sup.1] [sau.sup.5]/ 'to cough' (cf. Amoy /[sau.sup.5]/
 (Douglas 1899: 411-412); Longyan /[khat.sup.8] [sau.sup.5]/).

This mid-twentieth century list is far smaller than Campbell's. Longyan's /[kat.sup.8]/ is not matched by data in any other Min dialect I have examined, and it would seem to be more conservative than Amoy and Teochew /[ka.sup.1]/.

Longyan is not alone in diverging from Amoy. Among the common words in the long list, above, there are some inconsistencies within ordinary Minnan dialects. The words for "the back (part of body)" and "person's behind" vary noticeably (Table 2, variants boldfaced).

The Quanzhou word for "the back" is inexplicable as a simple variant. I have found in fieldwork that informants using /[kha.sup.1]/ for these words generally etymologize the morpheme as the common Minnan word for "foot." But Longyan /khat-/ for "person's behind" recalls the several forms with /kat-/ in that dialect (cf. also "to cough," discussed above). There are probably other inconsistencies waiting to be discovered; in Ilan, a Taiwanese dialect systematically very close to Zhangzhou, I have recorded "to sneeze" as /[pha.sup.7] [kha.sup.12] [tshiu.sup.5]/, with aspirated /[kha.sup.1]/. In many varieties of Taiwanese, "person's behind" is actually /[kha.sup.1] [tshn.sup.1] [phe.sup.3]/, and /[kha.sup.1] [tshn.sup.1]/ refers to the anus (/[tshn.sup.1]/ "to perforate, make a hole in"; /[phe.sup.3]/, Amoy /[phue.sup.3]/ "cheek, bulge").

Outside of mainstream Minnan, the Min dialects are, regrettably, not documented with anything like the thoroughness of the traditional missionary materials. But for Foochow [Fuzhou] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] dialect, we do have good missionary and other documents. Foochow has a few forms suggestive of the Amoy examples:
 /[ko.sup.2] [loun.sup.2]/ 'entire' (Maclay and Baldwin
 1944[1870]: 514, Li Rulong et at. 1994: 115)
 /[ka.sup. 6] [sak.sup.8]/ 'cockroach' (Maclay and Baldwin
 1944[1870]: 738; Li Rulong et al. 1994: 97)
 /[ka.sup. 3] [tsau.sup.3]/ 'flea' (Maclay and Baldwin
 1944[1870]: 301; Li Rulong et al. 1994: 97)
 /[ko.sup.1] [lo.sup.2]/ 'not yet' (Maclay and Baldwin 1944[1870]:
 370; I am considering this comparable to Amoy /[ka.sup.1]
 [li.sup.3] [lo.sup.2]/and Teochew /[ka.sup.1] [li.sup.3]
 [lo.sup.2]/~/[ka.sup.1] [lo.sup.2]/).

The word for "flea" is striking because it is the principal form found in both the attested Min and Jin data. But not only that; it is also found in standard Mandarin: gezao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], attested in written form by Mongol times and in spoken southern Mandarin by the late seventeenth century (Varo 2001[1695], "pulga"). It may be, in fact, that the existence of "flea" in both Min and Jin is not purely reliquary, and is due to influence from Mandarin.

Foochow also has a number words of its own that may indicate the residue of an old *k- (or *kh-) prefix; all have l- in the second syllable, which is more suggestive of a dimidiated *kr- cluster: (11)
 /[ka.sup.1] [lan.sup.1] [khi.sup.1] [khi.sup.1]/ 'slanting' (Maclay
 and Baldwin 1944[1870]: 300; Li Rulong et al. 1994: 95);
 /[ko.sup. 2] [lc.sup.6]/ 'scabies' (Maclay and Baldwin 1944[1870]:
 370; Li Rulong et al. 1994: 114);
 /[ko?.sup.7] [lou?.sup.7] [a.sup.6] 'armpit' (Maclay and Baldwin
 1944[1870]: 370; Li Rulong et al. 1994: 115);
 /ko [loun.sup.6]/ 'to rinse out' (Li Rulong et al. 1994: 115);
 /[kho.sup.1] [lo.sup.1]/ 'to snore' (Li Rulong et at. 1994: 173).

All seven of these examples display a kind of vowel harmony: the vowel of the first syllable is the same as the main vowel of the second.

2.3. Semantics of *k-

I have not yet addressed the question of semantics. Among the verbs in the lists above, "to sneeze," "to cough," "to doze off," "to shiver" "to drop" and "catarrh" strongly suggest the repetitive or momentary sense that Sagart attributes to *k-. I think, however, that some of the others, notably Foochow /[ka.sup.1] [lan.sup.1] [khi.sup.1]/ 'slanting' and Amoy /[ka.sup.1] [li.sup.3] [lo.sup.2]/ 'wide of the mark' and /[ka.sup.1] [ia?.sup.8]/ 'to sell well', are difficult to relate to this semantic core. As I have already suggested, there is no guarantee that any given word beginning with /[ka.sup.1]/ (Amoy, Teochew) or /[kat.sup.8]/ (Longyan) or /ka/~/ko/ (Foochow) necessarily reflects the postulated prefix *k-. "Slanting" and the others may simply exhibit a serendipitous first syllable /ka-/ unrelated to the present prefix. The question is whether the majority of the Minnan forms are not also serendipitous. Some sort of semantic unity would be the most persuasive argument against serendipity.

Sagart has identified "count-noun" as the feature of the *k- perefix used with nouns, suggesting that the disappearance of such a prefix "may have been a factor in the rise of numeral classifiers in Chinese during the same period" (2000: 107). In passing, let me point out that two of the Amoy examples not mentioned by Sagart are most interesting in regard to the sense of discreteness that he attributes to *k-: /[ka.sup.1] [nn.sup.2]/ "entire" and /[ka.sup.1] [ki.sup.6]/~/[ka.sup.1] [ti.sup.6]/ "oneself."

However, I find unsatisfying a few aspects of the count-noun proposal. First, Minnan dialects generally have their own native-looking general numeral classifier equivalent in meaning to Mandarin ge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]:
 Amoy /[e.sup.2]/;
 Quanzhou /[ge.sup.2]/;
 Teochew /[kai.sup.2]/;
 Longyan /[kiI.sup.2]/.

Phonetically these forms are not perfectly comparable, but I believe their rough likeness may point to a common ancestor of considerable antiquity. One possible etymon is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] {gi}, although functionally it would appear to be at some distance from the Minnan forms. (12) Sagart himself (p.c. 2001) has suggested [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as the etymon, in the early Chinese ge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] rime-group, reconstructed *-ay by Baxter, but the tone and initial-voicing do not match and will have to be explained. (Medieval rime-books give {ke[H.sub.1]} for this character, where *{[ghe.sub.1]} would be expected to match the Min forms.) In any case, the relationship between the loss of *k- and the evolution of classifiers in Min would have to be clarified considerably beyond Sagart's suggestion.

The proposed replacement of *k- with numeral classifiers is an instance of a syntactic pattern emerging to replace a morphology-bearing phonological element. Since the whole theory of early morphology hinges on Chinese having changed typologically from a derivational language to an isolating one, Sagart's count-noun proposal would constitute important evidence for the larger hypothesis. It does not appear that early classifiers (such as ge < {ke[H.sub.1} [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or jie <{kei[H.sub.2b]} [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], both suggestive of *k-) could have directly replaced a *k- prefix. An intermediate stage of some sort must be assumed, and I see no obvious evidence of such a stage in Liu Shiru's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] copious 1965 compilation. For example, in the earliest examples of numeral-plus-classifier phrases, those phrases appear after the noun, rather than before, e.g. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Xunzi "Yibing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" 15.272). We would have to stipulate that the *k- prefix became lexicalized first and only later shifted position. Possibly the conservatism of the script would have obscured lexicalization at first. For another thing, when classifiers do eventually begin to appear preceding nouns, they are frequently separated from those nouns by tmetic modifiers, and we see this consistently beginning in early medieval times. We would have to say that the lexicalized prefix *k- first appeared after the noun and numeral, and then jumped back to before the modifier-noun phrase. Competing usages (including oral-written divergence) might of course be responsible for this seeming complexity in the written record. Overall, in any case, I think that more historical detail is needed to validate this fascinating element of Sagart's larger hypothesis.

Against the count-noun proposal, one might also object that count-nouns are extremely numerous in Min dialects and only a very small number of them exhibit the /ka-/ prefix. An explanation may be that, among the nouns I have listed above, many of them are the names of decidedly humble objects, including both native plants and animals and undignified body parts. In this Min is not unique. There are syllables similar to /ka-/ or /kha-/ in, for instance, Peking dialect words for certain other lowly body parts. As with gezao, Peking gives a full tonal value, which may not be etymologically meaningful, to the ge syllable when it is the first in the word: (13)
 gelembar 'kneecap' (Peking dialect has a number of similar
 geda 'pimple, bump';
 gebe 'upper arm'.

Small numbers of like forms are found in a great many dialects. It may be that their lowly quality, even if not directly related to the *k- prefix, has prevented their replacement with more phonologically standard words from the Common Chinese lexicon.

It may also be that the Amoy form represents the convergence or coevolution of more than one unrelated particle. It happens that several important Amoy and Taiwanese particles sound similar to /[ka.sup.1]/. There is a coverb /[ka?.sup.7] /comparable to Mandarin gen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or he [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'with', also translatable as "and" between nouns. Below Taiwanese is represented by data from Ilan. (14) The glottal stop is ordinarily assimilated or lost in normal speech. This form /[ka?.sup.7]/ is understood to correspond to the morpheme {[kap.sub.1a]} [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "together" Common Chinese.

There also is a particle /[ka.sup.5]/ introducing complements of extent:

Douglas's Amoy records, and dialects such as Longyan render this particle /[kau.sup.5]/, the regular word "to arrive," corresponding to Common Chinese {kou[H.sub.1]} [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. It a pears to be parallel to Mandarin de, written [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] but evidently derived from dao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], also "to arrive." (15)

There is a coverb /[ka.sup.6]/ introducing direct objects, as in Table 5. It is similar in usage to Mandarin ba [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], although some of its functions differ. Notably, as with the coverbs yi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Classical Chinese and bei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Mandarin, the direct object can be dropped in some cases. In the Taiwanese example given in Table 6, the remaining /[ka.sup.6]/ functions as an adverb, but still serves to indicate that the main verb is transitive. This /[ka.sup.6]/ is traditionally written [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] /[kan.sup.6]/, although the change of sound from /[kan.sup.6]/ to /[ka.sup.6]/ is not a regular one and the association may be spurious.

The two coverbs /[ka?.sup.7]/ and /[ka.sup.6]/ might conceivably be related to what Sagart calls the count-noun prefix; both do, certainly, precede nouns and pronouns, although it is not clear that only countable nouns are involved. The occasional transitivizing function of /[ka.sup.6]/ is hard to connect with intransitive verbs of repeatable action such as "to sneeze" and "to shiver." A different possibility is simply that grammatical functions tend to coalesce onto syllables like [ka] in Minnan, and that those functions share no core meaning historically. If that is the case, it may be that the noun-prefix /ka.sup.1/, too, is no more than the fortuitous congeries of unrelated syllables.

2.4. Conclusion, *k-

On balance, it is evident that Amoy /[ka.sup.1]/ is not unique within Min; similar forms are attested in Teochew, Longyan, and Foochow. It is therefore no fluke in the Amoy data, and so its linkage with the Jin dialect morphological prefix is stronger than might appear from Sagart's presentation. However, the actual modern forms identified as reflexes of *k- vary a great deal more than Sagart lets on. (The Longyan form /[kat-.sup.8]/ is particularly striking.) Nevertheless, to date the *k- prefix is the best supported single example of a reconstructed morphological feature posited on the basis of comparative evidence. It is also the first such feature whose traces are visible in some form other than tonally in modern dialects. By connecting the Min reliquary forms to the living Jin morphological process, Sagart has made what may well prove to be a major discovery.


Sagart's book, building on an earlier article, compares dieyun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (reduplicated-final) forms from Min and Jin dialects, in which the second syllable repeats the vocalism of the first but begins with l- (1993a: 11; 1993b: 263-80; 1999: 117-20). Sagart identifies them as dimidiated survivals of an early Chinese infixed *-r-, which he identifies as connoting "distributed action or object, i.e., an action or object which is not homogeneous in time or in space" (1999: 117). Along with clear evidence from various Jin dialects and Foochow, Sagart cites data from Pan Weishui's article on Kienow [Jian'ou] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] dialect, a variety of Northern Min [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], spoken in northeastern Fukien (Pan 1994):
 [ne.sup.5] 'crooked' > [ne.sup.5] [le.sup.5] 'very crooked';
 [k'i.sup.1] 'crooked' > [k'i.sup.1] [li.sup.1] 'very crooked'.

The change of meaning is intensive. In most cases, however, the meaning of the Kienow dieyun forms simply involves some type of disorder or mildly unfavorable quality. Here are other examples from the same source:
 pu.[sup.6] > [pu.sup.6] [lu.sup.6] 'wrinkled';
 ku.[sup.1] > [ku.sup.1] [lu.sup.1] 'to squat';
 pa.[sup.5] > [pa.sup.5] [la.sup.5] 'to crawl';
 [ts'u.sup.7] > [ts'u.sup.7] [lu.sup.7] 'to shrink';
 [tse.sup.1] > [tse.sup.1] [le.sup.1] 'chapped';
 [niau.sup.5] > [niau.sup.5] [liau.sup.5] 'to become wound
 around with';
 tin.[sup.6] > [tin.sup.6] [lin.sup.6] 'entangled';
 [pain.sup.3] > [pain.sup.3] [lain.sup.3] 'to turn upside
 [kau.sup.8] > [kau.sup.8] [lau.sup.8] 'to mix together';
 [k'y.sup.7] > [k'y.sup.7] [ly.sup.7] 'wavy';
 [mc.sup.1] 'ill'? > [mc.sup.1] [lc.sup.1] 'bumpy (of a

The forms with added -l- do sometimes intensify the original meaning, but the meaning itself usually involves some form of disorder or mild deprecation.

Sagart, citing unpublished data of Michel Desirat, has shown that some classifiers in Foochow undergo reduplication with l- in the second syllable (1999: 119). I have collected similar examples in the village of Guanzhuang Shangzhuo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], from a variety of Hakka spoken in western Fukien. Shangzhuo's formal affiliation as a variety of Hakka is illustrated (without discussion) in Branner (2000: 70-71). As in Foochow, ordinary classifiers are made to undergo reduplication, with l- replacing the initial of the second syllable. The new, bisyllabic classifier that is formed is always collective (refers to a group of things) and suggests disorder or dispersion.
 [peu.sup.1] 'measure for bundles'
 > [peu.sup.1] [leu.sup.1] 'measure for disorderly bundles';

 [pa.sup.3] 'measure for fistfuls'
 > [pa.sup.3] [la.sup.3] 'measure for mixed bunches of flowers';

 [pha.sup.2] 'measure for rows'
 > [pha.sup.2] [la.sup.2] 'measure for rows of many things
 (chairs, people, etc.)';

 [phu.sup.2] 'measure for puddles'
 > [phu.sup.2] [lu.sup.2] 'measure for a whole lot of water all
 over the floor';

 [fou.sup.3] 'measure for nestfuls'
 > [fou.sup.3] [lou.sup.3] 'measure for bustling nestfuls of
 young birds';

 [tuc.sup.1] 'measure for piles of things'
 > [tuc.sup.1] [luc.sup.1] measure for piles of various things
 piled up together';

 [tshen.sup.2] "measure for clumps of plants'
 > [tshen.sup.2] [len.sup.2] 'measure for entire clumps of
 plants' (emphasis on the whole thing);

 [tciou.sup.1] 'measure for piles of things'
 > [tciou.sup.1] [lou.sup.1] or [tciou.sup.1] [liou.sup.1]
 'measure for disorderly piles of long things, such as bunches
 of noodles, cut-off braids';
 [tchin.sup.2] 'measure for flocks of birds'
 > [tchin.sup.2] [lin.sup.2] 'measure for whole flocks of flying
 [ke?.sup.7] 'measure for bundles'
 > [ke?.sup.7] [le?.sup.7] 'measure for bundles of something long
 and soft, bound with a piece of its own material (such as
 rice-straw, taro-stalks, etc.);
 [kon.sup.1] 'measure for groups of people'
 > [kon.sup.1] [lon.sup.1] 'measure for large groups of people
 marching in a line' (dazhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]);
 [khuen.sup.3] 'measure for tied bundles'
 > [khuejn.sup.3] [len.sup.3] 'measure for loads of mixed things
 picked up in both arms'.

I have observed Shangzhuo's particular pattern in other western Fukien sites such as Liancheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Ninghua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] counties (these are not strictly Hakka dialects, however; see Branner 2000: 73-84), and I believe it is widespread areally. That is an important point, because it means that the feature appears in dialects other than the highly conservative Jin and Min groups. A second important fact about the Shangzhuo process is that it is productive today, unlike what Sagart and Desirat describe for Foochow. Li Rulong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a Min dialect specialist long resident in Foochow, has informed me (p.c. 1993) that this process is not now productive in Foochow.

Not only Hakka, but also Peking dialect has a certain number of odd colloquial words in dieyun form, with the second syllable in neutral tone and with initial l-. Again, there is a distinct connotation of awkwardness or inappropriateness throughout these examples:
 bala 'ugly scar' (cf. ba 'scar');
 pala 'measure for disorderly clumps of carabao's excrement';
 pala 'to scrape together (food) on the plate" (cf. pa "to rake
 up, scrape into the mouth');
 tulu 'to come unwound, unravelled';
 gulu 'to mutter';
 hulu 'to muss (an animal's fur)'.

Evidently this is a widespread feature in Chinese, and doubtless deeper fieldwork will uncover more examples.

Peking dialect has still other productive processes that appear to be related to something like an -l- infix. Peking can take bisyllabic adjectives and make them either intensive or more pointedly disagreeable by reduplicating the first syllable and inserting plain le. The pattern can be summarized as AB > A le AB:
 xiaoqi 'stingy'
 > xidolexiaoqi 'very stingy, miserly; disagreeably so';
 hutu 'unable to think clearly'
 > hulehutu "unable to think clearly; absent-minded; confused
 or easily confused';
 meiqi 'effeminate'
 > meilemeiqi 'very effeminate';
 nuqi 'effeminate'
 > nulenuqi 'very effeminate';
 shaqi 'stupid"
 > shaleshaqi 'very stupid, having a very stupid air';
 mahu 'slapdash, thoughtless'
 > malemahu 'especially slapdash, very careless';
 wentun 'not diligent; underhanded'
 > wenlewentun "very slow-moving at one's work, not

Although it is hard to pin down the meaning of this le syllable, it is plainly associated with the change in meaning; reduplication alone does not acount for pejorative intensification. This le is also obviously not related in any simple way to the aspectual verb-suffix le.

The process is productive in Peking dialect today. A second Peking example involves certain monosyllabic adjectives that are made intensive or more pointedly disagreeable by adding nonsensical bisyllabic suffixes with le preceding them. The suffixes vary (most often -baji), but they are always in tone /1/, and the pattern can be summarized as A > A le-[suffix]:
 tian 'sweet'
 > tianlebaji 'cloyingly sweet, unpleasantly sweet';
 ruan 'soft"
 > ruanlebaji "cowardly';
 lan 'lazy'
 > lanlebaji 'very lazy';
 ye 'ill-mannered'
 > yelebaji 'very ill-mannered';
 nian, niar 'tired, pooped'
 > nianlebaji 'exhausted and slow-moving; reticent,
 hua 'slippery'
 > hualebaji 'reticent';
 tu 'unsophisticated'
 > tulebaji 'very unsophisticated' (hen tu
 hei 'black'
 > heilebaji 'dirty';
 you 'oily'
 > youlebaji 'disgustingly greasy';
 hong 'red'
 > honglebaji 'loud red' (derisive);
 zi 'purple'
 > zilebaji 'loud purple' (derisive);
 lu 'green"
 > lulebaji 'loud green' (derisive);
 huang 'yellow'
 > huanglebaji 'loud yellow' (derisive; rare: huangbedengdeng
 preferred (16));
 leng 'careless'
 > lenglebaji, lengleguaji 'very careless, lacking foresight';
 miam 'mealy'
 > mianlegu'nang 'overly soft, mealy (said of food)';
 xie 'too thin (said of liquid foods)'
 > xieleguangdang 'much too thin, not thickened nearly
 enough (said of liquid foods)'.

All three groups of Peking examples have in common three elements: first, either outright reduplication or the addition of a nonsense suffix; second, introduction of an initial l- on the second syllable, which is in neutral tone; third, the intensification of meaning and addition of a sense of disorder or derision.

I assume Sagart would disagree with me on the inclusion of examples of the A-le-AB and A-le-[suffix] types because he visualizes a morphological infix -r- equivalent to early Chinese -r- and a process of reduplication perhaps related to Austronesian morphology. Apart from the related problem of whether the widespread medial -r- in early Chinese phonology was a morphological feature at all, I am persuaded to allow le-insertion examples because I see all the data above as a kind of sound symbolism. I am not convinced that classical derivational morphology is involved here.

I am also not convinced that the intensive function that Sagart has assigned to his infixed -r- is descriptively adequate. The data I have supplied really seem to encompass the senses "disagreeable" or "disorderly," which Sagart has not identified. But I think there is a likeness between the durative ~ iterative sense found in much of Sagart's data and the sense of "disorder" in my examples (e.g., "row" > "disorderly row"), and there is certainly a simple connection between "disorder" and pejorative sense.

The semantic shifts exhibited in the present data do not seem to me precise enough to be called grammatical. The overall process is widespread geographically, although within each dialect where it is found it seems to be limited to a very small part of the lexicon, even when it is productive. It encompasses verbs, nouns, and adjectives, which shows that it is not limited to ordinary Chinese grammatical categories, and it involves a change in meaning that varies a great deal between specific examples. None of these facts definitively rules out considering the process morphological in origin, but I assert that it is better to call it a form of sound-symbolism, because of the variety of its manifestations and the hazy quality of the semantic shifts involved.

In sum, although I am not convinced this feature is actually a survival of ancient morphology--it may merely be a kind of sound-symbolism that happens to be common areally--nevertheless it would seem to be evidence of a process found in enough diverse varieties to be considered a feature of Common Chinese.


Both initial k- and sound-symbolic -l- appear to be well and broadly attested. No doubt future research on dialects and premodern sources, some now unknown to us and others known but unrecognized, will turn up more features of this kind, and the larger question of describing the detail of Common Chinese will progress in unexpected ways.

But there also remains the problem of the identity and origin of Common Chinese. I have defined it as a notional metasystem of the features of Chinese. Further, I have proposed that features should not be reconstructed into the early language unless they are either diversely attested in Common Chinese or at least attested in both modern and ancient evidence. But must all Common Chinese features necessarily be reconstructed into the early language? Is it not conceivable that features such as the *k- prefix were already reliquary by the late Warring States and Han, or existed only in varieties of language out of the mainstream?

If Chinese in an early stage really exhibited morphology, then why do early Chinese sources never describe it, as for instance early Indian sources do Sanskrit morphology, early Greek sources do Greek morphology, and early Roman sources do Latin morphology? (17) It is not as if late Warring States sophists failed to pay attention to their language; the Mozi, Xunzi, and Gongyang zhuan all teem with comments on the meaning and usage of grammar words, sometimes in absolute terms and sometimes comparatively (see the fine assembly of primary materials in Zheng and Mai 1964: 276-319). Indian, Greek, and Roman philologists, however, were deeply attracted not just to detailing usage but to identifying the patterns in morphological changes, which they described analogically in paradigms, a tool that has remained basic to understanding grammar in these inflected languages. Gragg (1995) has identified paradigms in the ancient comparison of Sumerian and Akkadian words, in Babylonian documents as old as the early second millennium B.C.E.

Where are the paradigms for Chinese? How is it possible that the Han-time authors of the profoundly systematizing Huainanzi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Chunqiu fanlu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Baihu tong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--so keen in their appetite for asserting patterns on all forms of knowledge--overlooked analogical order in language? (18) Or was there no such order in the language they knew? Syllabic writing, in use in the Eastern Mediterranean since the third millennium B.C.E., forces the writer to be aware of phonetic changes. We recognize that the Chinese writing system may have obscured all manner of morphological variation from posterity, but could it also have suppressed that variation? Could it have concealed morphological changes from the early Chinese themselves? Or did early Chinese of the late Warring States and Han in fact no longer have productive morphology?

To my mind, this is a case of the dog not barking. I hold that Chinese literary people of those days must not have mentioned morphology because there was none to mention in their mainstream spoken languages.

The traditions that I described at the beginning of this paper--one purely lexicographic, the other reconstructionist and paradigmatic--are fundamentally different outlooks. It is often possible to make good sense of the same data using either one. Let me take an example from the work of a contemporary scholar equally at home in both traditions. Edwin Pulleyblank, in his superb Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar, follows a syntactic approach to grammar, treating the many Classical particles in a way quite compatible with the lexicographic Chinese tradition. Describing certain pronouns, he writes,
 Shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] {dzyuk} (19) is one of a
 group of words in {-k} including ge [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN
 {ghwek} 'some,' and mo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
 {mak} 'none,' which are confined to preverbal position referring
 to the subject, and which usually select the subject
 from a larger group. (1995: 92)

He continues, describing the usage of shu and giving examples from early texts, and there are similar passages devoted to ge, huo, and mo (1995: 92, cf. 130, 134-36). It is characteristic of the lexicographic model to emphasize the grammar words individually and merely mention their shared features of usage and phonology in passing, if at all. That is how Chinese scholiasts have worked, up until the Song dynasty, when Jia Changchao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (998-1065) and Huang Zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1213-1280) began attempting to systematize the received lexicographical tradition of what we now consider derivation by tone change (Branner 1998).

But the paradigm-building frame of mind places analogy first and individual examples second, and so in Pulleyblank's recent article on morphology, he treats the {-k} ending as "a distributive suffix" and simply lists the four particles as a class, adding the rare particle shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] {dzyek} as a fifth member (2000: 41-42). Now, it may well be that shu, ge, huo, mo, and shi all have final {k} because final {k} is a distributive suffix. There are, to be sure, a hundred or more common Classical words ending in {k} and they do not all exhibit distributive function. But, lacking the evidence for a large-scale paradigm, any modern linguist will seek to construct a small-scale model exactly as Pulleyblank has, by generalizing from a small set of similar examples as a first start and hoping it will lead somewhere. Linguists of ancient India and the Mediterranean also attempted to make large-scale generalizations. Varro even occasionally reconstructed protoforms to account for anomalies in his paradigms.

But we find such generalization, large or small, nowhere in the received corpus of ancient Chinese scholia. I conclude that whatever morphology we are reconstructing for early Chinese had ceased to function in the mainstream of the language by the time of the texts representing that language.

In other words, I am proposing that this is a matter of diglossia--of high and low registers coexisting in spoken language. China, with its milliennia-long written tradition, must have known a close relationship between the high spoken register and the written language for much of that time. It would be alone among known literate cultures there had been no such relationship.

The issue of diglossia is important and, I think, has been too little addressed in the entire study of early Chinese. Ting Pang-Hsin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], commenting on Sagart's book, has asked how early Chinese could have had polysyllabic forms, when the Shijing and Shangshu use such consistently regular siyan line-structure (2002a, 2002b). (20) Although neither Ting nor Sagart say as much, I think the real answer to the problem of polysyllabicity and the characters is that the "high" diglossic style has long involved monosyllabic character-readings, while much more diverse forms have existed in regional speech. It is hard to read Yang Xiong's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Fangyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], for instance, without being struck by the sundry disyllabic forms that correspond to monosyllables in familiar written form. Virtually all of the evidence in the present paper is of the "low" diglossic variety, and I believe that the nature of the words involved points to low varieties in the early period, as well.

In sum, Common Chinese morphology, although we now begin to see evidence that it is solidly attested, must reflect realities of some diglossically low form of Chinese either older than or separate from the late Warring States and Han written corpora. Its application in the reconstruction of the high register of early Chinese may, after all, be out of place.

/[ka.sup.1] /[ka.sup.1]
 [tsua?.sup.8]/ [tsua?.sup.3]/
'cockroach' 'flea'
[TEXT NOT REPRO- [TEXT NOT REPRO- Huiji yasutong shiwuyin
 DUCIBLE IN ASCII] DUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1818: 4.80, 6.30);
[TEXT NOT REPRO- [TEXT NOT REPRO- Zengbu Huiyin (1820:
[TEXT NOT REPRO- [TEXT NOT REPRO- Dujiangshu shiwuyin
 DUCIBLE IN ASCII] DUCIBLE IN ASCII] (n.d.: 169, 41, 184);
-- -- Zengbu Huiyin miaowu

(a) The Zengbu Huiyin writes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for the
second syllable, but evidently is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]


 "the back" "person's behind" source of data
Teochew /[ka.sup.1] /[ka.sup.1] (Choy 1991:
 [tsia?.sup.7]/ [tshn.sup.1] 144-145);
Amoy /[ka.sup.1] /[kha.sup.1] (Douglas 1899:
 [tsia?.sup.7]/ [tshn.sup.1] 187, 189);
Zhangzhou /[kha.sup.1] /[kha.sup.1] (Douglas 1899:
 [tsia.sup.7]/ [tshui.sup.1] 187, 189);
Quanzhou /[pa.sup.1] /[kha.sup.1] (Lin Liantong 1993:
 [tsia?.sup.7]/ [tshn.sup.1] 227-228);
Longyan -- /[kha.sup.1] (original data). (a)

(a) For "back" Longyan uses a form /[au.sup.4] [pue.sup.5]
[tsia.sup.7]/; the expected form /[kha.sup.7] [tsia.sup.7]/
means "footprint."


Taiwanese: [gua.sup.3] [ka?.sup.7]
 "I" coverb: "with
meaning: "I'm telling you ..."

Taiwanese: [li.sup.3] [kon.sup.3]
 "you" "say"


Taiwanese: [kia.sup.1] [ka.sup.5]
 "frightened" suffix: extent
meaning: "scared to death"

Taiwanese: [be?.sup.7] [si.sup.3]
 "want to" "die"


Taiwanese: [gua.sup.3] [ka.sup.6]
 "I" prefix: direct obj.
meaning: "I ate the bananas up."

Taiwanese: [kin.sup.1]- [tsia?.sup.8] [a.sup.0]
 [tsiu.sup.1] [lo.sup.0]
 "banana" "to eat up" particle:
 new state


Taiwanese: [gua.sup.3] [ka.sup.6]
Mandarin: [TEXT NOT REPRO- [no corresponding
 DUCIBLE IN ASCII] particle]
 "I" prefix: (verb is
meaning: "I ate [it/them] up."

Taiwanese: [tsia?.sup.8] [a.sup.0]
 "to eat up" particle: new state

This paper was delivered on 20 August, 2002, at the llth meeting of the International Association of Chinese Linguists, at Aichi Prefectural University, Japan. My views on my data for the *-r- infix were discussed in my 1995 paper.

(1) I use the term "early Chinese" to refer to what is also called "Old Chinese" or "Archaic Chinese," because those terms seem to suggest a clearly defined linguistic entity. In fact, early Chinese is imprecisely defined, and is reconstructed using materials of greatly varying dates.

(2) Some Mandarin speakers, not from Peking, have told me that there is no difference between the qi forms. However, my informant was most insistent about the difference. For sources of dialect data, see the references, below. My views on the meaning and use of dialect evidence are discussed in detail in Branner 2000: 9-37.

(3) Like Mandarin, where the suffixed morpheme is identified as er [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 'son', some Min and dialects use a morpheme meaning "son" as a diminutive suffix, but the number appears to be rather more limited than is sometimes claimed. In particular, Minnan a does not seem closely related to the suffix [kia.sup.n] (Branner 1994, 1999d).

(4) For a concise discussion of diglossia, see Schiffman 1997.

(5) See Branner 1998 for extensive discussion of the intellectual history of this subject. Mei's 1980 essay on the subject is essential reading on the strata in the medieval evidence. For explanation of the various transcription systems used in this paper, see the references.

(6) All forms from Douglas 1899: 186-87; see also his crossreferences for fuller glosses. There is a list of sources of dialect data in the references at the end of this paper.

(7) Strictly speaking a Quanzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] word, not an Amoy word.

(8) Note that in spite of the basic meaning "foreign," not all words with the hu prefix in its written form necessarily refer to foreign things. Laufer, for example, names a number of plants that he says are native to China in spite of the presence of the prefix hu (1967[1919]: 195-202), and other examples are found in dialect. Here are some Wuzhai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] dialect names (where hu is rendered /[fu.sup.2]/) for familiar natural things that have a certain lowly or offensive quality:
 [fu.sup.2] [tshan.sup.1] 'garlic' (literally,/[fu.sup.2]/ +
 [fu.sup.2] [khi.sup.2] 'leech'
 [fu.sup.2] [sae.sup.2] 'fly (the insect)'

On the source of Wuzhai data, see the references.

(9) For details on the sources and phonology of my Longyan data, see the references. The tone value of the Longyan syllable /kat/ is ?? in all these cases, which could be tone /7/ or tone /8/, indistinguishable because the sandhi values are identical in most environments. However, before tone /3/, an underlying tone /7/ would be expected to be pronounced ??, so on this basis I have identified /kat/ in /kat ?? [tsau.sup.3]/, in "flea" as being in tone /8/ by elimination, and I assume /kat/ in the other examples is tone /8/, as well.

(10) The morpheme /[li.sup.1247]/ may be the same one in /[thau.sup.2] [li.sup.12147] [kin.sup.1] + a/ 'neck'. My practice in phonemicizing dialect data is to indicate a single tone category wherever possible. Where tone sandhi causes individual tone categories to merge, I try to determine the underlying value by reference to other words in the same dialect sample. Only when there is no clear way to distinguish the underlying tone do I write the tone value as a combination of numerals. (See Branner 2000: 405-6 for another statement of this practice.)

(11) As, for instance, in Peking shikelang 'dung beetle', Man darin qianglang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Kelang and qianglang are evidently both dimidiated forms of the same original *khlang.

(12) Besides its use as a possessive pronoun, qi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] has another important Classical usage as a modal particle. Matthews and Xu (2002) have identified what appears to me to be a similar modal function of Teochew /[kai.sup.2]/, although they have tentatively treated it as a pronominal copula.

(13) For sources of dialect data, see the references.

(14) For sources of Ilan dialect, see the references.

(15) Heine and Kuteva observe that Lahu's verb [ga [square root of]] "to arrive" is used in the same sense of "manage to do" (2002: 46) For details on the Lahu potential form, see Matisoff 1975: 233-34. Is it a coincidence that the Lahu form is phonetically similar to the Minnan bound form [ka [square root of]]?

(16) Peking dialect has a certain number of similar constructions using be instead of le.

(17) See general studies in Koerner and Asher 1995 by Kiparsky, Staal, Householder, and Taylor.

(18) The ancient tradition of wuyin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "five sounds" (gong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], shang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], jue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], yu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) seems to be musical in origin. It is attested in this sense by the time of the Mencius. Although in later periods it had a phonological application, it is not clear how far back that may go. The Qieyun kao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Chen Li [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1810-1882) lists some of the early phonological references to these terms (1966[1868]: 6.6b-8b) and none go back even to the Han.

(19) For the sake of consistency, I have replaced Pulleyblank's "EMC" reconstructions with my own "anti-reconstructional" transcription. EMC stands for Early Middle Chinese, Pulleyblank's name for a language reconstructed based closely on Qieyun categories.

(20) Neither Ting nor Sagart (2002) mention ligatures (hewen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the Zhru bronze inscriptions, in which a single compound graph stands for two distinct monosyllabic morphemes ordinarily written with two distinct graphs. Some of the most widely seen of these are numerals nian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], sa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], etc., which are fusions and may well have been pronounced as one syllable from an early date, but there are a number of others, by no means all of which are numeral fusions. (It is interesting that the Qin tetrasyllabic inscriptions are transcribed in the extant Shiji using [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which destroys the prosodic balance of the line; Shiji 1959: 6.243, 245, 249, 250, 252, 261. Were they indeed fusions in the original literary language, or were there actually more than four syllables in a four-stress tetrasyllabic line?) However, this point is minor in comparison with diglossia.



My romanizations in this paper are varied. Medieval forms are always placed in curly brackets {}. China's medieval phonological tradition is the earliest whole sound system we have for any type of Chinese; reconstructed early Chinese is, conceptually, derived in large part from the medieval system, with the addition of data from rhyming, character structure, and other sources. I illustrate phonological points in the main using medieval phonology, clothed in the direct transcription system presented in Branner 1999b. A few starred forms indicate Baxter's Old Chinese reconstruction, with *-s substituted for his *-h.

I use Postal forms for proper nouns that I judge reasonably well known in the field (Amoy, Foochow, Kienow, Peking) and Pinyin for all other Mandarin words. Dialect is generally transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Phonemic tone categories in dialect data are written in superscript after the syllable (e.g., [tsa.sup.4]); the eight common Chinese tone categories are numbered here as follows:
[upper register, or "Yin [TEXT NOT [lower register, or "Yang [TEXT
 IN ASCII.] {1} IN ASCII.] {2}
 IN ASCII.] {3} IN ASCII.] {4}
 IN ASCII.] {5} IN ASCII.] {6}
 IN ASCII.] {7} IN ASCII.] {8}.


Amoy [Xiamen] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Important city in southern Fukien. My primary source for Amoy is Douglas 1899. I have adapted Douglas's romanization system to IPA, using mainly the phonetic values described in Tung 1960: 737-91. Two exceptions are Douglas's "eng" and "ek," which I have retained as / en / and / ek /; Tung writes / in / and / ik /.

Foochow [Fuzhou] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] City. The data here are taken from Maclay and Baldwin (1870) and Li Rulong et al. 1994.

Ilan [Yilan] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. County in northeastern Taiwan. Informants come from villages in the border region of Chiao-hsi [Jiaoxi] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Chuang-wei [Zhuangwei] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] townships. Villages represented:





Data collected mainly between 1986 and 1995, in Ilan, New York, and Seattle. Some data from my Ilan notes appears in Branner 1999a and 2000.

Kienow [Jian'ou] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a city in northeastern Fukien. Source: Pan 1994.

Longyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. City in western Fukien, whose dialect belongs to the northern variety of Minnan. Principal site: Xibei Tiaiowei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] a village near the city limits, whose speech is essentially that of the city proper. Principal informant: Mr. Chin Yizhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 78 (?) sui in 1992, village intellectual. Extensive unpublished survey by myself with Yeo Shujen, 1992-95. Some of the Longyan material has appeared in Branner 1999a and 2000.

Peking, a.k.a. Beijing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The dialects spoken in this city provide the phonological and syntactic basis for the standard language called Mandarin in English, but differ from it considerably in some areas of lexicon. My principal informant for Peking dialect forms is Mrs. HUANG Yi [Huang Yi] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], born 1929, a native of the Xizhimen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] district, in fieldwork between 1994 and 1996 in Seattle. Other data from this survey appear in Branner 1999c.

Quanzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. An important city northeast of Amoy. Data used here are from Lin Liantong 1993; the material labelled "Cn" (Chinchiang [Jinjiang] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in Douglas 1899 is occasionally cited, though of uncertain reliability.

Shangzhuo. Shanghang Guanzhuang Shangzhuo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], western Fukien. Informant: Mr. Lin Huanzhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 50 sui in 1992, museum official. Long survey, 1992-95. Other data from this survey appear as "Guanjuang" in Branner 1999a: 47-51.

Teochew [Chaozhou] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], city in eastern Kwangtung. Source: Choy Chun-ming 1991.

Wuzhai. Longyan Wan'an Wuzhai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], village in western Fukien. Informants: Mr. Teng Yongyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], b. 1928, retired middle-school teacher (principal informant); Ms. Teng Xiqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 27 sui in 1993, teacher; Mr. Teng Zhijian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 49 sui in 1993, local official. Long survey with Yeo Shujen, 1993-1994. Much Wuzhai data appears in Branner 2000.

Zhangzhou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. An important city west of Amoy. Data used here are from Douglas 1899, adapted as described in the entry for Amoy, above.


Ang Ui-jin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1993a. Quanzhou fangyan yunshu sanzhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Minnanyu jingdian cishu huibian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Taipei: Wuling chuban youxian gongsi.

--. 1993b. Zhangzhou fangyan yunshu sanzhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Minnanyu jingdian cishu huibian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Taipei: Willing chuban youxian gongsi.

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Chen Li [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1966[1868] Qieyun kao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in Yinyunxue congshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (rpt. Taipei: Guangwen Shuju).

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Kong Guangsen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1966[ca.1800] Shi shenglei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], in Yinyunxue congshu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (rpt. Taipei: Guangwen shuju).

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Zheng Dian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Mai Meiqiao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1964. Gu Hanyu yufa ziliao huibian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Peking: Zhonghua shuju.

Zhou Zumo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. 1966[1946]. "Sisheng bieyi shill [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Wenxue ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Peking: Zhonghua shuju, 1966). Pp. 81-119.


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Date:Oct 1, 2002
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