Wén bái yì dú 文白異讀 (Literary and Colloquial Readings)
(3,739 words)

The terms “literary reading” (wéndú 文讀) and “colloquial reading” (báidú 白讀) refer to different readings (“pronunciations”) of the same character depending on whether it represents a morpheme in the colloquial or the literary lexical layer. Thie phenomenon is widespread in Sinitic languages and has existed for a long time. In his 11th-century book Guī tián lù 歸田錄 [Recordings of my return to the fields], Ōuyáng Xiū 歐陽修 (1007–1072) notes that in ordinary speech, including that of well-educated people, the common verb 打 ‘hit, do’ is pronounced as an open syllable (ancestral to modern )…

Cite this page
Hsiu Fang YANG, “Wén bái yì dú 文白異讀 (Literary and Colloquial Readings)”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 17 February 2019 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000446>
First published online: 2015

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