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Shànghǎi, The Language of

(2,221 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
The language of Shànghǎi, China's most densely populated city, is at once highly typical of the Wú 吳 dialects in the central coastal region to which it belongs, while also having a distinct set of characteristics that give it a singular identity within the linguistic milieu of the territory. As in most Wú dialects, the Shànghǎi dialect has a strict division between upper ( yīn 陰) and lower ( yáng 陽) tonal registers, a 入 tone in which all syllables end in a glottal stop, and a plain negative with a labiodental initial: [vəʔ12]. Also like its neighboring Wú dialects, Shànghǎi has a tr…
Date: 2017-03-02

Rime Tables and Rime Table Studies

(4,387 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
Rime tables ( děngyùntú 等韻圖 ‘graded rime syllabary tables’) embody a traditional system for representing the phonology of Chinese that has had a deep and lasting influence on the study of historical Chinese linguistics. The rime tables have provided many of the basic conceptual tools and terminology used in the theory and methodology of Chinese phonology even today, as well as presented scholars with a rich source of evidence about the nature of Chinese pronunciation and its evolution from the earl…
Date: 2017-03-02

Mandarin, Varieties of

(5,702 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
The word ‘Mandarin’ is used quite broadly in reference to varieties of Chinese. In present day usage it is a common English term for modern Standard Chinese. Thus where one will say in Chinese that one is learning Pǔtōnghuà 普通話, or Hànyǔ 漢語, or Huáyǔ 華語, or Guóyǔ 國語, or even Zhōngwén 中文, popular English usage is apt to refer to these as ‘Mandarin’ and not simply ‘Chinese’. Modern Standard Chinese is a Mandarin based language; but 'Mandarin' encompasses much more. Among specialists, Mandarin refers to the most widely distributed group of Chinese dialects, the Mandarin dialects or Guānhuà fāng…
Date: 2017-03-02

Tonal Notation, Premodern

(3,107 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
The various types of tonal notation for Chinese have always been aligned with the Chinese tradition regarding tones and their categories. Among them, there are essentially three general strategies: to mark tone by category using name or number, by the use of added marks or diacritics, or by spelling convention. The oldest method is to simply indicate the tone category— píng 平, shǎng 上, 去, 入. Sometimes an upper and lower register distinction is indicated, as qīng 清- zhuó 濁, yīn 陰- yáng 陽, or shàng 上- xià 下. Almost as old in origin is the use of circular marks to identify the to…
Date: 2017-03-02

Dialect Islands

(1,953 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
Dialect islands in a broad range of sizes, compositions, and origins frequently punctuate the various territories of the major Chinese dialect groups and sub groups. A wide variety of historical, social, and geographic factors led to the development of these dialect islands. They were often formed when migrating peoples, or refugees from war or environmental catastrophe, moved into previously devastated and abandoned territories or across new or changing landforms. Dialect islands in China thus …
Date: 2017-03-02

Transcription Systems: Gwoyeu Romatzyh 國語羅馬字

(4,274 words)

Author(s): Richard VanNess SIMMONS
Gwoyeu Romatzyh (Guóyǔ Luómǎzì 國語羅馬字) was the 'National Language Romanization' developed in the early 20th century during the first decades of the Republic of China. Frequently referred to as 'GR', Gwoyeu Romatzyh was the capstone of efforts to provide an infrastructure for the promotion of a unified national language. Developed primarily by Yuen Ren Chao 趙元任 (Zhào Yuánrèn 1892–1982), but with significant support and input from other contemporary scholars, GR represents the culmination of sophis…
Date: 2017-03-02