Technical Notes on the Chinese Language Dialects
The notes given in this section pertain to the Chinese languages, Mandarin, Wu, Yue, Hakka, Min, Gan and Xiang. The sounds are represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and where I am able, there are romanisation equivalents provided.
Phonology of the Seven Major Dialect Groups of Chinese
References and Maps
- biblio.htm Recommended readings and reference works consulted whilst writing the articles in this section of the site.
- chinasch.htm Schematic maps of China
Official Romanisation Schemes
Four romanisation systems of the major dialects of Kwangtung (Cantonese, Hakka, Ch'ao-chou and Hai-nan) were invented (Wên-Tzû Kai-Ko [ 文字改革 Writing System Reform ] , 1960)..., p.29, "The Hakka Dialect", Mantaro J. Hashimoto, 1973. ISBN 0-521-20037-7. The Hanyu Pinyin romanisation for Mandarin Chinese was passed as early as 1958.
- bpmf.htm 漢語拼音方案 Chinese (Mandarin) Phoneticisation Scheme
- gzhhpy.htm 廣州話拼音方案 GuangZhou Dialect (Cantonese) Romanisation Scheme
- chaozhou.htm 潮州話 拼音方案 ChaoZhou Dialect Romanisation Scheme
- meixian.htm 梅縣話拼音方案 Meixian Dialect ( 客家 / Kejia / Hakka ) Romanisation Scheme
- chindate.htm (Chinese Big5) Rulers of China, past and present, mythical and some that should be mythical.
- chindate-utf8.htm (Unicode UTF8) Rulers of China, past and present, mythical and some that should be mythical.
International Phonetic Association Symbols
Historical Chinese Phonology/Philology
Chinese characters have been used for over three thousand years. However, they do not contain accurate information about how they are pronounced in the past. By far the greatest development was the introduction of initial and rhyme transcription (fanqie) to fix a sound for each character. In the last hundred years, the use of western linguistics has provided us with a glimpse of how Chinese was pronounced 1400 years ago, through the work known as GuangYun (1008 AD), an expanded form of the rhymebook QieYun of 601 AD. Qieyun had been lost until recently when fragments were found in a cave near DunHuang, in north eastern China. It documents the period in Chinese phonology known as Middle Chinese. The sound system of MC is found below with reference to GuangYun, and later Chinese philological ideas of vowel and rhyme classificiation.
The initials are representative characters whose initial phoneme is representative of all sounds begining with that phoneme.
- Guangyun Rhymes
GuangYun consists of five main volumes, two volumes contain all the rhymes in the Ping Tone because there are so many characters which are in this tone; one volume each for the other three tones (Shang, Qu and Ru). A character is found by selecting the correct tone, the rhyme and the the initial. There are 206 different rhymes listed in all. We provide a list of characters under each main rhyme (irrespective of the tone).
- Inner and Outer Series
When the later Chinese philologists came to study the phonological information contained within GuangYun, they found that the pronunciations had changed. They began to group similar rhymes together, according to the main vowel and the type of endings. With this grouping, the rhymes then had different vowels to account for. The concept of inner and outer series was used a Chinese solution to distinguish an aspect of the rhyme's vowel that we today would have used phonetic symbols for.
As mentioned immediately above, the rhyme groupings brought many rhymes together according to their endings. She provided a convenient shorthand.
DengYun or the study of the divisions was a later development, and by far the most difficult and controversial to explain in modern times. Two viewpoints have been given so you can make your own mind up.
- KaiKou and HeKou
The distinction of an open and close syllable in Chinese philology is important.
- GuangYun Initials
How 31-51 GuangYun Initials become the Song Dynasty 36 Initials
- Rhyme Tables
The icing on the cake. See how initials, rhymes, tones, deng and inner/outer series are used.
GuangYun Rimes with supplementary characters from Karlgren's Etudes sur la Phonologie Chinoise. It is hoped that this provides a easy page where character's GuangYun rhyme is easily located within its 61 rows. (Some mistakes have been found, but not corrected - beware!)
Similar to the above, except there are none of Karlgren's characters. (Some mistakes have been found, but not corrected - beware!)
ShiYun Rhymes for use in poetry and prosody.
A brief history of Chinese Character Dictionaries
Chinese Phonological History - a table summary of dictionaries/lexicons
Chinese Numbers and Phonology in Sino-centric and Sino-zenic countries.
An Index to "Études sur la phonologie chinoise " by Bernhard Karlgren
Books on Seals and Seal Script
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This page was last modified on Thursday 25th April 2002