Deng - Divisions/Grades

Deng (等) is known as Divisions or Grades in the literature about Chinese historical phonolgy. It is generally agreed that they are to do with the vowels within a rhyme group of Chinese characters. Unfortunately, there are different interpretations from a number of authors on this subject.

The Deng are represented in two equivalent ways for Chinese and Western writers. The first uses Chinese numerals, 一, 二, 三 and 四, whilst the others use the capitalised roman numerals I, II, III and IV respectively.

Some authors think that each Division represents one type of main vowel type. Others think that there is a difference in palatisation (due to the a [i] glide or medial) between the Divisions. It is thought that Deng I and II are the least palatased, whilse III and IV are more palatised. Of the latter, IV is most heavily palatised, and the vowel there is reflected by being higher than that in Division III. Similarly, the vowel in Division II may be higher and more fronted than that of Division I. This is more or less the view put forward by Bernhard Karlgren.

This can be summarised as follows.

Division I Low main vowel.
Division II Slightly fronted and/or higher main vowel than for Deng I.
Division III Palatised low/central main vowels
Division IV Strongly palatised with more fronted higher main vowel
Table 1.

There are other very different interpretations. Deng I may be back vowels, Deng II low vowels, and Deng IV front mid vowels. This leaves Deng III which is palatised (adding of a medial [i] for instance) with any vowel from Deng I, II and IV.

Division I Back vowels
Division II Low vowels
Division III Palatised, vowels as those found in Deng I, II, IV
Division IV Front mid vowels
Table 2.

Initials : Guangyun Rhymes : Inner and Outer Series : She : Deng : Rhyme Tables : Chinese

© Dylan W.H. Sung
This page was created on Thursday 18th January 2001 and recently updated on Thursday 25th April 2002