MA course 2014-2015

History of Chinese linguistics


Jeroen Wiedenhof


General information

See the Leiden e-Prospectus

and the Course Fact Sheet

Time and venue

Time: First semester, Block 2, Wednesdays 11:15 am-1:00pm

Venue: De Vrieshof 4, Room 007


Block 3

Week 1 (5 Feb 15)

Intro / Speaking and writing in China

Language is communicated through sound waves, and writing is a visual medium. How do they match?

When language is put to writing, some elements from speech are preserved and some are lost. Also, the visual signal will contain elements which were absent in the spoken original.

In Chinese linguistics, the majority of our sources are written in Chinese characters. In this first session, therefore, we will explore how language comes to us through the Chinese script.


Study suggestions

Time management: do not underestimate assignment #5 below. It may involve more reference checking than would seem at first glance.


Please make sure you prepare your answers to all questions & assignments in writing.

1.  Read the assigned chapter from Jerry Norman's Chinese.

In preparing this text, please check that you are familiar with

  • technical terms in English and in Mandarin (including the corresponding Chinese characters);

  • names and dates for dynasties, historical periods and historical figures;

  • geographical designations.

Note down any difficulties you may have in reading the text, and bring your notes to class.

2.  On p. 58, the origins of Chinese characters are outlined.

a.  In English, do you know a term for the study of writing systems? And in Mandarin?

b.  Can you name (at least) three families of scripts, i.e. writing systems of the world which (as far as we know) developed independently?

c.  Is the oracle bone script the undisputed precursor of the modern Chinese character script?

d.  Can you name (at least) seven different Sinitic languages?

Please give the English and in Mandarin names for each of these, as well as the Chinese characters (简体 & 繁體) for each name.

e.  What is the oldest Sinitic phase which has been reconstructed in phonological detail? Please give (approximate) dates.

f.  Is the language encoded by the oracle bone script the undisputed precursor of the modern Sinitic languages?

3.  The ideographic notion, i.e. the notion "that Chinese characters in some platonic fashion directly represent ideas rather than specific Chinese words" may be "patently absurd" (pp. 60-61), but it is immensely popular nonetheless.

Find a reference (in print or online) which clearly demonstrates, or is clearly based on, the ideographic notion.

a.  From this source, note down one specific statement or claim demonstrating this notion.

b.  Formulate a counter-argument against this specific statement or claim, basing yourself (at least in part) on the information in section 3.1.

4.  Pages 67-69 introduce the 說文解字.

In one or two sentences, summarize the significance of this work

  • for the study of the Chinese script; and

  • for Chinese lexicography.

5.  On p. 76, please study Table 3.6 carefully, including the notes on p. 77.

a.  Can you read all characters listed in the Table?

For your reference: 國際電腦漢字及異體字知識庫 / International Encoded Han Character and Variants Database.

b.  Can you give more recent examples of individual characters created in order to "adapt[..] the traditional script to the modern language" (p. 75)?

6.  In note 8 of p. 81, please define the term homophonous in your own words.

7.  In note 10 of p. 82, it is noted that "the alternation of words beginning with sh and r in a single phonetic series is unusual".

Find one example of this unusual type of alternation in the traditional character script.

8.  In the same note 10, consider the example of ràng 'to allow' again.

Note that "ràng" is italicized, but " 'to allow' " is placed within single quotation marks.

a.  In your own words, formulate the difference between these typographical conventions.

Which linguistic units do they represent?

b.  Can you list other typographical conventions, representing other linguistic units?

For each unit, give English and Mandarin names, as well as the Chinese characters (简体 & 繁體).

c.  Is there also a typographical convention which represents items as orthographic units, i.e. as the written forms of a script?



The 9th T.W.I.S.T. Students' Conference of Linguistics

Date: 10 April 2015

Web: Call for papers / due 28 February 2015

Week 2 (12 Feb 15)

Corresponding with Heaven: The early scribes

At the dawn of history, humans were fully modern in the anatomical and in the neurological sense. Their brains and their languages were as complex and as diverse as they are today. There were just fewer speakers.

Even at this early stage, the world must have been teeming with linguists. We know nothing about their theories, but their legacy remains with us today, for they created the first writing systems.

The art of writing was invented more than once, and the puzzle how to represent sound and meaning in graphs has been solved in very different ways. The Chinese case offers us a rare insight in the tenacity of some cultural artefacts.

This week, we will:

  • study the material culture which produced a script whose characteristics have survived into the digital age;

  • consider the challenges of interdisciplinary studies; and

  • learn how to introduce a text dating back more than three millennia to a modern audience.

Click left \ right to enlarge
Source: Lindqvist, China: Empire of living symbols (2008)



Reading notes

9.  In case you need help with the Wade-Giles spelling:

– for systematic guidelines & conversion, see Appendix D in Grammatica van het Mandarijn; or

– for ad-hoc conversion, see e.g. the Chinese Text Project's transcription-conversion tool.

10.  In case you need help with the sexagenary cycle:

– for systematic guidelines & conversion, see Tables 9.3 & 9.4 in Grammatica van het Mandarijn; or

– for ad-hoc conversion, see e.g. Wikipedia's Stem, Branch and Stem-Branch tables.

11.  "Wu Ting's reign" (Keightley 1985: 1):

Wikipedia has a list of Shang Kings.


– Keightley (1985):

12.  Read the assigned texts from David Keightley's Sources.

In preparing this text, please check that you are familiar with

  • technical terms in English and in Mandarin, including the corresponding Chinese characters,
  • – e.g. "hsin-wei, eighth day of the week";
  • names and dates for dynasties, historical periods and historical figures

    – e.g. "Wu Ting";

  • geographical designations

    – e.g. "the powerful Ho".

For hints and suggestions, please consult the Reading notes.

Note down any difficulties you may have in reading the text, and bring your notes to class.

13.  In the illustration above, the left bottom half shows the inner side of an oracle bone, and the top right half shows the outer surface of the same shell.

Either half is clickable to show a full view.

In these photos, please identify the "series of hollows" (Keightley 1985: 18) and "the characteristic pu 卜-shaped crack" (ibid.).

14.  On p. 50, it is explained that "[a]s a rule, the inscriptions appear to have been carved above, or to the side of, the pu cracks and on the side of the crack which lacked the transverse branch".

Can you confirm this general rule for our "月㞢食" text?

– Lǐ (1989):

15.  On the basis of 李圃 Lí Pǔ's helpful notes, read and prepare an English translation of the oracle bone text "月㞢食".

Please note down any difficulties encountered in Lǐ's commentary.

16.  Oracular text, line 4, character 2:

In your own words, define the relationship between the character 㞢 and the character 有.

You should minimally formulate what you know on the basis of Pǔ's comments, combined with your own experience.

In this connection, also compare last week's comments on character adaptations.

For more background, you may consult Djamouri (1992).

17.  Like all historical Chinese styles of writing, the oracle bone script has remained in use in calligraphic traditions up to this day.

This modern calligraphy (click to enlarge)

combines Oracle Bone writing (甲骨文 jiágǔwén) and Running Script (行書 xíngshū), showing this week's ""月㞢食" text in both styles.

Can you tell when this scroll was created?

Week 3 (19 Feb 15)

Doing right by a script: The tools of lexicography

Last week, we saw how the invention of writing was embedded in technological and economic change.

This week, we will explore early advances in Chinese lexicography against the backdrop of philosophical and political developments In Qín 秦 and Hàn 漢 times.


From Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia


許慎 Xǔ Shèn, 說文解字 Shuō wén jiě zì [Discussion of simple characters and analysis of complex characters]

Edition: 说文解字: 附检字 Shuō wén jiě zì: Fù jiǎn zì [Discussion of simple characters and analysis of complex characters: With a character index].

北京 Peking: 中華書局 Zhōnghuá shūjú, 1963.

East Asian Library number: SINOL. 5093

Available in the Leiden East Asian Library: see teachers' shelves.


Hand-in Assignment #1

Imagine that:

  • the five fragments pieced together to form last week's oracle bone were shown in a museum exhibition, and
  • you were asked to write the accompanying object label, intended for an English-speaking museum audience.

On the basis of your work for last week's assignments, prepare a text which could serve as that object label. This text should minimally include:

  • information about the age and the provenance of the object;
  • short remarks about the type of text and the language of the inscription;
  • a full translation of the "月㞢食" text.

Hand in your work, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 19 February, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.

Please note the format requirements.

Small is beautiful: maximally one page (A4).

18.  Individual items

Beni, Lotte: Your backlog assignments for week 1 are due next Wednesday, 18 Feb 15, at 5:00pm.

19.  Recovered from last week's "FYI" section: assignment 17.

The assignments for this week's Lexicography session are below.

A friendly reminder: make sure to prepare all your answers in writing!

20.  Read the first two texts:

    • Galambos' Chapter Two, "The Qin and Han creation of the standard" and
    • the Wikipedia article "Shuowen Jiezi".

Note down any difficulties you may encounter in these two texts, and bring your notes to class.

21.  The third title is a modern reprint of the 說文解字.

(a) Have a good look at this book, which is currently available from the teachers' shelves in the Leiden East Asian Library.

(b) Check that you understand how the work is organised.

(c) Find the characters , , and in this dictionary.

Write down the page numbers and the dictionary's definition of these characters.

22.  Check if you can find a complete edition of the 說文解字 online.


Talking about lexicography: Brill has just published

Paul W. Kroll, A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese

Publication: Leiden: Brill, 2015, xvi + 714 pp., ISBN: 9789004283657

Web: paperback / hardback

Week 4 (26 Feb 15)

Mapping the sounds: Time travel in phonology

In the first three weeks, we looked at the division of labor between language and script in linguistic research. Since the spoken and the written word are easily – and often unwittingly – confused, the written word can be the curse of synchronic work.

But in the diachronic study of language, written words are a true blessing. The farther we look back, the more we have to rely on writing as the sole surviving witness of utterances which are no longer audible. And in the Chinese case, these blessings are plentiful.

This week we look at recent work in phonological reconstruction. The main challenge of this field: to figure out what the earliest forms of Chinese sounded like.





23.  Individual items

Beni: For now, limit yourself to Baxter & Sagart (2014), and forget about Norman's (1988) text on historical phonology.

Instead, make sure to catch up on your linguistic transcription. I will be sending you separate instructions by email.

Myrthe: Check with your fellow students for their classroom notes for week 3.

Your backlog assignments (## 20-22) are due next Wednesday, 25 Feb 15, at 5:00pm.

Please note the format requirements.

24.  Recycled from last week's extra-curricular work – now no longer avoidable!

Learn your Ten Stems and Twelve Branches by heart.

At the beginning of class on Thursday, you need to recite both series from memory – in Mandarin, hence: with tones.

Needless to say, you need to be able to write the 10 + 12 = 22 corresponding characters as well.

However, you do not need to memorize the full 60-item sexagenary table. We will see why, and discover how assignment 17 is really a piece of cake.

The assignments for this week's Phonology session are below.

Make sure to prepare all your answers in writing!

25.  Note down any difficulties you may encounter in these two texts, and bring your notes to class.

– Norman (1988):

26.  On p. 23, Norman mentions early work by Bernard Karlgren.

(a) Check which other works by Karlgren are available at the Leiden University Library.

(b) Check that you remember Karlgren's Chinese name (see your classroom notes from last week's session).

27.  The 反切 fǎnqiè system is explained on pp. 27-28.

Imagine that you are explaining this notation system to someone who is interested to know how it works, but does not know any Chinese language.

Make your explanation as short and concrete as possible:

maximally four sentences, and based on one concrete example.

28.  The development of tone is explained in section 2.7 (pp. 52-57) and summarized in Table 2.12.

(a) Check that you understand all Chinese terminology.

(b) For a Chinese language of your choice, check the correspondes between its tones and the system shown in Table 2.12.


– Baxter & Sagart (2014):

29.  Check which other works by William Baxter and Laurent Sagart are available at the Leiden University Library.

30.  As you saw in this week's Background references, Baxter produced a comprehensive and well-referenced reconstruction of Old Chinese in 1992.

On the basis of your reading of Chapters 1 and 2 of Old Chinese: A new reconstruction, explain in your own words what motivated the publication of a new reconstruction in 2014.

Development notes: For future runs of this course

  • Here is a short explanation of the Julian-to-Gregorian calendar switch.

    You can watch the disappearance of 11 days on an October night at Leiden in this visualization by Starry Night Pro Plus.

  • Can you explain the logo of the book?

  • Facsimile edition in the Chinese Text Project Library:



Week 5 (5 Mar 15)

Probing the meanings of yore: The xùngǔ tradition

We have surveyed the three pillars of traditional Chinese linguistics: character etymology, lexicography and phonology.

Together, they constitute the foundation for mainstream Chinese philology, or xùngǔ 訓詁.

This week we examine the integration of semantics within this discipline, and look at the sometimes precarious position of the study of meaning.




31.  Individually

Beni: I am sending you (by email) my comments on your transcription assignment. Have a good look at these first.

    Then, do a re-run of the Hand-in Assignment #01, paying attention to these conventions.

    Due date: next Thursday, 5 Mar 15, at 9:15pm in class.

32.  Remaining from last week: assignment 30.

33.  Note down any difficulties you may encounter in this week's two texts, and bring your notes to class.

In particular, pay attention to:

  • Technical vocabulary
  • Classical Chinese phrases
  • Titles of works quoted in these texts

You do not need to write out full translations of these texts, but you should be prepared to interpret them viva voce in class.

– Encyclopedia (1988):

34.  At the bottom of p. 231, we read how Lù Démíng broke with a philological tradition in his Jīng diǎn shì wén; and how, in its turn, a revolution became a convention.

Describe this turn of events in your own words: maximally three sentences.

35.  In cauda venenum: the final paragraph describes how later editions of the Jīng diǎn shì wén dealt with Lù's intentions.

Again, describe this turn of events in your own words. Maximally two sentences.

– Pān (1992):

36.  Why does this modern text start out in Classical Chinese? What would be the likely source for this opening passage?

37.  Check the 合计 mentioned in the first line of p. 133 and correct the error.

38.  For the character , first mentioned on p. 134, find the origal 經典釋文 text for first of the six references listed on p. 135.

Suggestions & hints

Online text editions can be found e.g in the Chinese Text Project:

    • The "Title search" box is in the bottom left-hand corner.
    • Try "經典釋文" and find a facsimile edition.

39.  Don't forget to do some preparatory work for your term paper.

Make a list of possible topics and research questions, and bring your plans and ideas to class.

Week 6 (12 Mar 15)

Review & prospects

As we near the end of Block 3, we look back on our progress so far and tie up some loose ends.

The main purpose of this session will be to prepare you for relevant work on your theme paper during the Spring Break.

Also, your suggestions for themes to be covered in Block 4 will be much appreciated.

Development note / For future runs of this course

To be considered as a replacement for Casacchia (2006):

David Prager Branner, "On early Chinese morphology and its intellectual history".

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Societyof Great Britain & Ireland Volume 13, Issue 1, 2003, pp. 45–76.

Available from the Leiden University Library.


Casacchia (2006)

G. Casacchia, "Chinese Linguistic Tradition"

In: Keith Brown, editor-in-chief, Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics.

Elsevier, 1994, second edition 2006, pp. 358–362.

Available online at the Leiden University Library. (and yes: you should be able to find it yourself! ;-)


40.  Individually

Beni: In the meantime, I trust you have purchased your own copy of Norman (1988).

    Catch up on your reading for Week 4, i.e. the phonology chapter.

    If you encounter any problems in this text, please let me know by next Thursday.

41.  This week's text is one of the very few comprehensive accounts of Chinese linguistics available in English. – Thanks to Rint Sybesma, who pointed this article out to me.

As you will see, we have already covered much of the ground covered in this review.

Therefore, do pay special attention to contents that we have not yet addressed, and bring your reading notes to class.

This article may also provide inspiration for the following:

  • your suggestions for Block 4 (since this seminar is still under construction, and your ideas are most welcome);

  • your ideas for the term paper of this course (details below).

42.  Remaining from last week: assignment 39. In that connection, note the following:

All: For next Thursday, formulate you research question in one sentence.

For now: the narrower, the better.

Also, be prepared to unfold your plans (theme, methodology, literature) to your fellow students in class.

Beni: you have indicated that you want to write your term paper on linguistic missionary work.

Please bring your own secondary-literature suggestions to class.

Joren, Lotte, Myrthe: you have indicated your interest in the 1956 Open Letter of the 文字改革委員會.

Check your email for further suggestions and see if you can make this the subject of the Open Letter into a collective project.

If yes: make a first draft for a division of labor.

Or if not, please bring your own suggestions for a thesis subject.


Thanks to Wolfgang Behr, who pointed this work out to me 

Giorgio Casacchia and Mariarosaria Gianninoto:

Storia della linguistica cinese

Venezia: Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina, 2012

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London have published a insightful guide to gallery-text writing.

Thanks to Dick van Broekhuizen, who pointed this text out to me

Lucy Trench, editor:

"Gallery text at the V&A: A ten point guide"

London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013

Week 7 (19 Mar 15)

Alien inspiration: South and west

Throughout human history, contacts between China and the Indian sub-continent were maintained through the caravan routes in Central Asia, circumventing the Himalayas, and providing long-distance trade and cultural exchange.

The early spread of Buddhism from India lead to a flurry of translation activities in China, supervised by missionaries familiar with Indian phonology, morphology and syntax.

This week, we will discover how classical Indian grammar studies influenced linguistic traditions along the Silk Road network – and beyond.

In addition, you will present the subject of your term paper to an interested lay audience.

Development note / For future runs of this course

To be considered as a replacement for Zürcher (1959: 23-43):

Erik Zürcher, "Late Han vernacular elements in he earliest Buddhist translations".

Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association 12, 1977, pp. 177–203.

Reprinted in Jonathan Silk, ed., Buddhism in China: Collected papers of Erik Zürcher.

Leiden: Brill, 2013, pp. 27-61.

Both editions are available from the Leiden University Library; the 2013 edition including an online version.


Pp. 23-43 from Chapter 2 "Historical survey"

E. Zürcher, The Buddhist conquest of China: The spread and adaptation of Buddhism in early medieval China.

Volume 1: Text; Volume 2: Notes, Bibliography, Indexes

Leiden: Brill, 1959 (or later editions).

The third edition (2007) of this two-volume work can be read online in the Leiden University Library. This library also has printed copies of the work on loan.

The original (1959) edition is available from the teachers' shelves in the East Asian Library.

"Response to Trautmann"

Fragments: Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of ancient and medieval pasts.

Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Volume 1, 2011, pp. 21-30.

For page references, see the PDF.


Itkonen (1991)

"India" = Chapter 2

Esa Etkonen, Universal history of linguistics: India, China, Arabia, Europe.

Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1991, pp. 5-87.

Reading notes

– Zürcher (1959):

43.  The notes to the text in Volume 1 can be found in Volume 2.

There is a list of abbrevations for journals and book titles in Volume 2, pp. 441-442.

44.  For the "eastern extension to the continental silk road", compare the map on p. 42.

– Baxter (2011):

45.  Baxter's text was written in response to Trautmann (2011), which appeared in the same volume of the journal Fragments.

Session set-up

Today's session will consist of two parts:


Oral Presentation

On 19 March, as as announced, a very short oral presentation will be expected of you about the subject of your term paper.

Points of consideration:

  • Your presentation will be in English
  • Maximum duration is five minutes – please time yourself in preparation!
  • Your target audience intelligent and interested, but not necessarily trained in linguistics or in Chinese. Fellow students from other departments may be invited to listen in.
  • A short handout for the audience will come in handy, because it will save you time writing on the blackboard (please prepare 5 copies)
  • Powerpoints are allowed, but only after prior consulation (over email) – also note that setting up your system will cut into your five minutes!
46.  Individually

Beni: You have indicated an interest in the linguistic achievements of missionaries from western regions.

a.  Make up for last week's assignment 42: formulate you research question in one sentence, and hand in a printed version at the beginning of class on 19 March.

b.  In your presentation (see above), be sure to include a short appreciation of the secondary literature suggested to you last week.

c.  This week's theme provides the earliest documented instance of linguistic missionary activity in Chinese history. Be sure to spot any social, cultural and linguistic parallels which may be relevant to your subject.

d.  In terms of method, too, aim to benefit from the rigor of Zürcher's approach. Note, for example, the neat division of labor between primary sources, secondary sources, and original analysis.

Joren, Lotte, Myrthe:

a.  For this week's presentation, you can share 3 x 5 = 15 minutes between the three of you, as long as you have a clear division of labor.

b.  As discussed last week, by way of "research question", you still need to formulate a purpose for your joined project. Succinctly: preferably in one or two sentences.

– Zürcher (1959):

47.  For a general background, you can read the whole of Chapter 2, but this is not required as coursework.

In class, we will concentrate on pp. 23-43; however, there will be references to other passages in Chapter 2.

Note down any difficulties you may encounter in the text, and bring your notes to class.

48.  At the top of p. 30, consider the Chinese names of the two Indian missionaries mentioned "in a late tradition".

Can you tell what principles are at work in the translation of these two names – and in their Mandarin transcriptions?

49.  On p. 24, identify the Chinese characters for 'Buddha, Buddhist' in the "extremely corrupt passage on India" from the 西戎傳.

a.  Compare this term with the list on top of p. 40. Which variant corresponds to the modern Mandarin term for 'Buddha'?

b.  For the modern term, check for the Middle Chinese and in Old Chinese readings in the Baxter-Sagart reconstruction .

50.  Zürcher lists a number of reasons 安世高's Chinese translations of Buddhist scriptures are "in several respects highly interesting" (p. 34).

a.  His last item on this list is the linguistic relevance of these materials. Formulate this challenge in one sentence.

b.  Has this challenge been taken up by linguists since the publication of The Buddhist conquest?

51.  A "primitive transcription system" for Sanskrit names and for untranslated technical terms is discussed on pp. 39-40, and contrasted with "the highly developed and normalized trancription systems [sic] of much later times".

a.  Can you give modern examples of the "marked tendency to use a certain restricted number of characters for transcription purposes" (p. 40)?

b.  This passage reflects on the differences between the Chinese script and alphabetic traditions.

Can you name two different (i.e. unrelated) examples of Chinese writing developing into a new script on phonetic principles?

– Baxter (2011):

52.  Note down any difficulties you may encounter in the text, and bring your notes to class.

53.  In Figure 1, pick one horizontal line of your choice which meets the following condition:

on both pages of the 韻鏡 manuscript, left and right, it lists minimally four characters.

a.  For each of the characters in this line, check for Middle Chinese and Old Chinese readings according to the Baxter-Sagart reconstruction of Old Chinese .

b.  What is the function of the large white-on-black character to the left of your line?

And what is the function of the circles in your line?

(In case of doubt, check the texts and backgrounds of Week 4).

c.  Your line of characters is divided into six sections.

As Baxter indicates, the order of these sections is "strikingly like that of the Brahmi alphabet" (Response, p. 21).

An overview of the Brāhmī alphabet, with IPA equivalents, can be found at Omniglot.

This script has a long history in China. Here is a sample from a tenth-century Chinese - Khotanese phrasebook discovered at Dūnhuáng.

Now, check Baxter's claim against your line of characters, and provide modern phonetic terms for these sections.

54.  On p. 29, we read that Pāṇini's original sūtras "resemble low-level computer language".

In what way?

55.  Baxter's account of Pāṇini's influence on Chinese phonology (pp. 21-23) serves as a backdrop for his evaluation of Indian theoretical contributions to European and American linguistics (pp. 23-30) .

Please summarize that evaluation in two sentences.


Boodberg reference from last session:

Peter A. Boodberg

"The Chinese Script: An Essay on Nomenclature (the First Hecaton)" 

Studies presented to Yuen Ren Chao on his Sixty-fifth Birthday

Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica

Volume 29, pp. 113-120.

East Asian Library code: SINOL. 15.300.

Available in the Leiden East Asian Library: see teachers' shelves.

Block 4

Week 1 (2 Apr 15)

Bureaucrats talking: The emergence of Mandarin

At the end of Block 3, our tour of the classical period ended with an early example of cross-cultural linguistic influences.

In Block 4, we will focus on pre-modern developments. Some early records of this history belong to another wave of cross-cultural exchange, mediated by European missionaries in Asia.

This week, we will focus on the emergence of the language which was to shape our modern image of Chinese: the vernacular of the Mandarins, China's imperial officialdom.


Coblin (2000)


Pulleyblank (1984)

  • "The history of 'standard Chinese' "

  • "The phonology of Pekingese"

In: Edwin Pulleyblank, Middle Chinese

Vancouver: Universiy of British Columbia Press, 1984.

  • "The history of 'standard Chinese'" = pp. 1-4
  • "The evidence for Old Chinese" = Chapter 2, pp. 41-59

Available from the East Asian Library, on the linguistics handbooks shelves.


Page numbers followed by a slash and the letter L or R (e.g. "p. 537/L") indicate the left or right column on the page.

A friendly reminder: prepare your answers to all questions & assignments in writing.

56.  Check your progress with the term paper, and bring any question to class.

57.  Be sure to identify and look up linguistic terms as well as historical names and events you are unfamiliar with, and/or to brush up your knowledge on these items.

58.  Provide your own English translations for each of the book titles mentioned on p. 537/R.

In the remainder of the article, keep checking that you understand the titles of all works discussed.

59.  As mentioned in Four tones (Chinese), the 入 tone (p. 538/L) is labeled as "entering AKA checked" in English.

Consult your notes from Block 3. Can you explain the etymology of the Chinese term and the source of the English labels?

60.  Please summarize the conclusion at the bottom of p. 538/R in your own words.

61.  On p. 540/L, the Arte de la lengua mandarina and Vocabulario de la lengua mandarina by Francisco Varo are mentioned.

Check if modern editions of both these works are available – and if so, who are the editor(s).

62.  On p. 542/R, it is explained that "the zhèngyīn system of ca. 1450 was based not on the pronunciation of a single dialect or area but was instead a composite entity".

(a)  What could be the reason that a purported linguistic standard is in fact composite in nature?

(b)  Cite both advantages and drawbacks of a standard of this nature for its speakers;

and for linguists of later generations.

(c)  Can you cite other (historical and/or modern) examples of composite linguistic standards in China?

63.  As noted on p. 543/L, Jiǎng Shàoyú 蔣紹愚 has pointed out that for historical stages of Chinese, "spoken material has [...] been accessible only indirectly through the medium of the literary sources".

(a)  Please paraphrase this statement in your own words, and/or give an example.

(b)  Compare this state of affairs with the status of spoken materials in the description of the modern standard language as it arose in the twentieth century.

What sources for spoken Mandarin were linguists using in, say, the 1950s?

64.  Please give a (short!) summary of the etymology of the modern perfective particle le as described on p. 548.

65.  In the short abstract of this article (p. 537), it is explained that the text exposes a "flawed" view about the provenance of standard Mandarin.

In linguistics as in any other branch of scientific research, flawed views are problematic only inasfar they cannot be falsified; otherwise, their very falsification helps science progress.

(a)  Is there a difference in meaning between the terms

standard Mandarin as used here ("in its oldest sense", p. 537/L);

standard Chinese as used by Pulleyblank (1984: 1); and

Modern Chinese?

If so: please indicate the difference(s).

And if not: check if these terms differ in other way (e.g. style, user base, varieties of English)?

(b)  Give examples of flawed views in the field of language reconstruction (not necessarily Chinese) which have since been falsified.

(c)  Give examples of views in linguistics which cannot be falsified.




The 9th T.W.I.S.T. Students' Conference of Linguistics

Date: 10 April 2015


Week 2 (9 Apr 15)

Diamonds from Sand City: Dūnhuáng's linguistic treasures

In week 6 of Block 1, we saw how the desert trails connecting India with China were busily travelled by merchants and monks, artists and adventurers.

This week, we zoom in on the oasis town of Dūnhuáng 敦煌, a.k.a. 沙州 Shāzhōu 'Sand City', whose Mògāo 莫高 caves has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1987.

One of the first scholars who realized that this site harbored a priceless linguistic time capsule was the Hungarian-born Briton Stein Márk Aurél, later Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943).

Initially attracted to Dūnhuáng by its Buddhist art, Stein chanced upon a cave full of manuscripts and prints in 1907. Today, the study of Dūnhuáng documents remains a fascinating multi-disciplinary field.

Text and audio

Susan Whitfield, "Stein's Silk Road legacy revisited".

In: Asian Affairs, Volume 40, no. 2, 2009, pp. 224-242.

Available online at the Leiden University Library.

方廣錩 Fāng Guǎngchāng, "敦煌遺書數字化的現狀, 基本思路, 目前實踐及設想 / Status, basic concepts, current practice and tentative plan for the digitization of Dunhuang manuscripts"

Opening keynote lecture, 6 September 2014, of the "Prospects for the study of Dunhuang manuscripts: The next 20 years" Conference held at Princeton University.

For a local copy of this lecture, click "Download video" inside the web-player window.

Note, however, that the recording has audio only.

Reading notes

Whitfield (2009):

66.  The map shown on p. 225 is available online as a scalable color map from the British Library.


  • Volume II, Texts

  • Volume IV, Plates

    Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E., Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China

    Oxford: Clarendon, 1921.

    Available in the Leiden East Asian Library: see teachers' shelves.

Susan Whitfield, Aurel Stein on the Silk Road

London: British Museum Press, 2004.

Published at the occasion of the British Library exhibition "The silk road: Trade, travel, war and faith".

Includes a glossary.

Available in the Leiden East Asian Library: see teachers' shelves.

International Dunhuang Project: "Conservation of the Diamond Sutra".

Uploaded on Youtube on 27 May 2009.

Fascinating footage on the multi-disciplinary challenges of preserving the world's oldest dated printed text.

More video's from the IDP are available at their Youtube channel.


Hand-in Assignment #2

Write a short first draft of your term paper. Hand it in, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 9 April, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.

Please note the format format requirements.

  • Maximum length: 2 sheets A4
  • Please do not not write text about your paper, but text for your paper

Please keep the scope of this version restricted – you can always elaborate later.

Make sure you hand in at least two more draft versions during term.

The more versions you hand in, the more feedback you will get.

My pigeonhole (at the Arsenaal building, first floor) is available for your (printed!) work at any time during term.

As mentioned in class: please feel free to discuss your plans and ideas, but do not wait until the last moment to make an appointment.

66.  Read Whitfield (2009) and bring your reading notes to class.

67.  Make a list of all language names mentioned in this text, restricting yourself to languages spoken natively in the areas explored by Stein.

For each of these languages, look up their genetic affiliation (language family, subgroup, branch etc).

For some assistance, try the Linguistic Toolbox at the bottom of this page.

68.  Listen to Fāng's (2014) keynote speech and bring your listening notes to class.

69.  In two or three sentences, summarize what Fāng considers to be the major challenge(s) for the digitization of Dunhuang manuscripts today.

70.  Two volumes of Aurel Stein's original work of 1921 are available in the EAL (teachers' shelves).

First, have a good look at these works.

In Volume IV: Plates, check that you understand the page numbering system.

On page C of Volume IV: Plates, find the photo of the "printed roll" at the lower half of the page;

on the same page, find Stein's inventory number for this item;

and in Volume II: Text, under the same inventory number, find Stein's detailed description of the item.

Now, establish whether Stein himself realized the historical significance of this particular scroll.

71.  The International Dunhuang Project (IDP) has uploaded a high-resolution image of the same scroll, which contains the full Chinese text of the Diamond Sutra.

This webpage includes a digital facsimile edition of the scroll, along with a full English translation of the sutra.


On the IDP page, if you click on "NEXT IMAGE" once,

you will have reached the last line of the printed text, indicating its date of publication. (to see more details, click "LARGE IMAGE")

This line of text is lacking in the IDP translation, but you will find an English translation in the short but useful introduction to the Diamond Sutra by the Silkroad Foundation.

(a) Correct the Silkroad Foundation's English translation of the Chinese date.

(b) Find the name of the emperor ruling the Táng 唐 at the time of publication of this scroll.

(c) Use the Chinese-Western calendar converter provided by the Academia Sinica, Taiwan, to check if the Julian date give by the Silkroad Foundation is correct.

(d) Check if you can tell on what day of the Julian week this Chinese edition of the Diamond Sutra was published.

72.  Individual items

Beni: Stein's Volume II: Text notices that the sutra scroll was "in excellent preservation and complete".

Elaborate conservation was undertaken in the years 2003-2010, as shown in a British Library video on the Conservation of the Diamond Sutra.

Now, compare Stein's original picture with the photo taken at the British Museum in the mid-1970s.

Can you point out what type(s) of restoration or conservation work had been performed by that time?

Joren: There is a short Chinese text preceding the translation of the Diamond Sutra itself.

What does the first line say?

Lotte: Among the Dunhuang manuscripts, there are detailed drawings of hands held in many different positions.

(a) Find one of these drawings in Stein's Volume IV: Plates.

(b) Do they depict hand positions or hand gestures? What was the purpose of such drawings?

Myrthe: Aurel Stein was not only a trained philologist, but also a skilled archeologist, "recognizing the importance of careful excavation, of stratigraphy and of recording each find's location" (Whitfield 2004: 18).

(a) In two or three sentences, describe the technique of stratigraphy. When did this technique originate?

(b) What is the Chinese term for 'archeology'? And what does it literally mean – morheme by morpheme?

Development notes: For future runs of this course

Literature to be considered:

Peter Kornicki, Sandars Lectures 2008 – especially "Lecture 2: Bluffing your way in Chinese.



The 9th T.W.I.S.T. Students' Conference of Linguistics

Date: 10 April 2015


Week 3 (16 Apr 15)

Museum excursion: The material culture of the character script

Thursday 16 April 2015

Today Dr. Oliver Moore will receive us at the

Museum Volkenkunde

Note today's time & venue:

Time: we meet at 9:30am

Venue: Museum Volkenkunde, Steenstraat 1, 2312 BS Leiden

Week 4 (23 Apr 15)

Pride and priorities: Traditions in the study of Chinese

The study of language requires close collaboration with a variety of disciplines. Over the past few weeks, our examples have included archeology, astronomy, literature, philology, art history, geology and religious studies.

These cross-discipline relations vary over time and – perhaps even more so – across cultures and regions. As a consequence, defining the scope and domain of linguistic research has always been subject to widely different assumptions and attitudes.

This week, we reflect on a number of similarities and differences between native and non-native traditions in Chinese linguistics.


Available at the Leiden University Library.

East Asian Library: linguistics handbooks shelves.

Reading notes

73.  On the meaning of the term 行用 on p. 108 of Sūn e.a. (2007), see this Baidu page.


74.  Please note down any difficulties you may encounter in these two texts, and bring your notes to class.

– Unless indicated otherwise, all assignments are about Sūn e.a. (2007).

75. Can you spot anything remarkable about the publishing details printed on page ii?

76. How would you characterize the first paragraph of p. 108?

77. On pp. 109-111, tone is established as the main criterion for a division of Sinitic dialect groups. Are other criteria available?

To answer this question, please consult pp. 181-182 of Jerry Norman, Chinese (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988; on the East Asian Library's handbooks shelves).

78. Are the two tabels on p. 111 given in phonetic or phonemic transcription?

79. Please check carefully if the overview of Peking Mandarin initials, finals and tones on p. 111 is complete.

80. On p. 113, the general lack of "形变" is described for Peking Mandarin.

Can you name a productive morphological process in Peking Mandarin nonetheless?

[Note: check the meaning of productive as a linguistic term]

81. The overview of Cantonese tones on p. 113 (lines 4-6) is followed by a number of examples.

(a) Make an inventory of all the 入声 tones given here. For each of these, please

  • give the tonal values according to the five-point scale used in the text;
  • cite the example, providing transcription, Chinese character, and English translation;
  • try to pronounce the example, and check your pronunciation with a Cantonese speaker.

(b) Please check if all 入声 tones that you can think of are covered in this overview.

  • If the answer is yes, please provide your own examples, citing free (not bound) forms only.
  • If the answer is no, please write down any missing tones, indicating their tonal values according to the five-point scale used in the text.

82. In note 1 of p. 115, the original table quoted and reproduced here is supplemented by one extra possibility. Can you give more?

83. Please make sure that you understand all technical terms in the section on 六书 on p. 116.

84. On p. 124, please identify 王力 and 俞敏.

85. On p. 126, please identify 陈第.

One of his most famous quotes, repeated below, was covered in Block 3. Now, provide your own English translation.

Development notes: For future runs of this course

Literature to be considered:

Peter Peverelli, The history of Chinese grammar studies – especially Chapters 2 & 3.




Jessica Rawson

The Steppe and the Silk Roads: China’s Interactions with its neighbours

Dates: 4-9 May 2015

Manchu in Leiden

Manchu symposium & Exhibition

Date: 7 May 2015

Venue: East Asian Library, Arsenaalstraat 1, Leiden

Week 5 (30 Apr 15)

Mandarin blue: Chinese linguists in the Cold War

On the morning of December 7, 1941, a surprise air attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i, sparked off American involvement in the Second World War.

Apart from the material challenges, the United States were also confronted with a serious linguistic problem: there was an essential lack of personnel trained in the languages spoken at the Asian front. Substantial federal funds were allocated to remedy this situation.

After the war, army language manuals were converted into university textbooks, and with continued funding, a new and influential generation of oriental linguists arose among the former Allies in the United States, in Russia and in Western Europe.

This week, we will read – and hear – about a Chinese language program initiated by the British army. Between 1951 and 1962, some 300 National Servicemen were enlisted for training in spoken Mandarin and sent out to Hong Kong to perform voice interception work.






Hand-in Assignment #3

Write a second draft of your term paper. Hand it in, printed on paper, at the beginning of class on 30 April, or in my pigeonhole beforehand.

Please note the format format requirements.

My pigeonhole (at the Arsenaal building, first floor) is available for your (printed!) work at any time during term.

As mentioned in class: please feel free to discuss your plans and ideas, but do not wait until the last moment to make an appointment.

– Hunt e.a. (2007):

86.  Read the assigned sections and bring your reading notes to class.

87.  On p. 8, we read about the linguistic recrutes' "immersion in the Chinese language".

(a)   On the basis of your reading of the assigned sections, please evaluate the appropriatenes of the term "immersion" to characterize the educational methods of the Joint Services School for Linguists.

(b)  On the basis of your own experience in Chinese language training, please comment on the relevance of "immersion" as a didactic device today.

88.  Consider the table on p. 60, illustrating tone transcription in GR.

(a)   For each row, check which of the four forms might be considered most basic.

(b)  Explain the pattern that emerges, and explain the exceptions to that pattern.

89.  On p. 70, please identify the "two authors", listing at least two other linguistic publications for each.

90.  In Appendix C, provide English translations for the Mandarin test sentences #3 and #7.

– Buchanan (2010):

91.  Listen to Buchanan's (2010) radio report and bring your listening notes to class.

92.  Check if the Mandarin song (0'28") contains any hints of linguistic change over the past half century.

– Swofford (2010):

93.  Transcribe the first two paragraphs (42 words) of Dàshuǐ Guòhòu / After the Flood in Gwoyeu Romatzyh.


The story of how "the German Enigma machinese were unlocked" (Hunt e.a. 2007: 3) were the subject of a recent film:

The Imitation Game (2014)

Development notes: For future runs of this course

  • Assignment:

##.  Apart from the name, can you identify the publisher of Hunt e.a. (2007)?

  • Assignment:

##.  Please reflect on the use of the term linguists in the title of Hunt e.a. (2007).

Hint: try to point out similarities and differences between the meanings of English linguist and, for instance, yǔyánxuéjiā in Mandarin or taalkundige in Dutch.

Week 6 (7 May 15)

Library excursion: Early sources in Chinese and about Chinese

Thursday 7 May 2015

Today Drs. Koos Kuiper, Curator for Old Chinese and Japanese Printed Books and Manuscripts, will receive us at the

East Asian Library, Van Gulik Room


We meet in our usual classroom, and at the usual time.



Jessica Rawson

The Steppe and the Silk Roads: China’s Interactions with its neighbours

Dates: 4-9 May 2015

Manchu in Leiden

Manchu symposium & Exhibition

Date: 7 May 2015

Venue: East Asian Library, Arsenaalstraat 1, Leiden

Development notes: For future runs of this course

Xùngǔ or xúngēn? The "paradox of nativised orientalism"

  • McDonald (2011)

  • "Keeping Chinese for the Chinese: The paradox of nativised orientalism in Chinese linguistics"

    = Chapter 6 of Edward McDonald, Learning Chinese, turning Chinese: Challenges to becoming sinophone in a globalised world

    London: Routledge, 2011, pp. 133-152.

    Available from the Leiden East Asian Library: see teachers' shelves.

Korean & Japanese contacts

  • Irwin (2011) [minimally the following sections:]

    "Introduction" = Chapter 1 (pp. 1-22) and "East Asian borrowings" = § 2.5 (pp. 61-67).

    Mark Irwin, Loanwords in Japanese

  • Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011.

Available from the Leiden University Library.

Linguistic toolbox


 Languages of the world

 Proofreading symbols


 Linguistic transcription



 IPA Chart with sounds


Updated 24 June 2015 | home