The Roots of Old Chinese

Laurent Sagart | C.R.L.A.O., Paris
ISBN 9789027236906 (Eur) | EUR 110.00
ISBN 9781556199615 (USA) | USD 165.00
ISBN 9789027284495 | EUR 110.00 | USD 165.00
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The phonology, morphology and lexicon of late Zhou Chinese are examined in this volume. It is argued that a proper understanding of Old Chinese morphology is essential in correctly reconstructing the phonology. Based on evidence from word-families, modern dialects and related words in neighboring languages, Old Chinese words are claimed to consist of a monosyllabic root, to which a variety of derivational affixes attached. This made Old Chinese typologically more like modern languages such as Khmer, Gyarong or Atayal, than like Middle and modern Chinese, where only faint traces of the old morphology remain.
In the first part of the book, the author proposes improvements to Baxter's system of reconstruction, regarding complex initials and rhymes, and then reviews in great detail the Old Chinese affixal morphology. New proposals on phonology and morphology are integrated into a coherent reconstruction system.
The second part of the book consists of etymological studies of important lexical items in Old Chinese. The author demonstrates in particular the role of proportional analogy in the formation of the system of personal pronouns. Special attention is paid to contact phenomena between Chinese and neighboring languages, and — unlike most literature on Sino-Tibetan — the author identifies numerous Chinese loanwords into Tibeto-Burman.
The book, which contains a lengthy list of reconstructions, an index of characters and a general index, is intended for linguists and cultural historians, as well as advanced students.
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 184] 1999.  xi, 255 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
“[...] the scholarly community should be pleased to have the views and a wealth of etymological suggestions of this prominent sinologist available in the form of a book [...]”
“[...] a major achievement in Chinese linguistics [...] Sagart's book belongs on the shelf of every serious Chinese historical linguist and many Asian language comparativists. It presents the best reconstruction of OC available [...]”
“[...] an invaluable abundance of information together with challenging and clever proposals.

[...] an ansolute pleasure to read and should interest not only Sinologists but also linguists concerned with the reconstruction of the internal history of languages.

“This is a truly significant book for East Asian historical linguistics and is necessary reading for all specialists in the field.”
“This is easily the most important book on the Old Chinese lexicon since Karlgren's Word-Families [...] and the most challenging contribution on Old Chinese morphology ever written. It deserves to be taught and tested, applied or amended, by whoever reads Old Chinese texts.”
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CF: Linguistics

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LAN009000: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
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