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date: 21 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Although the Chinese textual record provides relatively direct evidence of early Chinese vocabulary and syntax, the nature of the nonalphabetic Chinese writing system obscures the tremendous changes in pronunciation that have occurred over the past 3,000 years. We now know that the phonological structure of Old Chinese— the Chinese of the first millennium BCE—was strikingly different from all modern forms of Chinese. This chapter describes the basic sources and methodology for the reconstruction of Old Chinese phonology, the history of the field through the 20th century, and the most recent developments that have radically transformed our understanding of Old Chinese phonological structure. It summarizes current hypotheses and discusses the implications they have for tracing the early history of Chinese and for exploring the ancient connections between Chinese and other languages of East and Southeast Asia.

Keywords: Old Chinese phonology, reconstruction methodology, sources, history of Old Chinese reconstruction

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