Exploring the dynamic aspect of sound change
Edited by Zhongwei Shen 沈钟伟 著
The ten studies in this monograph mostly are revised versions of the sixteen papers presented at the Conference on Chinese Historical Syntax, Stanford, 17th -18th March 1995. This monograph begins with the opening remarks delivered at the conference by Professor William S-Y. Wang, who reviews the state of the art in the study of the evolution of language and its relationship with the study of cognition. The second paper is by Professor Victor Mair who talks about Ma Jianzhong and his motivations in writing the earliest Chinese Grammar in the 19th century. Professor Frank Hsueh’s paper deals with the implications for word order, conjunction, and passivity of the grammatical status of the Classical Chinese verb complement. The subsequent five papers integrate the historical studies with the studies of modern Chinese dialects. Professor Mei Tsu-Lin discusses the dialectal basis of some of the constructions in the Zen Buddhist text Zutangji. Professor Lisa Cheng, James Huang, and Jane Tang, in a joint paper, examine how negative particle questions evolved in history and vary in different modern Chinese dialects, interacting with the verbal aspectual system. Professor Jiang Lansheng employs dialectal information from many modern Chinese dialects to prove that me么 and 们 men share the same origin. Professor Samuel Cheung reviews sources of Early Cantonese materials and the derivations of some Cantonese grammatical elements. Professor Lien Chinfa studies the evolution of the Southern Min tit 得 in light of a set of data taken from Middle Chinese and Early Mandarin texts. Two papers deal with the issue of the genesis of the Chinese verbal suffixes. Professor Cao Guangshun investigates various factors that may bear on the issue, and Professor Ping Chen reconstructs the historical path along which the Mandarin zhe[zhu] 著 became grammaticalized. The editor’s paper discusses the historical changes that ba went through in Middle Chinese and Early Mandarin and the function of ambiguity that it serves in semantic changes.
One paper on zhe by the editor was replaced by the ba paper to avoid having three papers related to the genesis of verbal suffixes. All the other papers that were presented at the conference but not included in the current monograph were omitted due to the extraordinary length of the papers or because the authors chose not to be included. I apologize for the constraints on the length of the papers as is required by the publisher.
Sound change, as any other change, is a gradual process. The importance of time in the study of sound change has been noted by many linguists. Extensive discussions about the time dimension of sound change can be found in many articles about sound change, e.g., Hoenigswald (1960) and Chen (1972). However, because of the discrete nature of historical documents, very little information about the exact process can really be obtained. In fact, what we learn from these documents are often merely the stages of sound changes: before the change, at various static moments during and after the change. What we cannot learn is the actual workings of a dynamic process which spreads the change from an old form to a new form in a phonological system. Thus the process of sound change therefore is more or less like a black box to us. We can observe what goes in and what comes out from it, but we can never make a direct observation of what is going on inside the black box. It is inevitable that the discussions of the process of sound change are often very abstract and without strong empirical evidence.
It should be obvious that a most interesting aspect of the study of sound change is to explain its internal mechanism. Thus, a better understanding of the process will help us greatly in analyzing various phonological patterns and irregularities observed in historical documents.
1.1 Sound change
1.2 Major hypotheses
1.3 Efforts devoted to solve the controversy
1.4 The existing problems
1.5 The necessity of using numerical methods in the study of sound change
3.1 The Importance of Time in the Study of Sound Change
3.2 Getting Time from no Time?
3.3 The Critical-age Hypothesis
3.4 The Problems
3.5 Linguistic Age and Calendar Age
4.1 The preparation for a phonological test
4.2 Shanghai /ã/ and /?/ merger
4.3 Wenzhou /ø/ and /øy/ merger
4.4 Some Preliminary Tabulations and Observations of the Data
5.1 Diffusion Process of Sound Change
5.2 The S-shaped Diffusion Curve
5.3 Applications of S-curve
5.4 Quantitative Modeling
5.5 The Curve Fitting
5.6 Results of Curve-fitting
6.1 How to Understand the Numbers
6.2 What Do the Differences Mean?
6.3 The Bootstrap Procedure
6.4 The Estimation of Pseudo Parameters
6.5 Discussions and Summary
One of the significant issues raised by the lexical diffusion theory is what the mechanism of sound change is. In order to understand the change mechanism better, this study starts with examining of the basic concepts of the theory of lexical diffusion, and the evidence that supports the theory. After careful consideration of the old evidence, we realized that 1) to prove the viewpoints of lexical diffusion, we need richer data drawn from speech communities, and 2) to account for the dynamics process of sound change requires a diffusion theory at a population level.
8.1 Towards a Theory of Dynamic Diffusion
8.2 The Findings
8.3 Lexical Irregularity and Lexical Diffusion
8.4 Lexical Irregularity and Lexical Regularity