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Does Vietnamese have evidence for OC *-r?

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image of Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale

Specialists in Chinese historical phonology have claimed that some Vietnamese words with final /-j/ come from Old Chinese words with final *-r. This is reasonable to speculate as Proto-Austroasiatic finals *-r and *-l became final /-j/ in Vietnamese, parallel to the case in Sinitic. However, these Vietnamese words offer little evidence for OC *-r. Vietnamese did borrow a number of Late Old Chinese or Early Middle Chinese words reconstructed with final *-r after *-r merged with *-n in Eastern Han or later, and thus these words also have /-n/ in Vietnamese. Several other Vietnamese words with final /-j/ which are possibly from Old Chinese words having *-r were borrowed earlier in the BCE period, likely before large migrations of Sinitic speakers arrived. Those words include verbs and an adjective, words less likely than nouns to be borrowed without large bilingual communities. The small number of words and general uncertainty suggests some Vietnamese words with /-j/ purportedly from Old Chinese words with *-r may be chance similarities. Few are probable Chinese loanwords from that period.

Affiliations: 1: Montgomery College


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