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Network Perspectives on Chinese Dialect History

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Chances and Challenges: 從演化網絡的角度來研究漢語方言史——機遇與挑戰

Little is known about the history of Chinese dialects. Major dialect groups were identified long ago using various traditional criteria, such as tonal and segmental development from their presumed common ancestor; however, scholarly agreement about their detailed development is largely lacking. At the core of the problem lies the role that language contact played in the history of Chinese. Unlike in the case of other language families, the Chinese dialects never really separated into distinct, independent languages, but kept evolving in close contact to each other. As a result, it is hard to tell whether traits shared among the dialects have been inherited or borrowed. Recent network approaches from a biological perspective could show a way out of this dilemma, since they were specifically designed to handle vertical and horizontal aspects in bacterial evolution, and the first pilot studies in historical linguistics have reported promising results. In this paper, a case study on the application of network approaches in Chinese historical linguistics is presented. Based on a dataset of 200 basic items translated into 23 Chinese dialect varieties, competing proposals for Chinese dialect classification are compared and tested for general plausibility. The results of the comparison show that network approaches are a useful supplement for quantitative and qualitative approaches in Chinese historical linguistics. In order to reach their full potential, however, the underlying evolutionary models need to be more closely adapted to linguistic needs, and additional evidence, like geographic information, needs to be taken into account. (This article is in English.) 提要 目前,學界對漢語方言歷史的了解還不夠完整。語言學家運用各種傳統方法與標準,試圖從假設的共同祖語來擬定聲調或音段的發展,從而界定主要的方言區。但是,有關聲調、音段的發展細節,學界尚遠未達成共識。學者們意見不統一的主要原因在於語言接觸在漢語方言歷史上所扮演的角色。漢語方言的情況跟其他語言不一樣:它們從來沒有真正分開過,也從來沒有獨立地發展,而是不斷在相互影響中演變。因此,我們很難確定方言之間的共同特征是從祖語繼承而來的還是從其他方言中借過來的。最新的生物學演化網絡方法可以作為借鑒,這昭示出歷史語言學一個新的探索方向。這類方法運用縱向及橫向網絡以了解細菌的演化過程。語言學家開始運用這些方法來研究語言的發展,并已獲得可喜的初步成績。本文以漢語方言作為專題研究,運用演化網絡方法來分析漢語歷史語言學的問題。在具體操作上,我們精心挑選了200個核心詞彙,並在該基礎上建立了23種漢語方言的數據集。隨後,筆者針對漢語方言的各種分類理論作出了不同的比較和測試,從而判斷其普遍合理性。比較的結果表明,演化網絡方法對漢語方言史的定量和定性研究起到了舉足輕重的補充作用。為了充分發揮其潛力,我們需要建立更適合語言學研究的演化發展模型,例如加入地理信息等其他佐證,才能夠更全面、更細緻地描述漢語方言的歷史演變。

Affiliations: 1: cnrs-crlao-inalco-ehess, 法國國家科學研究院


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