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Open Access Re-examining the Devoicing of Middle Chinese Voiced Initials in Hakka: When and Where?

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Re-examining the Devoicing of Middle Chinese Voiced Initials in Hakka: When and Where?

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The voiced stops and affricates of Middle Chinese have basically shifted to their voiceless aspirated counterparts (henceforth, “devoicing”) regardless of tone categories in the following dialects:1. the Hakka dialects;2. the Gan dialects;3. various Mandarin dialects spoken along the Shanxi-Shaanxi-Henan border;4. a small group of Mandarin dialects in southeastern Jiangsu; and5. a northwestern dialect spoken in the Late Tang period.It has been claimed that the above-mentioned dialects are closely related, based on the fact that they have undergone the same development of the Middle Chinese voiced stops and affricates. In this paper, we argue that the devoicing of Hakka took place in southern China, probably in modern-day southern Jiangxi, some time between the early 10th century and the late 17th century. The devoicing pattern shared by Hakka and other Chinese dialects should therefore be treated as parallel development rather than as evidence for closer genetic affinity among all these dialects.


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