字音講求聲 (initials)，韻 (finals)，調 (tones) 須合。若有一項不合，須從音變規律求證。陳氏提出十五項音變規律。 粵音或狹義之廣府音接近唐代音，又稱中古音韻。唐代字音可由唐，宋韻書推算。今網上資料多源自宋代《廣韻》。創造於宋代以後之近代字則須由明，清韻書尋音。 若音，義俱近，更可從鄰近方言、語言比較引證。
Cantonese or Guangzhou City Cantonese is one of a language varieties of Chinese used in southern China. Waves of Chinese speakers began populating the remote southern China from central China since two thousand years ago. They developed a spoken language distinct from the official common language of the times. Today, Cantonese is a de facto common language for Hong Kong, Macao and a substantial part of overseas Chinese population.
As a highly used spoken, non-alphabet based language, colloquial Cantonese has inevitably overtaken written form development. Cantonese has borrowed sounds and words not only from the official common language but also from the neighbouring or foreign languages. Sound shifts in spoken Cantonese rendered words with forgotten or missing written form. The articles in this blog is a log of efforts to rediscover the original Cantonese written characters.
The principle of Original Character is based on the research and methodology published in a 1998 book by Professor Doctor CHAN Pak Fai, University of Macao. The three requirement for a candidate to be considered as the Original Character for a particular word are the matching of word components, pronunciation, and definition. Word definition comes readily from dictionaries on old Chinese and supplemented by usages in classical literature. Candidates to be considered must be similar in meaning or close enough by extension to the target word.
Professor Chan did not elaborate on the subject of word components. Word components have been documented since the late Han Dynasty. Chinese scholars have classified them into Six Writings (六書) which is applicable to the modern Traditional Chinese characters. The introduction of Simplified Chinese characters diminished the usefulness of the Six Writings, rendering matching word components difficult to do.
Pronunciation of Chinese characters can be broken down into the initial, final and tonal sounds. For a candidate to be considered as the Original Character, the three components must match the target pronunciation. A mismatch in any one of them would require further research into sound shift patterns. Professor Chan described fifteen shift patterns which are used by the articles in this blog.
Since Cantonese in general is related to the Tang Dynasty common language, a.k.a. Middle Chinese, the articles here look for pronunciations from Chinese rime dictionaries of the period. The Guangyun (廣韻) dictionary of the early Sung Dynasty is useful in modelling the pronunciation of the characters in existence since the Tang Dynasty. It is also widely used as a reference by a number of online resources. For those characters created after the Tang Dynasty, dictionaries of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are used. After taking known sound shift patterns into consideration, if the pronunciation of the candidate is close but not exactly matching, it has been helpful to look at neighbouring Chinese language varieties or dialects for irregular sound shifts.
Rime dictionaries marked pronunciations with the Fanqie (反切) system. The Fanqie in the Guangyun models what the Sung people thought the proper Tang Dynasty pronunciation should be. The flow chart above demonstrate the steps these articles took to examine word candidates in the original book.
Linguist Wannabe 翻書仔
August 2018 二零一八年八月