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Notes on Chinese Words in Shorto’s Proto-Austroasiatic Reconstructions

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Title:Notes on Chinese Words in Shorto’s Proto-Austroasiatic Reconstructions
Authors:Alves, Mark
historical linguistics
Date Issued:03 Dec 2018
Abstract:This paper evaluates Chinese lexical data in Shorto’s 2006 Proto-Mon-Khmer reconstructions to prevent misapplication of his reconstructions, which in a few dozen instances are based on problematic data that affect or even refute his reconstructions. First, Shorto notes about 20 Chinese items to consider for their comparable semantic and phonological properties. While several are probable Chinese loanwords spread throughout the region, a majority of these are unlikely to be Chinese as they are either Wanderwörter seen in multiple language families with undetermined origins or, in most cases, simply partial chance similarities, and these latter items can thus be removed from consideration in Proto-Austroasiatic reconstructions. Second, Shorto also listed about 50 Vietnamese words as supporting data for proto-Austroasiatic etyma which are either (a) clearly Sino-Vietnamese readings of Chinese characters (about 20 instances) or (b) Early Sino-Vietnamese colloquial borrowings (about 30 instances). Many of those proposed proto-Austroasiatic reconstructions must be reconsidered due to the exclusion of these Sino-Vietnamese items. While excluding such Sino-Vietnamese or Early Sino-Vietnamese items in some cases has no impact on those reconstructions, other exclusions result in slight changes in the reconstructed forms, and in several cases, proposed reconstructions must be entirely excluded as only Vietnamese and one other branch of Austroasiatic are available as comparative evidence. Finally, both the exclusions of proposed attestations (and the clarification of their actual origin) and the hypotheses of regional spread of Chinese words must be considered not only for Proto-Austroasiatic but also in comparative historical linguistic studies in the region.
Pages/Duration:22 pages
Journal:Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society
Appears in Collections: B. Data Papers / Book Reviews / Other Notes

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