Vietnamese Initial Consonant Clusters in Quốc Ngữ Documents from the 17th to Early 19th Centuries

Date
2019-05-02
Authors
Vu, Duc Nghieu
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12
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1
Starting Page
143
Ending Page
162
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Abstract
This paper presents a few claims based on documents written in the Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ Roman orthography. The fact that Vietnamese once had initial consonant clusters bl, ml, mnh (/mɲ/) and tl is well known. Early Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ spellings indicate that the change of mnh (/mɲ/) to nh (/ɲ/) was complete by the end of the 17th century and that the change from tl to tr (/ʈ/) was complete by the end of the 18th. However, some words show variant spellings with m or b (e.g. mồ hôi ~ bồ hôi ‘sweat’) and with ml or bl (e.g. mlớn ~ blớn ‘big’). These alternate spellings m ~ b and ml ~ bl suggest that the correspondences upon which proto-Vietic */ɓ/ is based need to be modified: rather than Vietnamese /m/ from Vietic *b and *p, the correspondence should be Vietnamese /m/ and /b/ and Vietic *b and *p. Early documents show the following: first, alternations between m and b and ml and bl recorded in early Quốc Ngữ writing provide additional evidence for the reconstruction of a proto-Vietic voiced implosive bilabial oral stop */ɓ/ rather than a prenasalized stop */mb/ or glottalized stop */ʔb/; second, spellings from 18th and 19th century documents show ml in seven words and bl in fifteen, indicating an incomplete change of ml to either nh or l, depending on dialect, and either bl to gi (/ʐ/) in Northern dialects or bl to tr (/ʈ/) elsewhere. The implication is that some features of early Austroasiatic initials persisted in Vietnamese up to 250 to 300 years ago.
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Vietnamese, Vietic, Quốc Ngữ, historical phonology, orthography
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20 pages
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