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The lenition of voiced initials of Middle Chinese in Maolin Wannan Wu Chinese. A discussion on the lenition of aspirated initials in Chinese dialects

  • Yuan Dan (East China Normal University, Shanghai)
Wednesday 24 April 2019
Chinese Linguistics in Leiden (CHILL)
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden


In Maolin Wan-nan Wu Chinese, a number of voiceless fricatives /h, ɸ, ç/ are found as initials, which can be traced back to Middle Chinese voiced plosives and fricatives. In this talk, I discuss the lenition of these initials in Maolin Wan-nan Wu Chinese and the conditions of such changes. I also demonstrate the process of lenition by dialectal com­par­isons, and show that the lenition that took place in Maolin Chinese is typologically unusual according to the weakening hierarchy (Hock,1991)

Furthermore, I discuss the reconstruction of voiced initials of Middle Chinese. In my opinion, the “voiced initial” in Middle Chinese is just a phonological notion, it can be different variants in different Chinese dialects. I suppose that there are two variants of “voiced initial” in Middle Chinese dialects: voiced ([d]) and slack voice ([t̤]) (Ladefoged, 1995:64-65). This can be proven by different weakening sound changes that occur in different dialects.

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