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永鈞

Chinese 'Kunyomi'

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永鈞

Recently I've been learning conversational Taiwanese for fun. Often when I look up a character in a dictionary there are various pronunciations for a character, which isn't too unusual by itself. 

When I use this dictionary I am shown different descriptors for the reading of a character. The literary reading marked 文, the Baihua reading marked 白, and the native substitution marked 替. You can look up the character 肉 to see this for yourself. It is my understanding that the 替 works basically like Kunyomi, a word that existed in Min and had no cognate in Middle Chinese, so it took on a character with the same meaning. The literary reading must have come about from contact with literary Chinese. How did the Baihua reading come about? Is it a loan from a spoken variety of Chinese from outside Fujian?

 

There is a really interesting article on Chinese wikipedia about Kunyomi which also discusses similar phenomena outside Japanese. (Unfortunately there is no English version, kunyomi is discussed in the Kanji article on English wikipedia and only in the context of Japanese). The talks about Korean and Vietnamese of course, but also similar examples from Chinese topolects. As expected, I saw Min, but even more interesting to me there are examples of this phenomenon in Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the character 打 was originally from a word that sounded closer 丁, just as you'd expect by looking at the sound component in 打, but was replaced by in Mandarin by a separate word with the same meaning. I wonder, was this separate word possibly a cognate of the original word the character denoted? Why is it that the equivalent of 打 in the modern forms of various topolects sounds closer to mandarin 打 than to 丁? Is it just the result of language contact?

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永鈞

to elaborate a little bit on 肉 in Taiwanese Hokkien, the 替 form is used in almost all circumstances in Taiwan including in a lot of compounds like 肉體, one exception is probably the word 肉桂 which uses the 文 form of the character. I assume usage varies across the Min speaking world, maybe the 白 version is ued more often in Fujian and Malaysia than it is in Taiwan

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Michaelyus

I for one have never hi̍k for 肉 in the "wild", and would have considered the "kun'yomi" bah to be the principal "colloquial" reading. However, definitions and uses of the "colloquial reading" vary by topolect, period, and social group. Would anyone know how to use Mandarin's  reading for 肉 (I certainly don't)?

 

However, according to http://blog.xuite.net/khoguan/blog/54962305-「肉」个台語音, it is used in 歌仔戲 and in certain proverbs.


"Irregular" character readings are a huge issue source of interest for scholars. I didn't know about the 打 as a 訓讀 example, but I guess it could be construed that way. Anything that's not the "correctly derived from Middle Chinese reading" could be considered a form of 訓讀 from one perspective I suppose, although that would mix into the 白/替 issue. 

 

In Hokkien, the 文/白/替 (literary / colloquial / borrowed) reading system is fairly well established. Literary is usually regularly Middle Chinese-derived; colloquial 白 would be Sinitic and come from Old Chinese > Proto-Min and would hence be non-Middle Chinese; 替 basically means unknown etymology but likely (if not always) outside Sinitic. The depth of interest in Southern Min / Hokkien means that there is a fairly large body of scholarship, even compared to the literary/colloquial split in Mandarin (which I find a lot less literature on).

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