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Some Chŭ 楚 words in early Chinese literature

Behr, Wolfgang


The ancient state of Chǔ, although traceable to the Zhōuyuán 周原 oracle bone inscriptions and formally enfeoffed already in 837 b.c., is safely known from archaeological contexts only since the early 6th c. b.c. Its language has long been assumed to reflect lexical bor­ro­wings and syntactic interferences from a non-Sinitc “substrate”, en­coun­te­red by the conquering Chǔ elites of northern provenance during their early bronze age south­ward expansion into what is to­day Húběi and Húnán province. This language has been tentatively iden­tified as Austroa­sia­tic by some scholars [1, 2], and as (para-) Hmong-Mienic by others [3, 4, 5] on the strength of le­xical and hi­storical arguments. Abundantly available bronze in­scrip­tions from the ancient state of Chŭ, how­ever, show little linguistic [6, 7] or rhetorical dif­fer­ences [8] from the nor­thern Chinese “ele­gant speech” (yăyán 雅言) standard during the Eastern Zhōu period.
Re­cently discovered epigraphic materials from the three centuries before the de­struc­tion of Chŭ by the state of Qín 秦 in 223 b.c., apart from including some southern dialectal fea­tures such as pervasive nasal prefix preemption visible in phonetic borrowings [9, 10] and the crea­tion of unique dialect characters [11, 12, 13], have been demonstrated to con­tain a peculiar way of wri­ting the numeral/verb ‘one/to unify’ as 仨, thus using a character which includes a pho­no­pho­ric that was pronounced virtually identical (OC *nnəŋ) with the early Tai word of the same mea­ning (cf. PTai *hnïŋ > Thai 22nɯŋ, Dai 33nɯŋ, Lungchow Anəəŋ etc.) [14]. 
Against this background this paper will review those 67 lexical glosses associated exclusively with the territory of Chŭ [15, 16] in China’s first work on dialect geography, the Fāngyán 方言, (as­signed to Yáng Xióng 揚雄, 53 b.c. – 18 c.e.), and a few words which have been claimed to be of non-Sinitic provenance in the divinatory slips from Bāoshān 包山 tomb #2 (burial 316 b.c.), to test whether the War­ring States language of Chŭ was non-sinitic, and, if so, whether the Tai-Kadaic hypothesis of its ori­gin can be lexically substantiated. 

[1] Norman, J. & Tsu-lin Mei (1976), “The Austroasiatics in ancient south China: some lexical evidence”, Monumenta Serica 32: 274-381. [2] Boltz, W.G. (1999), “Language and writing”, in: M. Loewe & E. Shaugnessy eds., The Cambridge history of ancient China: 74-122, Cambridge: Cambridge UP. [3] Erkes, E. (1935), “Die Sprache des alten Ch’u”, T’oung Pao 27: 1-11. [4] Sagart, L. et al. (2005), “Introduction”, in: The peopling of East Asia. Putting together archaeology, linguistics and genetics: 1-14, London: RoutledgeCurzon. [5] Brooks, E.B. (2001), “Chu language history”, (acc. 17.VII.2005) [6] Yù Suíshēng 喻遂生(1993), “Liăng-Zhōu jīnwén yùnwén he xiān-Qín ‘Chŭ-yīn’” 兩周金文韻文和先秦‘楚音’, Xī’nán Shīfàn Dàxue Xuébào 西南師範大學學報 (2): 105-109. [7] Behr, W. (1997), Reimende Bronzeinschriften und die Entstehung der chinesischen Endreim­dichtung, Diss., JWGU Frankfurt a.M. [8] Cook, C.A. (1991), Auspicious Metals and Southern Spirits: An Analysis of the Chu Bronze Inscrip­tions, Ph.D. Diss., University of Calif., Berkeley [unpubl.]. [9] Lǐ Yù 李 玉 (1994), Qín-Hàn jiǎndú bóshū yīnyùn yánjiū 秦 漢 簡 牘 帛 書 音 韻 研 究, Běijīng 北 京 : Dāngdài Zhōnguó 當 代 中 國. [10] Behr, W. (2003), Pre-EMC dialects: some notes”, Paper presented at the Middle Chinese/Old Chinese Symposium in Honour of E.G. Pulleyblank, University of Chicago, May 2003. [11] Méi Zǔlín 梅 祖 麟 [Mei Tsu-lin] (1981), “Gǔdài Chǔ fāngyán zhōng ‘xī (?xī)’ zì de cíyì hé yǔyuán” 古 代 楚 方 言 中 「 夕 (亴)」 字 的 詞 義 和 語 源, Fāngyán 方言 (3): 215-218. [12] Kwok Bit-chee 郭必之(1998), “Jīnwén zhōng de Chŭxì fāngyáncí (sān zé)” 金文中的楚系方言詞(三則), J. of Oriental Studies 34 (1-2): 102-116. [13] Cáo Zhàolán 曹兆蘭 (2002), “Jīnwén zhōng fāngyán ‘mĭ’ yŭ yăyán ‘mŭ’ de xiāngyīn shēn­gyì” 金文中方言「鿌」與雅言「母」的相因生義, Fāngyán 方言 (2): 177-182. [14] Lín Hóngyīng 林虹瑛, Murase Nozomu村瀨望 & Furuya Akihira 古屋昭弘 (2004), “Sengo­ku moji X ni tsuite” 戰國文字「仨」について, Kāi­piān 開篇23 (offprint). [15] Lĭ Shùháo 李恕豪 (2002), “Yàng Xióng «Fāngyán» zhōng jĭn jiàn yú Chŭdì de fāngyán cíyŭ yánjiū” 揚雄方言中僅見於楚地的方言詞語研 究, Ms. Chéngdū, Sìchuān Shīfàn Dàxué [16] Huá Xuéchéng 華學誠 (2003), Zhōu-Qín-Hàn-Jìn fāngyán yánjiū shĭ 周秦漢晉方言研究史 (Shànghăi shì Shèhuì Kēxué Bóshì Wénkù), Shànghăi: Fùdàn Dàxue chūbănshè.

Organization: 4th Conference of the European Association of Chine­se Linguistics, Budapest Conference End Date: Jan 20, 2006 Conference Start Date: Jan 19, 2006
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