Greg Pingle on Mongolian Sinitic; and John Phan on Sino-Vietnamese

Greg Pingle has a cool Quora answer to the question: what if Ainu had borrowed from Chinese? He compares it to Mongolian Sinitic loans, which are unlike Sino-Xenic in being a) whole-word, not morpheme-based, and b) orally transmitted.

In the discussion thread for the old post on Sino-Xenic, commenter 番 brought my attention to John Phan’s work on Sino-Vietnamese. Phan has kindly uploaded a preview to his dissertation, Lacquered Words, where he argues, contra Miyake, that

unlike Sino-Korean or Sino-Japanese, Late Sino-Vietic resulted from a bilingualism in Sinitic and Vietic languages that flourished in the area of northern Vietnam throughout the Tang dynasty.

[…] Contrary to current analyses of Sino-Vietic lexica (which assume reading-based transfusions similar to the origins of Sino-Korean or Sino-Japanese), I claim that the bulk of Sinitic loanwords in Vietnamese resulted from bilingual contact, between a form of Sinitic native to the region of modern day northern Vietnam and contemporary forms of Vietic language. For reasons discussed below, I have termed this variety of Sinitic “Annamese Middle Chinese” (AMC). Unlike in the Korean peninsula or the Japanese archipelago, I claim that the river plains of northern Vietnam were home to a rooted and thriving community of AMC speakers for most of the first millennium, and it is the presence of this community and the bilingual effects of their coexistence with Vietic speakers that fundamentally defines the nature of Sino-Vietic contact throughout history.

[…] However, when AMC obsolesced as a spoken language in the region, it left a form of Literary Sinitic behind which entered into a hyperglossic relationship with the new dominant form of speech, i.e. pVM. This hyperglossic relationship was in turn analogous to contemporary hyperglossic arrangements in Korea and Japan of the 2nd millennium.

In this way, even though Vietnamese is not a Sinitic language, ancient Vietnamese speakers were bilingual in some form of spoken Middle Chinese. This makes the Vietnamese a kind of interesting hybrid:

  • Like Mongolian, there was oral transmission and bilingualism;
  • But, like Japanese and Korean, there was diglossia (or “hyperglossia”) with Literary Sinitic (wényán/kanbun), including a “system of sinographic reading” based on the Qieyun rime tables.

I eagerly await the full dissertation.

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