刖 ‘cutting the legs below the knee’: a third example of vowel ablaut

After my last two posts discussing words for ‘200’ and for nose-cutting in the context of vowel ablaut, Ma Kun 马坤 sent me a private message inquiring about 刖 *[ŋ]ʷˤ<r>at > ngwaet > yuè ‘amputate the feet’ 0306h, which I had overlooked in my discussion of words of the shape *ŋˤVt having ‘cut off’ semantics. This word turns out to be another example of the spreading process described in my two last post, though only as far as vowel spreading goes. The pharyngealization specification does not spread.

Like 劓 , 刖 refers to the punishment of criminals: it consists of cutting off a criminal’s 跪, OC *[g](r)ojʔ. The verb phrase 刖跪 occurs several times in 《韓非子·內儲說下》and in《說苑. 正諫》, meaning ‘to cut off the 跪’. 跪 is not so much ‘foot’ (Karlgren) as ‘lower leg, leg below the knee’, so 跪 as the verb ‘to kneel’ is derived from the noun ‘leg below the knee’. Proto-Hmong-Mien (Ratliff) borrowed the noun 跪 as *ɟu̯əiH ‘knee’.

Independently from this, we have to modify the vowel of 刖. Bill Baxter observed in 2018 that 刖 seems to rhyme as *-ot in 周易 hexagram 47 ䷮ 困: “九五:劓,困于赤,乃徐有,利用祭祀。Accordingly we should now reconstruct 刖 *ŋˤ<r>ot > ngwaet > yuè ‘amputate the leg(s) below the knee’ 0306h.

Thus, like 二  and 皕 (*i), and like 鼻 and 劓 (*i),  刖 and 跪 have the same vowel, *o. Under my hypothesis, there must have existed a nominal compound ‘cutting off the lower leg’, perhaps the name of the punishment, consisting of the bodypart name plus the verb *ŋˤVt ‘to cut off’ whose vowel could be *a or *u, but neither of *i or *o. Thus:

cutting off the nose *m-bi[t]-s + ŋˤVt > ŋit
cutting off the lower legs *[g](r)ojʔ + ŋˤVt > ŋˤ<r>ot

In both cases the first member’s vowel replaced the second’s. However in the last example the pharyngealization feature did not spread. The <r> infix in its ‘distributed action’ meaning  makes perfect sense in a verb for ‘to cut both legs below the knee’.

劓 ‘cut the nose’— a second example of OC ablaut

In a recent blog I argued that the rare word 皕 ‘two hundred’ , OC *prik, was based on  百 *pˤrak > paek > bǎi ‘hundred’ 0781a, with the vowel and absence of pharyngealization of 二 *ni[j]-s > nyijH > èr ‘two’ 0564a which must once have preceded 百 within a compound 二 百: that is, that one source of vowel ablaut in MC was the spreading of the vowel and, perhaps, pharyngealization specification of the preceding morpheme within a compound. Here is a parallel example.

There are in the meaning ‘cut off’ three word families in OC whose main syllable began in *ŋ and ended in *t, while the vowel alternates between *a, *u and *i. The reconstruction used below is experimental. It differs little from Baxter and Sagart (2014) in its treatment of rhymes, which is what matters here.

root ŋ(ˤ)at ‘to cut off’

孼 *ŋ(r)at > ngjet > niè ‘concubine’s son’ 0289g
櫱 *ŋ(r)at > ngjet > niè ‘(shoots from) tree stump’ 0289j
枿 *ŋˤat > ngat > niè ‘(shoots from) tree stump’ 0268a
𣦵 *ŋˤat > ngat > ‘fragment of bone (SW)’ 0269a
乂 *ŋat-s > ngjojH > yì ‘mow, cut (v.)’ 0347a
艾 *(mə)-ŋat-s > ngjojH > yì ‘end, to end (K)’ 0347c
𣡌 *ŋˤat > ngat > niè ‘(shoots from) tree stump’ 0252j
歺 *ŋˤat > ngat > è ‘fragment of bone’ 0269b
歹 *ŋˤat > ngat > è ‘bones, flesh removed’ 0269c
刈 *ŋat-s > ngjojH > yì ‘mow, cut’ 0347b
艾 *ŋat-s > ngjojH > yì ‘mow, cut’ 0347c
孽 *ŋ(r)at > ngjet > niè ‘concubine’s son’ 0289g

root ŋˤut ‘cut off; wobbly, unsafe’

㕟 *-k-ŋˤ<r>[u][t]-s > khweajH > kuì ‘cut off (Qie Yun, no text)’ 0534a
髡 *-k-ŋˤut-n > khwon > kūn ‘shave the head’ 0423a
兀 *[ŋ]ˤut > ngwot > wù ‘amputate the feet’ 0487a
扤 *[ŋ]ˤut > ngwot > wù ‘shake, move; shaken, unsafe, endangered (K)’ 0487b
杌 *[ŋ]ˤut > ngwot > wù ‘tree trunk without branches ’ 0487c
阢 *[ŋ]ˤut > ngwot > wù ‘unsafe’ 0487d
卼 *[ŋ]ˤut > ngwot > wù ‘unsafe’ 0487e

root ŋit ‘cut off the nose’

㓷 *ŋ<r>[e]t-s > ngjejH > yì ‘cut off the nose’ 0285e
劓 *[ŋ]<r>i[t]-s > ngijH > yì ‘cut off the nose’ 0537a

The last root is of special interest. 㓷 is a phonetic compound appearing in Shuihudi texts (He Linyi 2:910) and included in the Shuo Wen, but early paleographical and textual attestations are few. While 劓 occurs in the Shang inscriptions and is widely attested textually: so I take 劓 to be the basic form in this root, to which I assign *i. The alternation between *e and *i is unexplained.

The act of cutting off can apply to a large variety of objects: I assume that the alternation between *a, *u and *i here somehow reflects that fact.

Let us suppose that 劓 *[ŋ]<r>i[t]-s  ‘cut off the nose’ continues an older compound whose first member was 鼻 *mV-bi[t]-s > bjijH > bí ‘nose’ 0521c, and the second, either ŋ(ˤ)at or ŋˤut ‘cut off’. Rather than ‘cut the nose’, this would have meant something like ‘nose-cutting’. If, in addition to <r>-infixation and s-suffixation,  we suppose the same process as for 百 *pˤrak and 皕 *prik, here with 鼻 *mV-bi[t]-s ‘nose’ providing the vowel and pharyngealization specification, we obtain 劓 *[ŋ]<r>i[t]-s. This further supports my hypothesis that one source of OC vowel ablaut is the spread within a compound, of the first morpheme’s  vowel and pharyngealization specification, onto the second.


Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. 2014. Old Chinese: a new reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hé, Línyí 何琳儀. 1998. Zhànguó gǔwén zìdiǎn: Zhànguó wénzì shēngxì 戰國古文字典:戰國文字聲系 [Dictionary of the Warring States script: its system of phonetics]. 2 vols. Běijīng 北京: Zhōnghuá 中華.



皕 ‘two hundred’ and OC vowel ablaut

Some OC lexical doublets have different vowels. Such pairs are sometimes called “ablaut pairs”. What process is behind ablaut is so far not known.

This post discusses a doublet form for the numeral ‘100’, which suggests that one of the processes, at least, behind ablaut, is interaction between the first and second vowels of a lexical compound, such that the first vowel assimilates the second one. Subsequently the compound’s second morpheme individualizes with its new vowel.

Baxter and Sagart (2014) reconstruct the word for ‘hundred’ as 百 OC *pˤrak > MC paek. There is a rare word 皕 ‘two hundred’, not attested before Han. whether in texts or palaeographically as far as I know. The Shuo Wen says it is pronounced like 祕 (pijH < *-it-s), while the Guangyun reads 彼側切 pik. An alternation between MC -it or -ijH and -ik indicates OC *-ik. B&S (2014) did not reconstruct that word but would probably have given OC *prik. The *i vowel in ‘200’ alternates with the *a vowel in ‘100’.  It happens to be the same vowel as that in 二 *ni[j]-s ‘two’. It is possible that *prik arose out of 二百 *ni[j]-s pˤrak, with the vowel of *ni[j]-s  spreading rightward, replacing the original low vowel in the ‘hundred’ morpheme, thus *ni[j]-s pˤrak > *ni[j]-s prik and ultimately 皕 prik, as the vowel sufficed to distinguish 皕 from 百 .

Added Sept 18, 2023: not just the vowel of 二, but the [-pharyngealized] feature appears to have spread from 二 to 皕. This is in agreement with the observation, made in a Chinese PhD some years ago, that in disyllabic words found in early Chinese texts, the two syllables agree in being both type A [+pharyngealized], or type B  [-pharyngealized] . It causes me grief that I have misplaced the author’s name and the dissertation’s reference. I would be grateful if a reader could provide this information. Meanwhile, the pharyngealization harmony in OC disyllabic words, including in the case of 二百 > 皕, can be explained by a process copying the pharyngealization feature of the first word onto the second, overriding the second word’s original specification. This would go some way towards explaining the frequent alternation between pharyngealized and non-pharyngealized cognate words within OC word-families.


Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. 2014. Old Chinese: a new reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press. 4


zhēng yuè 正月 ‘first month’ and the stop/nasal alternation in Old Chinese codas.

One of the sources of the alternation between stop and nasal codas—the ‘陽入對轉’ of  traditional Chinese phonology—is assimilation of a final stop to the nasal initial of the following word. An example is the expression zhēng yuè 正月 ‘first month of the lunar year’. The earliest secure occurrence of 正月 I am aware of, referring to the first month, is in the Luan Shu Fou 䜌書缶, a Zhou bronze inscription:「正月季春元日」’on the first day of the first month’. Palaeographers would probably know earlier ones. The character 正 normally writes *teŋ-s > tsyeng > zhèng ‘correct (adj., v.)’. How did it become used to express the meaning ‘first’  ?

There is in Western Sino-Tibetan (a.k.a. ‘Tibeto-Burman’) a root  for ‘one’ which the STEDT website reconstructs as

#2726 PTB *tyak ⪤ *g-t(y)ik ONE (provisional).

The corresponding Chinese root reconstructs as *tek ‘single, only, only one’. It includes these words:

隻 *tek > tsyek > zhī ‘single’ 1260c, 

適 *s-tek > syek > shì ‘only’ 0877s, 

啻 *s-tek-s > syeH > shì ‘only’ 0877k.

Root *tek and the root in 正 *teŋ-s differ only in the nasality of the coda. This suggests 正 writes 隻 *tek ‘1’ in a context where its ending had become nasalized. The onset of the following word: 月 *[ŋ]ʷat is likely where nasality comes from. 正月 was an appropriate way of putting *teŋ-ŋʷat < *tek-ŋʷat into readable form.


Liu Shiru. 1965. Weijin Nanbei chao liangci yanjiu (Studies on Classifiers in Wei-Jin and Nan-Bei dynasties). Beijing: Zhonghua.

Chinese 秋 ‘autumn’: time of collecting.

The Chinese name of the autumn: 秋 *tsʰiw > tshjuw > qiū ‘autumn; crop’ is relatable to 揫 *[dz]iw > dzjuw > jiū ‘collect, bring together (K)’. We may have to emend [dz]iw to m-tsʰiw (although Mandarin jiū suggests *m-tsiw). There are other cases of alternation between aspirated and non-aspirated stops/affricates in related words.


Chinese 冬 ‘winter’: finish, end of the year’s agricultural cycle.

冬 *tˤuŋ > towng > dōng ‘winter’ is clearly related to 終 *tuŋ > tsyuwng > zhōng ‘end’. An external cognate is Chepang tyuŋh ‘at end’; ‘be weak, exhausted’. Final *-m in various TB languages may be due to assimilation to  a verbal suffix -ma, as in Limbu (Michailovsky) tum-ma (√tums-) ‘to be mature, to be ripe’ (of person, grain or fruit). Forms of this verb with final -m, without the suffix, are Jingpo chatum ‘end, finish’; Proto-Ao a-thəm  ‘end, finish’ (Bruhn 14). Along with tyuŋh ‘at end’, Chepang has doublet ending in -m:  dyumʔ– ‘at ease after completing work’, dyum ‘terminate, reach end’; ‘at end’. This would be the ‘end’ of the year’s agricultural cyle.

Although OC *-um goes to *-uŋ in western China in early OC, we can be sure that *-uŋ in 冬 is not the western reading of an OC *-um word: if it was, it would end up as *-əm in the easter pronunciation ancestral to MC (Ma and Sagart, forthcoming) and we would have MC *-om or *-im. So *-uŋ > *-um in TB is due to a labial suffix.


Chinese 夏 ‘summer’: time of leisure ?

Baxter-Sagart 2014 reconstruct 夏 *[g]ˤraʔ > haeH > xià ‘summer’ (~ *[g]ˤraʔ-s). A homophone is 暇 *[g]ˤra-s > haeH > xià ‘leisure’, with a probable cognate in Written Burmese:  â ‘vacant, free; disengaged’. In the two or three months it takes the millets to grow, set ears and ripen, between early summer and harvesting in late summer or autumn, a period of (relative) calm sets in. It would make sense if that period was called ‘leisure’: that would later become the name of summer.

Chinese 春 ‘spring’: beginning of the egg-laying season?

The etymology of Chinese 春 ‘spring’ has always intrigued me… Baxter and Sagart (2014) reconstruct 春 *tʰun > tsyhwin > chūn ‘springtime’. The observation that the phonetic in excavated texts is 屯 *dˤun 0427a goes back to Yu Xingwu (Jiang Yubin 2018). Baxter and I might as well have reconstructed *-u[n] because -r is possible: GSR 0427 contains several likely *-r words.

Baxter and Sagart (2014:324) argue that there was in OC a vulgar word for ‘egg’, different from 蛋 and 卵, for which no Chinese character exists: OC *tʰu[n]. It is only attested dialectally:  Cantonese   tʃʰœn A1, Hakka tʃʰun A1.  The word is vulgar because, at least in Cantonese, it also refers to the testicles, but it is also vulgar in the sense of ‘popular’. It was probably not part of the speech of early Chinese literati. For that reason it lacks a character.

Here again, final -n is ambiguous for -r. The word is a homophone of 春 *tʰun > tsyhwin > chūn ‘springtime’. Assuming the ending was *-r rather than *-n, the word exhibits the Sino-Tibetan sound correspondence OC *-ur, Bodo -əy, Lushai -ui, -Proto-Karen *-ej, WT *-u, matching the PTB word for ‘egg’ in Benedict’s Conspectus (1972): *twiy=twəy.

Written Tibetan Boro (Bhat) Lushai (Lorrain) Proto-Karen (Luang.) OC (B-S) PST (tentative)
n.a. dəy ‘egg’ tui ‘egg’ Ɂdej B ‘egg’ tʰu[r] ‘egg’ #tʰur
chu ‘water’ dəy  ‘water, river’ tui ‘water’ thej A ‘water’ s.turʔ ‘river, water’ #s-turʔ
mchu ‘lip’ (gusu)təy ‘lip’ (not cognate) n.a. sə.dur ‘lip’ #m-tur

There is a connection between eggs and the Chinese new year season. In general birds “will nest and lay eggs during the warmer months in the north [of the US, LS]. Typically, the timeline ranges between early spring and late summer” (here). Late winter or spring is the time that hens (at least those presumably old varieties that do not lay eggs year-round) start laying eggs. One US site (here) reports that

“One of our employees who’s at a mid-latitude in the US reports that any girls [hens, LS] who stop laying during the winter begin again regularly–and surprisingly precisely–on February 1 or 2, about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.”

I wonder if the Chinese name of spring is not etymologically “when hens start laying eggs” again after the winter interruption. This would be a time worth recording for early Chinese farmers who raised chickens. The mid-latitude US date for the onset of egg-laying corresponds well with the Chinese New Year: “the first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February” (Wikipedia: here).

If valid, this etymology implies that hen-keeping was widespread at the time of the ‘egg’ > ‘spring’ semantic shift, although this may be before the Old Chinese period, perhaps well before.

Addendum Feb 22, 2023: Ma Kun 马坤 points out a paper by Jiang Yubin 蔣玉斌 where the palaeography of 春 is described. The oracle bone graph has 屯 phonetic and clumps of growing grass as signific. No graphical chickens or eggs to be seen ! But considering that ‘egg’ in the language of literati was probably 卵, that the presence of the meaning ‘testicle’ made  *tʰu[r] an unpalatable association, and perhaps also that the semantic link between springtime and eggs was not necessarily obvious to upper-class city dwellers, it is not overly surprising that an association with eggs is not apparent in the oldest known form of 春.

Finally, a question: don’t New Year yuanxiao 元宵 (here) look like eggs ?


Benedict (1972) Sino-Tibetan: a conspectus. Cambridge University Press.

蔣玉斌 Jiang Yubin  (2018) 释甲骨文金文的“蠢”兼论相关问题。 复旦学报 20185118-138.

Mad dog, the first palatalization, and the k- prefix

There are in Middle Chinese lexica three obviously related words (and four characters) for ‘mad dog’ (狂犬). In the Baxter and Sagart (2014) reconstruction (referred to as ‘OCNR’ below):

0279g and 0287-, OCNR *ke[t]-s > MC tsyejH,

0279g OCNR *ke[t]-s > MC kjiejH.

0335d OCNR *k<r>e[t]-s > MC kjejH.

The reconstruction of a front vowel rhyme *-et-s in all three words, as opposed to *-at-s, was forced by the chongniu IV word kjiejH, which can only reflect a front vowel. In this vocalic context, the alternation between velars and palatals was treated as a case of the first palatalization, an early Han shift according to Schuessler, applying to an OC velar initial: MC tsye- was seen as reflecting OC ke-, while in kjejH, failure to palatalize was thought to be due to medial -r-, in this case an infix (since the root is r-less): *k<r>e-. The chongniu IV reading kjieiH was anomalous: its velar initial failed to palatalize despite the front vowel and absence of an intervening -r-. Bill Baxter and I thought that kjiejH reflected OC *ket-s in a non-palatalizing late OC dialect, a few forms of which are preserved in MC.

A passage in the Jing Dian Shi Wen points in a different direction. In the database Bill Baxter and I are maintaining, under , Bill noted this passage from JDSW 1353: “之瘈。吉世反 [kjiejH]。狂也{國狗之 無不}”. This supports a word-family connection between 噬 ‘to bite’ (OCNR *[d]e[t]-s > dzyejH) and 瘈 ‘mad (dog)’. The root would be *tet-s ‘to bite’: we would have this word-family, presented below with emended reconstructions between lenticular brackets and the original in blue for comparison:

root tet ‘bite’

噬 【*m-tet-s> dzyejH > shì ‘bite (v.)’ 0336c (OCNR *[d]e[t]-s > dzyejH)

狾 【*kə-tet-s> tsyejH > zhì ‘mad (dog)’ 0287- (OCNR *ke[t]-s > tsyejH)

瘈 【*kə-tet-s> tsyejH > zhì ‘mad (dog)’ 0279g (OCNR *ke[t]-s > tsyejH)

瘈 【*k-tet-s> kjiejH > jì ‘mad (dog)’ 0279g (OCNR *ke[t]-s > kjiejH)

猘 【*k-t<r>et-s> kjejH > jì ‘mad (dog)’ 0335d (OCNR *k<r>e[t]-s > kjejH)

In ‘to bite’, *m- is the ‘volitional’ prefix *m1a– (OCNR, p. 59). This is a highly common prefix in verbs whose subject is a volitional agent. It is responsible for the voiced initial in MC. The other words all have prefixed *k- or *kə-: these are short/tightly attached and long/loosely attached variants of the same prefix. OCNR (p. 54) states that

short (*C) and long (*Cə) variants that apparently had the same morphological functions,

but notes that

The conditions of occurrence of short and long variants are not understood; for the moment we treat them as free variants.

For a few years now since the publication of OCNR, I have regarded the loosely attached forms as basic, and the tightly attached ones as the result of unstressed vowel syncope in a second prefix, with late loss of the first prefix, thus:

stage 1: *Cə-Root > stage 2: *Cə-Root > stage 3: *Cə-Root


stage 1: *Cə-Cə-Root > stage 2: *Cə-C-Root > Stage 3: *C-Root

As far as preinitials go, the OCNR reconstructions represent the stage-3 situation. There are parallel developments in the evolution from Austronesian to Kra-Dai: Austronesian trisyllables lose their second vowel through unstressed vowel syncope (in preparation). The morphological function of the k- prefix in our examples will be discussed below.

On the phonological level, the emendations in our words for ‘mad dog’ explain the failure of kjiejH to palatalize despite the front vowel without supposing a non-palatalizing OC dialect: we only need to assume that the OC initial cluster *k-t- we reconstructed for OC was still present in western Han times in one shape or other (k-t- ? k-l- ?) , so that initial k- was shielded from the front vowel when the first palatalization of velars took place. Infixal <r> still accounts for the vowel in the kjejH doublet. The palatal initial in MC tsyejH, previously thought to go back to a velar stop, can now be recognized as the regular outcome of an OC alveolar stop. In principle an OC *tet-s without a velar prefix would be enough to give MC tsyejH, but the ‘mad dog’ semantics require the velar prefix, as we will see. Alternation between the two readings, tsyejH and kjiejH, of 瘈 ‘mad (dog)’ is now treated as loosely kə- vs. tightly attached k-: loosely attached kə- falls (as often), exposing t- > MC tsy-; while tightly attached k- forms a cluster with t-, simplifying to k- at some point between early Han and MC. This gives us a useful chronological indication on the simplification of clusters.

OCNR says the k- prefix added to verbal roots “derives nonfinite forms of the verb that can be used as nouns (…)” (p. 57). This seems to apply well to ‘mad dog’, except that //are not nouns: they are non-finite modifiers of the noun ‘dog’ in the compounds 【猘狗】(《吕氏春秋·首时》, 《汉书·五行志中之上》), and 【瘈狗】(《左传·襄公十七年》, JDSW 1156). This confirms the function of k- as non-finite verbs prefixes. This prefix is probably related to velar nominalization prefixes found

in Gyalrong languages (Jacques 2021:714, 811). Japhug examples from Jacques (2021:714-5):



The dead one’ (many attestations)



The one who eats it’ (many attestations)

By our analysis, then, the Chinese words for ‘mad dog’ are interpretable as ‘biting dog’.

Outside of rGyalrong, Konnerth (2009:101-107) finds that the derivational functions most often associated with the ‘gV-‘ prefix are participant nominalization, derivation of adjectival modifiers, action/event nominalization, and derivation of adverbs. These functions are consistent with non-finite derivations out of verbs.

Similarly, Matisoff (2003:138) writes that prefixed k(h)ə-, the reflex of his *g- in Tangkhul Naga, is highly productive, serving “for nominalizations (…) and relativizations, but does not appear with ordinary finite main verbs”. This combination of evidence supports a non-finite k- verb prefix at proto-Sino-Tibetan level.

Further, this ST prefix may be compared to the stative, non-finite ka- prefix of PAN (Zeitoun).

In closing, the exceptions to the Chinese first palatalization have MC kji-: they do not palatalize despite the front vowel. There are several sources, which either were not velars, or had an intervening segment other than -r- between the velar and a front vowel in western Han:

  1. C.qi- (type B, no -r-)

  2. k.m-ri (already kli- by western Han time)

  3. k.ti- cf. root to ‘bite’ below.

Removal of the ‘mad dog’ example does not disprove the ‘non-palatalizing dialect’ hypothesis, but it weakens it.


Baxter, William H. and Laurent Sagart. 2014. Old Chinese: a new reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press

Jacques, Guillaume. 2021. A grammar of Japhug. Berlin: Language Science Press.

Konnerth, Linda Anna. 2009. The nominalizing prefix gV- in Tibeto-Burman. PhD dissertation, University of Oregon.

Matisoff, J. (2003). Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Rhyme words and rhyme sequences in *-ep in the Shi Jing

A search for “«ep»” or “«e[p]»” in the search window of Mattis List’s Shījīng Rhyme Browser (http://digling.org/shijing/wangli/), where Shi Jing rhymes are presented in the Baxter-Sagart (2014) reconstruction, returns three words in rhyming position: 攝瘞介. None of them is part of an identifiable rhyme sequence: consequently, no *-ep rhyme sequences can be found in the Shi Jing under the Baxter-Sagart 2014 system. This does not necessarily reflect reality. If such rhyme sequences existed, they would presumably be hidden under the label *-[a]p: words tentatively reconstructed with *-a- between brackets because they are indistinguishable from *-ap in Middle Chinese, but have unexplained connections (xiesheng, word-family) to words with vowel *-ep. We are therefore looking for a set of *-[a]p words in the B&S 2014 system which are (a) connectable to one another by rhyme, (b) self-contained, i.e. without rhyme connections to other *-[a]p or *-ap words, and (c) have a pattern of contacts to *-ep words.

A cluster of six words fit the description: 捷 *[dz][a]p > dzjep > jié ‘victory’, 業 *[m-qʰ](r)[a]p > ngjaep > yè ‘work (n.)’, 葉 *l[a]p > yep > yè ‘leaf’, 韘 *l̥[a]p > syep > shè ‘archer’s thimble’, 甲 *[k]ˤr[a]p > kaep > jiǎ ‘1st heavenly stem; fingernail’, 涉 *[d][a]p > dzyep > shè (this last word is not part of Baxter and Sagart 2014 but could have been reconstructed with [a]). The interrhyming pattern between them is illustrated by the chart below, where for instance ‘捷—260,167—業’ is to be understood as ‘捷 and 業 rhyme together in odes 260 and 167’ (the numbers are the standard ode numbers—stanza numbers are omitted):



This cluster is self-contained: there are no rhymes with other *-[a]p words, or with *-ap words, in the Shi Jing.

I now present the evidence—duly noted by Bill in our database— for contacts to *-ep in some of these words:

1. 捷 *[dz][a]p > dzjep > jié ‘victory’. Words with phonetic 疌 have MC -ep in division 4: 蜨 dep; MC -eap in division 2: 萐 sreap, dzreap; 疀 tsrheap. and MC -jep in division 3. There are no division-1 words. This can only indicate OC *-ep. The sole exception to this pattern is 𧚨, MC tship, indicating OC *-ip.

2. 葉 *l[a]p > yep > yè ‘leaf’. All eight type-A words in this series (GSR 633) have division-4: MC -ep, indicating OC *-ep. If the OC vowel were *a, one would expect MC -ap in type A. There is one problem: the word 世 *l̥ap-s > syejH > shì ‘generation’, whose *a vowel seems clearly identified by the rhyming sequence 揭害撥世 in 255.8, is probably part of the same word-family as 葉, which we want to reconstruct with *-ep. This is probably the result of *-ep-s changing to *-et-s (*-p-s > *-t-s is a regular and very early western Zhou change), and then *-et-s shifting to *-at-s—a commonly development in western odes; 255 is a western ode. Further on this, see (link in construction).

3. 甲 *[k]ˤr[a]p > kaep > jiǎ ‘1st heavenly stem; fingernail’. This word has a probable word-family connection to 介 *kˤr[e]p-s > keajH > jiè ‘armour; scale of animals’, 疥 *C.kˤr[e][p]-s > keajH > jiè ‘scabby disease’. Normally we should expect an OC *kˤrep to evolve to MC kaep, but MC sources do not keep a strict distinction between -aep and -eap.

In conclusion we should emend the reconstruction of 捷, 業, 葉, 韘, 甲 and 涉 *from *-[a]p to *-ep, and recognize rhyming sequences in *-ep in odes 34, 60, 167, 260, 304. This could not be not done in Baxter and Sagart (2014) because we lacked the knowledge that the six words under discussion form a rhyming ring in the Odes.

Post Scriptum (same day):

葉 *lep ‘leaf’ and 甲介 ‘scale, fingernail’, both based on a root *kˤrep, have western Sino-Tibetan cognates. For ‘leaf’, cf. the sets under PST *lap ‘leaf’ in Coblin’s handlist p. 102 and in the STEDT dabase: #824 PTB *s-lap LEAF / LEAFLIKE PART. Written Tibetan ‘dab-ma ‘leaf’ is from *’lab. The doublet lo-ma ‘leaf’ is perhaps from law-ma > lab-ma. For ‘scale’, Tibetan khrab ‘shield, coat of mail, fish scales’, Achang ŋa⁵⁵ kjap⁵⁵ ‘fish scales’.

These are two more examples of the vowel correspondence OC *-e- : western ST *-a-.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search