Old National Pronunciation

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The Old National Pronunciation (simplified Chinese: 老国音; traditional Chinese: 老國音; pinyin: lǎo guóyīn) was the system established for the phonology of standard Chinese as decided by the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation from 1913 onwards, and published in the 1919 edition of the Guóyīn Zìdiǎn (國音字典, "Dictionary of National Pronunciation"). Although it was mainly based on the phonology of the Beijing dialect, it was also influenced by historical forms of northern Mandarin as well as other varieties of Mandarin and even some varieties of Wu Chinese. The artificial nature of the system proved impractical, and in 1926 a decision was made to normalize the pronunciations to the natural pronunciations found in Beijing, which resulted in a revised Guóyīn Chángyòng Zìhuì (國音常用字匯, "Vocabulary of National Pronunciation for Everyday Use") published in 1932.[1]

Phonology[edit]

The Old National Pronunciation was similar to the phonology of the Beijing dialect, but with four additional distinctions derived from Middle Chinese that were still maintained in other dialects:

  1. Three more initials, derived from the initials of Middle Chinese: /v/, as two initials, /ŋ/ and /ɲ/.
  2. Preservation of the "round-sharp distinction" (simplified Chinese: 尖团音; traditional Chinese: 尖團音; pinyin: jiān-tuán yīn). The alveolo-palatal initials of the Beijing dialect (/tɕ, tɕʰ, ɕ/), written in pinyin as j, q and x, originated in a merger between velar initials (/k, kʰ, x/) and alveolar affricates (/ts, tsʰ, s/) before the front vowels /i/ and /y/. In the Old National Pronunciation, the former group were treated as palatals, but the latter group remained as alveolars.
  3. A distinction between /e/ and /o/.[2]
  4. Preservation of the checked tone (simplified Chinese: 入声; traditional Chinese: 入聲; pinyin: rùshēng). Although how it was to be realized was not specifically detailed in the original dictionary, it was often given pronounced with a final glottal stop, as in Lower Yangtze Mandarin varieties such as the Nanjing dialect.

The actual phonetic values of these tones were not prescribed in the 1919 edition of the Dictionary of National Pronunciation. Although various proposals of merging values from different areas of China were raised, the de facto standard was to use the tonal system of Beijing, and to simply read the entering tone (which the Beijing dialect lacked as a distinctive tone) as a shortened departing tone, falling in nature, as shown from sets of gramophone recordings of Wang Pu, a member of the Commission, and of noted linguist Yuen Ren Chao.[3]

Example pronunciations
Character ONP Pinyin Nanjing Suzhou Middle Chinese
"I, me" /ŋo/ /o/ /ŋəu/ ngaX
"year" /ɲian/ nián /lien/ /ɲi/ nen
"capital" /tɕiŋ/ jīng /tɕin/ /tɕin/ kjaeng
"pure" /tsiŋ/ jīng /tsin/ /tsin/ tsjeng
"one" /iʔ/ /iʔ/ /iəʔ/ ʔjit

Phonetic Symbols[edit]

Characters with their pronunciations

The notation used to indicate the prescribed pronunciation was zhuyin fuhao, as adopted by the Commission on the Unification of Pronunciation.

In the following tables, the zhuyin fuhao symbols are shown with equivalents in the IPA and modern pinyin (where applicable).

Chart of Initials
Bilabial Alveolar Retroflex (Alveolo)-
Palatal
Velar
Nasal [m] m [n] n [ɲ] [ŋ]
Stop unaspirated [p] b [t] d [k] g
aspirated [pʰ] p [tʰ] t [kʰ] k
Affricate unaspirated [ts] z [ʈʂ] zh [] j
aspirated [tsʰ] c [ʈʂʰ] ch [tɕʰ] q
Fricative voiceless [f] f [s] s [ʂ] sh [ɕ] x [x] h
voiced [v] [ʐ] r
Lateral [l] l
Finals
[ɨ]
i
[a]
a
[ɔ]
o
[ɛ]
e
[aɪ]
ai
[eɪ]
ei
[ɑʊ]
ao
[oʊ]
ou
[an]
an
[ən]
en
[ɑŋ]
ang
[əŋ]
eng
[əɻ]
er
[i]
i
[ia]
ia
[iɔ]
[iɛ]
ie
[iaɪ]
(iai)
[iɑʊ]
iao
[iɔʊ]
iu
[iɛn]
ian
[in]
in
[iɑŋ]
iang
[iŋ]
ing
[u]
u
[ua]
ua
[uɔ]
uo/o
[uaɪ]
uai
[ueɪ]
ui
[uan]
uan
[uən]
un
[uɑŋ]
uang
[ʊŋ]
ong
[y]
ü
[yɔ]
[yœ̜]
üe
[yœ̜n]
üan
[yn]
ün
[iʊŋ]
iong

The tone system used at the time was different to the modern version of zhuyin fuhao: the dark level tone was unmarked, and the light level, rising, departing and entering tone each had a single dot marked at the bottom left, top left, top right and bottom right corners respectively.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chen, Ping (1999). Modern Chinese: History and Sociolinguistics (1st ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–19. ISBN 9780521645720. 
  2. ^ "Chinese linguist, phonologist, composer and author, Yuen Ren Chao" (interview by Rosemany Levenson). Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 1974. 
  3. ^ Ramsey, S. Robert (1989). The languages of China (2nd print., with revisions, and 1st Princeton pbk. print.. ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780691014685.