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The role of Vietnamese dissyllabism in exploring Vietnamese words of Chinese origin
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Gianhập: Nov.15.2002
Nơicưtrú: Global Village
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The role of Vietnamese dissyllabism in exploring Vietnamese words of Chinese origin

by dchph

A new dissyllabic sound change approach to be explored


SV: Sino-Vietnamese (HánViệt)
VS: Sintitic-Vietnamese (HánNôm)

Today's Vietnamese vocabulary stock consists of a great number of two-syllable or dissyllabic words. This characteristic of dissyllabism -- of language with dominant words composed of two syllables -- has become dominantly one of the main characteristics of present-time Vietnamese, including those two-syllable words built with two synonymous word-syllables. The same is true in modern Chinese synonymous dissyllabic words which have been coined the same way as model for those mirrored dissyllabic words of the same characteristics in Vietnamese. In fact, modern Vietnamese appears to show clearly that it is a language of dissyllabism in nature as found plentiful in this kind of composite words, that is, many of these words are comprised of two elements of word-syllable, which are almost synonymous with each other, e.g., tức|giận (mad/angry), trước|tiên (firstly/initially), cũ|kỹ (ancient/old), kề|cận (by/near)...

Why do all these matters have to do with the Vietnamese etymology? Close examination of the previously cited examples will reveal some sound change patterns that underline the etymology of those Vietnamese words that apparently have been alternations of Chinese dissyllabic equivalents. As disscussed above, the lexical and semantic approach can apply here. However, lexically, these composite words have different composition of which the two monosyllabic words that make up the dissyllabic words are variations of different Chinese word-syllables, for example,

tức|giận: (~ tứckhí) this dissyllabic word can be further broken into "tức" and "giận", two monosyllabic synonyms in Vietnamese, and so are in Chinese in its equivalents as qì 氣 and hèn 恨. However, a modern dissyllabic Chinese word shēngqì 生氣 is a much more plausible cognate to "tứcgiận", for which, interestingly enough, the Vietnamese word order is in reverse (this penomenon, to be explained later, is common in Vietnamese from Chinese dissyllabic words.)

trước|tiên : is cognate of shǒuqiān 首先 (SV: đầutiên), composed of "trước" (a Sinitic-Vietnamese sound of qian -- cf. Hainanese /tăi/) plus "tiên" (a Sino-Vietnamese sound for "qiān"). The concept-sound of "trước" has taken place of "đầu" in this case, that is to say, the "trước" has been associated with "đầu" shǒu 首 to form this dissyllabic word. This is called the sandhi process of association.

cũ|kỹ /kʊkei/: "kỹ" appears to be a reduplicate of "cũ", also a cognate with "jìu" 舊, a closer sound to "kỹ" than "cũ". The same composition and formation apply equally to
kề|cận /kekʌn/: is from "kàojìn" 靠近 (~ jièjìn 接近) which is also cognate of "gầngũi" and "gầnkề" , of which the syllabic-words of the the later two dissyllabic words are in reverse to fit into local speech habit.

Dissyllabism has beeen a later development in both Chinese and Vietnamese, however, "trước", "cũ", and "gần", as opposed to the Sino-Vietnamese "tiên", "cựu", and "cận", respectively, are old materials which point the same root for the same formation of those dissyllabic words with the same contextual denotation in both languages.

From there we can see why it is so Chinese about the Vietnamese language, both so intertwined with each other that sound change from one language to another must have occurred in the context of the characteristics that both languages share, in this case, the dissyllabic features of the two.

For the time being just take some of many sound change patterns at their face values, e.g., -ang > -at, -ong > aw, n- > d-, etc. even though sound changes do follow linguistic rules which will be explained later on. The main principle to bear in mind is that sound changes did occur in "phonological batches" or cluster of sounds as whole syllabic units such as -ương > -ang, -ong > -aw, -ang > -at, -at > an, etc., but not just phonemically n-, -at, -u-, -n-, -ng, etc., in a much later development As Chinese has become more and more disyllabic in nature at a later time, when its disyllabic words had changed into Vietnamese they also changed in dissyllabic clusters of sounds, in a whole entity of paired syllables, not singly as simple vowels into other vowels or an initial into another initial, or not even syllable by syllable on one-to-one correspondences.

Dissyllabic sound change patterns are an important point in the new approach used in this research of Vietnamese etymology of Chinese origin. The logic behind this argument is, in terms of historical evolution and linguistic characteristics, if Chinese has already been classified by the world's large universities' renown linguistic circles as a polysyllabic language, then Vietnamese should be considered as such, too. Only in this context can one be able to see how the sound changes have taken place and why dissyllabic words should have had the apprearance as we see them here in this paper. In other words, disyllabic words had carried along with their disyllabic characteristics when they transformed themselves in Vietnamese, so that is why with

"qì" 氣 we have "hơi" as in "qìchē" 氣車: "xehơi", "kiệt" and "xỉn" as in "xiăoqì" 小氣: "keokiệt" and "bủnxỉn", or "sáo" and "khứa" as in kèqì 客氣 (~kètào 客套): "kháchsáo" ~ "kháchkhứa"; however, with "shengqì" 生氣 we have "tứcgiận" (< giận\tức phonetically -- in reverse order - "iro") and "sheng" 生 by itself is "sống" (live).
Here are some other examples:

jiārén 家人: "ngườinhà" (in reverse order), but with rénjiā 人家, jiā becomes "ta" as in "ngườita", "cả" as in dàjiā 大家: "tấtcả", while by itself it is "nhà";
bāngmáng 幫忙: bênhvực, while "máng" 忙 has given rise to both "bận" and "mắc";
bāchăng 巴掌: "bạttai" ~ "bàntay";

As we can see, the magnitude of sound changes are multi-faceted and diverse when dissyllabic words are treated as the whole unit whereas the same portion that stands alone as a monosyllabic word would not affect the whole string of sounds of dissyllabic words, i.e., the sound changes for disyllabic words had happened without the constraints of those for monosyllabic words. If one still considers Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language, then s/he will never fully appreciate the underlined notion of these hyphotheses which is used for a new dissyllabic approach of sound changes.

Once accepting this principle, one will never wonder why -ư corresponds to -a, -iê to -a, -au ~ -ông, -at ~ -an, -an ~ -ôt, -ai ~ ua, etc, and will not insist on -a- must be -ươ-, -ng must be -ng, or d- must be n- and so on in one-to-one relationship.

In fact, sound changes did happen within linguistic contraints, such as cultural factor as in "mẹ" ~ "mợ" or local speech habit as in "kháchkhứa". They migh also occurr following certain patterns and, of course, within a linguistic kinship boundary, e.g., English "cut" and Vietnamese "cắt" obviously are not cognates, but 隔 "gé" [kə2] and "cắt" is, given the the historical context of linguistic development of Vietnamese which has been going hand in hand with the evolution of the Chinese language, of which the vast vocabularies have penetrated into the Vietnamese language with various dialectal contacts at different times.

This new approach based on dissyllabism in studying Vietnamese of Chinese origin will be utilized in this research paper. By centering on the recognition of dissyllabic nature of the Vietnamse language, we will no longer look at sound change patterns as an isolate phonemic sound change event, but as a dynamic process that the whole sound string or cluster of sounds all have changed together independent of their monosyllabic word equivalents. This sound change patterns have occurred just like those of Latin polysyllabic roots that have given rise to many variations penetrating into the vocabulary stocks in the Indo-European languages.

Conventionally, therefore, in the aspect of romanized transcriptions, like their counterparts in Chinese, Vietnamese dissyllabic words in this paper shall be written in combining formation just as those of Mandarin are being transcribed in pinyin, such as

廢話 fèihuà ‘non-sense’ Vietnamese bahoa ~ baphải,
溫馨 wēnxīng ‘warm’ V ấmcúng,
開心 kāixīn ~ 高興 gāoxìng ’pleased’ V vuilòng .

In fact, what peculiar about words of dissyllabic formation is that sound changes from one sound to another is the dynamic phonological changes, having drastically veered away and been independent of the original sounds. We will examine this phenomenon at length to understand why sometimes they are all both phonologically and semantically distinct from what they originated from. The result of that will lay out foundation for the new dissyllabic approach and that will help us identify a vast majority of Vietnamese words having a Chinese origin.

Multiple sound changes of the same sole syllable in a dissyllabic word, however, at first sight, may help readers see sound change patterns that appear in its whole entirety instead of isolate syllables; however, at the same time, they may also cause confusion to the readers which leaves them with the impression that phonological variants given for the same Chinese monosyllabic root are ad hoc cases.

As to the dissyllabic characteristics of the examples cited above, while one may reconcile phonologically the sound change 費 fèi with ba, he will wonder how they can be connected semantically. Obviously this word has nothing to do with ba in the senses of ‘three" or "father...’ In fact, conceptually it renders phế 'waste' and bỏ ‘abandon’ connotations in Vietnamese. Individually the meaning of each syllable-word is not the same as that of the whole new dissyllabic word that makes the concept of "baphải" (non-sense). At the same time, the word ba- as well as -hoa individually does not mean anything lexically in Vietnamese as opposed to what we know etymologically of those two syllable-words in Chinese. Together as bound morphemes they to make what bahoa is as a unit. In this case, one plus one makes one, but not two -- one for one meaning. Structurally it is the same with baphải. In contrast to ba, however, it is easier to see why "fèi" has become "bỏ- "'unwanted, deserted’ as in

bỏphế 費除 fèichú, ‘eradicate',
bỏđi 費棄 fèiqì ‘abandon’,
đồbỏ 費物 fèwù ‘the unwanted’ (in reverse order),
bỏhoang 荒費 huāngfèi ‘deserted’ (in reverse order),

Like ba,bỏ is not necessarily always associated with 費 fèi. It is so because sound changes from Chinese to Vietnamese are manifold, especially from those of dissyllabic words. To gain more understanding of the idea that sound change is independent of etymological root -- originally of one-syllabe word or one Chinese character -- and influenced by both phonological and semantic association and dissimilation, let’s further compare some Vietnamese words derived from some of those Chinese dissyllables to result in Vietnamese homophones with bỏ

bãibỏ 排除 páichú ‘abolish’,
bỏphiếu 投票 tóupiào ‘to cast a ballot’,
bỏrơi 抛棄 pàoqì ‘abandon’ (~ bỏngõ)
bỏđi 離去 líqù ‘leave’ (~ rađi),
bỏqua 放過 fàngguò ‘let go’ (~bỏlỡ), alternation of 錯過 cuòguò, a doublet of 放過 ),
bỏmặc 不理 bùlǐ 'abandon',
bỏlỡ dịpmay 放過機會 fàngguò jihuì ‘let go an opportunity’ (~ bỏqua dịpmay),
bỏ tiền (vô túi) 放錢(進入口袋里) fàngqián (jìnrù kǒudài lǐ) put the money (into the pocket),
bỏtiền ra mua 花錢來買 huàqián lái măi: spend the money to buy,
bỏphí 白費 báifèi: to waste
bỏphiếu 投票 tóupiào: to vote

The sound change to bỏ in the above examples, including the innovations of other words, too, are due to different contextual settings. They involve not only phonological and semantic assimilation but also syntactical reshuttle through the reverse order of word structure as exemplified in đồbỏ and bỏhoang, which was undoubtedly a local development to fit syntactically into Vietnamese speakers’ speech habit.

Similarly, the fact that 話 huà phonetically evolves into hoa is acceptable, but in which way does it become phải ? The sound change rule /hw/ > /fw/ applies here as this phenomenon is very common in Chinese dialects such as Cantonese and Fukienese as compared to Middle Chinese or Mandarin sounds. Moreover, in dissyllabic formation, /fwa/ can easily evolve into /fai/ while

話 huà in its original monosyllabic word evolved into lời ‘spoken word’ Sino-Vietnamese thoại (cf. correspondent patterns: 火 huǒ lửa, 夥 huǒ lũ).

For the same reasons,

快 kuài may become mau (also a loan graph for ‘happy’ Sinitic-Vietnamese vui ),
and it is not hard to understand why 點 diăn becomes -lên.

Of course, lên here has nothing to do with ‘ascend, get on’ and it is only a particle indicating a command, similar to ‘up’ in ‘hurry up’. Phonologically, it is easier to see [tjen] ~ [len]. Individually

點 [tjen] can also be tiếng ‘hour’, châm 'ignite', chấm ‘dot’ and 'dip', tí ‘a bit’, điểm, đếm 'count', etc.,

of which phonologically and semantically the different Vietnamese meanings match exactly what /tjen/ means in every definition of the word 點 diăn as defined in an ancient or modern Chinese dictionary. Let compare lên in other context:

lênđây 上來 shànglái ‘come up here’.
In this case, shàng corresponds to lên ‘ascend’, and -lái is a particle while -đây is assimilated to an adverb of direction in Vietnamese of the same sound (zhèi 這 in Chinese). Lastly,
溫 wēn can be ấm, but in which way that 馨 xīn becomes cúng? Of course, it is not the same as

cúng 供 gòng (SV cống) ‘make offerings to spirits’,
but a result of sound change, as 馨 xīn is also pronounced xīng, Sino-Vietnamese hinh, MC xieng <*hing, of which the velar x- becomes a labiovelar /k-/, /k'-/ as commonly occurred in Chinese. Let’s compare 慶 磬 罄 ..., all pronounced qìng and Sino-Vietnamese khánh, and consider its phonological variations as in
thơmlừng ~ thơmlựng 新香 xīnxiāng ‘fragrantly smell’.

The above examples demonstrate to us multifaceted sound changes from Chinese to Vietnamese, among which each of the above dissyllabic words is composed of bound morphemes, either or both of which can not be separated. It is a result of sound change of a dissyllabic word from which any syllable can give rise to a complete new sound that can be, by all means, different from the very same syllable if standing alone as a monosyllabic word. The new sound may or may not mean anything if separated from the compound form depending on the degree of its association with another word similar in sound or meaning. Let’s examine the syllable-word mau- in mauchóng 敏捷 mǐnjié ‘quickly’, which, in fact, a variation of 盡快 jìnkuài (> chóng + mau) and its colloquial variation as 馬上 măshàng.

In fact, Chinese dissyllabic words can become various sounds in Vietnamese, of which the order could be put in reverse order to fit into the local speech habit, and this will be discussed much more later on in different perspectives. In any cases, homophones and homonyms are plentiful in both Vietnamese and Chinese.

Regarding to the true nature of Vietnamese it has been wrongly regarded as monosyllabism (tínhđơnâmtiết 單音節性), or charateristics of a language based on its dominant one-syllable words, in its vocabulary, that is, Vietnamese is a language that is lexically, semantically and syntactically composed of one-syllable words. It might be true in ancient times, but certainly it is not so in modern Vietnamese. We can say that the misconception on these issues from the linguistic circle has misled specialists of Vietnamese to the point that has certainly hindered new break-through development in this field. For this reason, the result of this research is, hopefully, to correct the misconception about monosyllabism and to set out a new approach to explore areas of the Chinese origin of the Vietnamese language by way of this nouveau dissyllabic approach, departing from the old approach that is limited to only isolated monosyllabic and merely basic words. This Sinitic-Vietnamese study is also an attempt to establish kinship of both Chinese and Vietnamese with linguistic proofs in all comprehensive linguistic lexical aspects.

Indeed the two aspects of disyllabicism and Chinese origin are closely intertwined as much as the two languages themselves are to the point that studies in either language cannot satisfactorily be done without referring to the other. Karlgren (1915), Haudricourt (1954), Chang (1974) and Denlinger (1979), Pulleyblank (1984) and many others utilized Vietnamese when they studied Ancient Chinese phonology. Specialists of Vietnamese studies such as Haudricourt (1954), Lê (1967) and Ðào (1983) and some others also did the same by making use of Chinese dialects to shed light on etymology of Vietnamese words. They all see the affinity, whether genetic or not, between Chinese and Vietnamese, but until now nobody discovered that most of Vietnamese words are originated from Chinese since they have mostly based their research limited on monosyllabism, which has prevented them from seeing other variations in sound changes from the same monosyllabic roots.

In fact, the dissyllabic approach to find Vietnamese words of Chinese origin is based on the two new premises that, firstly, both modern Vietnamese and Chinese are dissyllabic languages, or of dissyllabism, that is, semantically each of the two languages as a whole is composed of a high percentage of two-syllable words. Once Chinese and Vietnamese basic words are found cognates, there maybe exists the kinship between the two languages since basic words were what a language originally had had to start with. As we will see, Vietnamese is closely affiliated with many ancient and modern Chinese dialects, literary as well as vernacular (to be called "Chinese" in general). This new approach has indeed enabled me to find a remarkable large number, about 20,000, of Vietnamese words of Chinese origin, many of which have been long regarded as Nôm words, or "pure" Vietnamese.

Again, this new dissyllabic approach is to treat each Chinese word, as it should be, since it is the correct way to deal with Chinese lexicography, as composed of one or more morphemes, or syllables, as represented by each Chinese character singly, regardless of its meanings associated with each individual morpheme whether it is monosyllabic or polysyllabic. In both Vietnamese and Chinese, a morpheme mostly coincides with a syllable, which is free to go with other syllables to form other words.

Sometimes, the syllabic combinations in Chinese may convey completely different meanings regardless of its written characters in Chinese and, consequently, in Vietnamese, for instance,

on the Chinese side,

măshàng 馬上: mauchóng 'quickly'
qímă 起碼: ítra 'at least'
piányì 便宜: bèo 'cheap'
dōngxī 東西: đồđạc 'things'
liáotiān 聊天: tròchuyện 'chat'
wúliáo 無聊: lạtlẽo (~ nhạtnhẽo) 'boring'
mòshēng 陌生: lạlùng 'strange'
huāshēng 花生: đậuphụng 'peanut' (Hai. /wundow/)
and here on the Vietnamese side,

mặnmà 舔蜜: tiánmì (~ mật\ngọt) 'tasty'
thathiết 體貼: tǐtiè 'heartily'
cẩuthả 苟且: kǒuqiě (~ ẩutả) 'carelessly'
vấtvả 奔波: bēnbó (~ tấttả) 'hand to mouth'
múarối 木偶戲: mùǒuxì 'pupetry'
trờinắng 太陽: tàiyáng 'sunshine'
bồihồi 徘徊: báihuái 'sadly'
chịuđựng 忍受: rěn\shòu 'endure'
bắtđền 賠償: péichăng 'ask for compensation' (~ bắtthường)

For those words on the Chinese side any linguist of Chinese knows that better than anybody else. In a Chinese dictionary, one can find characters or polysyllabic words which have multiple meanings and the Chinese graphs involved have nothing to do with the meanings they convey. In the case of Chinese evolving into Vietnamese scenario, those Vietnamese words carrying the same characteristics like those example as cited above are endless. It is no surprise to see that sometimes what has changed into Vietnamese is not exactly what it was originally in Chinese, for instance, the meaning of

起 qǐ among other things is ‘to rise’ (VS: dậy, hence
起義 qǐyì, VS: nổidậy ‘to rise against), but
起馬 qímă means ‘at least’ (VS: ítra),
興起 xìngqǐ ‘interested’ (VS: hứngchí and mừngrỡ) and
起頭 qǐtóu ‘start’ (VS: bắtđầu).

Other examples such as

孝順 xiàoshùn ‘filial piety’ (VS: hiếuthảo),
順利 shùnlì ‘smoothly’ (VS: suôngsẻ and trótlọt),
順風shùnfēng ‘favorable wind’ (VS:xuôigió and thuậngió),
順手 shùnshǒu ‘conveniently’ (VS: thuậntay, sẵntay and luônthể),
順便 shùnbiàn ‘conveniently’ (VS: luôntiện and sẵntiện).

The word-morphemes 起 and 順 are in bound form and have evolved into different sounds, meanings and words in Vietnamese. The morphemes ‘qǐ’ and ‘shùn’ are innumerable in the Chinese language. By actively persuing this avenue in search for words of Chinese origin, we will find that almost all the Vietnamese words have a Chinese origin!

As we have seen through all the illustrations in this paper, the misconception of dissyllabism of Vietnamese and Chinese have prevented specialists in the field of Vietnamese etymology from seeing that sound changes of individual syllables in dissyllabic formation are independent from its original monosyllabic equivalents. Regarding dissyllabism, in ancient times, both Vietnamese and Chinese might have been monosyllabic. It is easier to confirm that monosyllabic characteristics of Chinese based on literary works of more than two thousand years ago than to do so with that of Vietnamese where its oldest ones are only dated as far as ten centuries ago. However, basic words that both languages seem to share in common seem to point to the direction of monosyllabism.

In any case, in modern Vietnamese, as one can find in any Vietnamese dictionary thousands of dissyllabic and a few polysyllabic words even though they are written in separated syllables. In the past, many experts of Vietnamese insist on its monosyllabic characteristics as represented by Barker (1966, p. 10): “With the exception of certain compounds, reduplicative patterns, and loan words, Vietnamese and Muong are both monosyllabic languages.” If we take his saying to apply to the English language in certain aspects, it is also a monosyllabic language! Also, this statemenent just makes him look like that is all he knows about the Vietnamese language. Some Vietnamese linguist might have "worshipped" him, more or less, just simply because he was a western linguist who know something about Vietnamese. When he said “certain compounds, reduplicated patterns, and loan words”, anyone who is unfamiliar with the language may feel that there are only a small number of such words exist in Vietnamese. In reality, almost a whole vocabulary stock of Vietnamese are structured in such a way as we can see in any Vietnamese dictionary. In other words, his statement can be used to disqualify him as a specialist of Vietnamese. Ironically, many Vietnamese linguists in the field tend to worship those westerners who know something about Vietnamese to say something about it!

It is true that many of those dissyllabic words in Vietnamese can be analyzed into a combination of monosyllables which can be used independently and attach to other syllables to form other counpounds. Nevertheless, a great number of those words are composed of two or more syllables, or morphemes as to be considered in this case, that cannot be separated into single syllables to be used as independent words. One of the good examples is the most basic Vietnamese words about human body parts, which must have been originated from ancient time, such as cùichỏ ’elbow’, đầugối ‘knee’, mắccá ‘ankle’, màngtang ‘temple’, mỏác ‘fontanel’, chânmày ‘eyebrow’, etc. All of these are dissyllabic words since syllables of each word are unbreakable like their English counterparts. In this respect, the only difference is, like its sister Chinese language, each morpheme in its free form as a complete syllable can mean something else. For example, đầu also means ‘head’ and gối means ‘to lean against’. Other examples of a great number of dissyllabic words are in different areas such as càunhàu ‘growl’, cằnnhằn ‘grumble’, ‘bângkhuâng ‘pensive’, bồihồi ‘melancholy’, bùingùi ‘sorrowful’, mồhôi 'sweat', mồcôi; ‘orphan’, bằnglòng 'agree', taitiếng; ‘notorious’, tạmbợ; ‘temporary’, tráchmóc ‘reproach’, or Sino-Vietnamese words hiệndiện ‘presence’, phụnữ ‘woman’, sơnhà ‘fatherland’, and polysyllabic words such as mêtítthòlò; ‘irresistable’, húhồnhúvía ‘Oh my Lord!’, bađồngbảyđổi; ‘unpredictably’, hằnghàsasố; ‘innumerable’, lộntùngphèo; ‘upside down’, tuyệtcúmèo ‘wonderful’. (Read more detail of this discussion in Sửađổi Cáchviết ChữViệt) If those words are written in combining formation instead of being singly written in separate syllables, they certainly will give foreign learners of Vietnamese a different impression, including Barker hemself.

For the matter of polysyllabism, in the past renown vietnamese linguists such as Bùi Ðức Tịnh (1966, p.82) who had sided with Hồ Hữu Tường when he criticized and defied ideas that Vietnamese is a monosyllabic language. Both of them treated Vietnamese as a dissyllabic language. In Vietnamese, the only fact that a high percentage of Sino-Vietnamese words (just like words having roots from Latin and Greek in the English language) as quoted above being used in today’s Vietnamese sufficiently constitutes the dissyllabic nature of the Vietnamese language, let alone other polysyllabic words of different categories. Many of those loanwords are unbreakable. The Koreans and Japanese have long recognized this matter and they always, scientifically, write Chinese loan words in “group”! Unfortunately, in today’s writing system of the Vietnamese language each of such dissyllabic words is still broken into two syllables where each of which when standing alone may not be related to the original meanings and may not mean anything at all!

Exactly the same thing can be said about the dissyllabic characteristics of the Chinese language. Any Chinese dialect nowadays is also a dissyllabic language. Regarding to this issue, Chou (1982, p.106) quoted others in his article:

Following Kennedy and de Francis, Eugene Chin said: ”If we admit that words, not morphemes, are the construction material of Chinese, we cannot but admit that Chinese is polysyllabic. If we may use the majority rule here, we will have no trouble establishing the fact that Chinese is dissyllabic.”

From this premise, given the fact that Vietnamese and Chinese are dissyllabic, we can trace each dissyllabic word in both Vietnamese and Chinese and he will find that, phonologically, a dissyllabic Chinese word can also become quite a few different words in Vietnamese. For instance, one Chinese word 三八 sānbā (Sino-Vietnamese: tambát), meaning “nonsense”, might have already evolved into tầmphào, tầmbậy, tầmbạ, bảláp, bảxàm, basạo, xàbát, xằngbậy... in Vietnamese.

As to the sound change from Chinese into Vietnamese words, those linguists, who started with the premise that Chinese and Vietnamese are both monosyllabic languages, try to look for only one related Vietnamese equivalent to one Chinese character, equally a monosyllabic word, and, in most of the cases, they seem to associate only one word of Chinese origin to the one that is in the Vietnamese language. That is, plagued with the old approach they sought the etymology of Vietnamese words by investigating and confining themselves to only isolated monosyllables to find their corresponding Chinese cognates.

Once and for all, let's face it, since both languages are dissyllabic languages consisting mainly of two-syllable words, the linguistic rules of sound changes from Chinese dissyllabic words into Vietnamese ones are just like those of other polysyllabic languages. For instance, in Indo-European languages polysyllabic words of the same root when changing into another language at least one of the syllables may not strictly follow the same phonological pattern in all languages, such as Latin gelatan > French gelée or variations of the word “police”: politi, polizei, policia, polizia, polite, polis, polisi, "phúlít" (old VS from French).

What does this rule have to do with Vietnamese words of Chinese origin? In the Chinese > Vietnamese scenario, though one Chinese character (coinciding with a syllable and a word) when changing into Vietnamese, theoretically, only one equivalent sound (word) exists, but, in reality, in many a case there are more than one Vietnamese sound for each Chinese character, for example,

元 yuán SV nguyên, ngươn , VS (tháng)giêng,
度 dù SV độ, VS đo, đạc,
粉 fén SV phấn, VS bún, bột, phở,
拜 bài SV bái, VSvái, lạy,
etc., or in compounds:

場 chăng SV trường, tràng, but in Vietnamese there are several sounds:
劇場 jùchăng (SV: kịchtrường) sânkhấu 'stage',
式場 shìchăng (SV: thítrường) trườngthi 'examination site',
戰場 zhànchăng (SV: chiếntrường) chiếntrận , hence, trậnchiến 'battle' (note: word order is in reverse in all three cases above),
一場夢 yì chăng mèng (SV:nhất trườngmộng) một giấc/cơn mơ/mộng 'dream',
一場病yì chăng bìng (SV:nhất trườngbệnh) một trận/cơnbệnh 'illness',
一場戲 yì chăng xì (SV: nhất trường hí) một xuấthát 'a show',
一場空 yì chăng kong (SV: nhất trườngkhông) một khoảngtrống 'nothingness, nada',
在場 zàichăng (SV: tạitrường) tạichỗ ~ tạitrận 'on spot, red-handed', etc.

The sandhi process of association has occurred not only in syllables where neighboring sounds with similar syllable-word and meanings can be assimilated, which might have already taken place before they were introduced to Vietnamese as in the above cases where zhèn 陣 (trận) or chù 黜 (xuất) had been associated with chăng å

- Ngườihiệuđính: dchph vào ngày Mar.16.2003, 19:54 pm


Dec.8.2002 19:33 pm
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