What Makes Chinese so Vietnamese?
An Introduction to Sinitic-Vietnamese Studies
(Ýthức mới về nguồngốc tiếngViệt)
Table of Contents
Sinitic-Vietnamese (VS) is a linguistic concept for the Vietnamese affiliation with Chinese in many aspects. So let us not be misled or confused by the term 'Sinitic'. Having nothing to do with ancestral roots of everything as conveyed in the name, "Sinitic" or "Sino-" implicates mostly geo-political and cultural entities of the mainland of China where it should be made clear that Chinese is not a race but a culture. Like that of the heading of "Mon-Khmer", "Sinitic" is repositioned because of the grandness of China, so to speak, not that the Chinese language gave birth to Vietnamese. Contrarily the Yue entities were in existence long before the emergence of the Sintic entity, that is, "Chin" (秦 Qin), an ancient state of the Middle Kingdom called for today's China.
Geographically, if you slice the political map of China into territorial cloves based on each major historical stage of development of the country, and then gradually scale it back to around 3000 B.C. whence there virtually existed no "China", neither did "Qin", "Han", nor anything Chinese as what is known today. In short, the concept of "Chin", hence, "Sinitic", for the same matter, that was arbitrarily picked by the academics, could have been replaced with "Han", or even "Chu", if in 208 B.C. the Chu had defeated the Han in their last battle in the contention of the collapsing empire of the Qin.
In essence, similar to 'Sinitic', at a higher level, 'Sino-' constitutes a part of a pivotally anthropological portal fanning to different fields of 'Sinology', especially in anthropology, that includes Chinese historical linguistics. Unlike 'Sinitic', moreover, 'Sino-" is a core entity that makes up the Sino-Tibetan (ST) family not governed by the same connotation of "Chinese" as implicated in 'Sinitic' as one normally perceives for those Sinitic languages that are considered as the seven major Chinese dialects regardless of their genetic affiliation such as Cantonese or Fukienese. Conceptually, the term 'Sinitic' is associated more with Chinese and 'Sino-' is genetically affiliated with ancient Tibetan Bodic family, that is techinically analogous to what the prefix 'Indo-' fits in the context of "Indo-European" (IE) while 'Sanskrit' is nominally to indicate an ancient language from "prehistoric India" whether or not the current term "China" or "India" is brought into a larger picture, of which each concept is not governed by each respective domain literally. In the Indo-European case, the older linguistic Sanskrit entity plays a much more important role in any work of reconstruction of certain ancient Indo-European (IE) languages than what is conveyed in "Indo-" while 'Sanskrit' is not the mother of all IE languages, though. Similarly, that is how the "Sino" or "Sinitic" relates to Sino-Tibetan and Sino-Vietnamese (SV), or Sinitic languages and Sinitic-Vietnamese (VS), respectively. "Sinitic" is only a part in the daisy chains of the whole strain of Sinology that is interelated to other Chinese dialects of which each is classed as a 'Sinitic' language all under the umbrella of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family. That is the extent to which 'Sino-' and 'Sinitic' dictate their effective affiliation with Sinitic-Vietnamese that also includes Sino-Vietnamese.
Specifically, "Sinitic' in the linguistic context implicates a whole class of language family that includes, and could even extend to, speeches that could only be identified with one ancestral language that had existed long before the 'Chin' (Qin, hence 'Sinitic') ever came into existence. Even though the Qin Empire was a short-lived dynasty (221-206 B.C.), "Sinitic" is still so called that represents the "Qin" empire to credit its first triumphant unification of all states called Zhongguo (中國 or Middle Kingdom), the union of all dynasties and vassals that had ever been established in the mainland of China before and after the 3rd century B.C. For the term 'Sino-', it fits into 'Tibetan' to bring up the terminology "Sino-Tibetan" that is used to designate a grand linguistic family that embraces not only Sinitic but also Bodic, or Tibetan, languages. In a limited sense, "Sino-" and "Sinitic" are academic terms that are elementally related to the political map of 'China' which makes Sinitic-Vietnamese to become a part of ether language family even though, in effect, Vietnamese was an original Yue entity that should be placed in the order of Yue-Sinitic, but, the author of this paper, following the same convention as described above, that specific term should be named "Sinitic-Yue" in which 'Yue' in place of 'Viet' for the former has been long used the academic world — a proposition of Vietnamese historical linguistics classification as discussed below.
Etymologically, research on the origin of any Vietnamese word should be conducted in an appreciative and meditative manner just as one would do in practicing Zen or Yoga, slowing down, calmly, tracing one's feelings on the sounds meditatively that happen to one's lips. To be truthful, it should be the same with Chinese as well. For example, 弩機 nújī (crossbow trigger) where 弩 nú=nổ=nỏ=ná (in the same rhyming table with 魚 yú=ngư=nga=cá and 機 jī=cơ=cò as specifically described in 說文 Shuowen by 許慎 Xu Shen of the Han Dynasty, not as originally of 'shuttle' of a weaving device as speculated by 段玉裁 of the Qing Dynasty (See Xu Zhongshu, 1934. pp. 425, 427, 441).
The contemporary Austroasiatic avant-gardes have focused much about on the genre of their basic words, minus tonality and the like, as compared to other prominent Sinitic linguistic attributes, all intrinsically. The Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer theorists have simply ignored what has originally been essentially in store on the Sinitic-Yue (or Sinitic-Vietic) side of the Chinese historical linguistics in several anthropological aspects. "Vietic" is a later term for a linguistic sub-family affiliated with ancient Vietnamese — as in Viet-Muong — for the concept of ancient Yue isoglosses that were nominally transcribed in Chinese records as 粵, 越, 戉, 鉞... that are now grouped into different Chinese Southern dialects such as Cantonese and Fukienese.
Bibliographically speaking, etymological evidences of the Yue etyma are actually buried deeply in ancient Chinese literary and historical books. The plausibility of proven cognates, indeed, are manifested in parts by phonetic keys, or clues, amply noted in numerous ancient classical materials with notations such as the "dúruò" 讀若 (read as... or 'pronunciation'), "fănqiè" 反切 (spelling), "xíngshēng" 形聲 (phonographic), etc. in traditional Chinese linguistics. For instance, VS "cộ" /ko6/ (carriage) is a [ 轂 gǔ ] variant of an archaic sound of 車 chē (carriage) as shown in HòuHànshū (後漢書 'Books on the Later Han') "dúruò" (is pronounced as) 居 jū (SV cư), which is in turn evidenced by the phonetic sign of 古 gǔ (SV cổ, OC *ku). Many old characters as etyma lexicographically are listed in the Kangxi Dictionary 康熙字典 with over 50,000 out of more than the possible 70,000 single Chinese characters ever recorded with quotations and notations derived from variant dialectal forms and keys to pronunciations. Anybody who uses the Kangxi dictionary — now of course conveniently accessible online — can find numerous interesting examples therein, including thousands of ancient ideographs.
In this Sinitic etymological realm alone, as the time goes on more of those obsolete etyma have been gradually identified, tagged, analyzed, and reconstructed. That kind of work appears to be a painstaking task, though, like sieving tiny bits of gold dust from ground rocky sandy grains in streams of Chinese classics for every single etymon that can or cannot be identified with modern set of common lexicons, for example,
- "sọ" (head) 首 shǒu (SV thủ),
- "răng" (tooth) 齡 líng (SV linh),
- "ngọt" (sweet) 𩜌 [or '飠宛'] yuē (SV ngạt),
- "chua" (sour) 酸 suān (SV toan),
- "rát" (sore) 熱 rè (SV nhiệt),
- "heo" (pig) 亥 hài (SV hợi),
- "lợn" (pig) 腞 dùn [ or 豘 tún ] (SV độn), etc.
or those highly plausible cognates, such as
The Austroasiatic theorists have missed all those. It is possibly that they are inadvertently unaware of such linguistic traces of interrelationship among archaic Yue and Sinitic languages, etymologically connected in all shapes and forms gradually being unveiled that could be proto-forms and archaic scripts having evolved into Sinitic etyma found in both Chinese lexical items and their Sintic-Vietnamese equivalents as well. All words in that category to be called 同源辭 tóngyuáncí, or 'etyma' — or 'words of the same root' — for example, 川 chuān, 水 shuǐ, and江 jiāng 'sông' all signify 'river' or 'stream,not only rigidly stick to '江 jiāng' for 'sông'. Etymologically, Sinitic-Vietnamese etyma is postulated herein as having evolved from Sinitic-Yue forms like in the last case of 'river' above. Specifically, Sinitic-Yue etymon 狗 gǒu corresponds to 'chó' (dog) while its Sino-Vietnamese sound 'cẩu' is for Sinitic-Vietnamese 'cầy', and that co-exists with Sinitic 犬 quán that gives rise to VS 'cún' (puppy), or 眼 yăn and 目 mù for 'mắt' (eye), 首 shǒu and 頭 tóu for 'head', and the likes. Meanwhile, nothing on the Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer wordlist is characteristically parallel to what described and cited above and more to come (See Nguyễn Ngọc San. 1993).
Archaeological excavations of cultural relics of the ancient Chu State (楚國) in parts of China South (CS) region have revealed a vast amount of its proto-Taic vestiges in forms of ancient "Yue" elements. Their affiliation is parallel to its development in the linguistic field based on findings of related Sinitic-Vietnamese etyma, that is, Vietnamese words being cognate to those in Sinitic languages. Recall that the first king of the Han Dynasty, Han Gaozu (漢高祖), Liu Bang (劉邦), was a Chu subject, so were his subordinates and troops. To say the least, after the process of Sinicization (漢化) of the Chu subjects of Tai-Yue origin, many Chu linguistic elements had become parts of the Han; however, later they are treated as if they were directly from the Han stock, namely, the Sinitic language sub-family thanks to their direct relationship with other Han affiliations. Similarly, the same phenomenon could be said of what is considered as of Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer thanks their close language contact on spot when the early Mon-Khmer resettlers from the southwest of today's North Vietnam moved into the Red River Delta and mixed with the local Daic people and the later Yue emigrants from the Dongtinghu of China South region (Nguyen Ngoc San. Ibid. 1993. p. 43).
Whether or not the new findings in this survey could finally uproot those well-laid cornerstones of Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer theory, at least they would possibly be retained as complements to what the current studies of Sinitic-Vietnamese field may be lacking because they are still heavily relied on the systematic Han-Viet (漢越) readings of Chinese etyma, which is diachronic while Sinitic-Vietnamese development synchronic. Credibility of all cited examples are direct results of applying the two new etymological techniques that the author called (1) 'analogy' or 'analogical' and (2) 'dissyllabic(ity)' approaches.
Firstly, with the new analogical approach many Vietnamese etyma of Chinese origin could be positively identified and plausibly posited, including those camouflaged underneath some basic Mon-Khmer vocabulary substratum and vice versa; otherwise, they could have easily slipped away unnoticed, such as those of "chim" (bird) 禽 qín, "chuột" (mouse) 鼠 shǔ, "ngựa" (horse) 午 wǔ, "heo" (boar) 亥 hài, "trâu" (water buffallo) 丑 chǒu etc., (for more examples refer to the chapter on Comparative Mon-Khmer and Vietnamese basic words.)
The same analogy will help us analyze other sibling etyma as they could have been materialized within the same category in either semantic or cultural context. For example, if a word characteristically has a Chinese origin of the same linguistic traits and attributes, chances are that its related forms could be postulated as of the same genre as well, e.g., "đất" 土 tǔ (soil) vs. 地 dì (land), "nặng" (heavy) 重 zhòng (SV 'trọng') vs. "nhẹ" (light) 輕 qīng (SV 'khinh'), etc., whereas in the cultural context that could mean the same concept created with the same morpho-syllable, such as 懷念故土 huáiniàngùtǔ ~> VS 'nhớvềđấtổ' (homesickness), 心地 xīndì (SV 'tâmđịa') ~> VS 'tấmlòng' ([in the bottom of one's] heart), 重擔 zhòngdàn ~> VS 'gánhnặng' ('heavy burden', both literally and figuratively), 輕視 qīngshì ~> VS 'khinhkhi' (look down at) and 'xemnhẹ' (take lightly), 輕易 qīngyì ~> VS 'khidễ' (despise), and 容易 róngyi ~> VS 'dễdàng' (easily) vs. 困難 kùnnán ~> 'khókhăn' (diffificult), respectively. all match direct ('nghĩađen' 正義 zhèngyì) and figurative ('nghĩabóng' 偏義 piānyì) meanings.
The second approach is based on dissyllabic characteristics of two-syllabic words. This methodology is used to identify the etymology of many Sinitic-Vietnamese basic words, which could be partly in conjunction to and/or as subsequent of the analogical approach (in addition to what is already demonstrated in the cultural context as exemplified above). For example, 田地 tiándì ~ VS 'đồngruộng' (paddy field) gives rise to 下地 xiàdì (go to farm) ~> VS 'rađồng' / 地 dì (SV địa) @ 'đồng' ~ 田 tián (SV điền) and @ 田 tián (VS đồng > 'ruộng'); so in this case, it could be interpreted that "地 dì has evolved into 'đồng' 垌 tóng (paddy field) which is associated with '田 tián' (SV điền > VS 'đồng' > VS 'ruộng' ". The dissyllabicity approach requires that historical linguists treat sound changes from those two-syllabic Chinese words that evolved into the Vietnamese dissyllabic variants as a synchronic event where each syllable could independently act on its own capacity as a stand-alone allophonic unit with its own generative characteristics. That is, the same syllable from those of monosyllabicity in dissyllabic words select their natural adaption in Vietnamese. For example, 田 tián originally in Old Chinese meant "hunt" and in Sintic-Vietnamese it is plausibly cognate to "săn" with the sound change pattern /¶ t- ~ s-/ [ M 田 (佃) tián < MC dien < OC *lhi:n ]
The whole dissyllabic transformation process as such is not restricted to certain rigid rules of sound changes that govern phonologically-deposited diachronism, e.g., Middle Chinese ~ Sino-Vietnamese ~ Cantonese interchanges. Generalization of that rule is based on recognition of multiple phonetic patterns, morphemically or syllabically, as resulted from either lexical mutation, constraction, metamorphosis, metathesis, or spoonerism. They are sparodically synchronic events in which each morphemic syllable individually diverged into multiple phonemic forms.
The bottom line of the matter is that the implication posed by these two extended approaches will bring up evidences on Chinese linguistic traits found in Vietnamese and lay out the foundation for classifying Vietnamese into a new Sinitic-Vietnamese linguistic sub-family category and putting it on par with other languages in the Sinitic of the larger Sino-Tibetan (ST) linguistic family in the end.
Sinitic > Seven major Chinese dialectal groups / *Sino-Tibetan < \ Sinitic-Yue > Sinitic Vietnamese
---------------------- (*) based on the cognacy of some 400+ Sino-Tibetan fundamental words with those of Sinitic Vietnamese
How would the Mon-Khmer etyma, i.e., those Austroasiatic cognates, fit into the diagram above?
To satisfy the Austroasiatic demand given the postulation of Taic > Mon-Khmer as well, their positional designation is proposed as follows:
Taic > Sinitic-Yue > Sinitic > Sinitic Vietnamese* > Annamese > Vietnamese / **proto-Taic < \ Taic > ***Austroasiatic > Mon-Khmer > Vietmuong > Vietic > ****Vietnamese ---------------------- (*) including Sino-Vietnamese (**) linguistic elements already existed prior to the class of Austroasiatic (***) could be interpreted as the Yue without Sinitic elements (****) which is redundantly the same as the above and can be omitted
The above Sinitic-Yue theorization is to be interpreted that those Yue linguistic forms originated from a common proto-Taic family, that probably existed at least 4,000-6,000 years B.P. and might also have given rise an entity that is now classed as the "proto-Austroasiatic" linguistic family. The whole process had taken place in parallel with the spreading of the Dongsonian bronze drum culture by earlier Yue emigrants who might have brought them to Indonesia islands as we see it today. If that is the case, theorization of a northern movement from the Indo-Chinese peninsula could not be that of the Yue or Austroasiatic as speculated previously. Either theory, Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer or Sinitic-Yue, could be speculative in any case.
During the same period, the Yue-Sinitic entities had been formed with the fusion of those elemental forms as a result of transmutation among those "stay-behind" aborigines and the Sino-Tibetan newcomers moving in from the south of Yellow River, the ancient craddle of China's Shang-Yin State, hence the becoming of a gene for those early "Chinese" who are seen also to have shared the common mythologies of Yándì 炎帝 (Viêmđế), Chénnóng 神農 (Thầnnông), and "children of Dragon" 龍種 (dòngdõi Tiênrồng, etc.) with descendants of the Yue who inhabitated China South region north and south of the Yangtze River Basin. (See Nguyen Nguyen's on the origin of Vietnamese)
So be it either big fish (the Yue) or that of small catches (the Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer), each of these species, in sum, all has evolved from a common strain, the proto-Taic, so to speak, at a very early stage approximately ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 years B.P., where the boundary among them was still a matter of intepretation and speculation based mainly on prehistoric artifacts excavated by archaeology and, of course, aforementioned oral legendary.
As far as history is concerned, while some theories are hypothetical, others like the existence of the state of Yèlángguó 夜朗國 in Sichuan and the Yue State 越國 Yuèguó (VS 'NướcViệt') in Jiangsu 江蘇 (near the modern city of Shaoxing 紹興) in ancient times are recorded in history. Historical records of those early Yue people who spoke some form of proto-Yue living in those states during the Warring Period (475 - 403 B.C.) are lending some supporting evidences of the early proto-Taic natives and their habitats, hence, their speeches for that matter.
Linguistically and culturally, until the early 1970s, literary works written in Vietnamese were still under heavy Chinese influence in its style in both prose and poetry, the latter of which were still carefully crafted in Tang rhyming matrix fluxed with Chinese classical metaphors and clichés depicted China's snowy settings somewhere in Suzhou or Hangzhou, which lasted until new France-educated generation brought home new romantic scenes of Paris and La Seine River. (See Tô Kiều Ngân, 2013. And Hà Đình Nguyên, 1992.) In comparison, 21stcenturied writings are fairly different as found in official Tuổitrẻ and Thanhniên newspapers as representative pieces of modern Vietnamese written styles.
All in all under the perspective of Sinitic linguistic development it is postulated the Sinitic-Yue had evolved from linguistic fusion of speeches spoken by the indigenous Yue and those first Sino-Tibetan speakers — possibly aggressively warlike but intelligent normadic people and probably ancestors of Yin Dynasty's subjects — who had come and resettled beyond south of the Yellow River Basin in the habitat of the Yue located in today's China South (Y), all those etyma of supposedly related forms originally evolved from some ancient Yue languages are currently still being spoken by the Zhuang, the Dai, the Dong, the Miao, etc., minorities living in the southern part of today's China. (See APPENDIX K)
As for Vietnamese specifically, historically, the language has distinctively emerged as a special case of a Sinicized Yue speech that has been largely mixed with Chinese elements dominantly prominent for a simple reason that it had gone through 1,000 years under the rule of the imperial China as one of its prefectures. Its case, however, is much less Sinicized and different from the same process that has turned all Cantonese and Fukienese as Chinese subdialects since the Han and Tang dynasties, respectively. While the two prefectures continued to stay under the shadow of Chinese Han who have kept moving in and resettling there throughout their history, in contrast, since the year 939 the ancient Vietnamese speakers inside Annam have managed to keep the country as a sovereign state and its language to evolve in its own way. The same phenomenon has now been recurring in the Chinese Hainan Province island as of now, a process that has picked up more and more northern Chinese resettlers since the start of the current millenium. Most of Vietnamese specialists have not paid enough attention to such historical details.
In any case, grouping of the Vietnamese language into that of the Sino-Tibetan language family is based on solid evidences of fundamentals of linguistic elements of Sino-Tibetan etymologies (see Chapter !0 on the Sino-Tibetan etymologies); therefore, poposed approaches in this study will be deviated greatly from the path that seeks to re-enforce theories on the Austroasiatic origin of Vietnamese. In other words, Sinitic-Vietnamese words characterized in this paper are in opposition with those linguistic traits found in Mon-Khmer lexicons as follows in the next sections.
商朝 又 称 殷、殷商（约前17世纪—约前11世纪）是 中国 第一个 有 直接 的 同 时期 的 文字 记载 的 王朝。 商朝 前期 屡屡 迁都。 而 最后 的 二百七十三 年 盘庚 定都 于 殷 （今 中国 安阳市），所以 商朝 又 叫 殷朝。 有时候 也 称为 殷商 或 者殷。 商朝 晚期， 中国 的 历史 从 半信半疑 的时代 过渡 到 信史 时代。 商 是 中国 历史 上 继 夏朝 之后 的 一个 朝代， 相对 于 夏 具有 更 豐富 的 考古 發現。 原夏 之 諸侯國 商部落 首领 商汤 率 諸侯國 於 鳴條 之 戰 滅 夏帝国 後 建立。经历 17代31王， 末代 君王 商纣王 於 牧野 之 戰 被 周武王 擊敗 而 亡。 https://web.archive.org/web/https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/商朝 )
根据 《岭南摭怪》 里 的 越南 传说，中国 殷代时，雄王 因 “缺朝觐之礼”，而 招来 殷王 率来 袭 （又称 “殷寇”； 而 《大越 史记 全书·外纪·鸿厖纪》则 说 是 “雄王 六世” 时期 的 “国内 有警”）。 正当 大军 压境时，仙游县 （或作 武宁县） 扶董乡 的 一位 三岁 童子 自动 请缨，带领 雄王军队 来到 殷军 阵前， “挥剑 前进，官军（雄王军）后从。 殷王 死 阵前”， 而 童子 亦 随即 “脱衣 骑马 升天”。 其后，雄王 尊该名 童子 为 “扶董天王”，立祠 拜祭。
[HOWEVER] 近代 越南 学者 陈仲金 [Trần Trọng-Kim] 以 实事求是 的 态度，指出 中国 殷朝 入侵 的 传说“ 实属谬误”，理由 是 ：“中国 殷朝 位于黄河 流域 一带， 即 今 之 河南、 直隶、山西 和 陕西 地区。 而 长江 一带 全是 蛮夷 之 地。 从 长江 至 我北越 相隔 路 途 甚为 遥远。 即 使时 我国 有 鸿庞氏 为王， 无疑 也 不会 有什么 纪纲 可言， 无非 像 芒族 的 一位 郎 官 而已， 因此 他 与 殷朝 无任何 来往，怎能 引起 彼此 间的 战争。 而且，中国 史书 也 没有 任何 之处 记载 此事。 因此， 有 什么 理由 说 殷寇 就是 中国 殷朝 之 人呢？” 因此 陈仲金 将 之 视作 “有 一股 贼寇称为 殷寇” 而已。(Source: https://web.archive.org/web/http://baike.baidu.com/view/1854748.htm) [UNLESS LACVIET HAD BEEN PART OF THE ANCIENT CHU STATE(?) While they are about some legends of Thanh Giong, we focus only the linguistic aspect of the matter here. Howerver, there exist evidences that the ancient Vănlang state had already been in contact with the Shang Dynasty with the Shang's 10th century B.C. bronze artifacts found in Hunan Province. ] In Chinese group to bring relic back to Hunan, by Lin Qi,: "A 3,000-year-old Chinese bronze, called min fanglei, will soon return to its birthplace to be reunited with the lid from which it was separated nearly a century ago. The reunion was made possible by a private purchase by Chinese collectors on April 19 in New York. Acclaimed as the "king of all fanglei", the square bronze, which dates to the Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century B.C), served as a ritual wine vessel. It was excavated in Taoyuan, Hunan province, in 1922." (Source: https://web.archive.org/web/http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2014-03/21/content_17366159.htm)
(Remarks in between [ ] and the string 'https://web.archive.org/web/' are made and added by dchph.)
ā ē ě ī ǐ ă ō ǒ ū ǔ ǖ ǘ ǚ ǜ ü ɔ ɑ ɪ ɛ ɤ ə ŋ ɯ ɪ ʔ ʃ ö χ ɓ ɗ ɱ ʿ ʾ θ ñ