What Makes Chinese so Vietnamese?
An Introduction to Sinitic-Vietnamese Studies
(Ýthức mới về nguồngốc tiếngViệt)
Table of Contents
The five major points that have been discussed throughout this research are (1) argumentation on the Yue elements that had existed prior to the emergence of what was later known as Chinese, (2) analysis of biased views on the Vietnamese historical linguistics shaped by nationalism and politics that make bad academics, (3) shift of focus on the Vietnamese cognates with those of Sino-Tibetan and Chinese languages that match a wide range of basic words believed to be of Mon-Khmer origin, and (4) assertion of dissyllabicity of both Vietnamese and Chinese, and lastly, (5) presentation of the analogical approach as drawn from the recognition of the frequency of their syllabic pairs that helps discover more Sintic-Vietnamese words.
Even though several Sinitic-Vietnamese issues have been addressed under discreet guises of different subject matters since the last century, most specialists of Vietnamese examining the matter of Vietnamese etymology of Chinese origin to date have separated the Sinitic entity from that of the aboriginal Yue and placed them under the scope of Austroasiatic Mon-Khmer, Austro-Thai, Daic-Kaida, Vietic, and Vietmuong, all postulated as having been descended forn a common ancestral linguistic family of Taic (De Lacouperie. Ibid.  1963). Many of them played down the fact there had existed the proto-Yue and only then emerged the Sintic elements in the vast land, which was later known as the Middle Kingdom, now the mainland of China, as their vocabularies reflect in the Erya and Kangxi dictionaries in which doublets and variants from the same roots are commonplace.
At the same time, Vietnamese can also be seen as a survival descent of the Yue language. In this paper all along the author has more than once emphasized the fact that throughout the 1,000 years long under the rule of China from 111 B.C., the Annamese language, as an ancient linguistic medium, gradually absorbed the late Sinitic components that had built up on top of the Yue root base and they altogether evolved into what is seen as today's Vietnamese. As a matter of fact, there has been continuity of lineage and linkage of them all as affiliated languages as their variants have evolved from the ancient to present time. If they are presented on the linguistic map with the distribution of subdialects that spread steadily vocal gradients from tense and heavy to lax and softening state in articulation. For such matter, the whole picture fits nicely into the racial admixture as well following the proposition that, to say the least, the northerners are more Chinese, the Central populace Chamic, while the southerners have been emigrants from the two other older regions having merged with local people and later emerged as speakers of versatile Vietnamese as if the whole southern subdialect had been seemingly rendered by the earlier Tchiewchow resettlers whose speech mixed with what the Khmer natives would attempt to mimick.
In so far as studying Sinitic-Vietnamese words of Chinese origin, this etymological linguistic field has not been fully explored the way it deserves. When working on them, specialists in the field tended to compare only a limited number of monosyllabic words with equivalents of individual Chinese characters, mostly on one-to-one basis. The usual approach of this school taken by many of them is to treat Sinitic-Vietnamese words only within the framework of the phonological system of Sino-Vietnamese as compatible to that of Middle Chinese, so do with those of Archaic Chinese and pre-Sino-Vietnamese (Tiền-HánViệt) realms. Except for some achievements that have been made in the field of reconstruction of Old Chinese by several renown Sinologists, those specialists of Vietnamese linguistics have largely neglected work on comparative analysis of other Sino-Tibetan etymologies along with other modern Chinese dialects and sub-dialects that show their common share in basic words in Vietnamese. The chapter on Sino-Tibetan etymologies present ample evidences to support that argument on the former linguistic family. For the most parts, practical usages of the latter vocabulary stocks have evidently been important sources for a wide range of active words adapted in the Vietnamese language.
Characteristically, in terms of polysyllabicity, should there have been any meaningful work done in the area of the Sinitic-Vietnamese etymological field, unfortunately, it has been widely plagued with a deeply-rooted misconception about the true nature of both Chinese and Vietnamese as of monosyllabicity. The author has put a light touch on the description of basic mechanism behind individual syllabic writings as it is governed by the Vietnamese concept of "tiếng" -- something similar to a "complete sound", a smallest unit of the Vietnamese word, which in fact invariably could serve as either a morpheme, syllable, or word -- for which it is not surprising that there has been existing the view of monosyllabism that is par for the course these days as clearly demonstrated by the current Vietnamese othorgraphy in which each separately written syllable is mistakenly thought to be a complete word-concept. Such old-fashioned school is a remnant of a legacy inherited from the historically official Vietnamese writing system based on Chinese character scripts that was once used in the past until the early 20th century. As a result, only monosyllabic Vietnamese words of Chinese origin have been targeted for investigation under which each syllable has been falsely treated as a complete lexical unit being falsely posited as a "word" in writing, no matter there evidently exist countless words undeniably made up with paired-syllabic morphemes, hence, dissyllabic words.
Needless to say, such faulty approach has certainly not only obstructed further any breakthroughs in nature within the field of studies in Vietnamese etymological linguistics of modern Vietnamese but also seriously hindered the cognitive development in a child's brain due to ignorance of polysyllabicity -- like that of the German language, for example -- that would greatly help process generalized information quicker (see dchph's proposal on reforming Vietnamese writing system into that of a polysyllabic model.) That is the reason why the subject of dissyllabicity in both Vietnamese and Chinese has been discussed in length in this paper under a new perspective that will serve both purposes as a baseline for a novel etymological methodology that will facilitate the identification of a great number of Vietnamese words of Chinese origin within a more contained dissyllabic framework.
Incorrect perception of the so-called monosyllabic Vietnamese language, as a result, has severely affected the progress in Vietnamese etymological studies. For instance, there has been virtually no novel exposition of Vietnamese etyma of Chinese origin for at least seven decades since Haudricourt's theory on the tonogenesis of Vietnamese. Much of the Vietnamese linguistic foci have been diverted into a few of Vietnamese cognates with Austroasiatic basic words found in other minority Mon-Khmer speeches but they are distributed unevenly. They, in effect, happen to fall into our categorized Sino-Tibetan etymologies as well in terms of genetic linguistic affiliation of majority of those fundamental words for which the author of this survey is contemplating to re-group its classification of its linguistic family and sub-family accordingly.
For the time being, whether it is feasible in classifying Vietnamese into Sino-Tibetan linguistic family or not, the new analogical approach discussed in this paper basically revolves around Chinese forms, literary and vernacular, past and present, coloquially or not. Hopefully this etymological work will kick off a rebooted momentum in the Sinitic-Vietnamese field and lead the way in opening up other possible venues within the Sino-Tibetan linguistic domain based on the apparent cognateness as we have clearly seen in Vietnamese and Sino-Tibetan comparative cases cited in Shafer's lists. So far we have only dealt with plausible Sinitic-Vietnamese etyma as they have gone under scrutiny in the survey with that some irregular etymological issues that undermined the Sino-Tibetan-oriented basic word stratum in the past could have been already clarified to a certain degree. Hopefully this research will provide novices as well as scholasts alike with new insights and productive tools so that they can launch further inestigations in the right direction in exploring the Sinitic-Vietnamese field with the same manner and attitude regarding Sino-Tibetan etyma and dissyllabicity of Vietnamese vocabularies.
Finally, in addition to those words that are conformatively of any other roots such as those of Mon-Khmer, for the same reason, lexicologists of Vietnamese will eventually be able to compile a modern Vietnamese dictionary completed with Chinese etymologies for the first time, ever, in Vietnamese linguistic history.
[To be continued -- this research is still in the process of extensive editing. To check for it currency, refer to the version date.]
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