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) discussion on biased views on the Vietnamese historical linguistics due to nationalism and politics that make bad academics, (3) putting focus on the Vietnamese etyma cognate to those of Sino-Tibetan and Chinese languages in comparison with a wide range of basic words believed to be of Mon-Khmer origin, and (4) dissyllabics of both Vietnamese and Chinese, and lastly, (5) presentation of the analogical approach as drawn from the recognition of their dissyllabicity 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, which has been 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). Firstly, there had existed the proto-Yue and only then emerged the Sintic elements in the vast land that was later known as the Middle Kingdom, now the mainland of China. Regarding Vietnamese as a survival descent of the Yue language, I have emphasized repeatedly 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, had gradually absorbed the late Sinitic components that built up on top of the Yue root and they altogether evolved into what is seen as today's Vietnamese. That is to say, there has been the continuity of lineage of affiliated languages from the ancient to present time.
In so far as Sinitic-Vietnamese studies of 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 have only compared a limited number of monosyllabic words with equivalents of individual Chinese characters, mostly on one-to-one basis. The usual approach in this area 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 in the Vietnamese language.
Should there have been any meaningful work done in the area of the Sinitic-Vietnamese etymological field, in terms of polysyllabicity, characteristically, it must have been plagued with a deeply-rooted misconception about the true nature of both Chinese and Vietnamese as of monosyllabicity. There is no surprise that view of monosyllabism 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.
The basic mechanism behind individual syllabic writings is governed by the Vietnamese concept of "tiếng", or something similar to a "complete sound", a smallest unit of the Vietnamese word, which in fact invariably could be either a morpheme, syllable, or word. Such old-fashioned view 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 hindered further any breakthroughs in nature within the field of studies in Vietnamese etymological linguistics of modern Vietnamese but also the cognitive development in a child's brain by helping 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 greatly help identify a great number of Vietnamese words of Chinese origin within a dissyllabic framework.
Such incorrect perception has severely affected the progress in Vietnamese etymological studies. For example, there has been virtually no break-through discovery 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 for which the author of this survey is contemplating to re-group its classification of its linguistic family, in terms of genetic linguistic affiliation.
In the meanwhile, 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. Hopefully this etymological work will kick off an on-going momentum in the Sinitic-Vietnamese field and lead the way in opening up other possible venues within the Sino-Tibetan etymological 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 dealt with plausible Sinitic-Vietnamese etyma as they have gone under scrutiny in this paper with that some irregular etymological issues that undermined the Sino-Tibetan-oriented basic word stratum in the past could have been already clarified as a result. Hopefully this research will provide novices as well as specialists 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 Chineseetymologies for the first time, ever, in 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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