The Phonetic Values of Divisions III and IV in the Menggu Ziyun

Vol. 30 No. 1   3/2000  


The Phonetic Values of Divisions III and IV in the Menggu Ziyun


Zhongwei Shen









Key words

Yuan phonology, hP’ags-pa Script, Divisions III and IV, Menggu Ziyun


    The Menggu Ziyun (MGZY) of the 13th century is one of the most important sources for the reconstruction of Yuan phonology. Because of the phonetic nature of the hP’ags-pa spellings, this rhyme book provides not only categorical information, but also the invaluable phonetic values of the phonological system. In the MGYZ the contrast between MC divisions III and IV is preserved. In rhymes Xian, Xiao and Tan, the valuable phonetic characteristics of these two divisions are consistently represented by two hP’ags-pa letters.

    However, because of the phonetic values of these two letters have long been controversial among the hP’ags-pa scholars, the phonetic distinction between divisions III and IV in the MGZY cannot be firmly established. In order to determine the phonetic values of divisions III and IV in the MGZY, this article draws evidence from a variety of relevant materials, which include the MGZY, the Mongolian documents written in the hP’ags-pa script, the Tibetan dialects, and the Wu dialects of Chinese. The result shows that hP’ags-pa letter must represent a higher vowel than letter. Letter actually is an umlaut sigh. Itself does not represent any certain vowel.

    Based on the phonetic values of these two letters,it can be established that in the phonological system represented the MGZY, division IV had a lower main vowel [ε] than division III, and the main vowel of division III could be a relatively high mid vowel [e]. This conclusion is in agreement with the evidence from some of the modern Wu dialects, which still keep the distinction of MC divisions III and IV.



Author: Zhongwei Shen
Genre: Article