First draft of new paper: “The particle yān 焉, and the phonological reduction of prepositional phrases in Old Chinese.”

First draft is online for circulation and comment. (PDF)

This paper reaffirms Kennedy’s proposal that the particle yān 焉 is, historically, the result of a phonological reduction of a high-frequency PP involving the preposition yú 於 and a 3pp. It further shows that this was part of a more general process which affected high-frequency PPs combining several different prepositions (the discussion will be confined to yú 於, yú 于) and several different 3pps (including zhī 之, shì 是 and hé 何). The MC readings for yān 焉 derive from the PP yúshì 於是. The graph yān 焉 arose from a héwén (合文) writing for the PP yúshì 於是.

The central phonological claim, is that yān < b/qan 焉 derives from the sequence of yú < b/qa 於 and shì < b/deʔ 是, and has attracted some flak from some early readers of the article. I have suggested that the syllable that might be expected, *a/b/qad, which would be prohibited by phonotactic constraints (no voiced stop codas), might have been repaired to the legal b/qan.

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