Mandarin (late imperial lingua franca)
Frontispiece of Fourmont's Chinese grammar (1742): Zhōngguó Guānhuà (中國官話), or Medii Regni Communis Loquela ("Middle Kingdom's Common Speech")
|Era||Ming and Qing dynasties|
Mandarin (simplified Chinese: 官话; traditional Chinese: 官話; pinyin: Guānhuà; literally: "official speech") was the common spoken language of administration of the Chinese empire during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It arose as a practical measure, to circumvent the mutual unintelligibility of the varieties of Chinese spoken in different parts of China. Knowledge of this language was thus essential for an official career, but it was never formally defined. The language was based on northern dialects, initially those spoken around Nanjing but later switching to Beijing, and developed into Standard Chinese in the 20th century.
By the late imperial period, local varieties of Chinese had diverged to the extent that people from different provinces could not understand one another. In order to facilitate communication between officials from different provinces, and between officials and the inhabitants of the areas to which they were posted, imperial administrations adopted a koiné based on various northern dialects. Until well into the 19th century, this language was based on dialects spoken in the area of Nanjing, the first Ming capital and a major cultural centre, though not identical to any single dialect. The standard language of the Ming and early Qing, when it was based on lower Yangtze dialects, is sometimes called Middle Mandarin.
In 1375, the Hongwu Emperor commissioned a dictionary known as the Hóngwǔ Zhèngyùn (洪武正韻) intended to give a standard pronunciation. The dictionary was unsuccessful, criticised on one side for departing from the tradition of the Song dynasty rhyme dictionaries and rhyme tables, and on the other for not accurately reflecting the contemporary standard of elegant speech.
The Korean scholar Sin Sukchu published the Hongmu chông'un yôkhun in 1455, augmenting the Zhengyun by giving the Chinese pronunciation of each word using the Hangul alphabet. In addition to these "standard readings" he recorded a rather different body of "popular readings", some of which are also preserved in the works of Ch'we Sejin. Kim Kwangjo, in his extensive study of these materials, concluded that Sin's standard readings constitute an idealized phonology of the earlier dictionary, while the popular readings reflect contemporary speech. In contrast, Yùchí Zhìpíng and Weldon South Coblin hold that the two readings reflect different versions of 15th-century standard speech.
The term Guānhuà (官话/官話), or "language of the officials", first appeared in Chinese sources in the mid-16th century. Later in that century, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci used the term in his diary:
Besides the various dialects of the different provinces, the province vernacular so to speak, there is also a spoken language common to the whole Empire, known as the Quonhoa, an official language for civil and forensic use. [...] The Quonhoa dialect is now in vogue among the cultured classes, and is used between strangers and the inhabitants of the province they may visit.
The missionaries recognized the utility of this standard language, and embarked on its study. They translated the term Guānhuà into European languages as língua mandarim (Portuguese) and la lengua mandarina (Spanish), meaning the language of the mandarins, or imperial officials. Ricci and Michele Ruggieri published a Portuguese-Mandarin dictionary in the 1580s. Nicolas Trigault's guide to Mandarin pronunciation was published in 1626. Grammars of Mandarin were produced by Francisco Varo (finished in 1672 but not printed until 1703) and Joseph Prémare (1730).
In 1728, the Yongzheng emperor, unable to understand the accents of officials from Guangdong and Fujian, issued a decree requiring the governors of those provinces to provide for the teaching of proper pronunciation. Although the resulting Academies for Correct Pronunciation (正音書院, Zhèngyīn Shūyuàn) were short-lived, the decree did spawn a number of textbooks that give some insight into the ideal pronunciation.
Although Beijing had become the capital in 1420, its speech did not rival the prestige of the Nanjing-based standard until the middle of the Qing dynasty. As late as 1815, Robert Morrison based the first English–Chinese dictionary on the lower Yangtze koiné as the standard of the time, though he conceded that the Beijing dialect was gaining in influence. By the middle of the 19th century, the Beijing dialect had become dominant and was essential for any business with the imperial court. The new standard was promoted in grammars produced by Joseph Edkins (1864), Thomas Wade (1867) and Herbert Giles (1873).
In the early 20th century, reformers decided that China needed a national language. The traditional written form, Literary Chinese, was replaced with written vernacular Chinese, which drew its vocabulary and grammar from a range of Northern dialects (now known as Mandarin dialects). After unsuccessful attempts to define a cross-dialectal spoken standard, it was realized that a single spoken form must be selected. The only realistic candidate was the Beijing-based guānhuà, which was adapted and developed into modern Standard Chinese, which is also often called Mandarin.
This system had mid vowels [e] and [ɔ], which have merged with the open vowel [a] in the modern standard language. For example, 官 and 關 are both guān in the modern language, but were distinguished as [kwɔn] and [kwan] in Sin's system. The Middle Chinese level tone had split into two registers conditioned by voicing of the initial, as in modern Mandarin dialects.
In comparison with Sin's standard readings, the major changes in the late Ming language described by European missionaries were the loss of the voiced initials and the merger of -m finals with -n. The initials ʋ- and r- had become voiced fricatives v- and ʐ- respectively. The glottal stop initial had merged into ŋ- before mid and low vowels, and both initials had disappeared before high vowels. By the early 18th century, the mid vowel [e]/[ɔ] had merged with [a]. However unlike the contemporary Beijing pronunciation, early 19th century Mandarin still distinguished between palatalized velars and dental affricates, the source of the spellings "Peking" and "Tientsin" for modern "Beijing" and "Tianjin".
Most of the vocabulary found in descriptions of Mandarin speech before the mid-19th century has been retained by the modern standard language. However several words that appear in the more broadly-based written vernacular of the Qing and earlier periods are absent from early accounts of standard speech. These include such now-common words as hē 喝 "to drink", hěn 很 "very", suǒyǒude 所有的 "all, whatsoever" and zámen 咱們 "we (inclusive)". In other cases a northern form of a word displaced a southern form in the second half of 19th century, as in dōu 都 "all" (formerly dū) and hái 還 "still, yet" (formerly huán).
- Fourmont (1742).
- Norman (1988), p. 136.
- Wilkinson (2013), p. 25.
- Coblin (2003), p. 353.
- Norman (1988), p. 23.
- Kaske (2008), p. 47.
- Coblin (2000b), pp. 268–269.
- Coblin (2002), p. 27.
- Trigault (1953), pp. 28–29.
- Kaske (2008), p. 46.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 537.
- Coblin (2000b), p. 270.
- Coblin (2000b), p. 271.
- Kaske (2008), pp. 48–52.
- Coblin (2002), p. 26.
- Morrison (1815), p. x.
- Coblin (2000a), pp. 540–541.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 541.
- Norman (1988), pp. 133–135.
- Coblin (2001), p. 4.
- Coblin (2001), p. 20.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 538.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 539.
- Coblin (2000b), pp. 275, 283.
- Coblin (2000b), pp. 288–293.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 540.
- Kaske (2008), p. 52.
- Coblin (2000a), pp. 544–545, 547.
- Coblin (2000a), p. 544.
- Works cited
- Coblin, W. South (2000a), "A brief history of Mandarin", Journal of the American Oriental Society 120 (4): 537–552, JSTOR 606615.
- —— (2000b), "A diachronic study of Míng Guānhuá phonology", Monumenta Serica 48: 267–335, JSTOR 40727264.
- —— (2001), "'Phags-pa Chinese and the Standard Reading Pronunciation of Early Míng: A Comparative Study" (PDF), Language and Linguistics 2 (2): 1–62.
- —— (2002), "Reflections on the Study of Post-Medieval Chinese Historical Phonology" (PDF), in Ho, Dah-an, Dialect Variations in Chinese, Taipei: Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, pp. 23–50, ISBN 978-957-671-937-0.
- —— (2003), "Robert Morrison and the Phonology of Mid-Qīng Mandarin", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland 13 (3): 339–355, doi:10.1017/S1356186303003134.
- Fourmont, Étienne (1742), Linguae Sinarum Mandarinicae hieroglyphicae grammatica duplex, latinè, et cum characteribus Sinensium, with Arcadio Huang, Hippolyte-Louis Guerin.
- Kaske, Elisabeth (2008), The politics of language in Chinese education, 1895–1919, BRILL, ISBN 978-90-04-16367-6.
- Morrison, Robert (1815), A dictionary of the Chinese language: in three parts, Volume 1, Macao: P.P. Thoms, OCLC 680482801.
- Norman, Jerry (1988), Chinese, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29653-3.
- Trigault, Nicholas (1953), China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci, 1583–1610, trans. by Louis J. Gallagher, New York: Random House, ISBN 978-0-7581-5014-1, OCLC 491566.
- Wilkinson, Endymion (2013), Chinese History: A New Manual, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, ISBN 978-0-674-06715-8.
- Coblin, W. South (2007), Modern Chinese Phonology: From Guānhuà to Mandarin, Collection des Cahiers de Linguistique – Asie Orientale 11, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l'Asie orientale, ISBN 978-2-910216-10-8.
- Kim, Kwangjo (1991), A phonological study of Middle Mandarin: reflected in Korean sources of the mid-15th and early 16th centuries (PhD thesis), University of Washington, OCLC 24343149.
- Kim, Youngman (1989), Middle Mandarin Phonology: A Study Based on Korean Data (PhD thesis), Ohio State University, OCLC 753733450.
Early European dictionaries and grammars
- Coblin, W. South; Levi, Joseph A., eds. (2000), Francisco Varo's Grammar of the Mandarin Language, 1703: An English Translation of 'Arte de la Lengua Mandarina'<span />, John Benjamins Publishing, ISBN 978-1-55619-606-5.
- Edkins, Joseph (1864), A Grammar of the Chinese Colloquial Language Commonly Called the Mandarin Dialect, Shanghai: Presbyterian Mission Press.
- Giles, Herbert Allen (1873), A dictionary of colloquial idioms in the Mandarin dialect, Shanghai: A.H. de Carvalho.
- Morrison, Robert (1815), A grammar of the Chinese language, Serampore: Mission Press, OCLC 752224.
- Prémare, Joseph (1847) , Notitia Linguae Sinicae, trans. by James G. Bridgman, Office of Chinese repository.
- Stent, George Carter (1871), A Chinese and English Vocabulary in the Pekinese Dialect, Shanghai: Customs Press.
- Trigault, Nicolas (1626), Xiru Ermu Zi (西儒耳目資) [Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati]. Volumes 1, 2 and 3.
- Wade, Thomas Francis (1867), Yü-yen Tzŭ-erh Chi, a Progressive Course Designed to Assist the Student of Colloquial Chinese, as Spoken in the Capital and the Metropolitan Department, Trübner. Volumes 1 and 2.
- Williams, Samuel Wells (1844), English & Chinese vocabulary in the court dialect, Macao: Office of the Chinese Repository.