Teaching Mandarin Pronunciation to Mongolian Learners in Early Republican Period: The Case of Mongolian-Han Bilingual Original Sounds of Five Regions

Author: Jiaye Wu (University of Nottingham, U.K.)
Speaker: Jiaye Wu
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


The Original Sounds of the Five Regions (Wufang Yuanyin, 五方元音) is a Mandarin Chinese rhyme dictionary, compiled between 1654 and 1664 (during the Qing dynasty) by Fan Tengfeng 樊腾凤 (Kaske, 2008: 50). Although it did not enjoy the prestige and authority of the imperially commissioned rhyme books, such as the Kangxi dictionary (Kangxi Zidian, 康熙字典) (1716) and The Subtleties of Phonology (Yinyun Chanwei, 音韵阐微) (1726), it enjoyed considerable popularity even long after Fan’s death, with at least eight revised and expanded versions produced by the following generations (Li 2008). Since Chinese characters are not phonetic, the approach adopted in Fan’s dictionary to indicate pronunciation of each monosyllabic character was the so-called Cut-and-splice quasi spelling (Fanqie, 反切), based on Mair’s (1992) translation, using two other characters, one with the same initial and one with the same final.

In this paper, I will analyse how a Mongolian named Khaisan (1862/63-1917) modified Fan’s dictionary to suit the needs of Mongolian learners of Mandarin Chinese in his edition of the dictionary, the Mongoliah Han Original Sounds of the Five Regions (Menghan Hebi Wufang Yuanyin, 蒙汉合璧五方元音) published in 1917, adapting the cut-and-splice quasi spelling (Fanqie, 反切) approach to a second-language learning context. The Mongolian transliterations of the Chinese characters will be explored, addressing two questions: (1) What was the Mandarin pronunciation presented to Mongolian learners as correct? (2) How is Chinese pronunciation transcribed using the Mongolian transliteration alphabet? To conclude, the Mandarin pronunciation that Khaisan transcribes seems to follow an eclectic literary reading pronunciation which includes linguistic features from both Beijing-based northern Mandarin and Nanjing-based southern Mandarin although there are more features from Beijing Mandarin. Meanwhile, Manchurian transcriptions had also influenced Khaisan’s work, regarding the approach of spelling sibilant and velar initials and inserting /w/, /j/ between Mandarin diphthongs.

Kaske, Elisabeth (2008) The politics of language in Chinese education: 1895-1919. Brill: Netherlands
Li Qinghuan 李清桓. (2008) Wufang Yuanyin Yinxi Yanjiu 五方元音音系研究 (An investigation of the phonology system in the original sounds of five regions). Wu Han University Press.
Mair, Victor. (1992) A Hypothesis Concerning the Origin of the Term fanqie (“Countertomy”). SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS 34: 1-13.

Keywords: Mandarin Chinese, Mongolian-Han