Zheng Linxiao (Renmin University, China) “A Study on the Phonology of Woo-chay-yun-foo by Robert Morrison”


A Dictionary of the Chinese Language in Three Parts, complied by the British missionary Robert Morrison from 1815 to 1823, is the first Chinese-English dictionary in history, which has made great contributions to the communication between China and West. What this paper focuses on is Woo-chay-yun-foo, the second part of Morrison’s great dictionary. In Woo-chay-yun-foo Morrison developed the romanization of 12680 Chinese characters, which shed light on the pronunciation of Mandarin at that time. Presently the research on Woo-chay-yun-foo is very limited, most of it about the phonology recorded in this dictionary. This paper aims to continue the discussion of phonology by analyzing the pronunciation of the initial groups Zhi, Zhuang, and Zhang in Woo-chay-yun-foo.

It is found that in Woo-chay-yun-foo, the initials in group Zhi and Zhang are mainly pronounced as [tʂ, tʂ‘,ʂ], while some of them are turned into [ts, ts‘,s] when combined with Geng She. The initials in group Zhuang, however, develop in two directions according to the finals that follow them: 1) ts, ts‘ and s before final group Yu; 2) tʂ, tʂ‘ and ʂ before final group Jia. The pronunciation of group Zhi, Zhuang and Zhang in this dictionary is similar to what Xiong Zhenghui (1990) names “Nanjing type” when classifying modern Mandarin Chinese. In this sense it is likely that what Woo-chay-yun-foo records is Mid-Qing Mandarin based on Nanjing Dialect.