12 Facts About Old Chinese


Old Chinese, called Archaic Chinese in older works, is the oldest attested stage of Chinese, and the ancestor of all modern varieties of Chinese.

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Old Chinese was written with several early forms of Chinese characters, including Oracle Bone, Bronze, and Seal scripts.

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Unlike Middle Chinese and the modern Chinese dialects, Old Chinese had a significant amount of derivational morphology.

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The most widely accepted hypothesis is that Old Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, together with Burmese, Tibetan and many other languages spoken in the Himalayas and the Southeast Asian Massif.

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The language written is undoubtedly an early form of Old Chinese, but is difficult to interpret due to the limited subject matter and high proportion of proper names.

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Classifying Old Chinese words is not always straightforward, as words were not marked for function, word classes overlapped, and words of one class could sometimes be used in roles normally reserved for a different class.

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However the classifiers so characteristic of Modern Old Chinese only became common in the Han period and the subsequent Northern and Southern dynasties.

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In Old Chinese the word was a near demonstrative .

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Common instance of this construction was adjectival modification, since the Old Chinese adjective was a type of verb, but was usually omitted after monosyllabic adjectives.

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The traditional view was that Old Chinese was an isolating language, lacking both inflection and derivation, but it has become clear that words could be formed by derivational affixation, reduplication and compounding.

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Old Chinese philologists have long noted words with related meanings and similar pronunciations, sometimes written using the same character.

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Old Chinese morphemes were originally monosyllabic, but during the Western Zhou period many new disyllabic words entered the language.

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