On the four grades / four calls of Chinese rime tables
The present paper seeks to discuss and clarify the notions of ‘Grades’ and ‘Calls’ of traditional Chinese rime tables, which are commonly related to the presence or absence of glides, and continue to be taken as a basis for reconstructing vocalic and semi-vocalic portions of the post-initial elements in medieval and pre-medieval Chinese syllables. It is argued that, based on the discussions of Grades/Calls by Chinese scholars of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, they were probably conceived as degrees of stricture of the phonatory apparatus, with progressive narrowing of the articulatory aperture, from wide and open to narrow and close. It is concluded that the linguistic perspective underpinning the classification of “sounds” in the linguistic tradition of China appears to be remarkably close to concepts long held in other linguistic traditions.
Published online: 24 August 2021
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