Notes on the beginnings of systematic dialect description and comparison in Chinese
When 19th-century Westerners first began applying modern methods to Chinese linguistics, they were heavily influenced by Chinese phonological traditions. This influence is apparent in a number of their methodological decisions. For instance, they do not seem to have resolved their difficulties distinguishing plain from aspirated obstruents until they copied Chinese sources. Their work in comparative dialectology was almost always dominated by the Chinese rime-table tradition. Even the systems of universal orthography they developed for Chinese incorporated traditional Chinese tonal symbols. Yet these Western sinologists seem to have made little attempt to communicate their own work to Chinese scholars in a formal way; though they were influenced by Chinese ideas, they published their work in the main for other Westerners, with the result that their new synthesis did not directly influence native Chinese linguistics.
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