Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese: A Companion to Grammata Serica Recensa
450pp. April 2009
Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese: A Companion to Grammata Serica Recensa
Author: Schuessler, Axel;
Although long out of date, Bernard Karlgren’s "Grammata Serica Recensa" (1957) remains the most convenient work for looking up Middle Chinese (ca. A.D. 600) and Old Chinese (before 200 B.C.) reconstructions of all graphs that occur in literature from the beginning of writing (ca. 1250 B.C.) down to the third century B.C. In the present volume, Axel Schuessler provides a more current reconstruction of Old Chinese, limiting it, as far as possible, to those post-Karlgrenian phonological features of Old Chinese that enjoy some consensus among today’s investigators. At the same time, the updating of the material disregards more speculative theories and proposals. Schuessler refers to these minimal forms as "Minimal Old Chinese" (OCM). He bases OCM on Baxter’s 1992 reconstructions but with some changes, mostly notational. In keeping with its minimal aspect, the OCM forms are kept as simple as possible and transcribed in an equally simple notation. Some issues in Old Chinese phonology still await clarification; hence interpolations and proposals of limited currency appear in this update.

Karlgren’s Middle Chinese reconstructions, as emended by Li Fang-kuei, are widely cited as points of reference for historical forms of Chinese as well as dialects. This emended Middle Chinese is also supplied by Schuessler. Another important addition to Karlgren’s work is an intermediate layer midway between the Old and Middle Chinese periods known as "Later Han Chinese" (ca. second century A.D.) The additional layer makes this volume a useful resource for those working on Han sources, especially poetry.

This book is intended as a "companion" to the original Grammata Serica Recensa and therefore does not repeat other information provided there. Matters such as English glosses and references to the earliest occurrence of a graph can be looked up in Grammata Serica Recensa itself or in other relevant dictionaries. The great accomplishment of this companion volume is to update an essential reference and thereby fulfill the need for an accessible and user-friendly source for citing the various historically reconstructed stages of Chinese.

ABC Chinese Dictionary Series
“This superb handbook . . . is the most useful reference work on Chinesehistorical phonology to appear in some time. In addition to his highlyaccessible presentation of phonological detail, Axel Schuessler offers avision of Chinese historical phonology that is economical and flexible,without losing its philological grounding or its linguistic validity.”—Journal of the American Oriental Society (130:2, 2010)

"Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese succeeds admirably in the goals the author has set for it. The introduction is the clearest and most useful document of its kind I have seen in recent years. It lays out in relatively few pages what others have heretofore taken reams to express. The body of the work gives the reader the entire syllable inventory of Old Chinese in a clear and useful format. The index and finding list are well organized and allow quick access to the material in the text. I predict that it will become a standard handbook for sinologists in general, just as Kalgren’s Grammata Serica and Grammata Serica Recensa have been during the past sixty years." —W. South Coblin, University of Iowa

"The present work will fill the need for an updated and easy-to-use source for citing the various historically reconstructed stages of Chinese. It retains the basic structure of Karlgren’s early works with one big difference: the inclusion of an additional historical stage, Later Han Chinese. Schuessler’s work will allow a much wider audience to access the most important result of Chinese historical phonology, especially those not interested in specializing in the study of historical phonology. It will also be a helpful resource for the linguist who, although familiar with the linguistic literature concerning Old Chinese, often needs a convenient way to look up reconstructions. Even those given to a more speculative turn of mind may well find that their work is greatly facilitated by Schuessler’s book. I believe that in a short time Minimal Old Chinese and Later Han Chinese will become a standard reference on the active sinologist’s bookshelf." —Jerry Norman, University of Washington

Author: Schuessler, Axel;
Axel Schuessler is professor emeritus at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.