Zhongwei Shen’s ‘A Phonological History of Chinese’ Introduces Scholarship of Chinese Researchers to the West

A new book by Zhongwei Shen, professor of East Asian languages and cultures, was recently published by the Cambridge University Press. “Phonological History of Chinese” provides an account of the standard phonological system of the major Chinese historical periods: Old Chinese, Middle Chinese and Old Mandarin.

A “Phonological History of Chinese” additionally makes a contribution in presenting the phonological research of many Chinese scholars, who have primarily published solely in Chinese sources, and thus are not easily accessible internationally. Integrating this work with Western research, Shen's book offers a more balanced account of the varied scholarship in the field of Chinese linguistics.

“Much information about the phonological history of Chinese has not been accessible to international scholarship because of linguistic and terminological hurdles,” says Shen. “This book is an attempt to introduce the scholarship of Chinese researchers to the West, where English is an academic lingua franca.” It will serve as a reference book for Chinese historical linguists and historical linguists in general. Shen explains, “in writing, I have tried to keep in mind both the general phonologist and specialist of Chinese studies, as well as both beginners and experts. The discussion of the phonological history of Chinese draws upon the relevant philological literature in the framework of modern phonetics, so that the lay reader will not become disoriented by the forbidding terminology.”