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Title: Two 19th century missionaries’ contributions to historical cantonese phonology
Authors: Bauer, RS
Issue Date: 2005
Source: Hong Kong journal of applied linguistics, 2005, v. 10, no. 1, p. 21-46
Abstract: Foreign missionaries to China in the 19th century accepted that in order to spread The Word and make converts among the folk they had to learn to speak the local Chinese dialects. As a result, some turned their hand to linguistics and lexicography, thus making important contributions to Chinese dialectology. In compiling the first Cantonese-English dictionary, Robert Morrison recognized that the romanization of Cantonese was an indispensable tool for transcribing the dialect, and he devised a relatively accurate although incomplete system for his dictionary that was published in 1828. In comparing his romanization with the one in S. Wells Williams’ dictionary of 1856, we can identify concrete, progressive improvements in the representation of the sound segments and tones of Cantonese. By having fossilized the phonological system of 19th century Cantonese, these two old dictionaries can now serve us as invaluable references in the historical study of Cantonese. This paper traces the development of several phonetic features that have been conveniently captured and preserved in the romanization systems of Morrison and Williams to their modern-day reflexes.
Publisher: University of Hong Kong, English Centre
Journal: Hong Kong journal of applied linguistics 
ISSN: 1028-4435
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