I'm trying to re-construct the Sino-Vietnamese word of 小 (tiểu) from fanqie method mentioned here. At first, I looked up fanqie of the word from this dictionary.
小 has fanqie 私兆 which is "tư triệu" in Sino-Vietnamese. According to the rule in the website, "tư triệu" should be fanqied to "tiếu" in Sino-Vietnamese. However, the correct one is "tiểu". Is there something wrong here?

1 Answer 1


This is because of 濁上歸去 (Mandarin pinyin: zhuó shǎng guī qù, Cantonese jyutping: zuk6 soeng5 gwai1 heoi3), also known as 濁上變去, and a very well-known issue in Chinese historical phonology.

This had already started in the late Tang: in the 《切韻刊誤》 Mistakes of the Qièyùn, writer 李涪 Lǐ Fú complains that 「上聲為去,去聲為上」 (the shǎng tone becomes and the tone becomes shǎng) in the accent of Wu. Interestingly, some of the examples used (辯、舅、皓) start with voiced obstruents (in historical rime dictionaries, 全濁), showing the tendency there.

The issue in this particular example is with the tone of 兆; as it started with a voiced obstruent in Middle Chinese, it underwent 濁上歸去. If we compare it with a range of modern (tonal!) varieties:

Middle Chinese (Zhengzhang): /ɖˠiᴇuX/ (X implies 上聲)

Middle Chinese (Pulleyblank): /ɖiawX/

Standard Mandarin pinyin: zhào (fourth tone / grave accent implies 去聲)

Cantonese Jyutping: siu6 (sixth tone implies 去聲)

Xiamen / Taiwanese Hokkien pe̍h-ōe-jī: tiāu (seventh tone / macron implies 去聲 and literary reading)

Fuzhounese bàng-uâ-cê: diêu (sixth tone / circumflex implies 去聲 and literary reading)

Sino-Vietnamese: triệu (nặng tone implies 去聲)

It seems that this particular lexeme underwent 濁上歸去 very thoroughly across the varieties. But some varieties did not:

Wenzhounese (IPA): /dʑiɛ³⁴/ (tone numbers 34 imply 陽上聲)

Taishanese (IPA): /siau²¹/ (tone numbers 21 imply 陽上聲)

Hence, it can be seen that there has been a change in 兆 (and other related characters) from 上聲 to 去聲, which makes using fanqie 反切 a little bit more difficult. One must "undo the effect" of 濁上歸去. Hence, you have to look up the thượng (上) column even though 兆 has nặng tone and is thus in the khứ (去) column. (Then you might have to re-do 濁上歸去 if it applies to the character!).

Other characters didn't have such a complete merger: 被 for example retains 上 in Cantonese when it refers to "bedding / quilt".

  • Thank you. I think I didn't really explain the question well. I'm more curious on how "tiểu" in Sino Vietnamese is formed from fanqie of 小.
    – emnha
    Apr 19, 2020 at 19:18
  • The fanqie rule doesn't work in this case, because 兆 follows 濁上歸去.
    – Michaelyus
    Apr 19, 2020 at 19:41
  • Could you explain more about that?
    – emnha
    Apr 20, 2020 at 6:55
  • @anhnha Have added something on the relevance of 濁上歸去 to practical use of 反切
    – Michaelyus
    Apr 22, 2020 at 9:09

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