[The intricacies of] prose and poetry

Here's a poem I like from the Kaifūsō 懐風藻 ("Reminiscences of Poetry"), the oldest surviving collection of Chinese poetry by Japanese authors (compiled in 751 CE, the Nara period). The poem is by Ochi no Hiroe 越智広江, a scholar of the Chinese classics, and so I've gone ahead and provided the Baxter-Sagart Old Chinese reconstruction, too. ("But Matt, isn't that pointless, given that these poems were written according to the standards of Middle Chinese, centuries after the Old Chinese period?" Yeah, that's true, but as far as I know there aren't any texts written by Japanese authors in Old Chinese, so we're just going to have to make do.)

文藻我所難 莊老我所好 行年已過半 今更為何勞

*mə[n] [ts]ˤawʔ ŋˤajʔ s-qʰaʔ nˤar
*[ts]raŋ C.rˤuʔ ŋˤajʔ s-qʰaʔ qʰˤuʔ-s
*Cə.[g]ˤraŋ C.nˤi[ŋ] ɢ(r)əʔ kʷˤaj pˤan-s
*[k]r[ə]m kˤraŋ-s ɢʷ(r)aj-s [g]ˤaj [r]ˤaw

Roughly: "[The intricacies of] prose and poetry are hard for me; *[Ts]raŋ-tsәʔ and *C.rˤuʔ-tsәʔ are what I like. The better half of [my] years have already passed; why should I start making an effort now?"

(I'm assuming that for 難 "difficult" in 我所難 "[considered] difficult by me" you want the adjective *nˤar rather than the noun *nˤar-s, and similarly that for the 勞 "toil" in 為何勞 "toil for what?" you want *[r]ˤaw "toil" rather than *[r]ˤaw-s "reward for toil." If anyone feels differently, let's hear it in comments. Syntax, alas, is one thing that Baxter and Sagart don't do much explicit reconstruction of.)

Now, this is a juéjù 絶句, meaning that at the very least lines 2 and 4 are supposed to rhyme. Their Japanese on-yomi (Chinese-derived) pronunciations rhyme: 好 /ko:/ < /kɔ:/ < /kau/ vs 勞 /ro:/ < /rɔ:/ < /rau/. Their Middle Chinese reconstructions also rhyme, as far as I can tell: 好 xawH vs 勞 lawH. (The "H" just signifies departing 去 tone.)

But in Baxter-Sagart OC they could hardly be more different. *[r]ˤaw is a recognizable ancestor of lawH and , but *qʰˤuʔ-s is, well, I'm as tired of lazy lolnonEnglishphonology jokes as anyone else, but when I was trying to pronounce this syllable earlier my family literally thought I was choking. (Probably not coincidentally, the aspirated, pharyngealized, uvular stop in the BS reconstruction is the consonant that comes in for the most scorn in that Paleoglot post a couple of years ago.)

Conclusion: Yes, this was pointless, but I hope we all had a good time pronouncing *C.rˤuʔ-tsәʔ. (What consonant do you assign to "unidentified preinitial consonant *C-"?)

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