AlexNg wrote:We are going to side track a bit here.
Which chinese language - min, mandarin, cantonese, wu, xiang, hakka
resembles the chinese spoken in ancient china (shang, chou dynasty)
and which resembles middle chinese (chin, han, tang dynasty) ?
The sounds of those distant dynasties are no longer extant in one language in Chinese, or any other sino-xenic language which adopted Chinese. One can only say that from the most consitent early systemisation of sounds, such as Qieyun in AD 601, that elements of sintial sounds, medials, vowels, endings and tones survive in modern sounds of modern dialects. As there are no recordings of speech in Chinese from the late Qing to the earliest dynasties, all he have to go on is the written texts in poetical works to guess, -that right, "guess" - the sounds which may have existed then.
AlexNg wrote:I heard that min branch off from ancient chinese and the others branch off from middle chinese ? What does it mean ?
This is a difficult question as it isn't an area that I've read up on much. However, many Min dialects does not seem to obey certain sound changes by comparing them to Qieyun and Guangyun rime books. All the other dialects seem to be able to, except Min. Min dialectologists have found the existence of syllabic prefixes surviving in modern Min dialects, and this has been theorised as being an element of Old Chinese as a grammatical indicator of word usage. See Laurant Sagart - Roots of Old Chinese. These are said to date to Western Zhou or earlier.
AlexNg wrote:Which language has the richest sounds. Personally, I think that mandarin is a very weak language due to its lack of p, t, k endings. Of course, it has the r sound at the beginning which other chinese language doesn't have.AlexNg wrote:
There are many Mandarin dialects, some of which retain the Ru tone. The Beijing dialect being prestigious on account of it being the capital is unfortunate to have lost its endings as early as the Yuan Dynasty. Other than Min, the Wu dialects retain features of voiced initials, rich variety of vowels, rich variety in endings, and retain all the four main tones.
What about vietnamese sounds ?
Vietnamese has a rich vowel set, and includes a fairly rich initial set. It also has medials too, and maintain MC endings.
Vietnamese has preserved sounds from pre-Middle Chinese, and Middle Chinese. The evidence of the the former can be found just by analysing the readings of characters. Take a list of characters from Middle Chinese rime books. Compare the readings of these characters modern SV and sort them by tone. You'll find that there are characters which unexpectedly populate the wrong tone categories, and some of these may be remanants of pre-MC readings.