>John Cowan wrote:
>>Middle Chinese had /N-/, and several Sinitic languages retain it, although
>>in Mandarin it's become /w-/. It makes me wonder about a possible
>>Sino-Tibetan/Austronesian/Tai-Kadai Sprachbund effect, along with the
>>more well-known ones.
>Didn't /N-/ become zero or /R/ in Mandarin?
Well, these aren't mutually exclusive. Eg:
I, me: Cantonese - ngoh5, Shanghainese - ngu2, Mandarin -- wo3
five: Cantonese - ng5, Shanghainese - ng2, Mandarin - wu3
hungry - Cantonese - ngoh(3?6?), Shanghainese - ngu2, Mandarin - e4
evil - Cantonese - ngoh(3?6?), Shanghainese - (dunno), Mandarin - e4
"e" words in Mandarin start with /N/ in Cantonese (and presumably,
sans dictionnaire, Shanghainese).
So, /w-/ and zero are out there. /R/? If that's pinyin "r", then I
don't think so. Shanghainese has words beginning in /nj/ (SAMPA /J/?)
which are "r-" in Mandarin:
person: Shanghainese - nying2, Mandarin - ren2
sun: Shanghainese - nyi?5, Mandarin - ri4
hot: Shanghainese - nyi?5, Mandarin - re4
Maybe this is what you were thinking of?