This is the first genuine etymological dictionary of Old Chinese written in any language. As such, it constitutes a milestone in research on the evolution of the Sinitic language group. Whereas previous studies have emphasized the structure of the Chinese characters, this pathbreaking dictionary places primary emphasis on the sounds and meanings of Sinitic roots. Based on more than three decades of intensive investigation in primary and secondary sources, this completely new dictionary places Old Chinese squarely within the Sino-Tibetan language family (including close consideration of numerous Tiberto-Burman languages), while paying due regard to other language families such as Austroasiatic, Miao-Yao (Hmong-Mien), and Kam-Tai.
Designed for use by nonspecialists and specialists alike, the dictionary is highly accessible, being arranged in alphabetical order and possessed of numerous innovative lexicographical features. Each entry offers one or more possible etymologies as well as reconstructed pronunciations and other relevant data. Words that are morphologically related are grouped together into "word families" that attempt to make explicit the derivational or other etymological processes that relate them. The dictionary is preceded by a substantive and significant introduction that outlines the author’s views on the linguistic position of Chinese within Asia and details the phonological and morphological properties, to the degree they are known, of the earliest stages of the Chinese language and its ancestor. This introduction, because it both summarizes and synthesizes earlier work and makes several original contributions, functions as a useful reference work all on its own.