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The 绿林 were an agrarian rebellion movement during the Xin dynasty. How is 绿林 pronounced?

  • Wikipedia claimsclaimed that it's Lǜlín
  • But in dictionaries it's lùlín

Which one is right?

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It should be lùlín.

绿 is 多音字(polyphone) in Chinese, is usually used for color, is used for some 专有名词(proper noun).

绿林 is pronounced as lùlín, because it came from the name of the mountain 绿林山, which is pronounced as lùlínshān.

And 绿林 should be pronounced as lùlín, it has become a proper noun, in general it won't be used for the meaning of "green woods".

There are also other examples of 绿 pronounced as . Such as 鸭绿江, 绿营.

  • Actually it does mean green woods. The meaning is the same, as implied in your example 绿营 (green camp/banners). – user4452 Aug 7 '16 at 5:31
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    @倪阔乐 "Green woods" might be the origination of the name of 绿林山, might not be, I can't find any reference about it. What I mean is that 绿林 has become a proper noun, when we use it we won't mean "green woods". 绿营 is other issue, it's proper noun too. – songyuanyao Aug 7 '16 at 8:17
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Like @songyuanyao said, lùlín is the one currently accepted in dictionaries.

绿 and 录 used to share the same pronunciation, somewhat between and (let's for a moment forget about 入声). Then vowel shifts happen, in different ways and to different degrees in different times and places. Now 绿 and 录 are parted in mandarin, but not in some other dialects.

Historically, for whatever reason, mandarin tried to conform to local and historical pronunciations, that's why we see a lot of strange pronunciation for toponyms.

But this trend is fading. Take 六安 for example, in newer dictionaries, it's read as liu'an instead of the traditional lu'an. The local people aren't content with this change, but there is nothing special with this 六; lu is just a local pronunciation, keeping it makes no sense. If we keep every local pronunciation, mandarin will explode with polyphones.

Same case with 绿 in 绿林 etc. Whatever the context, 绿 is unmistakably color of the chlorophyll. Keeping two pronunciations will do no good but only confuse people and raise questions like this. If is one day erased from dictionaries, I wouldn't be surprised a little bit.

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well, after the moment of forgetting 入聲, may we try the approach by cantonese, which still has 入聲, and, is highly correlated to middle chinese (中古漢語)?

綠 (u+7da0) in cantonese has only one pronunciation, which is luk6 (sydney lay scheme), sound file

說文解字 explained 綠 is "从糸﹒彔聲﹒力玉切"; that 彔 (u+5f54) is also luk6 in cantonese.

then, 力玉切:

--> lik6, get "l"

--> yuk6, get uk6

combine the "l" from "力" & "uk6" from "玉", we get luk6. the pronunciation in cantonese today, still matches what was written in 漢 dynasty, about 1900+ years ago. isn't it wonderful?

btw, also shares the same pronunciation (exact initial, final & tone) with 綠.

imo, discrepancy between modern days mandarin and literatures of yore, rhyme dictionaries (韻書) are unsolvable; which causes confusions.

then, particular pronunciations would disappear, well, very unlikely. i would suggest, in case of doubt, shift to other dialects, lookup rhyme dictionaries; and adjust accordingly.

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