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The character 论 has pinyin lùn for all uses except in 论语 where it is lún. Is there some known historical reason for this change in pronunciation?

  • I am not giving an answer because I only know about a Cantonese practice (I don't know if Mandarin follows the same habit or not. ) In Cantonese speech, tone 2 changes for characters are very common. For example, the standard Jyutping of 李 is / lei5 /, but it is often read with a tone 2 change and become / lei5*2 /. May be 论 can be read in a tone 2 changes when it is emphasized in Mandarin. – Tang Ho Nov 25 '16 at 15:31
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    When pronounced as lún it's same with (条理) in the ancient time. And 论语 is a book about 条理 (or 人伦), that might be the reason. – songyuanyao Nov 25 '16 at 15:40
  • 伦敦 (lún dūn) = London, seems to be another example – Becky 李蓓 Nov 27 '19 at 1:25
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After a bit of research, I've come across a possible explanation.

According to this source from the 语言文字报 Journal of Language and Writing (not sure the English name is correct) it appears that the character 论 was archaically used with the meaning of to edit, to compile as in the word 论纂 lun2 zuan3, same as 编撰 bian1 zhuan4.

The reference given is the scholar Lu Xun who in his teaching materials for a class at Xiamen University, talked about the Analects:

﹝ 孔子 ﹞ 既卒 [...], 门人又相与辑其言行而论纂之, 谓之《论语》

[After Confucius' death], the disciples revised each other's notes [of the master's teachings] and compiled a book, which they called "Edited words".

So if we take this for good, the 论 lún in 论语 is a legacy of the archaic 论纂 (to edit, to compile) as Confucius' disciples compiled his teachings into a volume that later became known as 论语, which literally means “edited words".

| improve this answer | |
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    Ah. And so the first westerners to latinize the name of the compilation used "analect" to mean selected. – Colin McLarty Jan 17 '17 at 17:20
  • That's correct, "analects" means precisely that. A compilation of selected speeches. – blackgreen Jan 17 '17 at 17:26

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