Today, it is pronounced chén in Mandarin.

However, in Chữ Nôm, this character is used for the sound thì. This is surprising, since most Chữ Nôm characters either borrow the meaning of existing Chinese characters, or the pronunciation of a particular Chinese word.

In chunom.org, it is indicated that 辰 was pronounced like “zhin” during the Tang Dynasty. This doesn’t really correspond with the Vietnamese pronunciation. The meaning of the character doesn’t correspond too. 辰 generally has to do with timekeeping in Chinese, but in Chữ Nôm 辰 is used to write the connector “so, then”.

Were there any developments in the phonology of this particular word during the transition from Old Chinese to Middle Chinese, which resulted in such a divergence? Or is this scenario a random error which cannot be explained using Chinese phonetics?

  • 2
    This doesn’t look like a Chinese development. Thì actually corresponds to the standard SV reading of 時, while thần (the other reading given for 辰) corresponds to the SV reading of 神, 臣.
    – dROOOze
    Apr 8, 2020 at 18:41

1 Answer 1


There is no contradiction. The formal Sino-Vietnamese readings of 辰 are thần [tʰən˨˩] and thìn [tʰin˨˩], which correspond nicely to the Middle Chinese [d͡ʑin] (Pulleyblank-Miyake), Old Chinese [djɨn] (Baxter). Compare 臣 with the same MC reading, also having Sino-Vietnamese thần. The Fifth Earthly Branch is called thìn (or thần) in Vietnamese.

However, the reading thì definitely exists. The confusion stems from the fact that it is a Nom reading, not some formal Sino-Vietnamese. Its type is either C2 (using a character to spell a local word with a similar sound): I believe that both thì 'time' and thì 'topic particle' are attested as 辰. thìn 'preserve' and thời 'time' are also occurring spelt 辰, and with the variety of Nom, it shouldn't be surprising.

Source: Tự Điển Chữ Nôm Dẫn Giải

  • Wouldn’t the borrowing logic be imposing a character with a similar meaning upon a local word? Since 辰 has to do with time
    – Axel Tong
    Apr 9, 2020 at 14:48
  • When you talk about “contradiction”, are you just referring to the discrepancy between the formal Sino-Vietnamese readings and Nôm readings?
    – Axel Tong
    Apr 9, 2020 at 14:50
  • 1
    I suppose so. But it would probably be hard to prove. thì (and definitely thời) cannot be anything but renderings of 時. Apr 9, 2020 at 14:50
  • 2
    Maybe two pathways are possible? (1) kun'yomi was used to spell SV thì (時) with 辰, maybe because the original word thời used 時 already, or (2) Nom used thìn (辰) to spell a similar sounding word thì (omission of -n).
    – dROOOze
    Apr 9, 2020 at 14:59

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