Or, in Jurchen,

<nion.giyan CHICKEN DAY> niongiyan tiko inenggi

1. The Jurchen logogram <CHICKEN> might be related to the Khitan large script character


but the resemblance is vague at best.

The Jurchen and Khitan words may also be related somehow - the small script spelling of the Khitan word

tells us that 'chicken' was something like t-Qa, but there is no agreement on what was between the t- and -a. The latest reconstruction I've seen is Shimunek's (2017: 372) taqa <>.

The vocabularies of the Bureau of Translators and Interpreters have different transcriptions of the second syllable of 'chicken': 和 *xo (BoT #152) and 課 *kʰo (BoI #332, #424). The Chinese forms are only approximate, but there is no doubt that one had an initial fricative and the other had a stop.

Vovin (1997: 274) proposed that Jurchen/Manchu intervocalic *-k- became -h-, Other Tungusic forms for 'chicken' point to a medial stop. So it seems then that Jurchen tiqo [tɪqʰɔ] in the later Bureau of Interpreters vocabulary is from a conservative dialect that didn't lenite *-k-, whereas  the earlier Bureau of Translators form tiho [tɪχɔ] is from an innovative dialect that did. There is no evidence for a nasal that would have blocked lenition: *-nk- > -k-.

Manchu coko [tʂʰɔqʰɔ] may be a borrowing from a conservative dialect preserving a medial stop. The first vowel of the Manchu form seems to have assimilated to the second vowel. Wu and Janhunen (2010: 260) noted the similarity of Khitan small script character 39

with the modern simplified Chinese character 开 kai which in turn also happens to resemble Jurchen <CHICKEN>. Since 雞 'chicken' in Middle Chinese was *kej (something like *kaj in the south - far from the Jurchen!), it is tempting to come up with a pseudoexplanation for the Jurchen graph: tiko was written as a variant of 开 which almost sounded like  雞 'chicken'. But that would be anachronistic.

As far as I know, no one has proposed a reading for 39. The diacritic <ˀ> in Kane's (2009: 301) <kải> indicates that it is a placeholder transliteration chosen purely for visual similarity with 开 kai; it is not meant to indicate that Kane thinks 39 was pronounced kai.

39 probably did not stand for a single segment. It is only attested twice in the corpus in Research on the Khitan Small Script (1985): once in the epitaph for Empress 宣懿 Xuanyi (18.10.1) and once in the epitaph for the 許王 Prince of Xu (39.9.2). It occurs just once in the epitaph for Xiao Dilu (45.4). It is in initial positon before


in Xuanyi and Dilu and before


in Xu. Could its reading end in a consonant? Or in i if <as> is an error for <is>?

2. It took me thirty years to figure out that the Korean honorific nominative/ablative particle kkesŏ is an example of double indirectness as politeness. That explains why it is both nominative and ablative (not a combination I'm used to from an Indo-European perspective):

曾組ᄭᅦ셔 나시면

tsɯŋtso-skəj-sjə na-si-mjən

great.grandparent-DAT.HON-ABL go.out.HON.if

'if the great-grandparents go out ...' (家禮諺解 Karye ŏnhae 2.2, 1632; example found in Lee and Ramsey 2011: 271-272)

아버지께서 온 便紙

abŏji-kke-sŏ o-n phyŏnji

father-DAT.HON-ABL come-REAL.ATTR letter

'a letter that has come from Father' (a modern example from Martin 1992: 637)

In the second phrase, the ablative refers to the source of a physical object, whereas in the first phrase, it refers to the metaphorical 'source' of an action (i.e., its performer).

3. The modern honorific dative particle 께 kke < skəj above is the result of layers of contraction:

- 께 kke is a compound of -s 'GEN' and kəj 'to that place'

- kəj is a contraction of 'that' + ŋəkɯj 'to that place'

- ŋəkɯj 'to that place' is "derived from" kəkɯj 'to that place' (Lee and Ramsey 2011: 190)

- kəkɯj 'to that place' contains the dative-allative marker -ɯj 'to', so presumably kək was once a noun 'place' - but how did the -ŋ- ~ -k- variation come about? Vovin (2003: 96, 2009: 96 [on the same page in two different publications!]) proposed that Middle Korean intervocalic -k- is from Proto-Korean *-nk-. Two possibilities:

- the demonstratives used to have a final *-n (related to the realis attributive -n?) that was reanalzyed as part of the following word: *kɯn + kəkɯj > + ŋəkɯj (with irregular fusion of *-nk- to ŋ- in that phrase but regular fusion to -k- in kəkɯj?)

- the original word for 'place' was disyllabic nVkək, reduced to ŋək ~ kək

Martin (1992: 577) analyzed Middle Korean iŋəkɯj 'to this place' as i-ŋək-ɯj. There is no doubt that i is 'this' and ɯj is 'to', but initial ŋ- is odd in a native word.

4. David Boxenhorn asked me about Altaic vowel harmony. I don't have time to say much, but I can type a few introductory remarks here.

Altaic can be thought of as a continuum of five families in contact from east to west:

West: front harmony
Central red zone: height harmony
East: no vowel harmony

Turkic has frontness harmony like Uralic languages to the west:

Languages in what I call the red zone (after their shared word for 'red') have height harmony:

I believe Old Chinese and possibly also Tangut went through a height harmony phase influenced by Altaic neighbors.

Japonic has no vowel harmony beyond Arisaka's law: a tendency against having coexist with *a, *o, or *u within a root. See section of this file by Bjarke Frellesvig (who writes as *o and *o as *wo). In Japonic, there are no sets of  harmonizing affixes like those in other Altaic languages.

Wikipedia led me to Yoshida (2006) on i becoming e to assimilate to an e in the same word in modern Kyoto Japanese, but that is not like any other form of Altaic vowel harmony.

5. When discussing the problem of naming language groupings, David Boxenhorn suggested calling the South Arabian languages (which are not closely related to Arabic and not descended from Old South Arabian) Felician after Arabia Felix. That sounds better than my ideas:

- Mehric after the language with the most speakers

- Mehri-Soqotric, after the two languages with the most speakers

6. Robbins Burling in Proto-Karen: A Reanalysis (1969: 12) used phonostatistical arguments against Robert B. Jones' (1961) reconstruction of eleven (not thirteen, contra Burling) final nonglottal stops in Proto-Karen. (Compare with Proto-Karen's relative Old Burmese which only had four final stops: -k, -c, -t, -p; -c was ultimately secondary. Pyu had only three final stops: -k, -t, -p.) All appear only 1-3 times in Jones' reconstruction and are hence suspicious.

When I encounter rarities in Pyu, I note them and file them away instead of immediately granting them phonemic status.

Looking at Burling's (1969: 30-31) own reconstruction, I see asymmetries in his rhymes that I want to explore later.

7. Burling's (1969: 21) comments on Karen tones seem to apply to tone systems throughout the Sinosphere:

The tones fall readily into 6 major correspondence patterns. Little phonetic sense can be made of these correspondences. A high rising tone in one language may correspond regularly with a low falling tone in another, and in some cases even checked tones in one language correspond to smooth tones in others. Nevertheless, since the number of tones is small, and the number of examples of each is large, the correspondences hardly seem questionable.

My first encounter with this phenomenon was when I first read about Cantonese in 1990. I was accustomed to standard Mandarin, whose tones correspond with those of Cantonese as follows in sonorant-final syllables (*stop-final 'checked' syllables are complicated):

high level
high rising
low falling-rising
high falling
Cantonese *voiceless initial
high level or high falling
high rising
mid level
Cantonese *voiced initial -
low falling
low rising
low level

That was easy to learn. The Taiwanese correspondences were not:

Initial class
high level or high falling high rising mid level
high or mid checked
low falling low rising
low level
low checked
high level
high falling
low falling
low checked
mid rising
high falling (again)
mid level high checked

8. I didn't know there was a living Old South Arabian language!

9. I've never seen a term like this for an unidentified language before.

10. Sort of answering my own question, I finally got around to hearing Rihanna's pronunciation of care at about :31 in "Work". It sounds like [kjɛɹ] to me. "Sort of" because I don't know how representative that pronunciation is.

Old Japanese ke might have been something like [kʲɛ].

11. What is the origin of Geronimo's English name which doesn't sound like his name [kòjàːɬɛ́] in Mescalero-Chiricahua?

12. No time to look into Tangut

𗄤 4536 2ror4 'wizard, witch, sorceror'

tonight. I'll just say that it has a near-mirror image (near-?)synonym

𗄥 4550 1lheq4 'id.'

with 𘤃 'grass' (herbal medicine?) and 𘤧 'small' (referring to the size of the herbs?) in opposite places under  𘠋 '?' and stop there for now.

13. Shimunek (2017: 218) reconstructed Khitan

'was caused to serve' (Shimunek's translation)

as [r̩lgər] which is doubly un-Altaic: Altaic languages do not have native words with r- (Khitan may prove that to be a myth) or syllabic liquids. Typology aside, there is nothing phonetically implausible about his proposal. However, others would read that word very differently: e.g.,

Khitan small script character

Khitan small script character number
Chinggeltei 1979 ?
Jishi 1996
ər ?
Chinggeltei 2002
gə / ɣə wei
Kane 2009
Liu 2009
ku / tsh
Chinggeltei 2010
gə / ɣə ər / er
Wu and Janhunen 2010 ir
Takeuchi 2012
Liu 2014
ku / tsh ni
Shimunek 2017

(2.19.19:27: I expanded this list greatly using Andrew West, Viacheslav Zaytsev, and Michael Everson's wonderful compilation of readings. I'm surprised Jishi 1996 doesn't have a reading for 261 which is an extremely common character whose [l] can easily be verified by its presence in transcriptions of Chinese *l-syllables.)

Note that transliterations do not necessarily equate pronunciations: e.g., compare Shimunek's <> with [r̩lgər]. THE DAY OF THE GREEN MONKEY

Or, in Jurchen,

<nion.giyan mo.nion DAY> niongiyan monion/bonion inenggi

1. I originally wrote 'green' and 'monkey' as nongiyan and monon more or less following Jin Qizong (1984), but then I realized that Ming Chinese 嫩 *nun in their transcriptions was the only possible way to write Jurchen [ɲɔn] in sinography since there are no characters for *ɲon, *ɲun, etc. The Manchu cognates niowanggiyan 'green' and monio/bonio 'monkey' with nio [ɲɔ] confirm a palatal nasal [ɲ]. It would be unlikely for n to become [ɲ] before a nonpalatal vowel [ɔ].

2.17.19:43: The vocabularies of the Bureau of Translators and Interpreters have different transcriptions of the first syllable of 'monkey': 卜 *pu (BoT #152) and 莫 *mo (BoI #332, #424). This parallels the b [p] ~ m variation in Manchu. Anna Dybo's Tungusic dictionary regards the m- as secondary. The m- may be due to assimilation with the following -n-: cf. the b- ~ m- alternation in the paradigm of Manchu 'I':

b- when no nasal follows: bi (nominative)

m- when a nasal follows: mini (genitive), minci (ablative), minde (dative), mimbe (accusative)

be 'we (exclusive)' has the same alternation: e.g., meni (genitive).

2. In "The Day of the Black Horse", I proposed that pre-Tangut *-aw became *-a. I just found a potential example:

*kraw > *kraɰ > *kra > *kri > 𗠭 4533 1ki2 'to call out, to shout'

cf. Written Burmese ကြော် <krau> < *graw? (following Pulleyblank's 1963 analysis of <au>) 'to shout loudly'.

This example entails *-w loss before *a-brightening (i.e., raising to i).

2.17.21:21: But I don't know when *rV > V2 (i.e., Grade II V). Above I've placed that change after *a shifted to *i, but it could have predated that.

3. "Talking tactics: Rihanna and the pop stars who change accent" (via Lisa Jansen) mentions an application of phonostatistics I never imagined:

Take the Beatles for example; a band who were masters in vocal shape-shifting, and picked up traits from their fans across the Atlantic during the height of Beatlemania in the US. In You Say Potato: A Book About Accents, authors David and Ben Crystal note the impact of the Beatles’ fluctuating tones. Citing a report by Peter Trudgill in 1980, which examined the way in which the Beatles sounded out the r after a vowel, something most American singers would do, they wrote:

"In 1963/64, in such songs as Please Please Me, almost 50% of the words containing this feature had the r sounded. By the time of the Sergeant Pepper album in 1967, this had fallen to less than 5%. Note that the use of the feature was never totally consistent. That’s normal. When singers copy Americans, they get the accent sometimes right, sometimes wrong. But over the years, the Beatles' singing voices show that they are leaving the mid-Atlantic way behind and starting to sound more consistently British."

That made me wonder if exceptions to sound changes are cases of incomplete imitation.

4. Andreas Hölzl's "Udi, Udihe, and the language(s) of the Kyakala" (2018: 136) mentioned an Alchuka form that looks like the missing link between Jurchen

<GOLD.un> ancun (or alcun?) 'gold' (originally spelled with a single character <GOLD>?)

and Manchu aisin 'id.': anʃïn!

5. Looking up 𗠭 4533 1ki2 'to call out, to shout' in Li Fanwen's 2008 Tangut dictionary, I stumbled on a nearby entry

𗄤 4536 2ror4 'wizard, witch, sorceror'

Li only mentions attestations in dictionaries. So 2ror4 may be a so-called 'ritual language' word or, in my view, a non-Sino-Tibetan substratum word. The Mixed Categories volume of the Tangraphic Sea mentions several possible (near-)synonyms. I'll look at them tomorrow.

6. Looking at Shimunek's (2017: 218) reconstruction of un-'Altaic'-looking Khitan initial clusters (e.g., kʰtʃʰ- and tʰg-)  made me think he could have cited Middle Korean initial clusters like pst- for areal/typological support.

Surprising even from a Middle Korean perspective is his initial [r̩l]. Middle Korean had no r-initial words. More on this tomorrow.

7. Looking at Shimunek's "Post-publication Addendum to Languages of Ancient Southern Mongolia and North China: A Revised Transcription of Middle Mongol in ’Phagspa Script", I wonder how he would reconstruct the initial consonant of ꡖꡞꡘ ꡂꡦ ꡋꡦ <ɦir gė nė> *ɦirgen-e 'person-DAT/LOC' at an earlier stage.

2.17.20:37: Two topics I forgot to mention:

8. I finally got to see text in the Mongolian Latin alphabet. Or to be more precise, two versions of it. I'm confused: Wikipedia says one system

was officially adopted in Mongolia in 1931. In 1939, the second version of the Latin alphabet was introduced but not used widely until it was replaced by the Cyrillic script in 1941.

citing Lenore A. Grenoble's Language Policy in the Soviet Union (2003: 49). But the 1931 date is for Kalmyk, not Khalkha Mongolian in Mongolian, and I don't see any mention of the other points.

On the other hand, the Mongolist György Kara (2005: 187) only mentions an "ephemeral attempt" at a Latin alphabet for Mongolia "launched by Choibalsan in 1940".

(2.18.13:40: No, wait, his timeline [p.197] says there was an experimental alphabet for Khalkha in the "early 1930s". No mention of the specific date 1931 or of a new alphabet in 1939. He gives 1945 as the date of the introduction of Cyrillic for Khalkha.)

9. More confusion: The Wikipedia article on hanja (Chinese characters in Korean) says,

South Korean primary schools abandoned the teaching of Hanja in 1971, although they are still taught as part of the mandatory curriculum in 6th grade. They are taught in separate courses in South Korean high schools, separately from the normal Korean-language curriculum. Formal Hanja education begins in grade 7 (junior high school) and continues until graduation from senior high school in grade 12.

So are hanja taught in sixth grade or not? The first sentence tells me 'yes'; the last sentence tells me 'no'.

I'd still love to see a list of hanja taught in North Korean schools. THE DAY OF THE BLACK SHEEP

Or, in Jurchen,

<saha.liyan SHEEP DAY> sahaliyan honi inenggi

1a. The Jurchen character <saha> is only attested in the vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters (#481, #620), but its shape goes back centuries.

Jin Qizong (1984: 93) observed that there is an identical character in the Khitan large script from a remnant of a memorial from the mausoleum of Emperor Taizu of Liao (r. 916-926). Could that memorial date from the mid-to-late 920s: i.e., only a few years after the 'creation' (whatever that really meant) of the Khitan large script?

As the Khitan large script character for 'black'

is somewhat (though not entirely) different, my guess is that the Jurchen character may be a recycling of a Khitan large script character pronounced saqa (Shimunek [2017: 213] did not reconstruct x or h for Khitan). That character in turn might be derived from a Parhae prototype that was either pronounced similarly or represented an unrelated Parhae (North Koreanic?) morpheme with a meaning similar to whatever Khitan saqa might have meant.

Another possibility is that

were variants of <BLACK> in the Khitan large script. But they might be too different to be variants.

I am hesitant to transliterate

as a logogram <BLACK> because it is also attested in the verb stem

sahada- 'to hunt' (#481); cf. Manchu sahada- 'id.'.

Could that spelling be <HUNT.da> which at some earlier point ? Did the Jurchen originally write 'to hunt' as a single logogram <HUNT>? Was sahaliya then spelled <HUNT.liya> with <HUNT> used as a phonogram for saha-? Perhaps

represented a Khitan root 'to hunt' in the Khitan large script. If so, I cannot think of any plausible cognate Chinese character, though with pareidolia, one can see a 'covered cross' on the right side of  狩 'to hunt'.

1b. Jin Qizong (1984: 296) observed that <liyan> has a near-lookalike in the epitaph for Xiao Xiaozhong 蕭孝忠 (1089):

(shown here in Jerry You's font)

Was that character also read something like liyan? Might the character be from a Parhae graphic cognate of Chinese 亮 or the right side of Chinese 涼? Both 亮 and 涼 would have been pronounced something like *ljaŋ in the northeastern Chinese known to the Parhae (cf. their Sino-Korean reading 량 ryang).

1c. Jin Qizong (1984: 11, 12) found a different form of <SHEEP> in the Jurchen Character Book thought to date from the early Jin dynasty. I presume he identified its meaning on the basis of context (e.g., being surrounded by other animal date terms in sequence?) since the Book is monolingual. He writes this Jin form of <SHEEP> in three different ways in his dictionary:

As I do not have a clear copy of the Book, I do not know which form is attested in it. (Maybe two or more are if the character appears more than once.)

The last form is the closest to Khitan <SHEEP>, though the top elements (ヒ and ユ) are oriented in opposite directions:

Could some or all of these have originated as pictographs of sheep?

2. I was hoping to write a report on Larry Hyman's talk "Functions of Vowel Length in Language: Phonological, Grammatical, & Pragmatic Consequences", but no one was there. There wasn't even a sign indicating a new location or cancellation.

2a. In his abstract, Hyman mentions Bantu languages which

- "have added restrictions which shorten long vowels in pre-(ante-)penultimate word position and/or on head nouns and verbs that are not final in their XP"

- "have lost the [vowel length] contrast but have added phrase-level penultimate lengthening"

Why would vowels shorten in pre-(ante-)penultimate position? Or lengthen in penultimate position?

Those which have "new long vowels (e.g. from the loss of an intervocalic consonant flanked by identical vowels)" are like Mongolian: e.g., the city name Улаанбаатар Ulaanbaatar < *hulagan 'red' + *bagatur 'hero' (the 1924 collocation is obviously of Communist origin and hence cannot be reconstructed at the proto-level).

2b. I wonder what Hyman would say about Pulleyblank's (1962: 99) and Starostin's (1989) theories of vowel length and Chinese vocalic development in what Sagart (1999) called 'type A' and 'type B' syllables. Four proposals on type B syllables:

Pulleyblank: Old Chinese *Vː > Middle Chinese *jV..

Starostin, OTOH, had the reverse idea: Old Chinese short *V > Middle Chinese *jV. (This is a simplification.)

In the Baxter-Sagart system, Old Chinese *V before nonpharyngeal consonants > Middle Chinese jV (their j is a notational device).

In my system, (1) *high vowels not preceded by high vowels and (2) *low vowels preceded by high vowels > Middle Chinese high vowel-initial diphthongs.

The traditional (i.e., Karlgrenian) view is that Old Chinese *jV > Middle Chinese *jV.

2.16.22:45: A comparison of different views:

Type A syllables (all agree the Middle Chinese reflexes had no *-j- before *-e)

Old Chinese
Middle Chinese
Pulleyblank (1962)
*Ce *Cej
Starostin (1989)
*Ceː *Ciej
Baxter and Sagart (2014)
This site (my view since 2002)

Type B syllables (all agree the Middle Chinese reflexes had *-j- or *-i- before *-e)

Old Chinese
Middle Chinese
Pulleyblank (1962)
Starostin (1989)
Baxter and Sagart (2014)
This site (my view since 2002)

Baxter and Sagart's Middle Chinese notation is not starred since it is not phonetic. Their -ji- is a spelling device to indicate Grade IV chongniu status. I don't know how they think -jie was pronounced.

If I wrote Middle Chinese the way I write Tangut and Tangut period northwestern Chinese, I would write *Cie as Ce4 with 4 for Grade IV. I have considered writing such a notation for Middle Chinese to avoid getting bogged down in phonetic trivia.

3. Two things struck me as I was looking at Shimunek's (2017: 215-217) reconstruction of Middle Khitan vowels.

3a. His Middle Khitan vowel inventory is front-heavy unlike the Mongolic, Jurchen/Manchu, or early Korean systems:

Shimunek's Middle Khitan (3 front vowels)






He respectively places *ɛ and *ʊ higher and lower than I would expect. *ʊ is similarly high in the next table.

Shimunek's Common Serbi-Mongolic (2 front vowels)





Proto-Mongolic (1 front vowel)





Ming Jurchen in the Sino-Jurchen vocabularies (1 front vowel; note the similarity to the Middle Khitan inventory except for the front vowels)






Manchu (1 front vowel; descended from a Jurchen dialect retaining ʊ unlike the vocabularies dialects)







Early Korean (1-2 front vowels; in a more phonetic notation than usual to facilitate comparison with Shimunek's systems)





So far nobody else believes in my *ɛ. I'll live.

(Tables added 2.16.0:16.)

3b. Another surprise from a Mongolic/Jurchen/Manchu/Korean perspective is that his Middle Khitan a and ə belong to the same vowel harmony category, whereas they are typically in opposing categories. Contrast:

his Middle Khitan nar-ən 'tomb-GEN' (instead of †nar-an)


Written Mongolian aqa-aca '' vs. eke-ece 'mother-ABL' (e = [ə])

Jurchen ala-ha 'lose-PERF' vs. ete-he 'win-PERF' (e = [ə]; both from the Bureau of Translators vocabulary, #689, #794)

(2.16.0:24: I wonder if 阿剌 *a la- in Chinese transcription is an error for ana-; the Manchu cognate is ana-bu- 'to lose' with -n-, not -l-. See below for the Manchu verb ala- with -l-.)

Manchu ala-ha 'tell-PERF' vs. gene-he 'go-PERF' (e = [ə])

Korean 받아 pad-a 'receive-INF' vs. 벋어 pŏd-ŏ 'stretch-INF' [ɔ] is from earlier ə.)

Vowel harmony is breaking down in the spoken Korean 'infinitive': pad-a may be pronounced (but never spelled!) pad-ŏ (which is heard "increasingly in Seoul today" [Lee and Ramsey 2011: 296]).

I think nar-ən is also a case of vowel harmony breakdown possibily facilitated by a lack of stress on suffixes. Kane (2009: 132) gives examples of a-nouns followed by a genitive written <an>. However, Kane does not give examples of the type ... aC-an; all the stems in his examples end in -a, so, for instance,

<> 'of the qaghan'

might have simply been [qaʁan] rather than [qaʁaːn]. Perhaps a-final nouns took -n and aC-final nouns took -ən. THE DAY OF THE BLACK HORSE

Or, in Jurchen,

<saha.liyan DAY> sahaliyan morin inenggi

I can't believe I started the day thinking I'd never have enough to fill this entry.

1. I recall that Grinstead (1972) derived the Jurchen character <HORSE> from Chinese 保 'to protect', which would have been pronounced *paw (would Pulleyblank have reconstructed *pɔw?) in Jin Chinese. But why would the Jurchen write an m-word with a p-character?

Today I realized that <HORSE> might be derived from a Parhae script graphic cognate of 保 with a para-Japonic (!) reading cognate to Japanese mor- 'to protect'.

2. I discovered Lisa Jansen's blog Lisa Loves Linguistics. Excerpts from two posts:

2a. " 'He said me haffi work, work, work…' – Rihanna's multivocal identity":

the insertion of a palatal glide between [k] and [a] as in cyar instead of care which is also a more or less Pan-Caribbean feature

At first I thought of how English [kæ] is borrowed into Japanese as kya (e.g., cat as kyatto), but care doesn't have [æ]. Is care [kja] in the Caribbean?

2b. "The Sociolinguistics of 'Indie' Music: Kate Nash" (by Anika Gerfer)

Trudgill (1983) and Simpson (1999) discovered that a range of British artists of the mid-20th century switched to an ‘American accent’ in singing (Simpson labels this set of features associated with ‘American accents’ the “USA-5 model”).

That reminds me of the story behind the Kinks' "Come Dancing":

While recording "Come Dancing," Ray was asked to sing in an "American accent," a request he turned down.

Even the content was thought to be too English for the American market:

Although Arista Records founder Clive Davis had reservations about releasing the single in the United States due to the English subject matter of dance halls, the track saw an American single release in April 1983.

But the lyrics didn't bother me in Hawaii.

3. I finally realized that Sino-Korean 天動 chhŏndong 'thunder' became 'nativized' as 천둥 chhŏndung to harmonize the lower series vowel o with the preceding higher series vowel ŏ.

Korean vowel classes (added 2.16.0:41; ă is obsolete)


4. A Haiman Tetralogy

Quoting from a grammar that's actually fun to read!

4a. In the Khmer dialect described by Haiman (2011: 1), what he transcribes as av (ៅ <au> in Khmer script)  is pronounced as [aɯ]. I suspect a similar shift of *-aw > *-aɰ occurred in Tangut. Eventually this *-aɰ simply became -a.

4b. Haiman (2011: 10):

Leaving this small number of words aside, it is still remarkable that in a language where almost every two-consonant cluster is attested word-initially, there are (virtually) no such (glottal stop + C) clusters.

I think "every" is too strong for Khmer which has many constraints on initial clusters: e.g., no clusters starting with implosives.

I'm reminded of how I thought anything could be in a Pyu consonant cluster after seeing sequences like kṭl- from inscription 12 and tdl- from inscription 16) until I actually collected all the clusters in the corpus and put aside marginal oddities. Then patterns emerged: e.g., what appeared to be three-consonant clusters were really sequences of preinitials followed by initials spelled with two consonants:

kṭl- /k.L̥/

tdl- /t.L/

/L̥ L/ may have been lateral affricates [tɬ dɮ].

2.16.20:11: Whether these mysterious laterals have anything to do with the laterals sometimes reconstructed for Tangut (e.g., Sofronov 1968 and Tai 2008's ld-) remains to be seen. I have not yet been able to identify any cognates of Pyu words with /L̥ L/ (or the similarly enigmatic /R̥ R/ written as  ṭr and dr).

4c. Haiman (2011: 19):

Smith (2007: ii) declares the native orthography to be "the best [transcription of Khmer phonetics] on the planet" and heroically dispenses with any romanizations in even the initial chapters of his introductory textbook. No other scholar has followed him in either this bold assessment or in practice

I haven't seen Smith (2007), but it does seem "bold" to do so, given that I had to work through 148 pages of Huffman's Cambodian System of Writing (1970) to learn the script.

4d. Haiman (2011: 22):

Final <s> may be pronounced [s], in a hypercorrect reading style: thus nah, written as <nas> can be pronounced [nas] or [nah]. Otherwise, it is pronounced as [h]

This makes the Khmer borrowing of juif 'Jew' as ជ្វីស <jvīs> [cʋih] (hypercorrect [cʋis]) with <s> instead of <ḥ> even stranger; a nonsibilant [h] seems more like [f] to me than a sibilant [s].

5. Looking at Roland Emmerick's 2009 sketch of Khotanese, I wondered where balysa- /balza-/? 'Buddha' came from. (ys in Khotanese Brahmi stands for non-Indic /z/, a common sound in Iranian languages.)

6. Today's color is black, and yesterday I proposed that the Jurchen phonogram <he> was from a Parhae script counterpart of Chinese 黑 'black'. In Middle Chinese, was pronounced 黑 *xək (probably more like *xʌk), yet its Sino-Korean reading is hŭk [hɯk] with a high vowel. That oddity is not isolated; it is true of Sino-Korean readings corresponding to Middle Chinese *-ək/*-əŋ in general. What's going on? The borrowing of Middle Chinese *-ək/*-əŋ (*-ʌk/-ʌŋ?) as Sino-Korean [ɯk]/[ɯŋ] is even more puzzling considering that Korean once had [ʌk]/[ʌŋ]. The early ('Go-on') layer of Sino-Japanese presumably borrowed via a Koreanic language (Paekche) has -oku/-ou < -ək/-əũ for those Middle Chinese rhymes. (That tells us a bit about how Sino-Paekche differed from Sino-Shilla which became Sino-Korean.)

7. I was reluctant to propose that Ming Jurchen gulmahun 'hare' and Manchu gūlmahūn 'id.' had acquired their final syllables by analogy with Ming Jurchen indahun and Manchu indahūn 'dog', but now here I am mentioning it after seeing Shimunek (2007: 353)'s similar proposal for Middle Mongol 'snake':

The ai /Ay/ element in the Middle Mongol form [moqai ~ moqoi] is probably the result of analogical change: cf. MMgl noqai 'dog', qaqai 'pig', taulai 'hare', etc. (Emphasis mine.)

Note that all four of those animals are part of the twelve-animal cycle.

8. Shimunek's 2018 article on Jurchen numerals is a good companion to Andrew West's article on the same topic.

9. I agree with Juha Janhunen (2012: 13) about

the assimilation model of linguistic expansion. According to this model, it is not populations that migrate but languages. When a speech community expands its territory to comprise areas where other languages are originally spoken, the principal process is that of linguistic replacement, or language shift, due to which the new language is, in most cases voluntarily, adopted by speakers of the former local languages. Empirical experience from different parts of the world tells us that language shift is by far the most important mechanism of linguistic expansion. This conclusion has only been confirmed by recent progress in human genetics.

That is why I like to speak of the coming of Burmese speakers into the Pyu lands rather than just 'the Burmese'; the latter could imply that the Pyu were completely replaced by 'the Burmese', whereas it is more likely that Pyu speakers switched to Burmese. The descendants of the Pyu are still here, though they don't speak Pyu or identify as Pyu anymore.

10. I disagree with Pevnov (2012: 17) about the term 'Tungusic':

which in my opinion is incorrect for the following reasns: first, it would at the very least be strange to consider Jurchen or Manchu to be Tungusic, and second, following such a logic of terminological simplification, it would analogically be possible to replace the term "Indo-European" with "European," "Finno-Ugric" with "Finnic" or "Ugric" and so forth, although it is unlikely that anyone would agree with such innovations.

The term Manchu-Tungusic could imply there are only two branches, Jurchen/Manchu and an 'everything else' branch (which is in fact Pevnov's view, one he shares with Sunik and Vasilevich). But that may not be the case: e.g., on the previous page, Janhunen (2012: 16) posits a different model in which Jurchenic (Jurchen and Manchu) are a subbranch of Southern Tungusic:


See Wikipedia for a model with the same basic structure (but different details below the second-level branches: e.g., Janhunen regards Kili as Nanaic, whereas Wikipedia lists Kili as Ewenic).

The term 'Sino-Tibetan' has similar problems - it could imply there are only two branches, Sinitic and Tibeto-Burman, which I do not think is the case. But at least Chinese and Tibetan are both well-known languages that could serve as representatives of the family. The layman has heard of Manchu but not of 'Tungusic'. Moreoever, there is no language called 'Tungusic'.

Shimunek's term 'Serbi-Mongolic' also implies there are two (known) branches, Serbi and Mongolic, and that does seem to be the case. Serbi is not a well-known language, but at least it was a language (see Shimunek 2017: 121-168 for details on Middle Serbi).

2.16.21:30: For further reading on naming language families, I recommend Ostapirat (2000: 18):

We propose to call the whole language stock, to which Kra and other sister languages belong, Kra-Dai. The term follows the popular tradition of juxtaposing two big language members of the family, which sometimes are also linguistically distant enough from each other to give the feel of the whole family (cf. Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Mon-Khmer, etc). Such "dual" names appear to have proved practical; the longer names have seemed to be less successful in competition. For instance the term "Kam-Tai" which represents the Tai and Kam-Sui branches have quickly taken over the older names such as "Tai-Kam-Sui-Mak" (the last three members belong to the Kam-Sui branch).

Rereading that, I see the first line might give the impression that Kra is a language, though it is actually a group of languages.

Dai in Kra-Dai also refers to a group of languages; it "is the reconstructed form of autonyms of various Tai groups" such as the Thai. I like Dai as it avoids the homophonous confusion of Tai and Thai in English. Dai does have homophony problems of its own, but as a proto-word it is the shared heritage of all Tai peoples.

'Tungusic', on the other hand, is not based on a proto-autonym shared by most Tungusic languages (or even most non-Jurchenic Tungusic languages); it is a Turkic word for 'pig' that was an exonym of the Evenks. It has stuck in English, and I doubt it has any potential serious competitor other than Manchu-Tungusic: e.g., Eweno-Jurchenic. THE DAY OF THE WHITE SNAKE

Or, in Jurchen,

<šang.giyan SNAKE.he DAY> šanggiyan meihe inenggi

1. Related or abbreviated? For years I thought of <SNAKE> as resembling 厄 'adversity', but today I finally realized it's related to the right side of 蛇 Chinese 'snake'. The left side 虫 'bug' is a later addition; the right side 它 was originally a standalone drawing of a snake. <SNAKE> may be from a northeastern version of 它 that became part of the Parhae script. I then saw that Jin Qizong (1984: 35) thought <SNAKE> is an abbreviation of 蛇.

2. Today I also wondered if <he> could somehow be related to the graph for Jin Chinese 黑 *xə 'black'. If <he> goes back to the Parhae script or even earlier, then its original phonetic value may have been *xək like the Middle Chinese reading of 黑. Native Jurchen words can only end in -n, so it would be understandable if the Jurchen took a Parhae graph for *xək and used it to write their he [xə].

3. Two days ago I was reading Jonathan Evans' Introduction to Qiang Phonology and Lexicon (2001: 182) on the "weak role of tone in [Qiang] tonal dialects". He got different tones for the morpheme 'finger' in the names of the five fingers in two different recording sessions:

session 1: low (4×), high (1×)

session 2: high (5×)

Was Tangut like its modern living Qiang relatives? Were its tones as unstable? Or as unstable at some earlier point in its history before they 'settled down' to the point where a rhyme dictionary organized by tone (the Tangraphic Sea) made sense? Is my assumption that the 'rising tone' originated from a final glottal *-H misguided? I fear the history of Tangut tones is complex.

I should have written all that in "The Day of the Yellow Hare", but I forgot until I stumbled across that page again today.

4. Sergey Dmitriev's 2018 article on Tangut tree names shows how much can be extracted from just a few entries of the Sino-Tangut glossary Pearl in the Palm. I hope other semantic categories in that booklet are subjected to similarly intense analyses.

The dedication is to Elena N. Nevskaja, the late daughter of NA Nevsky, the greatest Tangutologist of all. I am saddened to learn she is gone.

5. Going back to Evans, I was looking at his reconstructions of Proto-Southern Qiang (PSQ) initial clusters (2001: 165-166). Looking at *KC-clusters, it is tempting to phonologize them all with a preinitial /k/ whose aspiration and voicing are conditioned by the following initial:

PSQ (phonological)
tsh- before e, tɕh- elsewhere
ɕ- s-
*khɕ- */kɕ-/ ɕ-, tsh-
s-, ɕ- khɕ-
dʑ- ʑ- gʑ-
gɹ-, dz-
g-, dʐ-
gʑ- before y, gʐ- elsewhere

Such assimilation has a modern parallel in Taoping in which preinitial /χ/ is [ʁ] before voiced initials.

But that analysis requires a voiceless /r̥/, a consonant not reconstructed elsewhere in PSQ. Moreover, it doesn't work for *PC-clusters:

PSQ (phonological)

Or does it? What if Evans' *pz-, *pr-, and *phr- are */ps- pr̥- pʂ-/?

2.14.17:14: I could also reinterpret *khr- as /kʂ-/ to parallel *phr- /pʂ-/. All voiceless sibilants would then condition aspiration of the preinitial: */CS̥/ = *ChS-. Nonsibilant */r̥/ would not: */pr̥/ = *pr- (not *phr-). No, not all - */ps/ isn't *phs-, it's ... *pz-! /voiceless/ + /voiceless/ = /voiced/? I think not, though maybe I could just rewrite *pz- and *bz- as *ps- and *pz- (i.e., regard the phonological and phonetic forms as identical) and have Taoping undergo a chain shift:

*/ps-/ > */pz-/ > bz-.

Still, there seems to be strong if not perfect complementary distribution - there is a tendency against voicing mismatches: e.g., no *kz- or *bs-. Perhaps a neater earlier system was complicated by

- borrowings from languages with different phonotactics

- and or/by new preinitials from earlier syllables that lost their vowels after the voicing assimilation rule ceased to operate: e.g.,

*pz- > Taoping bz-

*pVz- > Taoping pz-

The reanalysis above is motivated by a hypothesis that Proto-Sino-Tibetan had fewer preinitials than initials: e.g., one preinitial velar stop *k- but three initial velar stops *k- *kʰ- *g-. But in theory Qiang could have preserved preinitials lost in Old Chinese, Old Tibetan, pre-Tangut, Pyu, etc.

6. Today I learned that 'Jewish' in Khmer is ជ្វីស <jvīs> [cʋih], a borrowing from French juif [ʒɥif]. Why is it spelled with s and not <ḥ>?

7. Looking at Vovin (2017) again while writing footnote 2 of "The Day of the White Dragon", I noticed he reconstructed Old Korean 日尸 <SUN.l> 'sun' (普皆廻向歌 Pogaehoehyangga, line 5, mid-960s) as *nal. That would seem to rule out a connection with Serbi-Mongolic forms like Khitan ñayr 'day' (as reconstructed by Shimunek 2017: 358) and Middle Mongolian naran 'sun'.

2.14.15:51: The only way around this would be to reconstruct a third liquid or a liquid cluster in the source language of 'day/sun' that became *r in Serbi-Mongolic but *l in Koreanic.

8. 2.14.17:57: I forgot to mention this passage I saw yesterday:

The Shakya clan of India, to which Gautama Buddha, called Śākyamuni "Sage of the Shakyas", belonged, were also likely Sakas as Michael Witzel and Christopher I. Beckwith have demonstrated.

I hope there is more to the argument than the similarity between Śākya and Saka. As Attwood (2012: 58) wrote,

The similarity in names is not enough to identify the Śākyas with the Iranian Sakas.

Attwood evaluates and expands upon Witzel's 2010 proposal. I am unable to evaluate it or Beckwith's 2015 book. THE DAY OF THE WHITE DRAGON

Or, in Jurchen,

<šang.giyan DRAGON.r DAY> šanggiyan mudur inenggi

I thought I had lost my list of topics for yesterday's entry, but I found the former as I was about to post the latter. The list was in index.htm before I was about to paste "The Day of the Yellow Hare" onto the top.

1. In my discussion of the Jurchen word for 'red', I forgot to mention modern Sanjiazi Manchu fulxajn 'red' (Kim 2008: 144) corresponding to standard written Manchu fulgiyan (which I presume to have been [fʊlɢʲaʜ]). x seems to be from an earlier fricative *[ʁ] rather than a stop *[ɢ]. But why is it devoiced between voiced segments [l] and [a]? Is it from an earlier unaspirated stop *[q]? (Voiced stop symbols in my Jurchen/Manchu notation may have been either voiceless unaspirated or voiced in medial position.)

I'd like to find more instances of the g : x correspondence.

I'd also like to find more examples of palatality moving to the end: C₁iyVC₂ > C₁VyC₂. Having just mentioned Jurchen šanggiyan 'white' (the standard written Manchu word is the same), I would expect a Sanjiazi form ending in -ajn, but the actual form is ɕaŋŋən without -j- (Kim 2008: 94) Could -ən be a reduction of *-ajn?

2. Middle Korean 븕- pɯrk- 'red' is somehow related to Sanjiazi fulxajn. When looking for what Alexander Vovin (2009: 73) had to say about 븕- pɯrk-, I found his proposal that the attributive suffix of Old Korean

明期 <BRIGHT.kɯj> *pʌlk-kɯj 'bright¹-ATTR²' (處容歌 Chŏyong-ga, line 1, mid-700s)

is the source of the Proto-Japanese³ attributive suffix *-ke. I suspect the Koreanic source of loans in Proto-Japanese was not a direct ancestor of Old Korean. So maybe the source language had an attributive suffix *-ke, possibly from a Proto-Koreanic *-kɯj. Otherwise I would expect Old Korean *-kɯj to be borrowed into Proto-Japanese as *-kəj or even *-kɨj if Frellesvig and Whitman's proposal of a seventh Proto-Japonic (and by extension, Proto-Japanese) vowel is correct.

An apparent paradox just occurred to me: Old Korean has -Vj where the Koreanic source of Proto-Japanese loanwords has *-e and vice versa:

'ATTR': OK -kɯj : PJN *-ke

'Buddha': OK *putke (cf. pre-Jurchen *putiki; pre-Jurchen had no front vowel *[e]⁴) : PJN *pətəkaj

Adding yet another layer of complication:

'temple': OK *tjara (cf. Jurchen taira(n); ty- [tj] is not possible in Jurchen⁵) : PJN *tera (< *tjara?)

Or was Jurchen ai an attempt to approximate a Koreanic *[e]? a is nonhigh like *[e] and i is palatal like *[e].

Maybe this can be resolved at the Proto-Koreanic level. And/or maybe there was more than one Koreanic source of Proto-Japanese loanwords: e.g., one language at two different periods or two languages/dialects at once.

3. A sequel to my proposal of *rjaC > rar4 in Tangut: I looked up all three rar4 words with etymologies in Jacques (2014), and none have cognates with *-j-:

𘗶 0803 2rar4 'horse' < *-k-H?, suffixed stop-final variant of 𘆝 0764 1rer4 < *-ŋ 'id.' : Japhug mbro < *-ŋ 'id.', Written Burmese mraṅḥ 'id.'

𘅤 1715 1rar4 'to write' : Japhug rɤt 'id.'

𘃜 5523 1rar4 'must' : Japhug ra 'id.', Written Burmese 'id.'

If Gong Xun is right, all three had a simple initial *r- in pre-Tangut like the cognates for the last two words:

2rar4 < *rak-H? 'horse'

1rar4 < *rat 'write'

1rar4 < *raC 'must' (but why does Tangut have a final consonant corresponding to zero in Japhug and Written Burmese?)

That's simpler than my scenario in which Grade IV lower vowels are 'bent up' by preceding high vowels in presyllables that were lost:

rar4 < *.raC

On the basis of Japhug and Written Burmese, I could propose *mɯ.rak-H as the source of 2rar4. But there is no external evidence for presyllables for 'to write' and 'must'; at this point they are merely constructs necessitated by my theory.

The relative simplicity of Gong's theory and mine is reversed with Grade I (there are no Grade II or III syllables with r-):

rar1 < *raʶ (Gong) but *(Cʌ.)ra (this site)

The advantage of my theory is that it requires no exotic segments like uvularized *aʶ. (But nonexotic segments not supported by external evidence are not to be embraced.)

The ratio of rar1 to rar4 in my database of Tangut character readings (≠ morphemes or words!)  At a glance that may suggest Gong's *aʶ (> a1) was almost as common as his *a (> a4), which seems implausible. However, a count of types is not a count of tokens. Phonemic frequency analysis of Tangut texts remains to be done. 

4. Yesterday I learned who founded Taitō and why it has its name - the kanji are 太東, and 太 is short for 猶太 'Jewish', a reference to Michael Kogan's background. 猶太, pronounced [jowtʰaj] in standard Mandarin, is a Chinese phonetic transcription of a form like Judaea.

After so many years, I finally wondered - why does the d of Judaea correspond to an aspirated [tʰ] in most Chinese readings of 太⁶: e.g., standard Mandarin [tʰaj]? Was 太 'great' chosen more for its meaning than its phonetic value? But then why not transcribe dae as 大 'great' without a dot and with either an unaspirated [t] or a voiced [d] depending on Chinese variety?

(2.13.22:48: Answering my own question, I learned that 猶大 without a dot already exists as the Chinese borrowing of Judah [son of Jacob] and, in Protestantism, Judas and Jude. But I would imagine 猶 太 predates 猶大, so it wouldn't be as if 猶大 were already taken. I could be wrong, though. I don't have time to track down those words.

I don't know what the earliest Chinese term for 'Jewish' was. The English and Chinese Wikipedia mention Yuan dynasty terms 竹忽 *tʂu xu and 朱乎得 *tʂu xu tə as terms for Jews, but I can't find any attestations at Scripta Sinica. The initial *tʂ- is odd since I would expect a glide *j-. What language with an affricate-initial word for 'Jew' would be a plausible source for those borrowings?

5. Last month I proposed that the Jurchen word for 'sword'


might be halmar corresponding to Manchu halmari 'a sword used by shamans'. I then realized that Jurchen


mudur 'dragon' : Manchu muduri 'id.'

is another example of that correspondence, but forgot to blog about it until today, a dragon day. Is Manchu -ri in part from earlier -r, or is this another case where Manchu is more conservative?

6. Back in 2011 I proposed that the Jurchen phonogram


as in

<> wihan 'ox'

had what looked like Jin Chinese 不 *pu 'not' on the bottom because it was originally intended to write a Koreanic word *an 'not'. That was an extremely stupid idea, even 'wronger' than usual for this site, because an isn't attested until the late 1800s (Martin 1992: 419); the earlier Korean form was disyllabic ani.

But maybe that idea can be salvaged minus the anachronistic reference to an. Today I saw Alexander Vovin's "Two Tungusic Etymologies" (2018) in which he reads Late Old Korean 不知 <NOT.ti> as anti 'not'. So 不 was read an-, though that was still centuries before there was a standalone word an 'not'. He then proposes that Proto-Korean *an-negatives are the sources of Tungusic negatives. That borrowing must have occurred very long ago - long before the rise (and fall) of Parhae in the second half of the first millennium CE. Still, the idea of Jurchen speakers knowing of Koreanic an-negatives now seems a bit more plausible.

7. Some new terms for convenience:

North Koreanic: hypothetical prestige language of Parhae underlying the Parhae script. Inexplicable sound-symbol matches in the Khitan and Jurchen large scripts (e.g., why write Jurchen an with a character 不 read *pu in Jin Chinese?) might involve North Koreanic readings.

Late Koreanic loans in Jurchen (e.g., taira(n) 'temple') are from North Koreanic.

Earlier Koreanic loans in Tungusic (or vice versa - e.g., 'red'?) could predate the North/South Koreanic split.

South Koreanic: source language(s) of Koreanic loans in Proto-Japanese and Old Japanese. The inconsistent correspondences between Old Japanese and Old Korean *e may reflect borrowings from two varieties of South Koreanic, 'A' (from Paekche?) and 'B' (from Kaya?). The Old Korean of Shilla may be a third variety, 'C'.

Japanese tera 'temple' is a loan from South Koreanic, so there is no need to come up with a single early Koreanic form underlying both Jurchen taira(n) and Japanese tera; the vowel of the first syllable could have developed differently in North and South Koreanic.

I could just use terms like 'Koguryo' for North Koreanic and 'Paekche' for South Koreanic, but I want to avoid conflating languages with states, particularly given the presence of a Japonic and perhaps even Tungusic substratum on the peninsula.

¹2.13.23:02: Korean 'red' and 'bright' are thought to be related via ablaut (Vovin 2009: 7). In Middle Korean, they both have -r-, but I reconstruct -l- for Old Korean for both words, given that

1. Old Korean had an r/l contrast lost in Middle Korean (Vovin 2017)

2. Tungusic and Mongolic have an r/l contrast

3. Tungusic and Mongolic have l in 'red'

4. So Old Korean had *l in 'red'

5. And if 'red' and 'bright' have the same root

6. Then 'bright' had *l too

Old Korean
Middle Korean
Modern Korean
*pɯlk- pŭrk-
붉- pulk-
*pʌlk- ᄇᆞᆰ părk-
밝- palk-

²2.13.23:24: The sequence *ʌ ... ɯ looks bizarre from a Middle Korean perspective because it combines a lower vowel stem with a higher vowel suffix, but Old Korean did not have vowel harmony (Vovin 2009: 11). I suspect that vowel harmony was introduced into Korean by Tungusic speakers in the northern half of the peninsula. But is there any evidence for more vowel harmony in northern Korean than in southern Korean?

The sequence *pʌlk-kɯj is bizarre in another way: the normal Korean attributive suffix is -ɯn: cf. 去隱 <LEAVE.ɯn> for *?-ɯn 'left' in 慕竹旨郞歌 Mojukchirangga (c. 700).

Stranger still, it is also possible to interpret 明期 <BRIGHT.kɯj> as *pʌlk-ɯj 'bright-GEN'. Strange because pʌlk- is a verbal root that should not be followed by a genitive suffix. Could *pʌlk-ɯj be a remnant of a time when the verb/noun distinction was not as strict?

³2.13.13:33: Proto-Japanese is distinct from Proto-Japonic:

Japanese dialects
Ryukyuan languages

Proto-Japonic is the ancestor of the entire family. Proto-Japanese is the ancestor of the dialects of mainland Japan.

⁴2.13.13:01: E in my Möllendorff-style notation for (pre-)Jurchen represents [ə], not [e]. [i] was the only front vowel in (pre-)Jurchen.

⁵2.13.13:43: Alexander Vovin (2007: 77) proposed Old Korean *tiara 'temple' and metathesis in Jurchen (*ia > ai) to work around the impossibility of the initial cluster tj- in Jurchen.

⁶2.14.0:31: The major exception is Toisanese in which [tʰ] became [h], so 猶太 theoretically would be read [ziwhaj]. (*j- became [z] in Toisanese - a sound change shared by Vietnamese.) But I have no idea if [ziwhaj] is the actual Toisanese word for 'Jewish'. I don't know how far 'syllabic conversion' goes in nonstandard Chinese varieties. Have Toisanese speakers simply borrowed Cantonese 猶太 [jɐwtʰaːj]?

I suspect nonstandard Chinese varieties have a lot of borrowings from prestige languages: e.g., why read 妮妲莉寶雯 'Natalie Portman' in Toisanese instead of borrowing Cantonese [nejtaːtlej powmɐn]?

I hope I read that correctly. 妲 can also be read [tʰaːn]. That might be a recent modern reading by analogy with 袒 and 坦, both [tʰaːn]. Jiyun (1037) lists two fanqie for 妲:

- 當割切 for *tat, corresponding to Cantonese [taːt]

- 得案切 for *tan which should correspond to Cantonese †[taːn] with unaspirated [t]

The only Mandarin reading I know of is da [ta] from *tat, so I guessed that 妲 was [taːt] in 妮妲莉 'Natalie' (even though I'd expect an aspirated [tʰ] corresponding to written -t-). Is the Cantonese name based on an American pronunciation [næɾəli] with a voiced alveolar flap [ɾ]? If so, then unaspirated [t] would be a better match for [ɾ] than aspirated [tʰ]. THE DAY OF THE YELLOW HARE

Or, in Jurchen,

<YELLOW.giyan HARE DAY> sogiyan gulma? inenggi

I don't have time to even make a list like last night¹. And I don't want to wait another twelve days to say this, so ...

It's not clear how the Ming Jurchen would have written 'hare' in their script. The Bureau of Translators vocabulary (early 1400s?) has the Ming Mandarin transcription

古魯麻孩 *ku lu ma xaj (#150)

for a two-character spelling ending in a phonogram

<HARE.hai> gulmahai

whereas the Bureau of Interpreters vocabulary (c. 1500?) without Jurchen script has the Ming Mandarin transcription

姑麻洪 *ku ma xuŋ (#1100)

for gu[l]mahun (Kane 1989: 218) which reflects a different suffix found in Manchu gūlmahūn².

Kiyose (1977: 105) suggested that the Bureau of Translators form gulmahai is genitive, implying that the word for 'hare' without the genitive case marker -i was *gulmaha³. But if that as the case, how would -ha have been written? N3696 lists eight different Jurchen characters read xa (= my ha [χa]).

Here I've followed Andrew West who regards 'hare' as simply gulma sans suffixes, but at present I cannot confirm that shorter reading because the only phonetic evidence for the word I have on hand are the two transcriptions above. I do not know of any Jin dynasty attestations of the word. I suspect that the original spelling was a single logogram *<HARE>. However, I cannot say whether *<HARE> would have been read as *gūlma, *gūlmaha, *gūlmahūn, or something else.

¹2.12.0:49: I did make notes for a list to appear in this entry, but I lost it due to computer problems. I should reconstruct it later today before I forget.

²2.12.10:39: -hūn is probably the same suffix found in Manchu indahūn 'dog' and Ming Jurchen

<DOG.hun> indahun 'dog'

(from the Bureau of Translators vocabulary, transcribed 引荅洪 *in ta xuŋ [#147]; the Bureau of Interpreters vocabulary has indahu, transcribed 因荅忽 *in ta xu [#413]).

Other Tungusic languages have a bare stem (e.g., Orok ŋinda) or a different suffix (e.g., Oroch inaki).

It's not possible to tell whether the one-character spelling


from the Jurchen Character Book manuscript thought to be an early catalog of characters represented indahūn⁴, the bare root inda, or even inda with a different suffix. It's even possible that Proto-Tungusic *ŋ- (cf. the Orok form above) was still present in the Jin Jurchen word for 'dog'.

The function of -hūn is unclear to me. It does not seem to be the -hūn that Gorelova (2002: 148-150) regards as a suffix for Manchu quality nouns: e.g., aibishūn 'swollen, swelling (n.)' (cf. aibimbi 'to swell').

³2.12.9:39: See Gorelova (2002: 114) for examples of the Manchu noun suffix -ha. It is unclear to me how she distinguishes between nouns with -ha suffixes and nouns with unsuffixed roots ending in -ha (assuming the latter type of noun exists in her view).

⁴2.12.10:28: Jin Jurchen probably had a Manchu-like u/ū [u/ʊ] distinction lost in the dialect recorded by the Bureau of Translators. See Kiyose (1977: 45-46) on how Ming Jurchen spellings indicate the loss of that distinction.

It is unclear whether the Bureau of Interpreters dialect retained the distinction because there would be no clear way to indicate it in Ming Mandarin transcriptions: e.g., *ku ma xuŋ could represent either gu[l]mahun as Kane thought or gulmahūn. THE DAY OF THE YELLOW TIGER

Or, in Jurchen,

<YELLOW.giyan TIGER DAY> sogiyan tasha inenggi

I'm going to try something new. I have too many topics on my mind and not enough time to cover any of them properly. Yet I don't want them to slip away forgotten or remain as unfinished stub entries, never to be completed. So I'll just make a quick list of topics I might return to later. Might.

1. In "The Day of the Red Ox", I didn't mention Middle Korean 븕 pŭrk- 'red' which is somehow related to the Mongolic/Tungusic word for 'red'. Was -ŭ- [ɯ] an attempt to imitate a foreign [ʊ]? Here's a modern Korean book in which English took [tʰʊk] is phonetically rendered in hangul as 특 thŭk [tʰɯk].

2. Looking at the cover of Jacques (2014) with examples of Tangut ar4 words, I realized that maybe I was wrong about pre-Tangut *rjaC becoming Tangut ar4. Maybe *rjaC became rar4, whereas *CV-rjaC became ar4: i.e., *-rj- lenited to zero between a presyllable and the main vowel. (Actually, I think ar4 was phonetically something like [jæʳ], so maybe *-rj- was reduced to *-j-.)

3. I wish this page on Tungusic from 1998 were rewritten in Unicode. Maybe it'd be legible if I dug up an old pre-Unicode SIL phonetic font.

4. I was looking at Nedjalkov's (1997: 311, 314-315) description of Evenki vowels and vowel harmony. Two eye-catching things off the top of my head:

1. no true high vowels [i u]

2. long [ɛː] patterning with [a] rather than [ɛ] in vowel harmony.

Could [ɛː] be from *aj (cf. Korean 애 [ɛ] < Middle Korean [aj], [ʌj])?

2.11.1:11: Wikipedia doesn't even try to describe Evenki vowel harmony rules:

Knowledge of the rules of vowel harmony is fading, as vowel harmony is a complex topic for elementary speakers to grasp, the language is severely endangered (Janhunen), and many speakers are multilingual.

5. For three years I've agreed with Beckwith (2002) who was the first to propose that Pyu aṁ was [ɛ]. I've been assuming that aṁ [ɛ] < *e. Today I realized that maybe it could partly directly come from *ja: e.g.,

*ja > *jæ  > *jɛ > [ɛ]

in hrat·ṁ [r̥ɛt] 'eight' (cf. Old Tibetan brgyad 'eight').

6. For years I've wanted to convert transcriptions of Rouran names into Middle Chinese and see if anything interesting emerges. Here's an example: 郁久閭社崙 ʔuk kuʔ lɨə dʑiæʔ lon for 'Yujiulü Shelun' in modern standard Mandarin. THE DAY OF THE RED OX

Today is a

<RED¹.giyan OX².an> ful(a)giyan wihan inenggi 'red ox day'

in the Jurchen calendar.

It is hard at a glance to tell whether 'red' was disyllabic [fʊlɢʲaʜ]³ (i.e., identical to later standard Manchu fulgiyan⁴) or trisyllabic [fʊlaɢʲaʜ]. The Bureau of Translators vocabulary (early 1400s?) has the trisyllabic transcription

弗剌江 *fu la kjaŋ (#617)

whereas the Bureau of Interpreters vocabulary (c. 1500?) has the disyllabic transcription

伏良 *fu ljaŋ (#1100)

The obvious solution would be to posit [a]-loss: earlier trisyllabic [fʊlaɢʲaʜ] became later disyllabic [fʊlɢʲaʜ]. But it is not clear that the varieties of Jurchen within the two vocabularies are two snapshots of the same dialect at two different points in time. It is not even clear that each vocabulary is homogeneous: i.e., reflecting only a single dialect rather than a mix learned from various informants who may not even have been contemporaries. Lastly, it is possible that Ming Mandarin *la was merely a device to write a simple Jurchen [l]. There was no Ming Mandarin syllable *ful (and hence no character for such a syllable), so [fʊl] might have been transcribed as 弗剌 *fu la. On the other hand, other Tungusic languages do have an a after l in 'red', and the undoubtedly related Proto-Mongolic word for 'red' does have an *a between *l and *g: *hulagan, suggesting that the *a at least dates back to when Tungusic borrowed the word from Mongolic (or vice versa?). I should look into this more.

As for 'ox', the Bureau of Translators vocabulary has the transcription

委罕 *wej xan (#143)

whereas the Bureau of Interpreters vocabulary has the transcription

亦哈 *i xa (#411)

Jin (1984: 128) takes the transcription *wej xan at face value, reconstructing Jurchen weixan (= weihan in my notation) which violates vowel harmony (e and a belong to opposing vowel classes and should normally not be in the same root). Kiyose (1977: 105), on the other hand, disregards the *w- without explanation and reconstructs Jurchen ihan which matches Manchu ihan [ɪχaʜ] 'ox'. Kane's (1989: 216) reconstruction of iha is straightforward.⁵

Once again, the obvious solution is to posit loss over time: earlier wi- became later i-. The *-e- of the transcription simply reflects the fact that Ming Mandarin had no syllable *wi; *wei was the closest match for Jurchen [wɪ]. Manchu has no wi, so all early Jurchen wi became later Jurchen/Manchu i. Japanese had the same wi > i change, which is why the kana / for <wi> are now obsolete.

The trouble is that there is no support elsewhere in Tungusic for an initial w- in 'ox'; all the non-Jurchen forms in Cincius (1975: 299) start with i-type vowels. (Oddly I cannot find the 'ox' cognate set at starling.)

Is it possible that Jurchen once preserved a Proto-Tungusic *w- that all other languages lost before *i⁶, even though Jurchen/Manchu is considered innovative? There is no a priori reason to reject that possibility; a language that is innovative in many ways can still be conservative in at least one way. Ideally I would like to find other cases of Jurchen wi- corresponding to i- elsewhere in Tungusic.

¹2.10.13:45: I have only seen this character followed by <giyan> in the Bureau of Translators vocabulary. Nonetheless I don't think it was a Ming dynasty addition to the Jurchen character set. It is not attested in words other than 'red'. So I suspect that it was originally a standalone logogram <RED> and that <giyan> was added later to represent its final syllable.

²2.10.13:55: This character appears by itself in the Jurchen Character Book manuscript thought to be an early catalog of characters. That suggests it was originally a standalone logogram <OX> and that the <an> in theBureau of Translators vocabulary is a later addition.

³2.10.23:29: Or perhaps [fʊlʁʲaʜ] with [ʁ]. The Bureau of Interpreters transcription without *k might indicate that the uvular stop had lenited to the point where it was hard to perceive.

⁴2.10.17:17: The Manchu spelling fulgiyan appears trisyllabic, but -iy- is just a means to write palatalization.

⁵2.10.14:19: The absence of an -n present in Manchu is a common trait of the Bureau of Interpreters inscriptions. See Kane (1989: 112) for other cases of a Jurchen zero : Manchu -n correspondence.

⁶2.10.23:27: Cincius' enormous Tungusic dictionary (1975) only has six pages of entries for в- <v> and only two entries for ви- <vi>, both for Evenki words without cognates elsewhere. So it does not appear there is any obvious modern (i.e., non-Jurchen) evidence for reconstructing Proto-Tungusic *wi-. I suspect *w- was once far more frequent and lost in most environments (e.g., in Manchu w is only possible before a and e). The only *w-word I could find in starling's Proto-Tungusic is *wa- 'kill' which is solidly attested throughout the family.

As tempting as it may be to reject wi- in Jurchen (and, by extension, earlier Tungusic), the Chinese transcription 委 *wej is difficult to explain away since (1) the Chinese could have easily chosen an *i-character to write a Jurchen i- and (2) I cannot think of any *i-character that might be miswritten as 委 *wej. WAS G'AG'AI KOREAN?

Tonight it occurred to me that the Manchu script was ironically credited to two men with non-Manchu names, Erdeni and G'ag'ai.

Erdeni is the Mongolian borrowing of Sanskrit ratna- 'jewel' with an initial vowel added to avoid an initial r- forbidden by Mongolian phonotactics.

Crossley (2000: 185) wrote,

Like those of many leaders of the Nurgaci period, Erdeni's origins are difficult to characterize. He had a Mongol name and certainly could write Mongolian [the written language used by the late Ming Jurchen, just as the Jin Jurchen before them had used Khitan]; he may have been a native of a Mongolian-speaking region. But the early Manchu records suggest that he was also expert in Chinese, and that in his contemporary frame he functioned as a Nikan.

Nikan is Manchu for 'Chinese', and in Crossley's view, the term does not simply mean 'of Chinese descent'; it refers to "those who behaved as Chinese" (2000: 55). One could be ethnically Mongol - or Jurchen or Korean - and function as Nikan.

Crossley (2000: 188) speculates that G'ag'ai might have been of Nikan "background" (ethnicity) "but in fact it [his heritage?] was irrelevant" since his "responsibility for literate acts under the [Jurchen] state" made him live as a Nikan.

So was G'ag'ai [kakaj] a Nikan - er, Chinese - name? It has the velar-a sequence absent from native Jurchen/Manchu (and Mongolian) words¹. However, I don't know of any plausible Ming (or even modern standard) Mandarin name element pronounced [ka]². Here's a wild guess - might the name be Korean: i.e., something like 가개 Kagae ([kakaj] or [kagaj]³ in the 16th century)? Googling for 김가개 Kim Kagae, I found this 2009 article by 최범영 Chhoe Pŏm-yŏng which not only mentions an attestation of the name in 1404 but independently speculates that Korean Kagae is the source of G'ag'ai's name.

2.9.0:59: The name Kim Kagae appears as 金加介 in the entry for day 29, month 8 of the 12th year of King Sejong's reign (1430) in 世宗實錄 Sejong shillok 'Veritable Records of [King] Sejong'. I can't find any mention of a Kim Kagae in the entry for 1404 in 太宗實錄 Thaejong shillok 'Veritable Records of [King] Thaejong', so I don't know if the Kagae of 1404 is also spelled 金加介. It may be a native Korean name with varying Chinese character spellings.

¹2.9.0:05: The situation with g'a [ka] and ga [qa] in Jurchen/Manchu is similar to that for k'a [kʰa] and ka [qʰa].

²2.9.1:21: There are, in fact, no [ka] syllables in 'Phags-pa transcription a few centuries earlier, and [ka] only has a marginal status in modern standard Mandarin⁴. Windows 10's Pinyin IME's first suggestion for Pinyin ga [ka] is the transcription character 噶 for foreign ga: e.g., 喀什噶爾 Kāshígá'ěr 'Kashgar' and ... 噶蓋 Gágài, the Chinese transcription of 'G'ag'ai'. The other ga-suggestions are 嘎尕尬旮呷軋釓尜伽咖戛夾胳嘠錷玍魀, none of which I've ever seen in a name.

³2.9.1:01. I don't know if intervocalic voicing already existed in 16th century Korean. [aj] did not monophthongize to [ɛ] until the "end of the eighteenth century" (Lee & Ramsey 2011: 264).

⁴2.9.1:12: Old Chinese was full of *ka (= Baxter and Sagart's *kˁa) which became Middle Chinese *ko which in turn became modern standard Mandarin [ku].

Middle Chinese gained a new *ka from Old Chinese *kaj. (The final *-j shielded *-a from raising before being lost.) This too was lost in modern standard Mandarin: the new *ka became *ko and then [kɤ].

You can see part of a vowel shift chain: *aj > *a > *o > *u.

In tabular form:

Old Chinese
Middle Chinese
Early Mandarin
Modern standard Mandarin
[ɤ] after velars

I have excluded reflexes of early Mandarin *o after other initials. FUK'ANGGAN I GEBU (THE NAME OF FUK'ANGGAN)

The 乾隆 Qianlong emperor died 220 years ago today. He appointed 福康安 Fuk'anggan to lead the troops in the Sino-Nepalese War.

Fuk'anggan has an interesting name for two reasons:

1. It has the typical Chinese three-syllable pattern, it contains the Chinese syllable k'ang with a velar-a combination [ka] absent from native Manchu words¹, and it even has a meaningful, positive Chinese character spelling: 'good-fortune health peace'. Yet it is romanized as a trisyllabic single name because it is not a Chinese name - 福Fu is not his surname, though it may have been influenced by his clan name Fuca (spelled with a different fu, 富 'rich', in Chinese: 富察). And his personal name was not 康安 K'anggan; it was Fuk'anggan. At most I could say that Fuk'anggan is a Sino-Manchu hybrid; it wouldn't have been a Jurchen name many centuries ago.

2. I would not expect 安 to correspond to Manchu gan; it was read an in Beijing.

Does gan for 安 reflect the influence of a Mandarin dialect in which 安 was read ŋan? (2.8.0:04: There are many such dialects today.) [ŋ] was not a possible syllable-initial consonant in Manchu, so [ŋŋ] was not possible word-internally in Manchu, and [fukʰaŋɢan] would be the closest Manchu approximation of a Mandarin *fu kʰaŋ ŋan.

¹2.8.1:08: ka in the Möllendorff romanization of Manchu that I use represents [qʰa] with a uvular [qʰ]. [qʰa] is more common in Manchu than the loan sequence [kʰa], so it makes sense to use ka for the more frequent syllable and k'a for the less frequent syllable.  The apostrophe after velar letters corresponds to velarity, not aspiration as in the Wade-Giles romanization of Mandarin.

Möllendorff did, however, use the apostrophe for aspiration to romanize other Manchu letters for Chinese transcription: ts' [ts] and c' [tʂʰ] (the latter only before y in his romanization). I favor Norman's decision to drop the aspiration in those cases since there is no native [tsʰ] that contrasts with ts'. Nor is there a native cy that contrasts with c'y. HAVE AN ICE DAY

Today is the first day of the new year. The first of the month - ice inenggi 'new day' in Jurchen (see Andrew West's online Jurchen calendar):

Jin Qizong derived the character for ice 'new' (pronounced with two syllables: [itɕə]) from the left side 亲 of Chinese 新 'new'. I couldn't quite buy that because of the asymmetry of the Jurchen character and the symmetry of 亲. But I just found the asymmetrical Chinese variant 𢀝 from the Jin (!) dynasty dictionary 四聲篇海 Si sheng pian hai 'Sea [of Writings] Arranged by the Four Tones'. (I got the title translation from Imre Galambos.)

As an adherent of Janhunen's ex Parhis² hypothesis, I don't think the Jurchen script was Chinese mutiliated on the spot by Wanyan Xiyin in 1119. Rather, I think 完顏希尹 Wanyan Xiyin adapted an existing Parhae script that was a local (i.e., Manchurian) variant of the Chinese script. And the character for 'new' in the Parhae script might have been that variant 𢀝 or something close to it - possibly even identical to the Jurchen character. CIKOSKI'S NOTES FOR A LEXICON OF CLASSICAL CHINESE

Today I discovered John Cikoski's Notes for a Lexicon of Classical Chinese, Volume I (2011) while looking for Bernhard Karlgren's (1954) quotation about the excesses of phonemics. The book would have strongly appealed to me if I were still a Karlgrenian.

In the early 90s I borrowed every book of Karlgren's I could find. My favorite remains his 1954 Compendium of Phonetics in Ancient Chinese and Archaic Chinese which walked me through the reasoning behind his reconstructions. I no longer agree with him on many matters, but at least I know why he did what he did. A scientist must insure that his results are replicable and not seemingly pulled out of a hat.

When I first saw Pulleyblank's Middle Chinese (1984) in 1992, my gut reaction was disbelief. Chinese couldn't have looked like that! Too bizarre! It would be another year before a second look at Pulleyblank persuaded me.

If I had never become a Pulleyblank fan, I would enjoy Cikoski's book more. Cikoski picks up where Karlgren left off and builds upon the master's reconstruction while still avoiding what he perceives as the pitfalls of modern approaches. Details later.

2.5.21:17: But in the meantime I found the other volumes of his Lexicon with a copyright notice, covers, and a non-Unicode Grammata Serica font with a key here. THE FATHER OF JURCHEN LANGUAGE STUDIES

Today I realized that's who Wilhelm Grube was when I read his Wikipedia entry. I've known about him since the mid-90s. I have no idea why it took me so long to see the obvious.

I also saw Andrew West's scan of Grube's seal (葛祿博藏書印 'Seal of the Library of Ge Lubo', read from top to bottom, right to left):




cáng 'to store'

I didn't recognize the seal form of 藏 'to store'; it's so much simpler than the regular print form 藏. The closest Unicode match is in CJK Unified Ideographs Extension B: 𤖋. I'm surprised 𤖋 is not in this list of 28 variants of 藏.

As simple as 𤖋 is, it's not as simple as the proposed second-round simplified character 䒙 - one of the lucky ones in Unicode (CJK Unified Ideographs Extension A, to be exact). Some second-round characters still aren't in Unicode (and are marked in red on Andrew West's page). It's incredible ... we can type Tangut in Unicode but not "newspapers, books, and publications of all kinds" written in second-round simplified characters in 1978.

藏/𤖋/䒙 has two standard Mandarin readings, cáng and zàng. Neither quite matches the reading of the phonetic of 䒙, 上 shàng. However, 上 is a very transparent phonetic for 䒙 in Wu varieties like Suzhou in which both 藏/𤖋/䒙 and 上 can be [zɒŋ]¹ (ignoring tonal differences; compare the readings here and here).

¹2.4.1:10: 上 also has a colloquial Suzhou reading [zaŋ] with a different vowel. THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF KWAJALEIN

got me thinking about Marshallese vowels and the perpetual mystery of Tangut rhymes again for the first time since 2014. The very first time I thought of comparing Marshallese with Tangut was in 2010. And nearly a decade later, it was the sight of Kwajalein in IPA that got me on that track again:


The complex vowels of Marshallese are analyzed as just four basic vowel phonemes /a ɜ ɘ ɨ/ that 'warp' under the influence of consonants with various qualities.

Similarily, the complex vowels of Tangut could have been just six basic vowels (u i a y e o) that 'warped' under the influence of consonants with various qualities (pharyngealized, uvularized, and plain from a Xun Gong-type perspective).

The 'grades' of Tangut correspond to those qualities. I write grades as numbers after basic vowels: e.g., ka1 is grade I ka.

I could write Marshallese using a similar notation: e.g., /kʷɨwatʲlʲɜjɜnʲ/ (?) 'Kwajalein' as k1ɨw1at3l3ɜjɜn3. I can't place the 'grade' numbers after the vowels since vowels are influenced by consonants on either side, and not all consonants are followed by phonemic vowels. In my Marshallese 'grade' system, 1 is labial(ized) and 3 is palata(lized); 2 - not in 'Kwajalein' - is velar(ized).

2.4.10:30: Here's my (mis?)understanding of how /kʷɨwatʲlʲɜjɜnʲ/ (?) surfaces as [kʷuɒ͡æzʲ(æ)lʲɛːnʲ]

1. /ɨw/ becomes [u] after /kʷ/.

2. /a/ becomes [ɒ͡æ] (starting labial like /w/ and ending palatal like /tʲ/) between /w/ and /tʲ/.

3. Palatal [æ] is inserted to break up palatalized /tʲ/ and /lʲ/.

4. /tʲ/ voices to [zʲ] between vowels.

5. /ɜ/ becomes palatal [ɛ] between palatal(ized) consonants (/lʲ/ and /j/; /j/ and /nʲ/).

6. /VjV/ contracts to a long vowel [ɛː].

I have doubts about whether abstract phonemic forms like /kʷatʲlʲɜjɜnʲ/ represent what speakers are thinking. The phonemic-phonetic gap seems enormous:

ɜ j
ɒ͡æ æ ɛː
Marshallese spelling
Ø l
English spelling

I am reminded of Bernard Karlgren's (1954: 366) criticism of an

intellectual sport - to write a given language with as few simple letters as possible, preferably no other than those to be found on an American typewriter.

/ʷ/, /ʲ/, and /ɜ/ obviously aren't found on an American typewriter (or any typewriter unless it's been customized, I imagine), but the problem remains: how far should a phonemic analysis go before it no longer corresponds to reality? RYUMUNADESU

Thirty years ago tonight, リュムナデスのカー サ Ryumunadesu no Kāsa 'Limnades Caça' made his animated debut on Saint Seiya. I had first seen him in the manga some months before that. That was my first exposure to the name of a kind of naiad. I had assumed the Greek name was Lymnades since Japanese borrows Greek y as yu. But in fact the closest Greek name is Λιμνάδες Limnádes with i, not y.

Could mangaka Kurumada Masami have arbitrarily changed ムナデス Rimunadesu to リュムナデス Ryumunadesu? I have doubts because I don't remember him altering any other foreign mythological names. This page lists many of those names as spelled in his manga/the anime: e.g., スキュラ Skyura 'Σκύλλα Scylla' (with the expected yu : Greek y correspondence).

The same katakana spelling appears in 門あさ美 Kado Asami's song title リュム ナデス Ryumunadesu from 1985 - three years before the Ryumunadesu in the Saint Seiya manga. Did Kurumada get his spelling from the song, or do both attestations of Ryumunadesu independently derive from a common source?

The fact that this entry in 幻想世界神話辞典 Gensō sekai shinwa jiten 'Fantasy and World Mythology Dictionary') is titled リュムナデス Ryumunadesu and cites two sources

ギ リシア神話小事典 Girisha shinwa shōjiten (A Small Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology), a 1979 translation of Bernard Evslin's Gods, Demigods, and Demons: An Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology (1975)

世 界の妖精・妖怪事典 Sekai no yōsei·yōkai jiten (An Encyclopedia of the World's Fairies and Mythical Creatures), a 2003 translation of Carol Rose's Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia (1996)

suggests that the リュムナデス Ryumunadesu spelling has a life beyond and a history predating the Seiya character and the song title.

Might リュムナデス Ryumunadesu have originated as a error by some Meiji period translator who confused Greek i with y? I'm guessing the spelling might go as far back as Meiji since I can't imagine the Japanese only learning about the Limnades during the last century. Unfortunately Google Books Ngram Viewer doesn't do Japanese yet, so I can't see any attestations of the spelling in old books. JURCHEN 1284: MAHILA 'HAT'

If I had more time, I'd write an English dictionary of Jurchen characters, building upon the foundation that Jin Qizong laid in his 1984 女真文辞典 Nüzhenwen cidian 'Jurchen dictionary'. Ideally it'd be online so I could continually update it. But in reality ... you'll get random blog entries like this one about this character or that.

Tonight's character is numbered 1284 in N3788¹. It is only attested as the first half of mahila 'hat' in the Sino-Jurchen vocabulary of the Bureau of Translators (Kiyose #547):

1284 0176 <HAT la>

Although 1284 does not appear in which seems to be the earliest surviving list of Jurchen characters, I suspect that it was originally a standalone character for mahila 'hat' in the early 12th century, and that <la> was later added to it as a phonetic clarifier at some point prior to the compilation of the Sino-Jurchen vocabulary in the 15th century. I agree with Jin Qizong who regards it as a pictograph.

The second character 0176 is a common phonogram for la. See Kiyose (1977: 70) for a list of its other occurrences within the vocabulary and Jin Qizong (1984: 36-37) for examples in other texts. It is apparently the sole Jurchen character pronounced la.

I think of 0176 as Chinese 友 'friend' with an extra dot, but the first stroke of the part of 0176 resembling the 又 component (originally a drawing of a hand, though it does not represent a word for 'hand' in Chinese) stretches further leftward, crossing over the 丿 stroke (part of 𠂇, a drawing of another hand). How many Chinese students of Jurchen miswrote 0176 as 友 plus a dot?

Speaking of hands, the Tangut word for 'hand' is 𗁅 3485 1laq1 < *S-lak. 1laq1 and other Tibeto-Burman (i.e., non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan) words for 'hand' sound like 0176 la. Is 0176 a repurposed character originally intended to write 'hand' in  some Tibeto-Burman language²? That hypothesis makes no geographic sense, as there were no Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in Manchuria³. I regard the correspondence between  the 又 hand shape and Tibeto-Burman lak-words for 'hand' as a coincidence.

¹If I use N4631 numbers for Khitan large script, I might as well use N3788 numbers for the Jurchen (large) script.

²1.28.20:35: The Tangut script is a rich source of pareidolic stimuli. After 23 years, I suddenly 'saw' the hand-shape in the right-hand component 𘦳 of 𗁅 3485. (I still don't know why that component, often regarded as 'hand', cannot stand alone and needed a vertical stroke to be a standalone character.) If one pulls apart 又 into its component strokes フ and 乀, inserts two more 丿 between them, and adds two strokes 丷 on top, the result is  𘦳.

One could also subtract what I've called the 𘡊 'horned hat' and see the remaining 𘢌 as Chinese 手 'hand' tilted 45 degrees, but I think the resemblance between the two elements is coincidental. 𘢌 is often (but not always!) 'person', and Grinstead (1972) has derived it from a variant of Chinese 人 'person' with two extra intersecting strokes on the bottom right. (Alas, that variant is not yet in Unicode. Here is a similar variant with three nonintersecting strokes.)

³1.28.21:14 (expanded 22.33): The Jurchen script is an offshoot of the Parhae script of Manchuria. But even if the roots of that script go back westward to the lost 'Serbi script' (to use the term from Shimunek 2017: 121), that script was for Serbi (Xianbei), not a Tibeto-Burman language.

Thirty years ago, Kwanten (1989: 19) wrote,

I have recently come in possession of a number of early T'ang documents written in a script that bears very close similarity with Tangut. These documents will be the subject of a later communication, but they appear to solve the mystery [of the origin of the Tangut script] discussed above. I wish to thank Prof. Edward S.I. Wang of the Chinese Culture University in Taipei for having drawn my attention to these documents.

Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge Kwanten never wrote about those documents or about Tangut again.

If I assume that those documents (which I have never seen) indeed contained a Tangut-like script from the early Tang, and if I take into account the fact that the Tangut ruling house claimed descent from the Tuoba of the Northern Wei (see Dunnell 1994: 157-158 for a discussion of interpretations of that claim), I can come up with this highly speculative and almost certainly wrong scenario:

- The Tuoba rulers spoke both Serbi and a Tibeto-Burman language (pre-Tangut?)

- The lost Serbi script was an offshoot of the Chinese script designed to write both languages (cf. Pahawh Hmong which was intented to write both Hmong and Khmu, though no examples of Khmu in Pahawh Hmong have survived)

- The Tangut script is a western descendant of this script, and the  Parhae script is an eastern descendant. Khitan and Jurchen large scripts both descend from the Parhae script.

One huge problem with this is that I am unaware of any evidence for any Tibeto-Burman language in the Northern Wei. The Chinese transcriptions of Middle Serbi analyzed by Shimunek (2017: 125-163) are Mongolic-like (Janhunen's Para-Mongolic, a term Shimunek rejects), not Tibeto-Burman.

Another huge problem is that there is no resemblance between the Tangut script on the one hand and the Parhae/Jurchen/Khitan (PJK?) scripts on the other beyond a shared set of Chinese stroke types. No one is going to confuse Jurchen

0176 la

with the Tangut element (not character) 𘦳 'hand', much less the actual Tangut character for 'hand', 𗁅 3485 1laq1. FIELD OF FORTUNE

No one is going to give me an award for awareness. Obliviousness, maybe.

I don't know how I missed Andrew West's latest Khitan post from last month. At least I'm only a month late.

He deals with two inscriptions in the Khitan large script. The last graph in the first inscription is

0819 (I'm going to follow Andrew's lead and start using N4631 numbers.)

which looks exactly like Chinese 田 'field'.

Andrew wrote,

Liu Fengzhu and Wang Yunlong 2004 propose the reading [ku].

I am confused. I have not been able to find 0819 in 劉鳳翥 Liu Fengzhu and 王雲龍 Wang Yunlong's 契丹大字《耶律昌允墓誌銘》之研究 (2004) or in Andrew's index to their appendix of Khitan large script characters and readings. This is the first time I have seen the reading [ku].

For many years I have assumed 0819 was read [ʊʁ] (ugh in the loose transcription style I've been using on this site) on the basis of two readings in Kane (2009: 183):

0729 0819 Nirug (Kane; 耶律褀墓誌 17; 23:36: corresponding to the name of a 耶律 Yelü clan member transcribed as 涅魯古 *nje lu ku in 遼史 History of the Liao Dynasty? related to Written Mongolian nirughun 'back, spine, mountain range'?)

1254 0819 Qudug (Kane; name of a general in 多蘿里本郎君墓誌銘 14, name of someone's son in 耶律褀墓誌 14 and perhaps the same person again in line 16 of the same inscription)

Kane does not cite sources for either of these forms (or many others in his book), so I have supplied attestations that I have seen. (I can't say I've seen many Khitan large script texts.)

The large script name Qudug seems to correspond to Kane's (2009: 81) reading qudug 'happiness, good fortune' for the unusually complex small script character 380 (Kane's number)

that "Liu, Chinggeltei, Aisin Gioro and others identify [...] with“ the northern Chinese transcription 胡覩古 *xu tu ku¹. Normally I expect single logographs in the large script to correspond to two-character blocks in the small script, but this is the only case of the reverse that I can think of.

How can the [ku] reading of 0819 be reconciled with Kane's -ug / my [ʊʁ]? Here are two solutions:

1. Reversible readings

0819 was like Old Turkic 𐰸 which could be read as qu ~ qo ~ uq ~ oq ~ q depending on context (Tekin 1968: 24).

For years I have assumed that Khitan characters of this type were read as CV after vowels and VC after consonants. So Nirug and Qudug in the large script were <nir.ʊʁ> and <qʊd.ʊʁ>.

I would expect the [ku] reading (my [ʁʊ]) to be after a vowel, but I don't know what the context was and can't test my guess.

2. Only one reading

What if the northern Chinese transcription 胡覩古 *xu tu ku represented a Khitan [qʰʊdʊʁʊ]? Then 0819 could have been [ʁʊ] everywhere.

The trouble is the alternate transcription 胡都 *xu tu reflecting another strategy to deal with final consonants absent in northern Chinese: namely, ignore them. This zero ~ *ku alternation implies a Kitan final [k]-like consonant. The word has an uvular initial in later languages, and in this region uvulars generally forbid following velars. So the final consonant has to be uvular [qʰ] or [ʁ], not velar [kʰ] or [g]. And that final consonant has to be [ʁ], since Chinese unaspirated obstruents were used to approximate Khitan voiced obstruents.

For now I think solution 1 is probably right. However, to be sure I would need to see the context for which the [ku] reading was proposed.

¹Why not interpret the underlying Khitan word as [xutuku]? The limited northern Chinese syllabary was unable to cope with Khitan phonetics:

1. There was no northern Chinese [qʰ]. Chinese *x- (possibly [χ]) was the closest equivalent.

2. There was no northern Chinese [ʊ], at least in open syllables.

3. There was no northern Chinese [d].

4. There was no northern Chinese [ʁ].

5. There were no final stops in northern Chinese, so foreign final consonants were either rendered with CV-syllables or ignored (as in an alternate transcription of the Khitan word as 胡都 *xu tu).

I will discuss the Turkic, Mongolian, Jurchen, and Manchu evidence for this word in a separate post. Without that evidence, it would not be unreasonable to reconstruct *[xudug] without any uvulars or [ʊ]. I HAVE SHIMUNEK'S BOOK!

I thought I'd never see a copy of Andrew Shimunek's Languages of Ancient Southern Mongolia and North China (2017). I thank Prof. Victor Mair for reminding me about it. I then finally realized I could borrow it from the SOAS library. Duh. It wasn't on the shelves, so I had to order it from offsite. I picked it up today. Here's the photographic proof:

Andrew Shimunek, Languages of Ancient Southern Mongolia and North China

It is HUGE. 517 pages - more than two hundred pages longer than Daniel Kane's The Kitan Language and Script (2009) which has almost always been at my side since 2011. (I didn't take it with me when I studied in Thailand and Burma. Shame on me?)

I'm running out of time tonight, so I just want to say one thing about the book. (If I had all the time in the world, I'd write a book about the book.)  Since 2019 is the 900th anniversary of the Jurchen large script, I went to the index in search of the Jurchen script. Seven pages are listed (xxv, 99, 105-108, 362), but flipping through the book, I've seen more Jurchen than that. I should write a Jurchen index for the book which has no indexes for language names and subjects but not specific words. I'll post the index here when I'm done.

1.26.3:13: Of course I'd like to write other indexes for the book as well. DO PYU AND PA-O SHARE A WORD FOR 'TO POUR'?

One of the many frustrating things about Pyu is that there are two styles of writing it: full and abbreviated. And no one has yet figured out why there were two styles¹, much less why they were mixed in one text (PYU 8). The problem is reminiscent of the mystery of the Khitan large and small scripts. In 2010, Andrew West wrote,

Having looked at and discounted the various possibilities outlined above, we seem to be none the wiser about why there were two completely different ways of writing the Khitan language. Both scripts are complex enough to require a considerable investment of time and effort to learn to read and write, so how is it possible that both scripts managed to coexist and flourish for so long ? Did the Khitan education system require students to learn both scripts, or were Khitan scholars only able to read and write one or other of the two scripts ? It makes no sense to me ...

One major difference - besides the fact that the Pyu writing styles involve only a single script - is that I presume both Khitan scripts provide more or less the same amount of phonological information in their non-logographic characters. That is not true of the two Pyu styles.

The abbreviated style omits all subscript consonants representing codas²: e.g., in PYU 8, the one text mixing the styles³, 'to be named' appears as rmiṅ·⁴ on line 3 but as rmi without subscript ṅ· on line 4. (All lines of PYU 8 after 3 are in the abbreviated style.) Until Arlo Griffiths' recent identification of the subscript consonants, Pyu was thought to be an exclusively open syllable language like Tangut⁵. Arlo also identified the r- atop rmiṅ·. So until he came along, the word was thought to be /mi/. Now I interpret it as /r.miŋ/.

If a Pyu text has no subscript consonants, it is most likely in the abbreviated style (though it is also possible that the text happened to have no closed syllables requiring subscript consonants⁶, particularly if it is very short).

The word cha 'to pour' appears in PYU 7.18 and 8.18. (PYU 7 is nearly identical to 8; one major difference is that PYU 7 is completely in the abbreviated style.) If the word had only appeared here, it would not be possible to determine if cha had a coda or not. However, there is a word chai 'to pour' in PYU 7.22 and 8.23. Scholars disagree on whether cha and chai mean the same thing. I belong to the school of thought that regards them as semantically identical. I go further and also regard them as phonemically identical: two different abbreviations of  a hypothetical full spelling for /cʰaj/.

If I am correct, then /cʰaj/ cannot be compared to Written Burmese ဆမ်း chamḥ 'to pour on food'; the codas cannot be reconciled.

But could /cʰaj/ be compared to Pa-O chjā 'to pour' which I found in Solnit's 1989 wordlist today? Pa-O is a Karenic language, and both Katō (2005) and Krech (2012) have proposed that Pyu is Karenic. So this is not a case of me finding a potential cognate in some random Sino-Tibetan language far from Pyu. If the distribution of Karenic languages in the past were like their distribution today, Pyu may have had Karenic neighbors. Or should I say relatives?

For now I continue to regard Pyu as an isolate within Sino-Tibetan - the family's equivalent of Albanian - or if an equlaly extinct parallel is desired, Tocharian. However, that doesn't mean I am not on the lookout for any lexical parallels which could be inherited or borrowed.

I don't think Pa-O chjā 'to pour' is one of those parallels. The word appears to be isolated within Pa-O, unless it is somehow related to other Karenic words with a *stopped tone⁷. Worse yet, Luangthongkum (2014: 9) regards Proto-Karenic *-e as the reflex of Proto-Tibeto-Burman *-a(ː)j. (But then where does her Proto-Karenic *-aj on p. 5 come from?) And her *-e apparently remained -e in northern Pa-O but warped to -ei in southern Pa-O (Shintani 2012: 31):

Proto-Karenic *ble A 'tongue' >

Northern Pa-O phre 33

Southern Pa-O plei 53

(It's not clear to me what sort of Pa-O is in Solnit 1989. I'm guessing northern since 'tongue' in his Pa-O is phrē.)

I don't believe in Proto-Tibeto-Burman (i.e., a common ancestor of all non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan languages), but if I assume that Pyu /aj/ is a retention from Proto-Sino-Tibetan, then I would expect it to correspond to Pa-O -e(i), not -a. And I would expect Pa-O a to correspond to Pyu a; cf. 'moon':

Proto-Karen (Luangthongkum 2013) *ʔla A >

Northern Pa-O la 21

Southern Pa-O la 42

Pyu rla / (PYU 4-6)

The initial ch- of 'pour' may also be a red flag, as it is extremely rare in Pyu, appearing only in three late texts (PYU 7, 8, and 39) and a single undated molded tablet (PYU 86). It  almost always occurs in grammatical morphemes with variant forms in c. I suspect the ch-forms are sandhi variants. That leaves cha(i) as the only content word with ch-. Might it be a loanword? Perhaps it was borrowed from some Karenic language that broke *-e to *-aj. Or that ch- is from some rare Old Pyu cluster that fused into a simple onset in Late Pyu. (1.26.1:46: But no other such fusions are known to have occurred. However, Pyu spelling may be conservative. Could the ch- of 'to pour' be an 'error' revealing the 12th century pronunciation of an earlier cluster?)

¹1.26.1:11: All known molded tablets are in the abbreviated style. I have suggested that the abbreviated style was used due to the small amount of space on the tablets. However, there are also inscriptions with the abbreviated style despite ample space for the full style (e.g., PYU 2-6). And there are inscriptions in the full style squeezed onto small surfaces (e.g., the bottom edge of PYU 24). So space was not always a factor in the choice of style.

²1.26.2:00: All subscript consonants represent the codas, but the reverse may not have been true if the nonsubscript character -ḥ represented a glottal coda /h/ (or /ʔ/?). I also think indicated the voicelessness of sonorant codas: e.g., the honorific ḅay·ṁḥ was /ɓäj̊/ (and was abbreviated as ḅaṁḥ with the indicating a voiceless but unwritten /j/).

³1.26.1:11: On the other hand, the two Khitan scripts are never mixed.

⁴The middle dot indicates that the preceding consonant letter is written as a subscript character.

⁵My Tangut notation does not make this clear since I use -n, -q, -r, and -' after vowels to indicate nasalization, tenseness, retroflexion, and an unknown quality of vowels that are not followed by codas.

⁶1.26.2:06: In other words, the only closed syllables in the text were those ending in /h/ and in voiceless sonorants (whose voicelessness was written as ḥ). If turns out to have been a marker of phonation or tone, then the text would only have open syllables.

⁷1.26.2:13: Katō (2005: 5) proposes that cha 'to pour' is cognate to Eastern Pwo chè, Western Pwo sheʔ, and Sgaw chɛ̄ʔ, all in the H3 (*high stopped) tone category. I don't think any of those Karenic forms are cognate to cha because I would expect a Proto-Karenic final stop to correspond to a Pyu final stop or /h/ (which might have really been /ʔ/). DOES PYU ṄA 'TO SPEAK' HAVE A TANGUT COGNATE?

Today I realized that Pyu ṅa /ŋa(C)/, a verb of saying (PYU 7.14, 8.14) might be cognate to Written Tibetan ngag 'speech' and Old Chinese 語 *ŋ(r)aʔ 'to speak' and 言 *ŋa[n] 'speech'. Might ṅa also be cognate to the Tangut ngwu'-word family?

Li Fanwen number
language, speech
𗟲 1ngwu'1

speech, word (cf. 4902 below)
𗖸 to say, to eulogize
𗑾 speech, word (how is this different from 1014?)

One problem is the vowel. Tangut -u'1 is either from pre-Tangut *-oX or *-əX¹. The late EG Pulleyblank might suggest *a/*ə-ablaut: Pyu, Tibetan, and Chinese had *a whereas pre-Tangut had *ə. Perhaps comparative work with closer relatives of Tangut will point to one vowel or the other.

Another problem is the medial *-w- which is from pre-Tangut *P-. None of the other languages have preinitial or presyllabic p-. Contrast with Tangut 𗏁 1ngwy1 < pre-Tangut *P-ŋa² 'five' whose *P- corresponds to p- in Pyu piṁṅa /pïŋa/ 'id.'

¹1.25.0:52: -' represents an unknown Tangut phonetic quality and *-X represents its equally unknown pre-Tangut source.

²1.25.1:05: The vowel of 'five' irregularly changed to match that of the adjacent numeral 𗥃 1lyr'3 'four', presumably at a stage when 'four' was something like *R-ly' before *R- conditioned a retroflex vowel and was lost. If not for that change, 'five' would have been †1ngwi1. THE JURCHEN NAME OF EMPEROR SHIZONG (PART 4)

In parts 2 and 3 I covered the possibility of

as a Jurchen single-character spelling for the Jurchen name of 金世宗 Emperor Shizong (r. 1161-1189) which is only known to me as a Chinese transcription 烏祿 *u lu.

I don't know of any other single-character candidates for the spelling, so I'm going to move on to potential parts of a two-character spelling.

N3696 has a handy index of Jurchen characters organized by Jin Qizong's readings. It lists five types of u-characters (variants not shown here):

Why would Jurchen need five u when it could have done with one? Maybe because it didn't have just one? If Jin Jurchen had a /ʊ/ : /u/ distinction and a vowel length distinction, then four of the five could stand for /ʊ ʊː u uː/. And the fifth might not have stood for u in the Jin dynasty; it might have been a logogram for a word beginning with u- that was later spelled with it plus one or more phonograms, leading to its reanalysis as an u-character.

Another possibility is that the Jurchen script inherited a set of characters from the Parhae script that somehow made more sense for the language it originally represented but became redundant for Jurchen.

I'll keep those scenarios in mind as I examine the u-characters in depth from part 5 onward. NATIONAL HANDWRITING DAY: JURCHEN EDITION

Today is National Handwriting Day.

This year is the 900th anniversary of the Jurchen large script.

Intersect the two, and you get me writing gurun ni ngala herge inenggi, my attempt to translate 'national handwriting day' in Jurchen.

National Handwriting Day
gurun nation
ngala hand
herge shape, possibly script like Manchu hergen?

I'd like to comment on those eight graphs, but I'm out of time, and I want to get back to the Emperor Shizong series tomorrow. And I still have to write the later parts of "The Jurchen Script: Innovation or Derivation?". THE JURCHEN NAME OF EMPEROR SHIZONG (PART 3)

Moving on to the first half of

<? ? fushe den>

from the end of part 2, the antepenultimate character appears in two entries in the Bureau of Translators vocabulary: 强盛 'strong and prosperous' above, and 'sword' which was translated as

hanma (Kiyose and Jin Qizong's reading; I have converted Jin's notation into mine which in this case is identical to Kiyose's)

and transcribed into Ming Mandarin as 罕麻 *xan ma (#217). Hanma doesn't look like Manchu loho 'sword', but it does resemble Manchu halmari 'a sword used by shamans'. There was no Ming Mandarin syllable *xal, so *xan may correspond to a Jurchen hal-. (See Kane 1989: 130 for other cases of this type of correspondence.)

The -ri of halmari may be a noun suffix of unknown function. See Gorelova (2000: 114) for other examples of -ri. The Bureau of Translators vocabulary dialect may have preserved the bare stem halma without a suffix. See Kane (1989: 116) for other instances of zero in this dialect corresponding to Manchu -ri.

On the other hand, the character

only appears at the ends of the aforementioned two words, 'sword' and 'strong'. If it were simply read ma, it should be more common as a phonogram. Could it have represented maa with a long vowel or even mar? Kane (1989: 130) noted that Jurchen syllable-final-r was sometimes omitted in Chinese transcription but does not give any word-final examples.

Could that character (for mar?) be derived from the Chinese character 犮 which would have been read as *pɦar in northern Late Middle Chinese?

Jin Qizong (1984: 202) proposed mam as an alternate reading of that character but did not give any context for that alternate reading. (Norman 1978 lists only three Manchu words ending in -m, so I am skeptical of -m as a final in Jurchen.)

In any case, that character's reading contained a, so vowel harmony dictates that there was a break between


the a-word <? ma(a/r?)> 'strong' and the e-word <fushe den> 'prosperous'.

Let's go back to the Ming Mandarin transcription for that phrase:

兀魯麻弗塞登 *u lu ma fu sə təŋ

The first character

must correspond to 兀魯 *u lu. Or so Kiyose and Jin thought; both glossed it as 'strong' (which then raises the question of what the -ma after it was).

But wait. It just occurred to me that

might be -lma. If so, then the two words with it could be interpreted as

<SWORD.lma> = halma, transcribed as Ming Mandarin 罕麻 *xan ma

<STRONG.lma> = ulma, transcribed as Ming Mandarin 兀魯麻 *u lu ma

Compare the shape of <STRONG> to the right side 𧈧 of the Chinese character 強 'strong'.

I think the first characters of those words were originally standalone logograms. Those Ming spellings have a final phonogram that might not have been present when the script was originally developed in the early 12th century. If the final phonogram was <lma>, then my attempt to link it to 犮 *pɦar will have to be abandoned.

If <STRONG> was a standalone logogram for ulma (or ulumaa, urumar, etc.) then the early 13th century name

Aotun Ulu (Jin Qizong's reading)

may have been Aotun Ulma (or urumaa, ulumar, etc. - notice I haven't repeated the possible permutations). Unfortunately I don't know of any Tungusic cognates of the Jurchen u-word for 'strong' that could narrow down the possibilities. Could the word be non-Tungusic: i.e., Khitanic? (Not necessarily from literary Khitan but either some nonstandard dialect of Khitan or a related, unwritten language - the source of the Jurchen numerals 'eleven' through 'nineteen' which are para-Mongolic but not literary Khitan.)

It's also possible that <STRONG> is functioning as a phonogram for ulu or uru in that name. The character may give connotations of 'strong', but ulu or uru by itself may not mean 'strong'; that disyllable could be an unrelated partial homophone of 'strong'.

Even if <STRONG> in that name was ulu or uru, that still doesn't mean that was the name of 金世宗 Emperor Shizong (r. 1161-1189) - the character reading could have had l whereas the emperor's name could have had r - or vice versa.

And if even the two names have the same liquid, they might not have had the same vowels! Manchu had two allophones of /u/, [ʊ] and [u], in accordance with the rules of vowel harmony. Kiyose (1977: 45-47) argues on the basis of Ming Jurchen spelling that the Bureau of Translators dialect had a single /u/. Kane (1989) similarly posits a single /u/ for the Bureau of Interpreters solely on the basis of Chinese transcriptions (since the Interpreters' dialect was not also recorded in Jurchen spelling). However, Kiyose (1977) believes Jin Jurchen had a more complex vowel system than Ming Jurchen. My guess is that this system had seven vowels: three 'feminine', three 'masculine', and one 'neutral' (but who knows, maybe there was a 'masculine ī /ɪ/ too):

'feminine' vowels
i /i/
e /ə/
o /o/
u /u/
'masculine' vowels
(ī /ɪ/?) a /a/
ō /ɔ/
ū /ʊ/

(The macron does not signfy length. Möllendorf used a macron to transliterate Manchu <ū> [ʊ], and I have used it for other 'masculine' vowels except for a - ā would be redundant.)

In theory Jin Jurchen might have had a phonemic distinction between /ʊ/ and /u/. If so, then perhaps the emperor's name was Ulu /ulu/ with feminine vowels and the name of the successful 進士 jinshi candidate was Aūtūn Ūlū /aʊtʊn ʊlʊ/ with masculine vowels. (I think the u-vowel of <STRONG> was [ʊ] to harmonize with the masculine a-vowel.)

As we will see in the next parts, the Jurchen script has multiple characters for what seem to be u- and lu-syllables from a Ming Jurchen perspective. Such apparent redundancy may reflect Jin Jurchen distinctions between /ʊ/ and /u/ on the one hand and /lʊ/ and /lu/ on the other. But does the evidence support that hypothesis? We shall see. THE JURCHEN NAME OF EMPEROR SHIZONG (PART 2)

The most obvious candidate for the Jurchen spelling of the name of 金世宗 Emperor Shizong (r. 1161-1189) who died 830 years ago yesterday is

ulu (Jin Qizong's reading)

which appears in the name

Aotun Ulu (Jin Qizong's reading)

from a 1224 list of successful candidates for the degree of 進士 jinshi in the imperial examinations. (Alas, as of this writing the article does not cover examinations in the Jurchen Empire.)

Problem solved? No, not quite.

In part 1 I already mentioned the problem of whether 烏祿 *u lu, the Chinese transcription of Emperor Shizong's name, represented Jurchen Ulu or Uru. How do we know that his name was Uru and not Ulu? We don't.

But let's suppose it was Ulu. Did Ulu have to be written with the character


Perhaps not.

Let's look at how that character's reading was reconstructed.

I am unaware of any Jin dynasty Chinese transcriptions of the character. The only transcription I know of is from the Bureau of Translators vocabulary in which 强盛 'strong and prosperous' was translated as

uluma (or uruma) fusheden (Kiyose)

uluma fuseden (Jin Qizong)

and transcribed into Ming Mandarin as 兀魯麻弗塞登 *u lu ma fu sə təŋ (#761).

There is no word spacing in the Jurchen script. How did Kiyose and Jin decide where to make a break between 'strong' and 'prosperous'? My guess is vowel harmony. Normally in Jurchen, a and e do not coexist within a root.

But how do we know that there were different vowels a and e in the two roots? Let's work backwards from the last character which also appears in

geden 'leave'

and transcribed into Ming Mandarin as 革登 *kə təŋ (#862). Both transcriptions have 登 *təŋ in common, so

must have sounded like 登 *təŋ: i.e., it was den [təɴ] in the transcription system I use on this site.

One character down, three to go:

<? ? ? den>

The penultimate character also appears in

fushegu 'fan' (cf. Manchu fusheku 'id.'; I can't explain the g : k mismatch)

transcribed into Ming Mandarin as 伏塞古 *fu sə ku (#221). Both transcriptions have 弗塞/伏塞 *fu sə in common, so

must have sounded like 弗塞/伏塞 *fu sə: i.e., it was fushe [fusxə] in the transcription system I use on this site.

(I follow Kiyose in supplying an h [x] after s on the basis of Manchu fusheku. It is possible that the Ming Jurchen dialect of the vocabulary lost the h that standard Manchu retained from another Ming Jurchen dialect. In any case, there were no Ming Mandarin syllables *fus or *sxə, so 伏塞 *fu sə may or may not have stood for Jurchen fushe rather than fuse.)

Halfway there:

<? ? fushe den>

Fushe and den are in vocalic harmony (no a to conflict with e in either reading) and are likely to have been part of the same word. But was fusheden by itself 'prosperous', or did the second character represent one or more syllables at the beginning of 'prosperous'? (We can assume that at least the first character represented the Jurchen word for 'strong'.) Kiyose and Jin give away the answer above. However, if you want to learn the probable logic behind their answer, watch for part 3. THE JURCHEN NAME OF EMPEROR SHIZONG (PART 1)

金世宗 Emperor Shizong (r. 1161-1189) of the Jin dynasty died 830 years ago today. He was a great advocate of the Jurchen language and culture. He had the Chinese classics translated into Jurchen. Unfortunately, none of those translations have been found. I know of only nine or ten dated Jurchen texts from his reign, the 大定 Dading 'Great Settlement' period:

# of Jurchen characters
海龍 Hailong rock inscriptions
~20 + ~80 = ~100 total
河頭胡論河 Hetouhulunhe 100-household seal
和拙海欒 Hezhuohailuan 100-household seal
夾渾山 Jiahunshan 100-household seal
可陳山 Kechenshan 100-household seal
迷里迭河 Milidiehe 100-household seal
移改達葛河 Yigaidagehe 100-household seal
Jin Victory Memorial Stele
Zhaoyong General Memorial

Further details are at Wikipedia.

The last dated Khitan large and small script texts are also from his period:

- the epitaph for 李爱郎君 Court Attendant Li Ai (1176; 470 large script characters)

- the epitaph for the 博州防禦使 Defense Commissioner of Bozhou (1171; 1,570 small script blocks)

Again, further details are at Wikipedia.

Emperor Shizong's successor 金章宗 Emperor Zhangzong (r. 1189-1208) abolished the Khitan scripts.

But back to Jurchen - I've been wondering what Emperor Shizong's name was in the Jurchen script. The History of the Jin Dynasty (Basic Annals 5 and 6) presents it as 烏祿 *ulu in the Chinese script. Chinese transcriptions of Jurchen do not differentiate between Jurchen l and r since Jin Chinese had no *r. So his name could have been Ulu or Uru in Jurchen. The ambiguities do not stop there. In theory there are many ways to spell both Ulu and Uru in the Jurchen script. I'll be examining the possibilities in the following parts: 2, 3, 4, 5 (link to be added). WHAT IS THE ETYMOLOGY OF SPANISH CERDO 'PIG'?

The English Wikipedia derives Spanish cerdo 'pig' from Latin seta 'bristle' and the Spanish Wikipedia derives it from Latin setula, a diminutive of seta. Are those folk etymologies? I see several problems:

1. Is hair really the most prominent feature of a pig?

2. Latin s- should remain s- and not become c-.

3. Latin -t- should become -d-, not -rd-.

4. Latin -tul- should become -j- or -ld-, not -rd-: cf.

viejo 'old person' < vetulus 'little old'

espalda 'back' < spatula 'broad, flat piece'

Seda 'silk' looks like the regular Spanish reflex of Latin seta.

Steven Schwartzman derives cerda from Vulgar Latin *cirra 'a tuft of hair in an animal's mane'. But pigs don't have manes. And I would expect Spanish to retain *rr rather than shift it to rd: e.g., Latin carrus 'wagon' became Spanish carro, not cardo.

Might cerdo 'pig' have no Latin etymology? Might it be a borrowing from some substratal language? WAS TANGUT 2WUQ1 'TO AID' BORROWED FROM CHINESE? (PART 2)

In my last post, I expressed doubts about


0645 2wuq1 'to aid'

being a borrowing from Tangut period northwestern Chinese (TPNWC) *3wu3 or an earlier form (e.g., Early Middle Chinese *wuʰ) on the basis of its initial: why would Chinese *w- be borrowed as Tangut w- [ʔw]? Tangut had no simple initial [w]; the two obvious choices for imitating Chinese *w- were v- and w- [ʔw]. Gong (2002) did not identify any instances of Tangut w- [ʔw] for what I reconstruct as Chinese *w- before -u-type rhymes, but I can't say that it would be impossible for a Tangut wu to be from a Chinese *wu.

I thought the tense vowel rhyme of 2wuq1 would even more strongly rule out a borrowing scenario. As Gong first proposed, Tangut tense vowels derive from an earlier preinitial which I write as *S.-: e.g.,


0359 1tuq1 < *S.toŋ 'thousand' (cf. Written Tibetan stong 'id.'; more cognates at STEDT)

I use capital *S.- to indicate the possibility of multiple sources of tenseness-triggering *S.-. In that particular case I think *S.- really was [s], but in the case of another numeral, I am not so sure:


0359 1soq1 < *S.sum 'three' (cf. Written Tibetan gsum 'id.'; more cognates at STEDT)

I suspect that *S.s- was originally *ks- which then merged with *ss- via a *xs-stage.

For now I reconstruct all Tangut tense vowel syllables as having *S.- in pre-Tangut. But perhaps I should reconsider given that Gong (2002: 425) identified six Chinese loanwords with tense vowels. Likely Chinese sources are in bold.

Li Fanwen #
Tangut period NW Chinese
Middle Chinese
𗐯 4719


to write
𗒨 4696


*mujʰ taste

*ɕiˀ arrow
𗄭 1941

to gather

Chinese had long ago lost *sC-clusters, so the tense vowels in the Tangut borrowings do not reflect a Chinese *s-.

At least two of those loans postdated Middle Chinese:

- 'to write' reflects the Chinese sound change *-jæ > *-e

- 'taste' reflects the Chinese sound change *mu- > *v-

('World' is ambiguous.) Am I to believe that a prefix *S.- was present as late as the turn of the millennium and added to those loans which almost immediately developed tense vowels? E.g.,

TPNWC *3ke2 > *2S.-ke2 > *2kke2 > *2kkeq2 > 2keq2

all in the space of about a century?

Three loans are early:

- 'cymbals' preserves¹ Middle Chinese *b-

- 'arrow' underwent the Tangut *-i > -y shift which seems to have postdated Middle Chinese; it may date from the late first millennium AD (see 'to gather' below)

- 'to gather' underwent that same shift and preserves¹ Middle Chinese *dz-. Compare with 'taste' which has a post-Middle Chinese initial but did not undergo the Tangut *-i > -y shift, a change that must have occurred before it was borrowed. The potential of using loanwords to date Tangut sound changes has yet to be fully explored.

But not so early that they would have had *sC-clusters that would become single consonants + tense vowels in Tangut.

I can think of five ways to deal with the problem of why those six loans have tense vowels.

1. They are unrelated native Tangut lookalikes that once had *S.-.

I'd buy this if I had internal etymologies for at least some of the six, but I don't.

2. They are the random byproducts of misperception.

But what in Chinese could sound like tense vowels to Tangut ears?

3. They are sporadic attempts to emulate Chinese phonetic features absent in Tangut.

It may not be a coincidence that all the loans are from Chinese words with tones 2-4 from final glottals or stops. The trouble is that the two late loans, 'to write' and 'taste', had no final glottals in Chinese by the time they were borrowed.

4. They acquired tense vowels by analogy with other words with tense vowels.

But which words would have been the models for analogy?

5. Perhaps 'taste' acquired a tense vowel by assimilating with


1079 2lenq3 'sweet' (this resembles lem-type words for 'sweet' in Sino-Tibetan, but a pre-Tangut *S.lem would have become lonq, not lenq.)

in the compounds

𘕉𗗘 𗗘𘕉

1viq3 2lenq3 and 2lenq3 1viq3, both 'sweet' (see Gong 2002: 352-353 for attestations).

That is, an earlier *1vi3 2lenq3/*2lenq3 1vi3 became 1viq3 2lenq3/*2lenq3 1viq3, and 1viq3 retained a tense vowel even as an independent word.

I could then claim that 'world' acquired a tense vowel by assimilating with


0359 1soq1 'three'

in the phrase


1soq1 2keq2 'three worlds' (a calque of Chinese 三世 'three worlds' or Tibetan dus gsum 'three times': i.e., past, present, and future).

but I think that's pushing it. And I have no phrases to explain the tenseness in the other four loanwords.

Should 2wuq1 be added to that set of loanwords with anomalous tense vowels? Maybe.

¹It would be more precise to say "preserves the voicing of", since Middle Chinese voiced obstruents were oral, whereas they were borrowed into Tangut as prenasalized stops b- [mb] and dz- [ndz]. WAS TANGUT 2WUQ1 'TO AID' BORROWED FROM CHINESE? (PART 1)

In my last post, I remarked upon the similarity of Tangut


0645 2wuq1 < *Sʌ-ʔwə/oH 'to aid'

to the Sino-Korean reading 우 u for 祐 'to aid'. I considered and rejected the possibility that the Tangut and Chinese words were cognates: i.e., inherited from Proto-Sino-Tibetan.

But I didn't consider yet another possibility: could the Tangut word be a borrowing from Chinese? That would explain the similarity between 2wuq1 and Sino-Korean u: they were both borrowed from roughly contemporary varieties of Chinese. 2wuq1 looks like Edwin G. Pulleyblank's Early Middle Chinese 祐 *wuwʰ (= my *wuʰ) and Tangut period northwestern Chinese (TPNWC) *3wu3.

However, "looks" does not mean "sounds". My w- is [ʔw], not a true [w] like Pulleyblank's *w-. Middle Chinese *w- corresponds to Tangut v- ([v]? [ʋ]?), not w- [ʔw] in Gong's list of Chinese loans in Tangut (2002: 407-408):


0403 1von1 : 王 *wɨaŋ 'the surname Wang'


2340 1von1 : 旺 *wɨaŋʰ 'bright'

I wrote "corresponds" because 'Middle Chinese' is a Platonic entity distinct from whatever northwestern dialect the Tangut were in contact with.

On the other hand, Gong's list of Tangut transcriptions of Chinese in the Forest of Categories (2002: 436-437, 444-445) shows vacillation between v-and w- for Chinese *w-syllables (correspondence types A and E). That seems to imply that the Tangut lacked a simple initial [w]: they could only approximate a Chinese initial [w] with either v- ([v]? [ʋ]?) or w- [ʔw].

Homophones B chapter and homophone group
Li Fanwen number
Tangut reading
Tangut period NW Chinese
Early Middle Chinese
Corresponence type
𗍁  II 1

*wɨejʰ A: v- : w-
II 2


𘍵 II 3



II 9



𗍾  II 9



II 26


B: Ø- : w-
*1hun3 *wuŋ C: h- : w-
𗭴 VIII 5087
*wɨaŋ B: Ø- : w-
𗇝 VIII 4689

*wɨet D: yw- : w-
𗫖 VIII 2094

E: w- : w-
𗤭 VIII 3128


𗨂 VIII 3685

*wɨep B: Ø- : w-
VIII 3628
*wɨen F: gh- : w-
*2/3wen3 *wɨenˀ/ʰ

*wuŋ C: h- : w-

There are also four other types of correspondences:

B: Tangut Grade IV Ø-syllables may have begun with [j], and Chinese Grade III *w- may have become [ɥ], a glide absent from native Tangut words. (But see correspondence D below.)

C: Unique to transcriptions of 雄 *1hun3 (for †1wun3) which must have developed the same irregular fricative found through much of Chinese: e.g., Cantonese hoŋ and Mandarin xiong < *hjuŋ.

D: Tangut ywa [ɥa] is a special rhyme in the readings of only three characters:

𗇝 4689 1ywa4 'glittering'

𗇜 5014 1ywa4 'to go fast; quick' (only attested in the Tangraphic Sea dictionary)

𗮞 5099 1shywa3 'transcription character for Sanskrit śva'

The first two words may be borrowings from 'Tangut B', the non-Sino-Tibetan language that I think is the source of much Tangut vocabulary and possibly even reflected in the structure of the more obscure characters.

F: Tangut ghw [ɣw] might have been an attempt to approximate Chinese [w] without the initial stop of Tangut w- [ʔw]. ghw- is from Gong's reconstruction; it corresponds to w- in Sofronov and Nishida's reconstructions converted into my notation. If Sofronov and Nishida are right, the use of 3628 is simply another instance of correspondence E.

Given that TPNWC 右 *2wu3, the phonetic of TPNWC 祐 *3wu3, was transcribed in Tangut as both 1vi3 and 2ew4, I would expect TPNWC 祐 *3wu3 (or an earlier Early Middle Chinese *wuʰ) to have been borrowed as †1vi3 or †2ew4 with initial †v- or †Ø-,  not 2wuq1 with initial w-. However, the existence of correspondence pattern E (Tangut w- [ʔw] : Chinese *w-) weakens an initial-based argument against a borrowing scenario. Note, however, that pattern E is not attested with the rhyme type of 右 and 祐. That may suggest that w- [ʔw] was inappropriate for 右 and 祐 even though it was appropriate for TPNWC 雲 *1wun3 and 員 *1wen3. TPNWC *w- could have had different allophones before different rhymes.

As I will explain in part 2, I think the rhyme of


0645 2wuq1 'to aid'

may even more strongly rule out a borrowing scenario. THE PREHISTORY OF TANGUT 2WUQ1 'TO AID'

When looking at Andrew West's post about a Tangut hand mirror with the character


0645 2wuq1

which he translated as 祐 'to aid', it occurred to me that 2wuq1 sounds like 우 u, the Sino-Korean reading of 祐. (The Yale romanization of the reading is visually even closer - wu!)

That makes the Tangut word easier to learn. I try to take advantage of soundalikes whenever I can. But are the two forms related? I don't think so, because 2wuq1 is from Pre-Tangut *Sʌ-ʔwə/oH, whereas u is ultimately from Old Chinese *wəʔ(-s).

1.13.13:49: Commentary on the reconstructions


T0. The only remotely similar words I know of are Old Chinese Pa-type words (my ignorance of the rest of Sino-Tibetan is showing):

*Cɯ.P(r)a > *bɨa 'to help'

*Cɯ.P(r)a-ʔ > *bɨaʔ 'to help'

*Cɯ.P- may have fused into *b-: *N-p- > *m-p- > *m-b- > *b-. Another possibility is that *-P- was *-b-, and that *C- has left no trace: *Cɯ.ba > *Cɯ.bɨa > *bɨa.

輔 may be a *ʔ-suffixed variant of 扶.

The presyllabic and main vowels don't match.

There is no guarantee that Tangut -w- is from a lenited stop *P.

A medial *-r- cannot be ruled out; if it existed, it corresponds to nothing in Tangut.

T1. Pre-Tangut *S- conditions Tangut vowel tenseness that I indicate in my notation as -q.

T2. Pre-Tangut *-ʌ- conditions the grade of the Tangut syllable (-1). The phonetic value of -u1 was (partly) lower than [u]: e.g., [ou]. *-u (< *-ə or *-o) lowered to harmonize with the height of unaccented *-ʌ- which was later lost.

T3. I have projected Tangut [ʔw] (w- in my notation) back into pre-Tangut. But I suspect that at the pre-Tangut stage there was a sequence *-CVP- that was compressed into Tangut [ʔw]. Pre-Tangut *-ʌ- could have been in that sequence: e.g., *S(ʌ).Cʌ.PəH.

T4. The pre-Tangut vowel could be either or *o; both merged into -u1 (Jacques 2014: 206).

T5. Pre-Tangut *-H is a laryngeal that conditioned Tangut tone 2 which I write Arakawa-style at the beginning of my notation. *-H could correspond to Old Chinese *-ʔ-s. My assumption that Tangut tones originated Chinese-style from laryngeals could be wrong; they may preserve Proto-Sino-Tibetan tones or have some entirely different origin. But if Tangut and Chinese developed similar grade systems (possibly via contact), they might have developed tones in similar ways as well.

Old Chinese

C0. 祐 *wəʔ(-s) 'to assist' belongs to a large word family discussed at length in Schuessler (2007: 581-582). Schuessler reconstructs a Proto-Sino-Tibetan root *wəs. I don't know how he would account for the *-ʔ in the Old Chinese members of the family.

On the other hand, Matisoff (2003: 327, 591) relates 佑 (another spelling of 祐) to his Proto-Tibeto-Burman *grwak 'friend/assist'. The rhyme might work: Matisoff's Proto-Tibeto-Burman *a can be from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *ə. See Schuessler (2007: 31-32) on Tibeto-Burman -k corresponding to Old Chinese *-ʔ. I don't believe in 'Tibeto-Burman' except as a convenient term for 'non-Chinese Sino-Tibetan', so 'Tibeto-Burman' here is to be taken as the latter.

As for *gr-, see C1-C2 below.

C1. Baxter and Sagart reconstruct the 祐 word family with *[ɢ]ʷ-. The brackets indicate 'either *ɢʷ-, or something else that has the same Middle Chinese reflex as *ɢʷ-' (wording based on Baxter and Sagart 2014: 8): e.g., *N-qʷ- or *m-qʷ-. *ɢʷ- does look like Matisoff's Proto-Tibeto-Burman *g- (see C0 above). But I am suspicious of it - there is no Chinese-internal evidence that there was ever a stop in this word family. And Baxter and Sagart's system has no simple *w- which is what Schuessler and I reconstruct instead of *ɢʷ- in this word family.

C2. There could not have been an *-r- in this word because *wrəʔ-s (or Baxter and Sagart's *[ɢ]ʷrəʔ-s) would have become Middle Chinese †wiʰ (cf. 鮪 *wrəʔ / *[ɢ]ʷəʔ > *wiˀ 'sturgeon'²), not *wuʰ (> Sino-Korean 우 u).

¹Samuel E. Martin designed the Yale romanization of Korean to be typeable on a standard US keyboard, so it has no diacritics or nonbasic Latin letters. w distinguishes labial wu [u] from nonlabial u [ɯ] (= ŭ in the modified McCune-Reischauer romanization of Korean on this site).

²The Sino-Korean reading of 鮪 should be †위 wi, but in fact it is 유 yu, presumably by analogy with 유 yu, the reading of the far more common character 有 'to exist'. There would be few opportunities to use 鮪 in Korean; the Korean word for 'sturgeon' is 鐵甲상어 chhŏlgapsangŏ 'iron armor shark'.

The suffix -ngŏ 'fish' is from Middle Chinese 魚 *ŋɨə, but in hangul it is written as < Ø.ŏ> across two syllables, so it is not associated with 魚 since character readings always only occupy single hangul blocks.

상어 sangŏ 'shark' is from Middle Chinese 鯊魚 *ʂæ ŋɨə, though it cannot be written as 鯊魚 in Korean since its parts do not correspond to syllable blocks/Sino-Korean readings:

Sinographs (aligned with Middle Chinese)
Middle Chinese
Korean (transliterated)

Sino-Korean (transliterated) s
Sinographs (aligned with Sino-Korean)

The Sino-Korean readings of 鯊 and 魚 are 사 sa and 어 ŏ, so 鯊魚 is read as saŏ. I suspect that sangŏ is an old borrowing from spoken Middle Chinese, whereas saŏ is a literary Korean creation combining the isolated readings sa and ŏ (< ngŏ).

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