Or, in Jurchen,

<ša.nggiyan OX DAY> šanggiyan wihan inenggi

1. I started looking at Alexander M. Ščerbak's "Reconstrucing the Manchu-Tungusic Proto-language" (2012) tonight. It lists sample proto-forms divided into six semantic categories. I only have time to discuss the first, "Terms for Day, Night, Month, and Year" from a Jurchen/Manchu (J/M) perspective.

1a. *ineŋī 'day'

J/M and Oroqen are the only languages cited with -ŋg-. J/M have hardened intervocalic *-ŋ- to a prenasalized stop. This seems in line with the fortition of initial *ŋ- in Manchu gala 'hand' from Ščerbak's*ŋāla.

Jin Qizong reads Jurchen


as <> ngala.

However, the vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters has a Chinese transcription *xa la pointing to gala [ʁala] c. 1500.

If early written Jurchen lacked ŋ-fortition, then perhaps


should be transliterated <ngiyan ... DAY> ngiyan ... inengi [ŋʲan ... inəŋi].

1b. *dolbo 'night'

Why did Manchu dobori lose -l- if -l- was retained elsewhere in the same environment: e.g., in M golbon 'clothes rack'?

3.8.1:11: Ming Jurchen dialects may have retained -l-.


in the vocabulary of the Bureau of Translators was transcribed in Ming Mandarin as 多羅斡 *to lo wo which may have represented dolwo < *dolbo.

The corresponding form in the vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters was transcribed in Ming Mandarin as 多博力 *to po li which may have represented dolbori.

The Chinese transcriptions exemplify two approaches to a Jurchen coda -l absent in Chinese: insert a vowel after it or just ignore it.

1c. *bēga 'month' ~ 'season'

I'm surprised a *long vowel was reduced to mere palatalization in Jurchen

biya [pʲa] 'moon, month' (unchanged in Manchu except for the obsolescence of the character, of course).

1d. *anŋa 'year'

I suppose the palatality of the nasal of Jurchen

aniya [aɲa] (again, unchanged in Manchu)

was conditioned by *n which blocked *-ŋ-fortition: *-nŋ- > *-ɲŋ-*-jn- (as in Nanai ajŋani '') > *-nj- > [ɲ]. In the same volume, Janhunen (2012: 16) grouped Nanaic together with Jurchenic in Southern Tungusic. Might *-nŋ- > *-ɲŋ-*-jn- be a Southern Tungusic innovation?

Could a similar *-n- to *-j- shift have occurred in J/M 'gold'?

3.8.1:27: The earliest attested form of J/M 'gold' is Jurchen

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

Perhaps *alcun > *ancun > *aɲcun > *ajcun > *ajsyn > Manchu aisin [ajɕin]. But then why does have Manchu have an unrelated word alcu 'the concave side of a toy made from an animal's ankle bone' with the -lcu sequence that became -isi- in 'gold'? Absolute regularity would demand that alcu is either a loanword or originated from something other than *alcu: i.e., Manchu developed a new -lcu after the old one became -isi. Rozycki (1983: 27) identified alcu as a loanword in Tungusic from Mongolic, so a workaround to explain -lcu in terms of sound laws is unnecessary in that case. But what of, say, Manchu kalcun 'spirit' which has no Mongolic source? Why didn't it become †kaisin?

The fronting of the second vowel is a problem, as Manchu does have words with isu and aisu: e.g., gisun (not †gisin) 'word' and aisuri (not †aisiri) 'a kind of bird'. The 'missing link' form in Alchuka has a second vowel that is neither palatal nor labial: anʃïn.

The palatal c is also a problem, as Turkic and Mongolic have t, and the original vowel of the second syllable was not palatal, so this is not a case of *ti becoming ci (a change which didn't happen in Jurchen and wouldn't happen until Manchu).

In any case, Poppe's (1960: derivation of aisin from *alʲsin < *alʲtin < *altin as reported in Rozycki (1983: 24) doesn't look likely.

I wonder if the word was borrowed independently by Turkic, Mongolic or Tungusic from different varieties of some fourth type of language - perhaps Xiongnu or Rouran.

2. Today I found the Pyu phrase tiṁ priṅ·ḥ kdaṅ· 'LOC city ?' (27.6) which at first glance appears to have double case marking. kdaṅ· ooks like the second half of ṅit·ṁ kdaṅ· 'with, including'. But 'with in the city' makes no sense. Moreover, ṅit·ṁ kdaṅ· precedes nouns: e.g., ṅit·ṁ kdaṅ· saḥ 'with sons' (16.4A). Maybe kdaṅ· does not modify priṅ·ḥ 'city'. Maybe kdaṅ· even has nothing to do with ṅit·ṁ kdaṅ·.

3. I am not sure how to write kdaṅ· in phonological notation. I used to take it at face value as /k.daŋ/ with a period indicating a potential schwa. But lately I think it might be ambiguous.

One possible interpretation of Pyu preinitial-initial sequences (using velar-dental stop-a sequences as examples)

No schwa
Schwa (with lenition of following nonaspirates)
/kəta/ [kəda]
/kəda/ [kəða]

It is unclear if *schwa or some other minimal vowel contrasted with zero after preinitials. The above scenario assumes such a contrast existed but was not indicated in the script (except indirectly if a following consonant was lenited).

kt-type voiceless-voiceless sequences are absent from the 12th century Kubyaukgyi text, suggesting that /kt/ may have merged with /kət/.

The sequence ktha is hypothetical; the only instance of kth- in the entire corpus is kthor·ḥ '?' (27.6).

Aspirates are rare in Pyu. Aspiration after stops may not be phonemic: e.g., kthor·ḥ might be /ktorH/ rather than /ktʰorH/ or /kətʰorH/. (It cannot be /kətorH/ because an intervocalic /t/ would voice to [d], and the word would have been spelled †kdor·ṃḥ [kəðorH].)

/rH/ may have been voiceless [r̥] or [r] preceded by a vowel with phonation and/or a tone. THE DAY OF THE WHITE RAT

Or, in Jurchen,

<ša.nggiyan DAY> šanggiyan singge inenggi

1. Japanese 蝦蛄 shako 'Oratosquilla oratoria' is a strange word. It is the only Japanese word I know of with sh- corresponding to standard Mandarin x-. It looks like a recent borrowing from Mandarin 蝦蛄 xiāgū, itself an interesting word for reasons I won't go into here. Yet shako ends in -o like a Sino-Japanese borrowing from Middle Chinese rather than -u, though I doubt Middle Chinese is relevant here. In short, the word seems as if it mixes borrowing patterns:

Middle Chinese
Hypothetical borrowing from Mandarin
Actual borrowing
ga, ka
xiā [ɕja˥]
[ku˥ ]

How was this word borrowed? When was it first attested? I presume it must have displaced a Japanese word since shako live in Japanese waters.

3.7.9:45: I should have read the Japanese Wikipedia article on shako before asking those questions. Going by what it says - I have no other references on hand - it seems the resemblance to Mandarin 蝦蛄 xiāgū is fortuitous.

The Edo period name for shako was shakunage because when boiled, it turned purple like a shakunage flower (Rhododendron subg. Hymenanthes). Shakunage is spelled as 石楠花 <ROCK CAMPHOR FLOWER> or 石南花 <ROCK SOUTH FLOWER>. I suspect that even though the spellings could be taken as meaningful, they are actually phonogram sequences. Shakunage then got shortened to shaku or shako, and the latter was then respelled as Chinese 蝦蛄 'mantis shrimp'.

If 石楠花 ~ 石南花 shakunage and 蝦蛄 shako are actually native Japanese words in sinographic disguise, their sha is in need of explanation since sha is normally only in loanwords. A major exception is 喋る shaberu 'to chat', a modern, common colloquial word whose origin is unknown to me.

A shift of -u to -o is unusual in Japanese. I can't think of any examples. Normally the vowel shift goes the other way around: -o > -u. So I wonder if shako is actually a more conservative form and if the association with shakunage was the product of later confusion. Shaku would then be a clipped form of shakunage or from shako with vowel raising. However, normally o-raising is not in final position, so that might favor the clipping hypothesis. I don't have the dialectological background needed to solve this problem.

3.7.6:41: Wiktionary lists Sino-Japanese Go-on readings ge and ku for 蝦 and 蛄, but my policy is to regard Sino-Japanese readings as hypothetical unless they occur in attested words. So many readings in dictionaries are generated on the basis of fanqie and knowledge of the general patterns of the two major strata of Sino-Japanese, Go-on and Ka-on. I don't know of any words in which 蝦 and 蛄 are read as ge and ku, so I only list ga, ka, and ko here on the basis of 蝦蟇 gama 'toad', 魚蝦 gyoka 'fish and shrimp', and 蟪蛄 keiko 'a kind of cicada'.

2. I didn't know about Eskayan, a constructed language of the Philippines, and its gigantic syllabary.

3. I also didn't know about Gustav Heldt's new translation of the Kojiki.

4. This would upset J. Marshall Unger (via Joanne Jacobs whom I haven't linked to in ages; emphasis mine):

There is no single way a brain becomes “rewired,” explains Wolf, a cognitive neuroscientist and director of UCLA’s Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice. The process happens differently, depending on how we read. Readers of Chinese (an ideographic language) rewire differently from those who read Spanish (a logographic one).

It upsets me for three reasons.

First, languages can't be characterized by their writing systems.

Second, the Chinese script isn't "ideographic"; no writing system is. It isn't really "logographic" either, though that term is less wrong than "ideographic", as there is a partial correlation between Chinese words and Chinese characters.

Third, Spanish orthography is not "logographic"; Spanish is written in an alphabet, not a script with thousands of characters for words or morphemes. Strictly speaking, no writing system is logographic either - there are too many words in any language (Toki Pona aside) for the one-character-per-word principle to be viable.

5. John Candy died 25 years ago today. I didn't know he had Ukrainian ancestry, though I'm not surprised since Canada has "the world's third-largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine itself and Russia."

Today I learned Canada has its own Ukrainian dialect. I was surprised to see cash register borrowed as a spelling-based кеш реґистер (?) kesh régyster rather than as a pronunciation-based кеш реджистер †kesh rédzhyster.

6. Seeing the word має <maje> 'has' in the Wikipedia article on Canadian Ukrainian made me check to see what other Cyrillic alphabets have є <je>. I forgot about Rusyn! And I didn't know about the letter's various usages over time and in Church Slavonic.

7. Via Viacheslav Zaytsev: Kychanov's (1970) decipherment and translation of "Гимн священным предкам тангутов" (Hymn to the Sacred Ancestors of the Tangut). I had heard of the text but didn't know about this study from almost fifty years ago! THE DAY OF THE YELLOW PIG

Or, in Jurchen,

< so.nggiyan PIG DAY> songgiyan uliyan inenggi

1. Not that it matters much, but when I tried to copy and paste 'pig' from the last day of the pig, I discovered that entry was missing from my index page! I've restored it; it'll eventually disappear after the entry preceding it does. As far as I know, I've never accidentally deleted an entry between entries like that before.

2. I'm stuck in Pirahã (P; getting tired of typing the tilde) mode now. It could be worse. I've only glanced at Daniel L. Everett's Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (2008). I'll read the whole thing eventually - I have two books to finish. I don't want to get too involved with Pirahã. But a glimpse of any language can offer data for future use, and so here I jot my notes on the little I've seen based on the sketch on pp. xi-xii in his book.

2a. Vowels

Here are the allophones:

/i/ [ɪ] ~ [ɛ] ~ [i]
/o/ [u] ~ [o]
/a/ [ɑ]

Here are the allophones in order of apparent frequency:

Phoneme \ frequency
[ɛ] [i]
[u] [o]

And here is a chart of the allophones:

[i] [u]
[ɪ] (gap 2)
(gap 1)
[ɛ] (gap 4)
(gap 3)

/i o/ constitute a class. They are the only vowels with allophonic variation and the only vowels that condition consonantal allophony (see below).

I don't know why o was chosen to symbolize the nonlow back vowel if its most frequent allophone is [u].

I am surprised there are no allophones [e] and [ʊ] (gaps 1-2). Are the P careful to avoid those vowels, or is Everett's description simplified?

The absence of [æ] and [ɔ] (gaps 3-4) may be motivated by the need to preserve 'buffer space' between /i o/ and /a/; such vowels combine characteristics of /i o/ and /a/.

2b. Consonants

Here are the allophones of the two most interesting consonants:

between /i/ and /o/
[ɺ͡ɺ̼] or [g]

/s/ palatalizes to [ʃ] before /i/.

The remaining consonants do not have allophony in Everett's introductory account: /ʔ h k t p/. (I won't go into the issue of whether [k] is really an allophone of [h].)

But later on p. 182, he talks about variation in 'head':

xapapaí ~ kapapaí ~ papapaí ~ xaxaxaí ~ kakakaí

The variation only affects voiceless labial /p/ and back consonants /ʔ h k/, not alveolar /t/ and not voiced /g b/. Vowels and tones (acute = high; unmarked = low) are stable.

The two voiced consonants can be regarded as front and back. (I almost wrote labial and nonlabial, but t'nonlabial' /g/ in fact has a linguolabial allophone [ɺ͡ɺ̼]; the subscript 'seagull' indicates linguolabiality.)

The nonlow vowels condition nonstop allophones of the voiced consonants: the lateral flap [ɺ͡ɺ̼] and the trill [ʙ]. I wanted to say continuant allophones, but Wikipedia says,

Whether laterals, taps/flaps, or trills are continuant is not conclusive.

Are /g b/ the results of a merger of a larger set of earlier voiced consonants?

- Were there originally three voiced consonants */g d b/?

- /g/ could be a merger of */g/ and */d/

- an earlier initial nasal allophone [ŋ] of /g/ could have merged with [n].

- [ɺ͡ɺ̼] could have originally been the /i o/-allophone of */d/

- this lateral flap allophone may in turn be a merger of an original *liquid and a lenited allophone of */d/; cf. how Korean intervocalic /r/ is a blend of the liquids *r and *l and lenited *t

- [g] could have originally been the /i o/-allophone of /g/

- Were nasals */ŋ n m/ originally distinct from stops */g d b/?

Looking at what little remains of P's extinct relatives may help to answer these questions. The initial consonant of Yahahí ~ Jahahí is intriguing, as P has nothing like it (anymore?). THE DAY OF THE YELLOW DOG

Or, in Jurchen,

< so.nggiyan CHICKEN DAY> songgiyan indahūn inenggi

1. I've glanced at Pirahã phonology before but never noticed two things until today:

1a. Pirahã has no nasal vowels. So why does the exonym of the Hi'aiti'ihi 'Straight Ones' have a nasal vowel? Is it a Portuguese borrowing from some other indigenous language? (And what does the apostrophe represent? Is it another way to write the glottal stop which is written as x elsewhere?)

(3.3.20:05: No, the apostrophe indicates a high tone; it seems to be an easily typeable substitute for the acute accent that Everett uses. Vowels not followed by apostrophes have low tones.)

(3.3.23:58: And even if Pirahã has no nasal vowels now, maybe it once did. The name could date back to the first contact with Portuguese speakers.)

1b. Pirahã has three vowels


which are not in a 'top-heavy' classical 'triangle':


I have never seen a Pirahã-type 'left-heavy' triangle before. Do any languages have the other two hypothetically possible layouts?





3.4.0:33: Today (3.3) I thought it would be interesting to see what distributional phenomena and allophony would motivate such analyses. Here are some syllables in hypothetical languages with the latter two types of vowel systems:

'Right-heavy' with nine phonetic vowels


'Bottom-heavy' with nine phonetic vowels

/ɨ/ /æ/ /ɑ/
[kɨ] [kæ] [kɑ]

I've designed the allophones so each phonemic symbol matches one allophone. But what if they don't? What if the 'bottom-heavy' language had only two phonetic high vowels distributed like this?


Do those syllables share a single vowel phoneme? What if speakers rhymed [i] and [u]? Should that vowel phoneme be symbolized as /ɨ/ halfway between front [i] and [u] even though [ɨ] isn't actually in the language? Does it make sense for /t/ to palatalize before nonpalatal /ɨ/? That is, in fact, what I think happened in Late Old Chinese: e.g., 之 *tə > *tɨə > *tɕɨə 'genitive marker'.

1c. In Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (2008), Daniel L. Everett mentions Steve Sheldon's Pirahã neologism for the Christian God, Baíxi Hioóxio 'Up-high Father'.

3.4.0:32: And I forgot to mention why I mentioned that ... I went on to write item 2 without finishing 1c.

If [k] is an allophone of /hi/, then is it possible to pronounce Hioóxio as Koóxio? What would be the phonetic motivation for hardening /hi/ into [k]?

3.4.21:02: Answering my first question, no:

The sequences [hoa] and [hia] are said to be in free variation with [kʷa] and [ka], at least in some words.

But why wouldn't [ha] be in free variation with [ka]? I thought perhaps at one time pre-Pirahã had *[q] and *[k] with Mongolian-type distribution: *[qa] but *[ku] and *[ki]. *[qa] became [ha], whereas *[kua] and *[kia] became [hoa] ~ [kʷa] and [hia] ~ [ka]. However, if *high vowels conditioned *[k], why aren't [hi hu] in free variation with [ki ku]?

I'm surprised to see presumably disyllabic [hia] in free variation with monosyllabic [kʷa]. Does such variation only apply if /i/ and /a/ are both the same tone? Do /hía/ (high + low tone) and /hiá/ (low + high tone) exist? If they do, do they have monosyllabic free variants?

2. I have long been puzzled by the correspondences of the codas in the early written Sino-Tibetan languages. Today it finally occurred to me to see how much more confusion adding Evans' (2001) Proto-Southern-Qiang tones would cause. In chronological order from left to right (except for Proto-Southern-Qiang which can't be dated; I've put it last since it alone has the innovation of losing most codas):

Old Chinese
Old Tibetan
Proto-Southern Qiang

-s (< *-ds?)
(*low tone)

*low tone

*low tone
(*high tone)
(*high tone)
(*low tone)

*low tone

The Tangut numerals from 'one' to 'nine' all have the 'level tone' (1- in my notation which I adopted from Arakawa Shintarō), whereas 'ten' has the 'rising tone' (2- in my notation) from a source I symbolize as *-H, possibly a glottal consonant. I doubted there would be any correlation between the two Tangut tones and the two tones of Proto-Southern Qiang, its closest relative among the languages above. And of course there was none.

3.4.0:34: Did tone 1 spread through the closed set of Tangut numerals 'one' through 'nine"/

3.4.21:14: Notes on individual numerals:

'One': Straightforward. Tangut and Proto-Southern Qiang do not preserve any final stops.

'Two': Pre-Burmese points to *-t, Old Chinese, Old Tibetan, and Tangut are ambiguous, and Pyu has an open syllable.

The function of the *-s in Old Chinese and Old Tibetan is unknown.

I have no idea what Tangut *X is; it is a dummy symbol for the source of the equally mysterious feature -' which distinguishes certain rhymes in Tangut. I have never found any correlation between *X/-' and any feature in any other language. It could be a Proto-Sino-Tibetan feature preserved only in Tangut, though I doubt that.

'Three': At first I was pleased to see -ḥ in both Pyu and pre-Burmese. But look at 'four', 'five', and 'nine' where pre-Burmese has a -ḥ absent from Pyu. Pre-Burmese -ḥ doesn't correlate with Old Chinese *-ʔ.

'Four': Might  Pre-Burmese -ḥ here be from *-s rather than *-ʔ? Why was this *-s added? There is no trace of it in Pyu (where *-s probably became -ḥ) or pre-Tangut (where *-s may have become *-H).

'Five': Pre-Burmese -ḥ corresponds to Old Chinese *-ʔ, but Pyu lacks the expected -ḥ.

'Six': See 'one'.

'Seven': Tibetan has a unique root for 'seven'.

'Eight': See 'one'.

'Nine': Pre-Burmese -ḥ corresponds to Old Chinese *-ʔ, but Pyu lacks the expected -ḥ.

'Ten': The languages do not share a common root. This is the only pre-Tangut word with *-H in the set, and that *-H / Tangut 'rising' tone corresponds to Proto-Southern Qiang low tone ... just like pre-Tangut *-Ø / Tangut 'level' tone which can also correspond to Proto-Southern Qiang high tone! THE DAY OF THE RED CHICKEN

Or, in Jurchen,

< RED.nggiyan CHICKEN DAY> fulanggiyan tiko inenggi

1. It's actually still the day of the green sheep for me as I write this item, but it's already the day of the red chicken in what was once the Jurchen Empire.

Viacheslav Zaytsev linked to this video of the text in Jurchen found by the Arkhara River discovered by Prof. Andrey Zabiyako (h/t Andrew West who has written the definitive article on the subject in English).

That site is not far from Birobidzhan. I just learned that Biro- is a reference to the Bira River - 'River River'. Bira is 'river' in Jurchen, Manchu, and other Tungusic languages; the word can be reconstructed for Proto-Tungusic. I wonder what specific language is the source of that name and of the name of the Bidzhan River. Wiktionary does not have etymologies for either name.

2. I had no idea Li Fang-Kuei's brother-in-law 徐道鄰 Hsu Dau-lin was once Chiang Ching-kuo's tutor upon the latter's return from the USSR.

3. While looking at Evans' (2001) reconstructions of Proto-Southern Qiang numerals, I realized why his PSQ *a (low tone) corresponds to Tangut 5981 𗈪 0a1 'one' rather than †i4 < *a. Brightening (*a > i) in Tangut might only have applied in word-final position, and *a 'one' only appeared before other words, so its vowel remained intact.

A wilder possibility is that 0a1 is from *ʕa with a pharyngeal *ʕ- that blocked brightening and conditioned Grade I, but there is no evidence for such a pharyngeal in pre-Tangut.

I reconstruct 𗈪 0a1 'one' with Grade I (hence -1 in my notation) because it was transcribed in late 12th century northwestern Chinese as 阿 1a1 in the Pearl in the Palm glossary.

The 0 indicates that I don't know the tone of 'one'. Maybe it literally had 'zero' tone in the sense that its tone may have been neutral.

4. Speaking of numerals, I was surprised to learn that Dmitri Mendeleev used Sanskrit numeral prefixes (eka- 'one', dvi- 'two', tri- 'three') in the periodic table he submitted for publication 150 years ago today. Why Sanskrit?

5. Looking at Alexander Vovin's (2017) reconstruction of Old Korean (OK) *-arari for a verbal suffix 下里 <BELOW.ri> that he seems to regard as cognate to Middle Korean (MK) àráj 'bottom' made me wonder how it lines up with John R. Bentley's 2000 reconstruction of *arUsI 'below, lower' for Paekche (P):

Old Korean
Middle Korean


The correspodence of P *rU and OK *ra may point to a Proto-Koreanic (or Proto-South Koreanic?) *ɔ.

The P and OK words may have different suffixes added to a shared root *arɔ. If the Old Korean liquid had been *l, I might propose a Proto-Koreanic voiceless *l̥ that became P *s and OK *l. But OK *l would not have lenited to zero in MK: OK †arali would have become MK †àrári.

6. What are the characters 𠡙, 𠧭, 烞, and U+2C1D1 (⿺气朴) for? I found them in the Wiktionary entry for 朴 when writing this addendum to "The Day of the White Hare". Of course I don't know a lot of characters. What makes those so special?

- I have never seen 朴 as a phonetic before

- 朴 was not a phonetic in Old Chinese, so its derivatives must postdate Old Chinese

- 力 'strength', 大 'big', 火 'fire', and 气 'air' are not normal left-hand components

烞 has a Wiktionary entry with a Mandarin reading but no meaning. defines 烞 as 'the sound of cracking from heat'. It has no definitions for the other three characters.

7. 加藤昌彦 Katō Atsuhiko (2009) reconstructs a ten-vowel system for Proto-Pwo Karen including two unrounded high nonfront vowels and on the basis of dialects preserving a contrast between them. I do not recall ever seeing a description of a living language with a /ɨ ɯ/ contrast before. There seems to be a common assumption that Proto-Sino-Tibetan had a small number of vowels. How such a small inventory expanded into the larger inventories of languages like Proto-Pwo Karen remains to be explained.

8. Today is the centennial of Korea's 三一運動 Samil undong, the March 1st Movement. Looking at the text of the Korean Declaration of Independence (image / English), I was surprised by how relatively modern it looks. It lacks the obsolete vowel symbol arae a (ㆍ), perhaps the most striking characteristic of old hangul orthography. It does have ᄯ <st> for modern ㄸ <tt> and instances of standalone ㅣ <i> instead of 이 <Øi>: e.g., ㅣ며 <i myŏ> as well as modern 이며 <Øi myŏ> for i-mye 'be-and' after vowel-final words.

9. The Jurchen word for 'honey' apparently only survives in Chinese transcription as 希粗 *xi tsʰu in the vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters (#1025). The corresponding Manchu word is hibsu [xipsu].

Does *tsʰ represent [tsʰ] < *ps in that Jurchen dialect (which could not be ancestral to Manchu which preserved *ps), or does the transcription conceal a Jurchen [ps]?

How would the Jurchen ancestor of hibsu have been written? Neither a phonogram <hip> nor a logogram <HONEY> have been found. Would the word have been written <>? We probably do not yet have a complete set of Jurchen characters. Parts of the Jurchen Character Book are missing; there are characters in inscriptions and the Sino-Jurchen vocabularies that are not in that presumably early catalog, and there may be characters that are not in any of those sources. THE DAY OF THE GREEN SHEEP

Or, in Jurchen,

<nion.nggiyan SHEEP DAY> nionggiyan honi inenggi

1. Today is the 900th birthday of Emperor Xizong of the Jurchen Empire.

His Jurchen name, transcribed in Jin Chinese as  合剌 *xo la, was probably either *Hola or *Hora.

He has been credited with the apparently short-lived Jurchen small script. If Aisin-Gioro Ulhicun is right, these are the only two remaining blocks in the small script:

None of the components look like Khitan small script components except for the one at the bottom of the second block resembling 쇼 whose reading has yet to be identified.

쇼 also looks like the hangul spelling of Middle Korean syo 'cow', a word I have yet more to say about.

2. I was hoping Guillaume Jacques would give examples of Tangut *P-causatives in "The Labial Causative In Trans-Himalayan" (2019), and he did. Here are two more examples from Gong (1988: 45-46).

ghost, demon, devil
𘘏 0622
*Pɯ.ʔ[o/ə] to bring evil
𘔚 1671
𗽫 2765
to turn red

It may be significant that all five examples of causatives are Grade III/IV syllables (written by Guillaume with -j- following Li Fanwen and by me with -3/-4). I hypothesize that Grade III/IV was conditioned by *high-vowel presyllables. So the causative prefix may have been *Pɯ-. (*ɯ is my symbol for an unknown high vowel. Maybe I should just write *I or *Y.)

Gong also gives examples of zero ~ -w- alternations with Tangut without any obvious semantic function. Those pairs outnumber the causative pairs and need further investigation. Some may be doublets involving *P-preinitials or presyllables that had nothing to do with causative *Pɯ-: e.g., perhaps

𗪺 3354 1ghi2 'power'

𘏐 5307 1ghwi2 'power'

are two different reflexes of a pre-Tangut noun *Pʌ.gr[a/e] 'power' (Note the *nonhigh vowel in the presyllable needed to condition both lenition and Grade II.) One lost its presyllable before *P- could condition *-w-:

Stage 1: The earliest reconstructible form
Stage 2: Grade II for syllables with *-r- and lower vowels (*ʌ, *a, *e) compensating for *-r-loss *Pʌ.g[a/e]2
Stage 3: *-g-lenition between sonorants
Stage 4: *Pʌ-loss
*ɣ[a/e]2 *Pʌ.ɣ[a/e]2
Stage 5: *a/e-merger *ɣe2 *Pʌ.ɣe2
Stage 6: Presyllabic vowel loss
Stage 7: Labial metathesis: *PC- > *Cw-
Stage 8: *e-raising

(Tone 1 is automatically assigned to pre-Tangut syllables without *-H.)

The exact relative chronology of changes is unknown, though the following suborders are certain:

*-g- must lenite before presyllabic vowels are lost

*Pʌ- must be lost after its vowel conditioned lenition

It would be simpler but not necessary for *-r- to be lost before labial metathesis. Keeping *-ɣr- intact up until metathesis would require *P- to 'jump' over two consonants, not just one: *P.ɣr- > *ɣrw-.

It would be simpler but not necessary for *-r- to be lost before lenition. Keeping *-r- intact up until lenition would require lenition to occur between sonorants in general rather than just vowels.

I think Gong Xun may be right about Grade II being uvularization: i.e., i2 was phonetically [iʶ] conditioned by a medial *-r- that was perhaps uvular *[ʁ] in the vicinity of low vowels.

*r- by a high vowel like the *rɯ- of *rɯ.nej 'red' was not uvular and did not condition uvulariztion/Grade II; *rɯ.nej became Grade IV 1ne4.

3. I saw this in Theraphan Luangthongkum's "A View on Proto-Karen Phonology and Lexicon" (2019) and thought, 'no!'

PTB *b-r-gyat*b-g-ryat > PK *grɔtD ‘eight’

Aside from the macroproblem of Proto-Tibeto-Burman (PTB) probably not existing, a microproblem is the proposed survival of 'PTB' *g- in Proto-Karen. PTB *b-r-gyat is a projection of Written Tibetan brgyad 'eight' back into the past, complete with a *-g- that is a Tibetan innovation - the product of Li Fang-Kuei's law. The consonant cluster †bry- does not exist in Written Tibetan.

I think Tibetan and PK have different prefixes attached to a common *r-root for 'eight'. (But what were those prefixes for?) Chinese has a labial prefix like Tibetan (八 *pret 'eight') whereas Japhug kɯrcat 'eight' and Evans' (2001: 2460 Proto-Southern Qiang *khr[a/e] 'eight' have velar prefixes. (Northern Qiang also has a velar prefix: e.g., Mawo khaʳ.) Tangut 𘉋 1ar4  < *rjat 'eight' may preserve the bare root. It might have had a presyllable *Cɯ-, but there is no internal evidence pointing to either *p- or *k-. If the Tangut form had a presyllable, I would guess it started with *k- since Tangut is more closely related to Japhug and Qiang than to Tibetan and Chinese.

The vowel of PK *grɔtD ‘eight’ is surprising because other languages lack rounded vowels in the word: e.g., Pyu, sometimes thought to be Karenic, has hrat·ṁ /r̥ät/ 'eight'. (Could Pyu /r̥/ be from *gr- via *ɣr-? There is no gr- in Pyu.)

You can see the diversity of forms for 'eight' in Sino-Tibetan at STEDT. THE DAY OF THE WHITE HARE

Or, in Jurchen,

<šang.giyan HARE DAY> šanggiyan gulma? inenggi

1. My pareidolia glasses make me see Chinese 兔 ~ 兎 <HARE> in Jurchen <HARE>. Compare the Jurchen character with these cursive forms of the Chinese character.

Trying to see the Khitan large script character -

<tau.lia> 'hare'

- a fusion of two phonograms -

<tau> + <lia>

in Jurchen <HARE> is too much of a stretch even for me.

2. I just learned there's a lesser known 'Seoul' - no, not a town with the same name as the capital, but a homophonous unrelated Sino-Korean compound 暑鬱 서울 sŏul, a Chinese medical term that I could calque as 'thermopression'.

3. I wish Naver's Korean dictionary switched to Unicode for premodern hangul. The image for ᄫᅳᆯ <βɯr> in the entry for 서울 Seoul is hard to read.

4. I've had the 'Microsoft Old Hangul' IME installed for over a year but never tried it out until now. It produces ... Latin letters? I Googled "microsoft old hangul" and the first result I get is

I purchased a brand new laptop and installed the korean keyboard however, it does not allow me to actually type in hangul which is the most frustrating thing.

The second result I get is

I have tried also tried installing the Microsoft Old Hangul keyboard but I can't get it to actually type in Hangul just in Latin letters.

There are only 119 results. I guess almost no English speakers care about this. I used BabelMap to type ᄫᅳᆯ <βɯr> above, but there's no way I'm going to type more than a few Middle Korean words that way.

Apparently Microsoft Old Hangul only works in Office. Great ... I have that IME installed on my laptop without Office.

5. The link above goes to an enthusiast of the グルジア Gurujia language. I should have guessed what that was. Other katakana names are the obvious ジョージア Jōjia and カルトリ Karutori (< ქართული Kartuli). Kanji short names are 具語 Gugo and 喬語 Kyōgo; -go is 'language', and Kyō is the Japanese reading of the first character of 喬治, the Chinese version of 'George'.

6. It just occurred to me that 白 <WHITE> in 白村 Hakusuki could be just as un-Chinese as 村 <VILLAGE> suki. Suki is not a Japanese word. According to Wikipedia, Kōjien regards it as an Old Korean word for 'village'. But I don't know of any similar Korean word. Could it be a cognate of Korean 시골 shigol 'village' in an extinct Koreanic language: namely, Paekche?

If <WHITE> - read as *bæk in Late Old and Early Middle Chinese - is actually a phonogram, could it represent a native Koreanic word - a cognate of Korean 박 pak 'gourd'? Then the Old Korean name underlying Hakusuki would be 'Gourd Village'.

(3.1.19:56: In 三國史記 Samguk sagi, 朴 [Late Old Chinese *pʰɔk] is a transcription of the surname of the founder of Shilla and is glossed as 'gourd'.

If that gloss is correct, what I wrote two entries ago could be wrong. It may not be necessary to regard Late Old Chinese 斯盧 for Old Korean *sela 'Shilla' from  三國志 Sanguozhi [Records of the Three Kingdoms, c. 280] as an early transcription *sie la predating the shift of *-a to *-ɔ in what I could call Very Late Old Chinese.  Perhaps Old Koreans speakers thought Very Late Old Chinese *-ɔ was similar to their *a [phonetically back [ɑ]?] and wrote 'Shilla' as very late Old Chinese 斯盧 *sie lɔ predating the shift of *-a to *-ɔ. According to Coblin [1983: 103], the *a to *-ɔ [his *-o] shift was complete by the Western Jin: i.e., the late 3rd century when the Sanguozhi was compiled. But there is no guarantee that 斯盧 was a transcription invented on the spot in 28X; it could have been created prior to the raising and rounding of *a. In any case, reading 斯盧 as Sino-Korean saro < earlier Sino-Korean sʌro < 8th century Late Middle Chinese *sz̩ lo is anachronistic. Even a 6th century Early Middle Chinese reading like *si[ə] lo would be anachronistic.)

7. I saw this blurb for Tao Te Ching: An All-New Translation:

Renowned translator William Scott Wilson offers a fresh version of the Tao Te Ching that will resonate with the modern reader. While most translators have relied on the "new" text of 200 B.C., Wilson went back another 300 years to work from the original characters used during Lao Tzu's lifetime. By referring to these earlier characters, Wilson is able to offer a text that is more authentic in language and nuance, yet preserves all the beauty and poetry of the work.

The "original characters"? What does that mean? That earlier shapes of the characters somehow give more insight? Why not the 'original wording'? Because "characters" sound so much exotic?

No, he really is referring to the shapes of the characters. In his own words, "the nuance and meaning of the original characters was lost"! (p. 11) My Exotik East alarm is ringing. Loudly. No one's going to invite me to a Japanophile conference. Sniff.

I don't see him using a special old-timey font or anything for the characters. Are their olde shapes a secret for his erudite eyes only? (And does it even occur to him that the Mandarin readings he uses are just as anachronistic as his modern font?)

It gets worse ... "Chinese, as a language based on ideographs" (p. 27) ... characters which wouldn't exist if there weren't a spoken language to begin with. Characters which the majority of Chinese through time barely knew or didn't know at all.

John Cikoski would have a fit:

The legend of an "ideographic language" is false; reading Chinese is not grokking images of a man standing by his words or a woman kneeling under a roof or a bear riding a skateboard through a dentist's office or whatever. (p. xii)

So would the late John DeFrancis. His The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy is still a favorite of mine after over thirty years.

I am reminded of Bernhard Karlgren's "Notes on Lao-Tse" (1932: 1):

Of all the documents of the pre-Han China, no one has attracted and interested Western readers so much as the short and exceedingly pensive treatise Tao te king [= Tao Te Ching] attributed to an unknown author around 400 BC. It has been translated several dozen times into Western languages. The majority of these "translations" merely reveal that their translators have had very little knowledge of the Chou-time language.


In most of these translations [the ones Karlgren regards as "[t]he most serious attempts" which makes one wonder what he thinks of the others] we find lines interspersed in the text, being explanatory speculations of the translators, for which additions the classical Chinese text has no corresponding passages.

It would be nice to see a Jurchen translation of the Tao Te Ching. Here's a Manchu version with the original Chinese and Karlgren's translation for comparison:


doro be doro oci ojo-ro-ngge,


BK: 'The Tao Way that can be (told of:) defined'


enteheme doro waka.

'constant way NEG'

BK: 'is not the constant Way,'


gebu be gebu oci ojo-ro-ngge,

'name ACC name TOP be-IPFV.PTCP.NMLZ'

BK: 'the names that can be named (used as terms)'


enteheme gebu waka.

'constant way NEG'

BK: 'are not constant names (terms).'

The Wikibooks translation does not match what I see:

There are ways but the way is uncharted;

There are names but not nature in words

I'm glad the ideographic myth hasn't taken root in Jurchenology or Khitanology. The enigmatic construction of many Tangut characters makes tangraphy fertile ground for the ideographic myth.

8. Is that supposed to be a Chinese character on the cover of Ideals of the Samurai?

9. Why wasn't I assigned Cikoski's Introduction to Classical Chinese (1976) at Berkeley? It was published there fourteen years before I took Classical Chinese.

Two days ago I found Brandt's Introduction to Literary Chinese, an example of the common sink-or-swim method. Blub blub.

10. I realized that Jurchen

<> senggige 'filial piety, relative' < senggi 'blood'

is parallel to Khitan

cišid- 'filial' (reconstruction by Shimunek [2017: 219]) < cis 'blood'

which was one of the first words in the small script that I ever saw. I don't think the parallel is coincidental.

Later, Manchu replaced senggige with hiyoo-šun, a borrowing of Ming Chinese 孝 *xjaw 'filial'.

11. I finally got around to rediscovering Blench and Post 2013. Too much to quote and comment on here. Maybe I can seriallize my reaction upon rereading it.

12. I keep forgetting to mention my idea of Jurchen

<sin> [ɕiɴ]

in 'rat' possibly being a phonogram derived from or cognate to Chinese 剩, pronounced *ʂiŋ in Liao and JIn Chinese. The graph could go back to the Parhae script. In Parhae times, the eastern Late Middle Chinese reading of 剩 would have been something like *ɕɦɨŋ. (But why is the Sino-Korean reading from that period ing [iŋ] instead of †sŭng [sɯŋ]?)

13. I didn't know Canadian Aboriginal syllabics were influenced by devanagari and Pitman shorthand. And I should have guessed this:

Canadian syllabics would influence the Pollard script in China.

14. How did Russians come to borrow рисунок risunok 'picture' from Polish rysunek? Wiktionary has lists of Russian borrowings from Polish and Russian terms derived from Polish. The two lists overlap. Does the longer second list contain calques as well as direct borrowings?

15. 3.1.19:49: A topic I forgot to mention: Luce (1985: 24) mentions old spellings of names of Karen (Old Burmese <karyaṅ>) groups:

Pgho for Pwo "in the older [Western?] books"; possibly also Old Burmese <plav>, <plavʔ>, <plo>, <ploʔ>, <plov>, <pravʔ>

Bghai for Bwè "as the older books call them"

Old Burmese <cakrav> "provisionally" for Sgaw

Have historical studies of Karen integrated such data? Pgh- and Bgh- remind me of Burling's (1969: 29) Proto-Karen *pɣ-. More about that in my entry for 2.24. THE DAY OF THE WHITE TIGER

Or, in Jurchen,

<šang.giyan TIGER DAY> šanggiyan tasha inenggi

I am out of time for tonight, so there are only three items.

1. I haven't been comfortable with transliterating the first character of the date as <šang> because it also seems to stand for sa- in

<sa.hai> sa-ha-i < *sa-qʰa-i 'know-PFV.PTCP-GEN' (Yongning Temple Stele line 8, 1413; the interpretation is from Jin Qizong [1984: 98])

and various other words where there is no nasal or trace of one. (A nasal would have blocked the lenition of *qʰ to h [χ]. *saɴ-qʰa-i would have become Jurchen †sakai.)

And reinterpreting the second character as <nggiyan> isn't going to work because

<RED.nggiyan?> 'red'

can't be fulnggiyan which violates Jurchen phonotactics. And the phonotactics of any language I've ever seen. But what if 'red' was fulanggiyan with an a to breakup the bizarre sequence -lngg-?

(2.25.21:11: I did not pick a at random to be a filler vowel; Janhunen (2003: 7) reconstructed Proto-Mongolic *xulaxan 'red'. That *x- is from an even earlier *p-. Is there any reason to suppose that Mongghul fulaan 'red' has f- from *x- < *p- as opposed to straight from *p-?)

The Jurchen and Khitan large script characters for 'tiger'

are probably related via a shared Parhae prototype distinct from Chinese 虎 <TIGER>. 

2.26.18:50: Curiously that Khitan character is not in N4631 which has two near-lookalikes:

0335 and 0280

I do not know whether those are variants of <TIGER>. I have not seen 0280 in calendrical contexts (but perhaps its contexts involve physical tigers), and I have never seen 0335 in context. Here are four instances of 0280 that I have seen:


Epitaph for the 蕭袍魯 Great Prince of the North, line 3 (1041)


Epitaph for 蕭袍魯 Xiao Paolu, lines 4-5, 7 (1090)


Epitaph for 耶律褀 Yelü Qi, line 23 (1108)

I have no idea where word divisions are. I have provided the characters preceding and following 280 without knowing whether they represented words or parts of words.

2. I just mentioned the South Korean writer 全光鏞 Chŏn Kwang-yong ... and he turned out to be one of S. Robert Ramsey's informants for the 咸鏡南道 South Hamgyŏng Province dialect of 北青郡 Pukchhŏng County in Accent and Morphology in Korean Dialects (1978).

Ramsey's other informant is a woman with the unusual (to me) name 趙五木禮 <cho o.mok.rye> Cho Omongnye. Are the characters of her trisyllabic personal name simply phonograms (there is a native word omok 'concave' - a strange morpheme for a name - and no native rye; nye 'yes' cannot possibly be relevant) or is the name really a meaningful sequence of three morphemes 五 'five', 木 'wood/tree', and 禮 'ceremony/decorum'?

I was hoping South Hamgyŏng would support my hypothesis of Proto-Korean *e, but ... I'll have to describe how my dream crumbled some other time.

3. I saw an online ad for Rocketman starring Taron Egerton, a graduate of Ysgol Penglais School, a name that is structually like the equally redundant Mount Fuji-san in reverse: Ysgol at the beginning is Welsh for 'school', just as -san at the end is Sino-Japanese for 'mountain'.

4. 2.27.21:14: BONUS FOURTH ITEM: I forgot to mention a solution I had on the 22nd to this problem: How can Jurchen

<sol.go> 'Korea' (cf. Manchu solho 'id.')

and Middle Mongolian 莎郎合思 solangqa-s 'Koreans' with -o- be reconciled with the Late Old Chinese transcriptions 斯盧 ~ 斯羅 of Old Korean *sela  with *-e-?

斯盧 and 斯羅 appear to be from two different strata of transcriptions reflecting different stages of Late Old Chinese:

斯盧 *sie la (in more precise notation, *sie lɑ) predates the shift of *-a to *-ɔ and the shift of *-aj to *-a. At this stage, 羅 was read *laj and was not yet appropriate for transcribing foreign la.

斯羅 *sie la postdates the shift of *-a to *-ɔ and the shift of *-aj to *-a. At this stage, 盧 was read *lɔ  and was no longer appropriate for transcribing foreign la.

At neither stage did Late Old Chinese have a syllable *sio. Sio, er, so what if 斯盧 ~ 斯羅 were attempts to write an Old Korean *sjola? Or - now it occurs to me - *søla? (But nothing else indicates Old Korean had front rounded vowels.) The Jurchen/Manchu and Mongolian names for Korea could be based on *sjola with the simplification of *sj- to s- to fit their phonotactics. Then later Old Korean shifted *jo (or *ø?) to *e.

That idea generates more problems, though.

First, how can Middle Korean sjó 'cow' exist if *jo became *e? sjó would have to come from something other than *sjo in Old Korean: e.g., *siro with an *-r- blocking the fusion of *i-o into *e. But there is no evidence for a disyllabic early word for 'cow'. The earliest attestation of a Koreanic word for 'cow' is as 首 in the sinographic spelling of a Koguryo toponym.首 was read as *ɕuʔ in Late Old Chinese which lacked *sju or *sjo, so 首 might have been a viable phonogram for a North Koreanic *sjo.

Second, if the Koreanic word had *ø, that vowel should correspond to Mongolian ö, not the o in solangqa-s.

My guess is that the Jurchen/Manchu and Mongolian names for Korea are borrowings from a North Koreanic *sjola or the like which differed as much from Shilla *sela as Polish Lwów [lvuf] differs from Ukrainian Львів [lʲʋiw] 'Lvov' (But are there any other cases of northern *jo : southern *e?) 'Old Korean' or 'early Koreanic' or whatever we call it must have been as diverse as Slavic or perhaps even Romance are today.

The same must have been true of the Chinese of the time; the reconstructions here are generic without the regional flavoring that must have existed. It would be great to see an update of Paul LM Serruys' 1959 study of the 方言 Fangyan 'Regional Words'. THE DAY OF THE YELLOW OX

Or, in Jurchen,

<so.giyan DAY> sogiyan wihan inenggi

1. I've been meaning to post this since 2.7: I wonder if <so> orignated as a Parhae script cognate of Chinese 牛 <COW>. What if that cognate were used to write a North Koreanic cognate of Middle Korean syó? Then in turn this logogram for a North Koreanic word was then recycled as a phonogram for Jurchen so. (Although Jin Qizong [1984: 185] glossed this graph as 'yellow', it appears in spellings for various unrelated so-words, so it may just be a phonogram.)

2. Anthony Burgess wrote and slept in a Dormobile. Nice portmanteau word. Is there a Chinese equivalent of portmanteau words? Imagine the possibilities in hangul or the Khitan small script.

3. LOL, best use of the button choice meme I've seen yet by noealz (via Jay Lim via Gerry Bevers). Knowing which words are Sino-Korean helps a lot in remembering which words are spelled with ㅐ ae and which ones have ㅔ e: there are hardly any Sino-Korean morphemes with -e: the only one that immediately comes to mind is 揭 ke. And knowing the etymologies of native words helps: e.g., 내- nae- 'to put out' is from 나 na- 'to come out' + the causative suffix -이- -i-. But that won't help with monomorphemic 개 kae 'dog' and 게 ke 'crab' which can't be broken down any further.

4. LOL 2:

"Today, a good working knowledge of Chinese characters is still important for anyone who wishes to study older texts (up to about the 1990s)"

When I first started learning Korean in 1987, I saw mixed-script texts and figured I'd better start learning Chinese character readings right away. I added Sino-Korean readings in pencil to my copy of Nelson's The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary (still in print after 57 years, and for good reason!). Now I hardly see Chinese characters in current Korean texts: e.g., on's front page I only see

中文 'Chinese writing' (top of page) and 中國語 'Chinese language' (bottom of page) for the Chinese-language edition; the latter is a Korean word Chunggugŏ which shouldn't be used to indicate a Chinese edition for Chinese readers

日文 'Japanese writing' (top of page) and 日本語 'Japanese language' (bottom of page) for the Japanese-language edition; the latter is a Chinese word which shouldn't be used to indicate a Japanese edition for Japanese readers

Those characters aren't for Korean readers; these nine are.

4 characters used as abbreviations of country names:

Puk for Pukhan 'North Korea'

Mi for Miguk 'America'

Il for Ilbon 'Japan'

Tok for Togil (/tok/ + /il/) 'Germany'

3 characters for political abbreviations

Chhŏng for 青瓦臺 Chhŏngwadae 'Blue House'

ya for 野黨 yadang 'opposition'

Mun for 文在寅 Moon Jae-in

2 characters for disambiguation with homophones

mo 'mother'

chŏn 'previous': without characters could be interpreted as 'Commander Chŏn'.

5. TIL about the first Cherokee script (and first Native American-language) newspaper, the ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅᎯ <> Cherokee Phoenix, which was first published 191 years ago today. It appropriately came back to life in modern times.

6. I found 朱震球 Patrick Chu's study of correspondences between Cantonese and Sino-Korean readings. I worked out the correspondences between Sino-Korean and Sino-Japanese on my own as I added Sino-Korean readings to my copy of Nelson's dictionary.

7. I guessed that 'railroad' in Manchu would be a calque of Chinese 鐵道 'iron road', and voila: sele-i jugūn 'iron-GEN road' for 鐵路 'railroad' (lit. 'iron road'; close enough).

8. It is tempting to try to link Manchu sele to Korean 쇠 soe < Middle Korean sóy 'iron', but

- the vowels are too different (e is higher class and nonlabial, whereas o is lower class and labial)

- if sóy were from a Proto-Korean disyllable, its Middle Korean form should have rising pitch rather than a high pitch: †sǒy < *sòrí with a low pitch syllable followed by a high pitch syllable

- if I understand Vovin (2017) correctly, if there ever were a lost liquid in 'iron', it would have to be *-r-, not *-l-, and Jurchen/Manchu retain an r/l-distinction lost in Korean, so sele cannot be from *sere

9. Wiktionary gives अङ्कसङ्गणक aṅkasaṅgaṇaka as a Sanskrit translation of 'laptop (computer)':

aṅka- 'lap'

-saṅgaṇaka- < sam- 'com-'¹ + gaṇaka- 'calculator' (< gaṇa- 'number')

That led me to the Hindi Wikipedia article

संगणक अभियान्त्रिकी saṁgaṇak abhiyāntrikī 'computer engineering'

The first word is just another spelling of -saṅgaṇaka- 'computer'. Hindi drops the final -a of Sanskrit-based forms. (I hesitate to say 'loanword' here, since I suspect the word was coined out of Sanskrit for Hindi before being used in Sanskrit. I can't imagine a Sanskrit neologism for 'computer' predating a Hindi term.)

The second word is puzzling. yāntrikī is the feminine of 'relating to instruments (yantra)'. But what is abhi- doing? It is hard to translate. Monier-Williams' definition:

(a prefix to verbs and nouns, expressing) to, towards, into, over, upon. (As a prefix to verbs of motion) it expresses the notion or going towards, approaching, &c (As a prefix to nouns not derived from verbs) it expresses superiority, intensity, &c

Does it correspond to the en- of engineering? At first I thought the word was derived from a verb abhi-yam in which abhi- was an idiomatic prefix, but there is no such verb.

10. Try Viacheslav Zaytsev's Tangut eye exam.

11. It's always good to see a new name in the tiny field of Tangutology: 橘堂晃一 Kitsudō Kōichi, who coauthored "Tangut Text Printed in the “Illustration of the Ten Realms of Mind Contemplation 観心十法界図” in the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum, Russia" with Arakawa Shintarō.

12. And here's a solo paper by Kitsudō on Khitan influence on Uyghur Buddhism and a paper by Kitsudō and Peter Zieme on an Old Uyghur text with Tangut and Khitan parallels. I happened to see them right after I was thinking about how someday I might wish I knew more about Turkic.

How I wish there were Buddhist texts in Khitan. Something other than funerary texts. But I fear written Khitan was never a vehicle for Buddhism. Spoken Khitan, however ... oh, to hear a conversation about Buddhism in Khitan!

13. Does the South Hamgyŏng dialect of Korean preserve pre-vowel harmony vocalism? E.g., is manjŏ 'ahead' (mixing the lower vowel a with the higher vowel ŏ) more conservative than Seoul mŏnjŏ? See Ramsey (1978: 61) for more examples of South Hamgyŏng a corresponding to Seoul ŏ.

14. Why do Jurchen

<sol.go> 'Korea' (cf. Manchu solho 'id.')

and Middle Mongolian 莎郎合思 solangqa-s 'Koreans' have -o- in the first syllable if they are based  on Old Korean *sela (transcribed in Late Old Chinese as 斯盧 ~ 斯羅; later respelled as 新羅 <> - now read Shilla) with *-e-? The Jurchen/Manchu forms made me think the labiality of some suffix spread into the first syllable, but there is no labiality in the noninitial syllables of the Middle Mongolian form.

¹2.24.15:08: Although it's tempting to regard sam- and com- as cognates, Proto-Indo-European *kóm should have become Sanskrit śam, not sam. THE DAY OF THE YELLOW RAT

Or, in Jurchen,

<YELLOW.giyan DAY> sogiyan singge inenggi

1. I would expect 'rat' to be †singger since the Manchu word is singgeri, and Jurchen mudur 'dragon' corresponds to Manchu muduri 'id'. But the second graph is <ge>, not <ger>.

The first looks like Chinese 利 'profit' which was read *li in Jin Chinese. But other versions of it look less like 利:

I don't know why Jin Qizong reconstructed its reading as ʃïn with a nonfront ï (IPA [ɨ] or [ɯ]?). Was he influenced by the nonfront vowel in the modern Mandarin pronunciation shen [ʂən] of the character 申 used to transcribe sing-?

If one believed that Jurchen had frontness harmony, the e in the second syllable should go with a front vowel i in the first syllable, not ï.

On the other hand, I think Jurchen had height harmony, and the higher series vowel i is what I expect to go with e [ə], the higher series counterpart of a. If i had a lower series vowel, that would have been ī [ɪ] which would not coexist with the higher series vowel e [ə] within a root.

Lastly, the *ʂ- of the Ming Chinese transcription 申 *ʂin reflects a Jurchen s- [ɕ] that is more likely to have palatalized before a high front vowel i than a nonfront ï or a less high ī [ɪ].

2.23.11:13: Jurchen s-, like Korean or Japanese /s/, palatalizes before /i/.

2. I had been wondering what it's like for Tibetan refugees to move to the West. A firsthand account by བསམ་གཏན་རྒྱལ་མཚན་མཁར་རྨེའུ། bSamgtan rGyalmtshan mKharrme'u (Samten Gyeltsen Karmay):

In September 1961 we all arrived in England, which somewhat reminded us of India. I recall one day David invited us to lunch at Claridge’s, where he was staying. He led us into the hotel garden and on the lawn beside the swimming pool gave us exercise books and pencils and began teaching us the Roman alphabet.

And from his late benefactor David Snellgrove's perspective:

Before starting the journey to the West, we spent a few weeks together in the frontier town of Kalimpong, in British times the beginning of the old route from India into Central Tibet, then easily reached by rail from Calcutta where we would start our air-journey to Europe. Here I started some lessons in English and in world-geography and bought them all European style clothes, which they wanted to have so as not to be so conspicuous in there new setting.

3. At last I see (but can't read, alas) Graham Thurgood's PhD dissertation The Origins of Burmese Creaky Tone and a much shorter book Notes on the Origins of Burmese Creaky Tone.

4. I should look into what caused Roger Blench to change his mind about the classification of Kman (Miju). Compare:

2011 (with my former student Mark Post):

Miju does have more Tibeto-Burman roots than some of the other languages considered here, so it is provisionally classified as an isolate within Sino-Tibetan.


Kman is usually considered a Tibeto-Burman language, part of the ‘North Assam’ group, a characterisation which goes back to Konow (1902). However, there is no published argument defending this classification andBlench & Post (2013) consider it equally likely to be a language isolate.

I need to review Blench & Post (2013).

5. I can't believe I never saw EG Pulleyblank's 1965 article interpreting the Middle Chinese transcription 突厥 *dot kut simply as 'Türk' until now.

6. Two different descriptions of Kman (Miju) consonants:

Wikipedia has labialized velar fricatives /xʷ ɣʷ/ without nonlabialized counterparts /x ɣ/.

They seem to correspond to Roger Blench's unaspirated and aspirated /hʰ h/. I've never seen an aspirated /hʰ/ before.

By "consonant prosodies" which "include "labialisation, palatalisation, lateralisation and rhoticisation", does Blench mean clusters with [w j l r] after a consonant?

7. I noticed that the Tangut characters

𗄠 4524 2ngwu1 < *P.ŋoH or *Pʌ.ŋəH  'leader'

𗄟 4528 2ngwu1 < *P.ŋoH or *Pʌ.ŋəH  'official'

(the two characters probably represent the same word in two different contexts)

have the same element as the 'sorcerer' characters in my previous entries:

𗄞 4539 1vyq3 < *S.wi(p/t) 'wizard, witch, sorcerer'

𗄦 4527 2jeq2 < *S.NdreH or Sɯ.NdraŋH 'wizard'

𗄤 4536 2ror4 < *Cɯ.roH 'wizard, witch, sorcerer'

𗄥 4550 1lheq4 < *Sɯ-ɬe or *Sɯ-ɬaŋ 'wizard, sorcerer'

So is 𘠋  a semantic element for a person of authority? Not always - what is it doing in

𗄡 4529 2kyq4 < *S.kiH 'burnt'

whose analysis is unknown?

8. Only now did I discover Andrew West's BabelStoneHan font has hentaigana!

9. How is Nadsat translated into Russian?

10. I had no idea Anthony Burgess had such a rich linguistic background: e.g.,

Burgess attained fluency in Malay, spoken and written, achieving distinction in the examinations in the language set by the Colonial Office. He was rewarded with a salary increase for his proficiency in the language.


During his years in Malaya, and after he had mastered Jawi, the Arabic script adapted for Malay, Burgess taught himself the Persian language, after which he produced a translation of Eliot's The Waste Land into Persian (unpublished).

11. I wish Gerry Bevers wrote posts at Literary Chinese for Korean Learners. I've never seen anything on learning hanmun in English!

12. Bevers is not afraid to touch the radioactive Liancourt Rocks / Dokdo / Takeshima issue.


Or, in Jurchen,

<RED.giyan PIG DAY> fulgiyan uliyan inenggi

1. The Jurchen logogram <PIG> is clearly cognate to the Khitan large script logogram


but neither seems to have any cognate Chinese character unless I put on my pareidolia glasses and see a resemblance to 亥 'pig (in the 12-animal cycle)'.

I have shown the late form of the character from the vocabulary of the Bureau of Translators (#162; early 1400s?). Interestingly the earlier form of the character from the 進士  jinshi candidate monument (1224)

looks less like the Khitan form. Unfortunately, the character is not in what remains of the Jurchen Character Book thought to contain the earliest forms of characters.


2. Shimunek (2017: 45) reads the Old Mandarin transcription of a Khitan river name as *niawlaka. He regards the Chinese transcription of a Serbi river name as a cognate *ñawlag.

He rejects attempts to connect the river name to Khitan

<> 'gold';

the words are too dissimilar. Instead he sees a possible link to *ñaw 'lake'.

One problem is that *a had shifted to *o in Old Mandarin, so was read *niawloko. In an earlier period, those graphs would have been read as *niawlaka, but in that period, a final *-g would have been transcribed as *-k (as in the Serbi hydronym's transcription), whereas Old Mandarin lacked final stops, necessitating a whole syllable *-ko to transcribe foreign *-g.

I think that *-g may have been uvular *-ɢ or *-ʁ to harmonize with *a.

3. Shimunek (2017: 44) regards the transcriptions of an ethnonym that Pulleyblank (1983) reconstructed as *tägräg as "further evidence in support of Beckwith's (2007a) of dialectal variation between coda *g and *ŋ in northern frontier varieties of Old Chinese and Early Middle Chinese."

*tɛyŋ liayŋ *tʰɛr (< Beckwith's *tʰêk) lək
*ṭʰik lək
This site
*teŋ leŋ *tʰe(ik/t/r) lək
*ʈʰɨək lək
*dek lek
*dək lək

(2.20.1:15: The last two columns are my additions.)

I don't think such variation is necessary. *-k and *-ŋ are simply two different strategies to transcribe foreign *-g. There is no need to project *-g into Chinese.

Wikipedia avoids the issue of what the ethnonym was at the time by taking the easy (though anachronistic) option of reading 丁零 in standard Mandarin as Dingling, 鐵勒 as Tiele, etc.

4. Vovin (2003: 97) proposed that Cheju 굴레 kulle 'mouth' "is likely to be connected with Japonic *kutu- 'mouth'." He repeats this proposal on p. 24 in the section on a possible Japonic substratum of Cheju in his 2009 book.

Three apparent problems: If the Proto-Japonic word for 'mouth' was *kotu-i:

1. Cheju has -u- instead of -o-

(Japonic *o raised to *-u- in Pelagic Japonic but not Peninsular Japonic)

2. Cheju has -ll- instead of †-l- which is the expected reflex of intervocalic *-t-

3. Cheju has -e instead of -wi

But Cheju historical phonology seems like unexplored territory and my Proto-Japonic form could be wrong, so maybe the gaps can be bridged.

5. Speaking of Cheju, Wikipedia says,

This kingdom [on Cheju] is also sometimes known as Tangna (탕나), Seomna (섬나), and Tammora. All of these names mean "island country".


sŏm < *sema is 'island', a word shared with Japonic (e.g., pre-Old Japanese *sema 'id.').

But 'country' in Korean and, as far as I know, Cheju is 나라 nara, not 나 na: e.g., Cheju 여나라 Yŏnara ~ 예나라 Yenara 'Japan'.

I don't know of any 탕 thang 'island'.

Ah, I see now, somebody phonetically respelled two old names for Cheju, 涉羅 <sŏp.ra> [sʰɔmna] and 乇羅 <thak.ra> [tʰaŋna] in hangul. Neither 涉 Sŏp nor 乇 Thak mean 'island'. Nara cannot be abbreviated to 羅 -ra. See more old names for Cheju here.

And Vovin (2009: 25) thinks 耽牟羅 Thammora has "a transparent Japonic etymology": it is either cognate to Japanese tani 'valley' + mura 'village' or Japanese tami 'folk' + mura 'village'.

Tham could reflect a reduction of *tani- to *tam- before *m-.

牟 was read as *mu 'moo' in mainstream Old and Midlde Chinese. But the Sino-Korean reading 모 mo may indicate an eastern dialect with *mo for 'moo', as there was no *u to *o shift in Korean. 牟 represented a word for 'to moo' (as well as various homophones: see Karlgren [1957: 285] and Schuessler [2009: 184]), and such an onomatopoetic word might plausibly have vocalic variation. If 牟羅 was read *mora as in modern Sino-Korean, it could be evidence for a Proto-Japonic *mora 'village' whose *o raised to u in Japan but not on Cheju.

Again, no 'island' or 'country'.

6. Oddities in this Wikipedia entry on Cheju mythology:

6a. The translation gets off to a bad start, mentioning a "Ying Prefecture" not in the actual text. The Japanese translation has similar problems; it starts with 瀛州 'Ying Prefecture'. (Or Yŏng if one prefers to read it in Korean rather than Mandarin. Both readings are anachronistic.)

6b. Conversely, the translation ignores a lot before the mention of the first god 良乙那.

6c. It would be lazy and anachronistic to read 良乙那 with Sino-Korean readings as ryang + ŭl + na. 乙 is probably a phonogram for *r (Vovin ). 良 is a problem. Did it transcribe a syllable beginning with *r- which would be unusual in initial position in an Altaic language (but see here)? Or did it transcribe a syllable beginning with an *l- (cf. its Middle Chinese reading *l) which is possible in Altaic but unusual for Koreanic? 

7. I just ordered Robbins Burling's book Spellbound. What would he say about modern Lhasa Tibetan spelling: e.g.,

གཙང་པོ་ <gtsaṅ.po> ˉtsaṅko 'river'

གཟུགས་པོ་ <gsugs.po.>ོˊsuku 'body'

དོ་པོ་ <do.po.> ˊthopo 'luggage'

(Examples from 星 実千代 Hoshi Michiyo, 現代チベット語文法(ラサ方言) Gendai Chibetto-go bunpō (Rasa hōgen) [A Grammar of Modern Tibetan (Lhasa Dialect)]. Transcriptions in italics are in her orthography.)

8. New words for today:

zilant (this neo-tamga for Kazan is a neat example)

wyvern (first encountered 29 years ago in Megadeth's "Five Magics" but I only looked it up today)

enosis (The agreements leading to the proclamation of independence of Cyprus from the United Kingdom were made sixty years ago today.)


I found that last word in Language and Culture in Northeast India and Beyond: In Honor of Robbins Burling co-edited by my former student Mark Post.

2.20.1:51: Burling, last seen here, gave me my first introduction to Lolo-Burmese via the data in his 1967 book which I used to write my own reconstruction. I just realized he used Robert B. Jones' Karen data in the same way for his book Proto-Karen: A Reanalysis (1969)! THE DAY OF THE RED DOG

Or, in Jurchen,

<RED.giyan DOG DAY> fulgiyan indahūn inenggi

1. I've now been doing this Jurchen calendar shtick long enough to recycle the colors (red last came up on the 9th). Here's the whole cycle:

blue/green > red > yellow > white > black (and back to green again)

Soon I'll be recycling the animals and won't have to make the occasional new character image from Jason Glavy's font anymore. Yay! (I love his font; I just don't love the inconvenience of creating an image for every character I want to display.)

1a. Jin Qizong (1984: 235) derived <RED> from Chinese 金 <GOLD> (not <RED>!). 金 cannot be a phonetic loan, as it did not sound anything like fulgiyan; its Jin dynasty reading was *kim. (I don't agree with Shimunek [2017: 106-108] on the absence of *-m in Jin Chinese; I should go into why later.)

The Khitan large script character


looks nothing like the Jurchen character or Chinese 金 <GOLD>. I thought it might be related to Chinese 赤 <RED>, but that character has no similar variants. And to complicate matters further, Liu and Wang (2004: 23, #84) read this character as a transcription of Liao Chinese 金 *kim 'gold'!

A problem for the ex Khitanis hypothesis of the origin of the Jurchen script is why the Jurchen chose to copy the script of their "worst enemies" (as Janhunen [1994: 7] put it) in some instances but not others. As Janhunen asked, why didn't they just adopt the Chinese script or the simpler Khitan small script? Why seemingly modify the more complex Khitan large script at random? My view and his is that they did not do that; rather, they adapted the Parhae script, which, as Vovin (2012) demonstrated, predates the Khitan scripts. According to this ex Parhis hypothesis, the Khitan and Jurchen large scripts are sister derivatives of the Parhae script rather than a random deformation of the Chinese script and a derivative of that deformation.

1b. Shimunek (2017: 227) reconstructs the Khitan equivalent of 'red dog' as lyawqu ñaq (Yelü Dilie 14.27-28, 1092) with an initial cluster ly-.

Going by what (Kane 2009: 255) says, I think Nie (1988) may have been the first to suggest that Khitan had initial clusters.

Altaic languages generally avoid initial clusters. The big exception is Middle Korean whose clusters were the short-lived products of the reduction of word-initial syllables: e.g., pstaj < *pVsVtaj 'time'. Did Khitan initial clusters have similar origins?

2. Shimunek (2017: 225) reads the Khitan small script character

as <qai> and translates it as 'a discourse deictic demonstrative' borrowed from and corresponding to (Jin) Chinese 該 *kaj (my reconstruction) in the bilingual Sino-Khitan Langjun inscription. But I don't see 該 in the Chinese text. That loan proposal is phonologically interesting for reasons I should go into later.

3. After I mentioned a blog post on the pronunciation of postvocalic r in "Please Please Me" on the day of the green monkey, David Boxenhorn made me listen to it again for the first time in years. Do you hear an r after a vowel, and if you do, in which words?

4. Almost thirty years ago I was talking to H. Mack Horton about 南總里見八犬傳 Nansō Satomi hakkenden (The Tale of the Eight Dogs of the Satomi of Nansō). I'm glad to see there's a specialist in it who just published a book on it and is translating it. (Here's an unrelated online translation in progress. It's not clear to me whether the online version is based on 曲亭馬琴 Kyokutei Bakin's original or on a modern translation.)

Glynne Walley's courses show a lot of breadth - I guessed correctly that manga would be one topic, but he's done much more spanning the last millennium, going beyond the written word into rakugo, noh, and kyōgen (the latter two in a course with the great title "Monkey Fun").

I once thought I was going to be a Japanese literature scholar, but as you can obviously tell from this blog, I took a big detour and never turned back.

5. I'd like to learn more about JD Wisgo who runs and who just published Two of Six: A Captain's Dilemma, a translation of an online SF novella with parallel Japanese and English text.

I love parallel texts; my favorite is the Korean-English edition of 全光鏞 Chŏn Kwang-yong's 꺼삐딴 리 Kkŏppittan Ri (Kapitan Ri, 1962) translated by the late Prof. Marshall R. Pihl¹ who was my Middle Korean teacher. I just bought the book on Kindle; it's one of the few stories I've read that has stayed with me for three decades. Disappointingly the Kindle version lacks the Korean text which is in the print edition. At least Prof. Pihl's biography appears in both Korean and English, as does editor Bruce Fulton's - but Chŏn's own biography is only in English!

Things could be worse:

My Amazon account was hacked over the past few days. Had to contact Amazon for intervention. My account ended up being wiped and terminated.

2.20.22:41: Here's a description of the story by Michael Kociuba who read the same edition I did about thirty years ago:

In the story "Kapitan Lee," by Chon Kwangyong, the struggle to improve one's fortune seems to have taken precedence over loyalty to family or nation. The protagonist -- Dr. Yi Inguk, alias Kapitan Lee -- constantly strives to amass wealth and protect himself even at the expense of his fellow countrymen. As he refuses to treat patients who are unlikely to pay his fees, most of his clients are Japanese before liberation and members of "the moneyed class" after 1945.

Dr. Yi is divided in his loyalties, and that would all depend on who is in control. He served the oppressor during Japanese rule, and when the U.S. is the overlord, he donates a national treasure to the consul's collection without the slightest sense of guilt. Editor [Peter H.] Lee compares the physician to a chameleon, changing his colors to match the world which surrounds him, no matter how servile his efforts are.

I think Peter H. Lee was the translator of that edition. I agree with Gerry Bevers; it's a shame Prof. Lee doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. In lieu of an entry, I recommend Bevers' page on him, including his own memories of the man. Is Prof. Lee still alive? I also recommend Bevers' entire site, Korean Language Notes.

After all these years I finally figured out that 꺼삐딴 Kkŏppittan in the title is based on the pronunciation rather than the spelling of Russian капитан <kapitan> [kəpʲɪˈtan]. Until now I had been expecting a transliteration-like rendering of the word as 까삐딴 Kkappittan. The Russian word has been transliterated in the English translations of Kkŏppittan Ri; if it weren't, the name would be something like †Cuppitan with -u- as an attempt to indicate [ə]. (See A Clockwork Orange for other examples of Russian in English 'phonetic' spelling: e.g., gulliver for голова <golova> [ɡəlɐˈva] 'head'. It just occurred to me that Chinese transcriptions of foreign names are like gulliver: attempts to approximate foreign names using preexisting elements - though in the case of gulliver, the preexisting element is the trisyllabic name Gulliver rather than a syllable.)

6. Here's an interesting name reading I found on Wisgo's site:

犬吠埼一介 Ikkai Inubōsaki

介 is normally read suke in final position in men's names.

The real surprise is for 吠 which is normally read ho- in hoeru < poyu.

2.19.1:09: I tried to come up with a derivation for the name, but it doesn't work:

*inu-nə poyu-ru saki > Inubōsaki

'dog-GEN bark-ATTR cape' = 'cape where a dog barks'

There are two problems:

First, although  *nə-p > *Np > *Nb > b is possible, the genitive marker nə in a subordinate clause should not be reduced to N, at least not in Western Old Japanese. But maybe the name originates from a different dialect.

Second, neither premodern -oyuru nor modern -oeru can compress to -ō, unless one posits an ad hoc development in the source dialect.

I would expect to be from an earlier *nə-popu or *nə-papu. There was no verb †popu, but there is a papu which became modern 這う hau 'to crawl'. It seems then that the name is from

*inu-nə pap-u saki > Inubōsaki

'dog-GEN crawl-ATTR cape' = 'cape where a dog crawls'

without any ad hoc compression (apart from the unexpected reduction of *nə). The name could theoretically be written as †犬這埼 'dog-crawl-', but 吠 'howl' is semantically preferable to 這 'crawl'.

2.19.0:38: I didn't realize 犬吠埼 Inubōsaki contains the animal for this entry until the start of the next day, the day of the red pig!

2.20.22:03: I also hadn't known Inubōsaki was a place name. Wikipedia's Japanese and English articles on Cape Inubō take the 'bark' character at face value.

7. Lastly, here's today's incremental addition to the Tangut sorcerer thread: characters without the 'grass' element for near-synonyms:

𗄞 4539 1vyq3 < *S-wi(p/t) 'wizard, witch, sorcerer'

𗄦 4527 2jeq2 < *S-NdreH or Sɯ-NdraŋH 'wizard'

2.20.23:05: The absence of 𘤃 'grass' (herbal medicine?) in those characters makes me wonder if 1vyq3 and 2jeq2 were not 'medicine men' unlike the other two words I've mentioned so far:

𗄤 4536 2ror4 < *Cɯ.roH 'wizard, witch, sorcerer'

𗄥 4550 1lheq4 < *Sɯ-ɬe or *Sɯ-ɬaŋ 'wizard, sorcerer'

Is the shared *S- in three out of the four words so far significant?

I wouldn't take the slight differences in the definitions from Li Fanwen (2008) too seriously. Ditto for the Chinese definitions I haven't quoted. I suspect neither the English nor the Tangut captures the true differences between the words. Which is not Li's fault - there is nothing to go on but the brief, circular definitions from the Tangut dictionary tradition which define them in terms of each other.

I'm glad these words have survived at all; a wealth of pre-Buddhist Khitan and Jurchen - and Pyu! - vocabulary has probably vanished without a trace. But who knows what lurks among the undefined words in extant Khitan and Pyu texts?

¹2.21.19:05: It's a shame that Prof. Pihl doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. Far Outliers honors him.

I wonder if the Marshall R. Pihl papers collection contains the materials from the 1994 Middle Korean class that I took. THE DAY OF THE GREEN CHICKEN

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: 100) reconstruction of twelve 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.

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