188.8.131.52:40: EARTH SNAKE RAIN CLAM?
The Tohoku earthquake occurred a year ago today.
Japanese 地震 jishin 'earthquake' is written with two characters which each contain two components:
|地||震||雨 semantic: rain|
|土 semantic: earth||也 phonetic: drawing of a snake||辰 phonetic: drawing of a clam?|
These characters represent roots that were borrowed from Chinese:
地 Jpn ji < Middle Chinese *ɖih < Old Chinese *r-lajs 'earth'
cognate to Tangut 2lɨə̣ < *s-ləH < *-s? 'earth'; the prefixes and vowels differ for unknown reasons
Semantic: 土 OC *thaʔ 'earth' (similar in meaning to *rɯ-lajs but unrelated)
Phonetic: 也 OC *m-ljaj 'snake', now written as 蛇 < 虫 'bug' + 它 (variant of 也)
也 is normally used to write OC *ljajʔ 'to be' and is phonetic in graphs for many other words like 地 *r-lajs of the *Laj-type
震 Jpn shin < Middle Chinese *tɕinh < Old Chinese *tər-s 'clap of thunder' > 'to shake'
Semantic: 雨 OC *waʔ 'rain' (a drawing of 丶 raindrops falling)
cognate to Tangut 1vəiʳ < *rʌ-wiH < *-waʔ 'rain'
Words for sky-related phenomena (e.g., 雷 'thunder' and 電 'lightning') are written with the semantic component 雨 'rain'.
Phonetic: 辰 OC *dərʔ, *N-Tərʔ, or m-Tərʔ 'clam' (as identified in Pulleyblank 1991: 66), now written as 蜃 with 虫 'bug' on the bottom
*m- is the small animal prefix (Sagart 1999: 85) also found in 蛇 OC *m-ljaj 'snake' above
- *T could have been *t, *th, or *d
辰 is normally used to write (nearly) homophonous* OC words
'dragon (in the Chinese zodiac)'
also written as 蜃 'clam' (Schuessler 1997: 459) but I assume 'dragon' and 'clam' are unrelated near-homophones
Norman's Austroasiatic etymology is doubtful given that Vietnamese trăn 'python' once had a *Cl-cluster** whereas the Chinese word never had *l (unless Pulleyblank 1991 is correct)
'time (when something begins to stir)' >
'morning' (now written 晨 with 日 'sun')
'(start of agricultural) season'
> 'star (that marks that time)'
core meaning 'stir' shared with 震; the above attempt to link meanings is based on glosses in Schuessler (1997: 184); another possible sequence is
'morning' > 'start of season' > 'time' > 'star (that marks that time)'
and is phonetic in graphs for many other words like 震 *tər-s of the *Tər-type
*These words were read as *dʑin in Middle Chinese and could have been *dər, *N-Tər, or *m-Tər in Old Chinese. The 'time' words probably share a root *tər 'stir' with 震 *tər-s 'clap of thunder; to shake'.
Schuessler (1997: 184) also related 辰 'time' to OC 之 *tə 'to go', but the semantic fit is loose and I don't know of any other instances of an OC suffix *-r. Instead of regarding 辰 'time' as a fusion of members of two unrelated families ('go' and 'stir'), I prefer to derive 'time, morning, season, star' solely from 'stir'.
**Cf. Mon forms with k(h)l- and Khmer forms with thl-. Shorto (2006) reconstructed Proto-Mon-Khmer *t1la(a)n 'python'. I don't know what the subscript 1 means. I accessed his Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary via the SEAlang Mon-Khmer Languages Project site. I presume that the explanation may be in front matter that hasn't been digitized.