One of the homophones of

2ləi '?'

half of the words

1voʳ 2ləi 'peacock' and

2ləi 2ʔiaaʳ 'chicken'

from "Hole Sparrow, Chicken ...?" has a homophone

2ləi 'Li, the name of an ancestor'

apparently known only from two entries in different editions of Homophones:

2ləi 1gwie 'Li Gwe, the name of an ancestor' (Homophones 53A26)

2ləi 2dʐwɨu 'Li Jwu'? (Homophones text B 53A64; see below for another interpretation)

The ancestral name Li is not the Chinese surname Li which was Tangutized as


The analysis of the graph for the ancestral name Li is unknown. It consists of two parts (pul and dom in David Boxenhorn's alphacode):


puldom = pul + dom

pul appears in 14 other tangraphs in various positions, whereas dom only appears in right-hand position in 26 other tangraphs.

Nishida (1966: 243) glossed pul as 示 'to show'. 示 is in religious Chinese characters like 神 'god', 祂 'He' (for God), and 社 'god of the soil'. Could its Tangut counterpart pul indicate a godlike personage in puldom? I cannot quickly find any religious terminology containing pul, though it is in the graph for

2lheʳ 'respectful word for yes', homophonous with 2lheʳ 'respect' (not written with dom)

Or does pul indicate that Li was an instructor - a model for his descendants? pul could be derived from the center of

2vəi 'to teach'

The dom graphs have no semantic or phonetic common denominator. Maybe the dom in puldom is from

2khɔɔ 'skillful, ingenious' or 1giee 'to exceed, surpass' (implying 'superior'?)

which are two of the most positive dom-graphs.

The most negative is

2ʂɛ̣ 'evil, harm, calamity'

I am not sure it is an independent word. Kychanov and Arakawa (2006: 635) did not gloss it, though they did include the word

2ʂɛ̣ 2ŋiạ 'misdeed, crime'

containig 2ŋiạ 'fault, defect, mistake, crime'. Why was 'horse' (not to be confused with pul which has an additional horizontal stroke) added to 2ŋiạ to create 2ʂɛ̣?

Gwe can also be 'quick-witted, wise' and was analyzed as


1gwie 'Gwe' = 2rieʳ 'the name Rer, pleasure, good luck' 1dʐɨe 'to go'

in the Tangraphic Sea. Was 'going to Rer' a metaphor for being wise? Was Li Ge 'Li the Wise' or 'Lucky Li'?

Gwe is also in the surname

2lə 1gwie 'Lygwe'

I would expect the name to mean 'wise Ly', but 2lə is a verb 'to cover', not a noun. Why spell this name with 'cover' instead of

which is a homophone for writing the first half of a surname whose correct spelling is uncertain:


2lə 2di 'Lydi' (in Li Fanwen 2008: 630) ~ 2lə 2tʂhɨiw 'Lychhu' (in Kychanov and Arakawa 2006: 323)

These could be two different surnames, but I doubt it. Their second halves can represent the words 2di 'complete' and 2tʂhɨiw 'six'.

Could 2lə 'cover' plus 1gwie 'wisdom' equal 'covered (i.e., hidden) wisdom'?

I do not know what to make of Jwu in

2ləi 2dʐwɨu 'Li Jwu'

2dʐwɨu can mean 'person' or 'sage' (Grinstead 1972: 142). Is this a gloss 'Li, a person/sage'? Or is it a name (sequence): 'Lijwu' or 'Li Jwu'? I am inclined to think it is a gloss because I doubt 'person' was a personal name.

I don't understand when the Tangut chose to create a special character for a syllable in a name. I guess special people like Li deserved their own characters, but why did some families get spellings combining pure name characters with nonname characters like 'complete' ~ 'six'? Do such spellings indicate half-understood and/or folk etymologies? If no etymology could be determined for a syllable in a name (e.g., the Ly in Lydi ~ Lichhu), was a character with elements representing traits of that family created for that syllable? Spellings containing only nonname characters (e.g., Lygwe 'Covered Wisdom') may represent folk etymologies rather than sequences of actual roots. Even the pronunciations of Tangut names may have been altered in accordance with folk etymologies, disguising their true origins: cf. how Old English brȳdguma became English bridegroom with a non-etymological -r- due to an association with the unrelated word groom.

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