Tonight I discovered the spelling 摸摸具和 'touch touch tool harmony' for Japanese momonga 'flying squirrel' in Wikipedia. To modern Japanese eyes it looks as if it should be read momoguwa, and it turns out that in the Edo period it was read as something like momongwa. Why not spell momongwa as <mo.mon.gu.wa> with a <mon>-graph? Was 具 still read with a prenasalized stop [ŋg] when the spelling 摸摸具和 was devised? Offhand I can't think of other cases of unwritten -n-. Or of CwV-syllables spelled as CV.CV. The two-character spelling 具和 <gu.wa> for gwa indicates that gwa in loans from Chinese (see a list here) had become ga and therefore gwa-characters (瓦畫) were no longer suitable for transcribing gwa.

1.18.12:51: According to Wikipedia, the word is first attested as momi in the Heian period; momo came later, and momongwa is from the Edo period. If -n- is short for genitive *-no-, then what is -gwa? Could it be an irregular reduction of something like *kupa? Could that reduction postdate the simplification of Sino-Japanese gwa to ga?

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
(readings for 瓦畫)
flying squirrel

I don't know what the *kupa in *mono-no-kupa would be, but I doubt it's 鍬 kuwa < *kupa 'hoe' or 桑 kuwa < 具波 *kupa 'mulberry'. (Wish I had 上代仮名遣辞典 A Dictionary of Old Japanese Kana Usage by 五十嵐仁一 Igarashi Jin'ichi on hand to quickly find the Old Japanese phonogram spellings - if any - of those words and remove the asterisks. I did find the combining form 具波 gupa for 'mulberry' in Man'yōshū 3350.)

I wouldn't normally expect the syllable gwa or kwa in a native Japanese word, though such syllables are not impossible in native Japonic words: e.g., Okinawan kwain < *kura- 'eat', cognate to Japanese kurau. CLAUSON 2016: THE FRATERNAL TEST

Two days ago, I got my copy of Sir Gerard Clauson's skeleton dictionary of Tangut over twenty years after I had first read about it in Analysis of the Tangut Script.

One of the many things I like about Clauson's dictionary is that it is free of the speculative definitions found in later dictionaries. For instance in my last entry, I used Li Fanwen's (2008: 3, 926) definition of 'brothers' for


0012.5873 1bu3.2kuq1

That definition is presumably based solely on the Tangraphic Sea definitions of 0012 and 5873:

Tangraphic Sea 1.7.131:


0012 3583 0012.5873 5285

1bu3 1ta4 1bu3.2kuq1 1ly3

'0012 TOP 0012.5873 AFF' = '0012 is [as in] 0012.5873'


2447 0605 5285

2lo3 2toq4 1ly3

'elder.brother younger.brother AFF' = '[It means] elder [and] younger brother'

4739 0213 0635.1424 1139 1279

1tsewr1 1ne4 1ny4.1thu4 1e4 1y4

'joint near relative GEN COMP' = '[It is what] closely related relatives [are] called'

Combined Homophones and Tangraphic Sea A 7.203:


2447 0605 4739 0213 0635.1424 1139 1279

2lo3 2toq4 1tsewr1 1ne4 1ny4.1thu4 1e4 1y4

'elder.brother younger.brother joint near relative GEN COMP' = '[5873 is what] elder [and] younger brothers [and] closely related relatives [are] called'

The word 0012.5873 is apparently not attested outside the entries for its characters in dictionaries.

Last night I looked up both 0012 and 5873 in Clauson, and as I had hoped, he glossed both as '?' in entries 1069 and 3120. The question marks most likely reflect Clauson's lack of access to the Tangraphic Sea, but I think they are still appropriate to some degree today because there is no guarantee that the components of Tangraphic Sea entries are precise synonyms: e.g., 'elder and younger brothers' is certainly not the same thing as 'closely related relatives'. So could 0012.5873 have been 'sibling'?

1.14.11:14: I don't think 0012.5873 was 'sibling' because I would expect 'sibling' to appear in definitions for sororal words. Perhaps 'closely related relatives' is needed to specify biological brothers as opposed to brothers in a broader, nonbiological sense: e.g., males of the same age. Were Tangut 2lo3 'elder brother' and 2toq4 'younger brother' used as nonbiological terms of address like Burmese ကို ko 'elder brother' and မောင် maũ 'younger brother'?

Unfortunately the Tangraphic Sea definitions for 2lo3 'elder brother' and 2toq4 'younger brother' have been lost. I would not expect 0012.5873 to appear in them since I think 0012.5873 was a subset (biological) of 2lo3-2toq4 'brothers' in a broader sense. ANTHROPOGENESIS IN TANGUT

One of the first Tangut words - and characters - that I learned over twenty years ago was


2541 2dzwo4 'person'

which doesn't belong to the *m-'people' word family from my last post.

I never knew its etymology until I saw the Loloish words for 'person' in Burling (1967: 89):

Lisu tshō, Lahu chɔ̄, Akha tsɔ́hà

which are from Proto-Lolo-Burmese *tsaŋ.

Tangut -o is partly from *-a, so 2dzwo4 could be from *Pɯ-N-tsaŋH or *Nɯ-P-tsaŋH with

- *P- to condition medial -w-

- *-ɯ- to condition Grade IV

- *-N- to condition voicing of *-ts-

- *-H to condition tone 2 (the 'rising tone' - or was it really a phonation?)

According to STEDT, this word is also found in Central Naga and Bai (see forms here), so it is not an innovation of Burmo-Qiangic (Jacques' [2014: 2] proposed Sino-Tibetan subgroup containing both Lolo-Burmese and Tangut [as part of Qiangic]).

1.10: I'm glad I didn't post this right away because I realized my proposal has a problem.

Jacques' (2014: 206) pre-Tangut *-jaŋ (= my *Cɯ- ... -aŋ) became Gong's Tangut -jij (= my -e3/4), not Gong's Tangut -jo (= my -o3/4). (The initial determines whether the rhyme has Grade III or IV.)

Therefore I would expect *-jwaŋ (= my *Pɯ- ... -aŋ or *Cɯ-P- ... -aŋ) to become Gong's Tangut -jwij (= my -we3/4), not Gong's Tangut -jwo (= my -wo3/4).

2dzwo4 ends in -wo4, not -we4, so it cannot be from *Pɯ-N-tsaŋH or *Nɯ-P-tsaŋH. Or can it?

I can't find any examples of *-jwaŋ (= my *Pɯ- ... -aŋ or *Cɯ-P- ... -aŋ) in Jacques (2014). I propose that such a sequence became -wo3/4:

*Pɯ-Caŋ > *Pɯ-Cɨaŋ > *P-Cɨaŋ > *Cwɨaŋ > *Cwo3/4 and/or

*Cɯ-P-Caŋ > *Cɯ-Cwaŋ > *Cɯ-Cwɨaŋ > *Cwɨaŋ > *Cwo3/4

The medial *-w- 'encouraged' the following vowel to retain its labiality, whereas labiality was lost without *-w-:

*Cɯ-Caŋ > *Cɯ-Cɨaŋ > *Cɨaŋ > *Ciaŋ > *Cö > *Ce3/4

The *Cɯ- above is not *Pɯ- which would have condtioned -w-.

Unfortunately I do not know of any Chinese loanword evidence for my proposed sound change. Middle Chinese *-waŋ3 corresponds to Sino-Tangut -on1 rather than -wo3 in the one case known to me (Gong 2002: 424):

旺 MC *3waŋ3 : ST 𗼤 2340 1von1 'prosperous'

I suspect the word was *3won3 with a nasalized vowel -on in Tangut period northwestern Chinese (TPNWC), and that this form was borrowed into Tangut with -on1, a nasalized vowel rhyme that originated from something like *-om, a merger of Cʌ- ... -um, *-am, *-em, and *-om (but not rhymes ending in the velar nasal *-ŋ!). If my proposal is correct, an earlier borrowing of 旺 might have had -wo rather than -on in Tangut. Here is a possible relative chronology:

Stage 1 2
Tangut *-waŋ3/4 -wo3/4
*-om1 -on1
TPNWC *-waŋ3 -won3

At stage 1, TPNWC *3waŋ3 is a better match for Tangut *vaŋ3 (I write initial *w- as v-) than Tangut *vom1. But at stage 2, TPNWC *3won3 is a better match for Tangut 1von1 (which was how *3won3 was actually borrowed) than Tangut *vo3.

Did the sound change *-aŋ > -o spread from Chinese to Tangut? Japhug underwent the same change (Jacques 2004: 143) even though it was not in contact with Chinese until recently and its ancestor separated from that of Tangut long ago. A case of drift? Or just coincidence? The fusion of au into o is common (e.g., Sanskrit*), though the shift > > *u that would precede it isn't.

Lastly, on Monday morning in the rGyalrongic Languages Database I found some forms for 'person' that have labial + affricate initials like my pre-Tangut *Pɯ-N-tsaŋH: e.g.,

mDaH mdo βdzi

Tag gsum vdzi̤

At first I thought -i might be an unusual reflex of *-waŋ. However, I suspect that -i is from a rhyme with a lost *-t given Ri ṣe wdzit̚.

Forms like Nye dgaH brgya gcig vdzɨmi look like redundant compounds of the Pdz-word for 'person' with the m-'people' word from my last post.

I was initially hopeful that a third type of 'person' word in the database might be related to Tangut 2dzwo4 < *Pɯ-N-tsaŋH:

Rong wam kə' mcu

Wobzi vɟú

Hbrong rzong βɟuʔ

But now I think their palatal stops are hardened from what might be a *-j- still more or less present in

Khog po kə' mbju

Tsho bdun A ke' ᵐbo

Tsho bdun B kə³³ rəᴺ⁴⁴ bjo⁵⁴

Khang sar kə' rbju

rDzong Hbur kə' rmbju

Those words are reminiscent of Gong's 1bjuu = my 1bu3, the first half of


0012.5873 1bu3.2kuq1 'brothers' <*NPə.SkoH or *NɯPo.SkoH**?

a word only known from dictionaries. But I do not know of any examples of 1bu3 standing by itself, so I don't think there is any connection.

Go la thang nya lo ta' ʁap is a fourth type of rGyalrongic word for 'person' without any known Tangut cognate.

*Sanskrit au is from *āu. There was a chain shift: *āu > au > o.

**1.12.6:12: These reconstructions assume that the word is native or at least was borrowed before the sound changes that occurred between pre-Tangut and Tangut.

I suspect the word is from a non-Sino-Tibetan substratum that is the source of other unanalyzable disyllabic words in Tangut. Could it have simply meant 'brother' without any age distinction?

In Old Chinese, there was a strong tendency for both halves of disyllabic noncompound words to be of the same syllable type: AA or BB rather than AB or BA.

A-type syllables had low presyllabic vowels (*ʌ) or lower main vowels (*e *a *o) and developed Grades I or II in Middle Chinese.

B-type syllables had high presyllabic vowels (*ɯ) or higher main vowels (*i *ə *u) and developed Grades III or IV in Middle Chinese.

Tangut and Chinese seem to have undergone similar (though not identical) developments. I believe both languages underwent syllable-internal harmonization: i.e., the height of the main vowel harmonized with the height of the presyllable (if any). The presyllables were then lost, the harmonized vowels became phonemic, and the two languages developed a four-grade distinction.

Chinese disyllabic noncompound words usually had height harmony. I have never looked into whether Tangut disyllabic noncompound words also usually had height harmony. Tangut 1bu3.2kuq1 lacks height harmony; it combines a Grade III (type B) syllable with a Grade I (type A) syllable. If height harmony was the norm in Tangut between as well as within syllables, then 1bu3.2kuq1 was either a loanword from a language that lacked height harmony*** or a compound 1bu3-2kuq1****. (I use hyphens to indicate morphological boundaries and periods to indicate linked syllables without any certain morphological relationship between them.) I favor the former, as I have not found words like 1bu3 or 2kuq1 with meanings I would expect for the halves of 'brothers'. I also have not found a source for 1bu3.2kuq1. I suspect Tangut may be our only source of information on its substratum: i.e., we will never find external confirmation for a word like buku.

***Cf. Turkish kitap 'book' from Arabic kitāb. Kitap violates Turkish palatal vowel harmony because it contains a front vowel i followed by a nonfront vowel a.

****Cf. Finnish seinäkello 'wall clock', a compound word without palatal harmony across its halves: seinä 'wall' has a front vowel ä whereas kello 'clock' has a back vowel o. (The vowels e and i are neutral.)

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