Home WHITE RAT 2.11

? qulugh ai ? sair par ? nyair 

'white rat year, two month, ten one day'


(Back to Part III)

The fourth Tangut era with a known Tangut-language name is


0510 2342 5243 0140  1ngwyr1 1lo3 2se4 2lher1 'heaven good.fortune people joy' (1090.2.3-1098.2.3) = 'heaven['s] good fortune [and] people['s] joy'

corresponding to Xia Chinese 天祐民安 *1then4 3u3 1min4 1an1 'heaven help people peace'.

'Heaven' and 'people' are shared by both the Chinese and Tangut names, but the rest doesn't match. Such mismatches are common in Chinese and Khitan-language era names for the Khitan Empire next door.

If 1ngwyr1 1lo3 2se4 2lher1 were the only known instance of 1lo3 and 2lher1, it would be reasonable to guess that they meant 'help' and 'peace' on the basis of the Chinese name, but other contexts that indicate otherwise have also survived.

2. I just started following James (@jwa_khitan) on Twitter. Three threads:

2a. Khitanology 101.

2b. A new proposal on the origin of the Khitan large script:

I believe the Khitan large script may have its origins not in the Chinese clerical script, as the Liao histories say, but instead in the Chinese cursive and running scripts.

2c. What is the "N4631" that I refer to from time to time?


I thought two Korean words pronounced 철 chhŏl sound like possible Chinese loans, and Martin et al. (1967: 1593) independently entertained that possibility over a half century earlier.

3a. 철 chhŏl < earlier chhyŏl 'season' : cf. Sino-Korean  節 chŏl < chyŏl < *tser 'id.'

The trouble is the aspiration which is not in Sino-Korean or Chinese itself. The word may be compressed from a unrelated disyllabic native word like *hʌtser or *tsʌher.

3b. 철 chhŏl (no premodern attestations?) 'discretion': cf. Sino-Korean 哲 chhŏl 'wise'

I can't see why this couldn't be from 哲.

I didn't initially understand why Martin et al. propose 節 'season' as an alternate possible Chinese source of  Korean 'discretion'. 節 has many meanings in Chinese. Maybe 'restraint' is the relevant one.

4. What is the etymology of Qom (which has been in the news because of COVID-19)? The Q- makes me think it's not originally Persian.

5. Today I saw Manchu faššaha 'exerted' in Roth Li (2010: 87). There are only a few Manchu roots with -šš-:

I wonder what the history of that rare geminate is.

6. I lived in the UK for four years but had never heard of "home education".

7. I initially thought Fatma- in Fatmawadi was from Fatima, but I dismissed the idea because I couldn't think of an Indonesian-internal reason to drop the -i-. But David Boxenhorn made me reconsider the idea. I now think Indonesian borrowed this disyllabic variant:

The colloquial Arabic pronunciation of the name in some dialects (e.g., Syrian and Egyptian) often omits the unstressed second syllable and renders it as Fatma when romanized.

Did that variant already exist in the speech of the Arab traders who brought Islam to Nusantara?

8. Today I learned of tourmaline, whose English name apparently originates from Sinhalese. In Chinese, Japanese, and Korean it is the 電氣石 'electric stone', presumably

because it could attract and then repel hot ashes due to its pyroelectric properties.

The Vietnamese Wikipedia calls it tourmalin without the final -e of French and English tourmaline, perhaps to avoid it being pronounced. Why not Vietnamize it further as turmalin (to avoid un-Vietnamese ou) or even something like tunmalin (to avoid un-Vietnamese syllable-final -r)? WHITE RAT 2.10

? qulugh ai ? sair par nyair 

'white rat year, two month, ten day'


(Back to Part II)

The third Tangut era with a known Tangut-language name is


0510 2865 1910 2135 1ngwyr1 1du2 2tenq4 1e'4 'heaven peace ceremony hold' (1085.12.20-1086.9.10)

corresponding to Xia Chinese 天安禮定 *1then4 1an1 2li4 3ten4  'heavenly peace [and] ceremonial settlement'.

1ngwyr1 1du2 could either be a noun compound 'peace of heaven' or a noun-adjective phrase 'peaceful heaven'.

2tenq4 1e'4 is an object-verb phrase 'holding ceremony'. 1e'4 is not an exact equivalent of Chinese 定 'settle, become/make fixed', but it is close if one thinks of 'holding' as 'holding in place'. (3.19.18:42: 1e'4 is not 'hold' in the sense of 'hold a ceremony'.)

2. Rubi in Japanese are almost always hiragana appended to kanji, but there are rare creative exceptions:

2a. Page 70 of volume III of 永野護 Nagano Mamoru's The Five Star Stories has フォーチュン fōchun 'fortune' as rubi for 希望 kibō 'hope'. The official English translation simply has "hope". fōchun may not merely be 'fortune'; it may also be a reference to the green planet Fortune scheduled to appear over four thousand years later (the story is epic in scale).

2b. Page 82 of volume III of The Five Star Stories has 同調機 <SAME TONE MACHINE> dōchōki (a neologism?) as rubi for シーケンサー shīkensā 'sequencer'. The official English translation simply has "sequencer". I assume a sequencer is some sort of gadget in the giant robots in the series. (None of these real-life shīkensā seem to be relevant.)

2c. Page 147 of volume III of The Five Star Stories has シックス shikkusu 'sixth' as rubi for VI世 rokusei 'the sixth' (in names of royalty) in the name コーラスVI世 Kōrasu Shikkusu. I expected the official English translation to have "Colus VI" or "Colus the Sixth", but it has "the sixth heir to the throne of the Colus dynasty". The color page introducing the character in the English edition has "Colus VI".

3-5 are finds from last night:

3. Jesse P. Gates' 2020 documentation of "Ghost's bride", a text in Stau, possibly one of the closer living relatives of Tangut. The very first Stau word in the story, ʁnæ 'long ago' has a potential Tangut cognate 𗂥 1926 2ne4 < *CInejH or *CInaŋH 'in past times'. Could pre-Tangut *C- have been a uvular like Stau ʁ-? The front vowel of Stau ʁnæ makes me think pre-Tangut *CInejH with a front vowel is more likely than *CInaŋH with a nonfront vowel, but on the other hand, pre-Tangut *CInaŋH is closer to Old Chinese 曩 *naŋʔ 'in past times'. Stau as recorded by Gates does not have either -ŋ or -j (and the three codas I found in his text are low in frequency: -n, -r, -v). The history of Stau has yet to be worked out as far as I know, so I don't know whether ʁnæ had a coda, much less which coda it might have had.

4. Andreas and Yadi Hölzl's "A wedding ceremony of the Kyakala in China: Language and ritual" (2019) is about "the only extant text" of a "seemingly extinct" Jurchenic language preserving features lost in Manchu: unpalatalized dental stops and [p] in the perfective converb. (Ming Jurchen hadunpalatalized dental stops but had shifted Jin Jurchen p to f, so its perfective converb was presumably *-fi as in Manchu. Unfortunately, little of Ming Jurchen verbal morphology has been documented.)

I can't get over how Kyakala survived into the last century and then presumably disappeared. How many other languages recently vanished in China without a trace?

5. Also by Andreas and Yadi Hölzl: "The endangered languages of the Manchus" (2019). Note that "languages" is plural! The big surprise for me was the Lu language of the Manchus of ... Guizhou!? Does Lu still exist?

6. I was oblivious to the French name of アフランシ・シャア Afuranshi Shaa in 富野由悠季 Tomino Yoshiyuki's serial novel ガイア・ギア Gaia Gia (Gaia Gear) (1987-1991) until last night. アフランシ Afuranshi is from French affranchi 'freed' (masc. sg. past participle of affranchir).

7. 富野由悠季 Tomino Yoshiyuki's name is a built-in option in Windows 10's IME. Typing in Japanese is so tedious that anything that saves me the effort of typing a two or three kanji (in this case由悠季) helps.

8. I've thought of Manchu -ha/-he/-ho as a perfective suffix, but it also turns up in bihe with bi 'be'. Russian быть byt' 'be' is imperfective and has no perfective counterpart: i.e., no equivalent of bihe (if bihe is perfective). Maybe Russian is shackling my imagination, but I can't imagine how Manchu bi 'be' could be perfective. Being isn't an action and can't be completed.

9. Results of the tenth 創作漢字コンテスト 'kanji creation contest' (via Bitxəšï-史). WHITE RAT 2.9

? qulugh ai ? sair ish nyair 

'white rat year, two month, nine day'


(Back to Part I)

The second Tangut era with a known Tangut-language name is


4457 0139 2leq3 2ne1 'great peace' (1075.1.20-1085.12.19)

which is a straightforward equivalent of the Chinese-language Tangut era name *3the1 1an1 'great peace'.

Tangut adjectives normally follow nouns, but 2leq3 'great' precedes them.

2ne1 'peace' sounds like Xia Chinese¹ *1ne4 'peace', but the mismatch of grades (indicated by final numbers) leads me to think the words are unrelated soundalikes.

¹20.3.3.14:08: My replacement for the awkward term Tangut period northwestern Chinese (TPNWC) that I've used for many years. Coined by analogy with Liao and Jin Chinese. I object to using Chinese names for non-Chinese empires, but I have no problem with using those Chinese names for the varieties of Chinese spoken within those empires.

2. Page 54 of volume III of 永野護 Nagano Mamoru's The Five Star Stories has something I've never seen before: French rubi for Japanese. Ne me blâmez is to the right of 私を責 'I ACC bla ...' and pas is to the right of 下 'plea ...' of the phrase 私を責めないで下さい watashi wo semenai de kudasai 'please don't blame me'.

3.9.13:00: One might get the wrong idea from the placement of the rubi that 私を責 'I ACC bla ...' means Ne me blâmez (though the negation really corresponds to -ない without rubi) and that 下 'plea ...' means pas.

3. So true:

Learning German from native speakers is great, if all you want to know is how to say this phrase or that phrase. They are also great for pronunciation help. But if you want to know why something is the way it is, a native speaker is the last person you should ask. They won’t understand why you struggle in certain areas. Herr Antrim does, because he learned German just like you are.

I studied German with both native and nonnative speakers. I can't say I detected any difference. Of course learners may not be the best judges. I can at least say that I never thought 'I wish I were being taught by a native speaker instead'.

I will also say that nonnative speakers are not necessarily able to empathize with learners either. Many (most?) nonnative speakers who become language teachers probably have a high aptitude for languages. They 'get' things that elude the rest of us. If something is incredibly obvious to you, you may not understand why it isn't equally obvious to others.

4. Via the Wikipedia article on Heavy Metal L.Gaim (1984-85), the ancestor of The Five Star Stories: a useful term 貴種流離譚 kishu ryūritan 'noble-kind flow-away-story' for stories in which a noble hero wanders a foreign land. (My initial guess was that it referred to wandering heroes who didn't initially know they were noble, but that was too specific though it does fit L.Gaim.)

5. Last night I found George van Driem's review of Thurgood and LaPolla's The Sino-Tibetan Languages (2nd edition, 2017) which is especially hard on the editors. I only have the old 2003 edition, so I can't comment on the new one.

6. Today I learned from Wikipedia that the misspelling in Guyver: Out of Standardrized (1986) is intentional. The movie is so 'out of standardized' that the standard spelling of standardized doesn't suit it.

7. Why don't French past participles always agree? Compare (examples from here):

elles [f. pl.] sont parties [f. pl.].

'they have left' (subject agreement)

les filles [f. pl.] ont acheté [m. sg.!] des cadeaux

'the girls bought some presents' (no agreement)

Voici les cadeaux [m. pl.] que les filles ont achetés [m. pl.].

'Here are the presents that the girls have bought.' (object agreement)

I imagine at some point *ont achetées (f. pl.) existed. When did it disappear? Are invariant, originally masculine singular forms like parti and acheté in the future of French?

8. There should be a word for something you took for granted for a long time but didn't realize was unusual until now. The reading of the Japanese surname 太宰 Dazai¹ falls into that category. 太 is normally read as tai or ta in Japanese, not da-. And 宰 is normally read as sai in Japanese, not zai. So 太宰 as a common noun 'great minister' in a premodern Chinese context is read as taisai.

The voicing of d- and z- in Dazai does not reflect Chinese *voiced initials because neither 太 nor 宰 had voiced initials in Chinese. There was never any nasal-final rhyme in 太, so the z- of zai is not due to a preceding *nasal or *nasal vowel. The -z- of 宰 must be rendaku, but the d- of 太 is harder to explain except perhaps by analogy with 大 dai 'great'.

¹The most famous Dazai is 太宰治 Dazai Osamu. The Dazai who inspired this post was 太宰博士 Dr. Dazai from High Speed Task Force Turboranger (1989-1990) which ended thirty years ago last week.

9. I didn't know the superhero duo バイクロッサー Baikurossā 'Byclosser' which turned thirty-five this year had baiku 'bike' in their name until I read this part of their Wikipedia entry tonight. Since 1985 I had thought of the name as 'bi-crosser', and that was intended, but there was another layer I had never detected. WHITE RAT 2.8

? qulugh ai ? sair nyêm nyair 

'white rat year, two month, eight day'

1. TANGUT ERA NAMES I: I've long wanted a list of era names in Tangut. Andrew West has compiled them and much more in these files:

More on Tangut and other calendars on Andrew's site.

The earliest Tangut-language era names known to Andrew are


2544 2342 2shen3 1lo3 'sage['s] good fortune'

or 'fortunate sage' if I follow Li Fanwen (2008: 387) and interpret 2342 as an adjective


or 2748 2135 2chha3 1e'4 'virtue hold' = 'holding virtue'

which loosely correspond to halves of the longer Chinese-language era name 福聖承道 *4fu3 3shen3 1shin3 3thaw1 'Fortunate Sages Receive the Way' (1053.1.23-1057.2.6) used by the Tangut Empire.

2544 and 2342 are standard Tangut equivalents of Chinese 福 'good fortune' and 聖 'sage', but 2748 and 2135 are equivalent to Chinese 德 'virtue' and 持 'hold', not 道 'way' and 承 'receive'.

2. Li Fanwen (2008: 353) defines 2135 in


0020 2135 3818 'way ? -er' = 'Daoist' = Chinese 道士 'way person'

as 士 'person', but I think it retains its most common meaning 'hold' in that context, so 'Daoist' in Tangut is literally 'way holder'.

3. KANJI IN SPACE (and not in space because Earthlings took sinography to the stars - the setting of this epic is one of those alien realms populated by human lookalikes, not Terran colonists):

天照家を中心に漢字を使用している場面が複数見られるが、現在のジョーカー太陽星団では漢字は一般的に使用されておらず、ほとんど模様として認 識されている。ただし漢字文化自体は現存しており、一部のキャラクターの名前には漢字表記が存在し、古文という形で学校の授業科目の一つにもなっている。 [...]


Several scenes in which kanji are used, mostly by the Amaterasu family, may be seen, but kanji are generally not used in the Joker Star Cluster at present, and are generally perceived as patterns. However, kanji culture itself does currently exist [in the FSS universe]. Some character names have kanji spellings [e.g., the protagonist is 天照帝 <HEAVEN SHINE EMPEROR> Amaterasu no mikado], and kanji is a school subject in the form of ancient writing. [...]

Kana also appear in the story.

- Wikipedia on ファイブスター物語 Faibu sutā monogatari (The Five Star Stories)

4. The FSS Wikipedia entry led me to an entry on インチキ外国語 inchiki gaikokugo 'phony foreign languages'. Which is a mouthful, so I coined pseudoxeno. The corresponding English article is about gibberish, which isn't the same thing: "speech that is (or appears to be) nonsense". Pseudoxeno is meant to sound foreign.

The article includes foreign-sounding monster names. One that just turned forty last week is コゴエンスキー Kogoensukī 'Freezensky' from Masked Rider (1979-1980), a blend of Japanese 凍え- kogoe- 'freeze' and Russian -nskij. A creature as cold as シベリア Shiberia.


Tangut Yinchuan font copyright © Prof. 景永时 Jing Yongshi
Tangut character image fonts by Mojikyo.org
Tangut radical and Khitan fonts by Andrew West
Jurchen font by Jason Glavy
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