Archive for Borrowing

Turkish "kedi" and English "cat"

In reacting to the fierce denunciation of Xi Jinping by Cai Xia (see bibliographical note at the bottom of this post), Conal Boyce mused:

Mind-boggling material. I had to do a double-take on the passage you show that contains both chǔn and jiāhuo (蠢家伙 ["stupid guy / fellow"]).  And sure enough, in the video, she actually uses the term zhèngzhì jiāngshī (政治僵尸 ["political zombies"]) more than once!

These are shocking terms, with a peculiar color all their own. They reminded me that, in a sense, there are no words that are actually 'equivalents' between two languages. For instance, the Turkish for 'cat' is 'kedi', which has a comfortable look of familiarity at first, because of English 'kitty', yet we suspect that the semantic range of 'kedi' in Turkish versus the semantic ranges for 'cat' and 'kitty' in English probably overlap in some unexpected Venn diagram style, with much of 'kedi' not immediately accessible to a speaker of English.

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The geographical, archeological, genetic, and linguistic origins of Tocharian

[The following is a guest post by Douglas Adams.]

Key words:  Eastern Central Asia (ECA); Tarim Basin; Dzungarian Basin; Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) Anatolian; Proto-Indo-European; “standard average Indo-European” (“SAIE”); Hittite; Iranian; Sogdian; Khotanese; Bactrian; Avestan; Saka; Indo-Aryan; Mitanni; Assyrian; Indo-Hittite; Fertile Crescent: Yamnaya; Sintashta; Andronovo; Afanasievo; Minusinsk Basin; Qäwrighul; genetics; Yanqi Basin; Ili Valley; Yuezhi; Xiongnu; Turfan Basin; stockbreeding; barley cultivation; millet; irrigation technology; donkey; camel; brick; arrow; irrigation technology; Russian; Kazakhstan; Indo-Iranian; Sanskrit; Massagetae

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Below is a host of questions, implied questions, and questionable statements. I’m trying to get my head around the prehistoric interrelations of pre-Proto-Iranians and pre-Proto-Tocharians based on different “age-levels” of linguistic borrowing and match them with some plausible geographical / archaeological contexts. There are some conundrums here: (1) how did early borrowings from the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) folks get so quickly, by so round about a way, into Tocharian, and (2) why does Tocharian B have an irrigation vocabulary so reminiscent of Central Iranian languages (Sogdian/Avestan; not Saka), borrowed (on phonological grounds) a thousand years (at least) after Tocharians were already knowledgeable about irrigation.

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The complexities of a basic word for "barbarian" in Sinitic and neighboring languages

There are scores of words in Sinitic languages that regularly get translated into English as "barbarian".  One of the most conspicuous and pervasive is hú 胡, which we have often discussed on Language Log, perhaps most extensively and intensively in "The bearded barbarian" (8/26/15), with detailed etymological, orthographical, morphological, and philological notes.

The term came up again more recently in "'Carrot' in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc." (6/26/20), where we found it as the distinctive modifier of the Sinitic word for "carrot" (húluóbo 胡蘿蔔 / 胡萝卜).

[N.B.:  Several of my most respected colleagues in Chinese Studies do not permit their students to translate hú 胡 or any of the other Sinitic terms for non-Sinitic peoples as "barbarian".]

In reading PRC written materials, one must be wary of all the words in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) that are written with hú 胡, since the character simplification promoted by the communist government has collapsed at least six other traditional characters into this one (see here), the most interesting of which is the first syllable hemimorpheme of the Sinitic word for "butterfly" (húdié 蝴蝶 / 胡蝶), cf., "'Butterfly' words as a source of etymological confusion" (1/28/16).

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"Carrot" in Persian, Urdu, Uyghur, Sinitic, Vietnamese, etc.

From David Brophy:

I’ve often wondered why the Uyghur word for carrot is sewze, etc., which comes from P. sabz “green”. I know carrots range from orange to yellow, and maybe occasionally purple, but I’m pretty sure there’ve never been green carrots.

It's a good question.  

One thing I do know is that, whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I find sabzi, also spelled sabji, as a vegetable cooked in gravy

I think maybe the word originally just meant "veggies" in Persian, and then developed the specialized meaning of "carrot" in Turkic and other languages.

Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian: قورمه‌ سبزی‎) (also spelled as Qormeh Sabzi) is an Iranian herb stew. It is a very popular dish in Iran.

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Ghormeh is derived from Turkic kavurmak and means "braised," while sabzi is the Persian word for herbs.

Looking at Wikipedia, it does say that carrots are likely originally from Persia where they were probably first cultivated for their leaves (which are green).

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Daddy talk in Chinese

From Politico's "China Watcher" Potpourri this morning (6/18/20):

Chinese now has a term for “mansplaining”: die wei, or “daddy flavor.” Chinese internet users are increasingly using it as a derogatory term to describe anyone — male or female — who claim unwarranted authority and give unsolicited advice, reports Shen Lu. Chinese feminist organizer Lü Pin tells China Watcher that the term’s popularity shows growing resistance from young people — mostly women — to a patriarchal culture. But she adds, the term is mainly “internet catharsis; the hierarchy in real life is not likely to change.”

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Khmer historical phonology

[This is a guest post by John Whitman]

I have a Thai student writing a dissertation on Khmer historical phonology who wrote a qualifying paper using the Zhenla Fengtuji 真臘風土記, a late 13th century gazetteer on Cambodia written by one Zhou Daguan, who was sent to the Angkor court as an emissary. The most cited source on this text is a 1951 translation by Pelliot There is a more recent English translation by Harris (2007), but it relies on Pelliot for linguistic matters. Pelliot identifies and transcribes 37 of the 44 Khmer words in the text.

Like Chinese (but probably slightly later), Khmer was undergoing loss of its voicing distinction in obstruents, but in a different way: Old Khmer voiceless obstruents became implosives, and voiced obstruents voiceless. For reasons that he doesn’t explain very well, Pelliot assumed that Zhou was using early Mandarin values for his Chinese transcription characters, with aspirated Chinese initials representing Old Khmer voiceless initials, and unaspirated initials to represent OK voiced initials. This leads to chaotic correspondences with the Khmer material.

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On the etymology of the title Tham of Burusho kings

[The following is a guest post by John Mock.  I am impressed by how much detailed scholarship (although perhaps not always of great precision and rigor) on such an esoteric matter as that discussed herein already existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.]

John Biddulph in his book Tribes of the Hindoo Koosh (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1880), p. 24, wrote:

I have been told by a Nepalese gentleman that Thum is a Chinese title, meaning Governor, and that it is used in a reduplicated form Thum Thum, to signify a Governor General. [footnote: It is perhaps a corruption of the word Tung, which appears in many titles. The Chinese Governor of Kashgaria is called Tsung Tung, and the officer who commands the troops is styled Tung-lung.] Its very existence in these countries, where its origin has been completely lost sight of, is curious and must be extremely ancient.

Henry H. Howorth, in his article "The Northern Frontagers of China. Part VIII. The Kirais and Prester John", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 21 no. 2 (1889), pp. 383-5, discussing Tang relations with Uighurs, wrote:

The Chinese emperor at this time was called Tham vu tsum.", and, “During the reign of Tham yi tsum, from 860 to 874….

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The sound and sense of Tocharian

Readers of Language Log will certainly be aware of Tocharian, but when I began my international research project on the Tarim Basin mummies in 1991, very few people — only a tiny handful of esoteric researchers — had ever heard of the Tocharians and their language since they went extinct more than a millennium ago, until fragmentary manuscripts were discovered in the early part of the 20th century and were deciphered by Sieg und Siegling (I always love the sound of their surnames linked together by "und"), two German Indologists / philologists — Emil Sieg (1866-1951) and Wilhelm Siegling (1880-1946), in the first decade of the last century.

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Once more on Sinitic *mraɣ and Celtic and Germanic *marko for "horse"

Jessica Hemming, in consultation with Joseph Eska (personal communication), writes:

In the debate about whether Sinitic ‘mra’ could be a borrowing from an Indo-European language, given that only Celtic and Germanic have horse words in *marko, it may be of use to know that proto-Celtic is now conventionally dated to no earlier than c.1000 BC and proto-Germanic to c.500 BC. These would seem to be too late to be options. Also, the native word for horse in Celtic is *ekwo; nobody is quite sure where *marko came from, although later it became the standard medieval word for horse (especially in the sense of ‘war horse’ or ‘steed’ in Middle Welsh).

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Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in Buddhist translations of the 2nd c. AD

A fuller and more specific version of the title of this post would be "Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in the translations of An Shigao (Chinese: 安世高; pinyin: Ān Shìgāo; Wade–Giles: An Shih-kao, Korean: An Sego, Japanese: An Seikō, Vietnamese: An Thế Cao) (fl. 148-180 CE) and Lokakṣema (लोकक्षेम, Chinese: 支婁迦讖; pinyin: Zhī Lóujiāchèn) (fl. 147-189)".

With the collaboration of Jan Nattier, Nathan Hill was able to digitize some data from Han Buddhist transcriptions back in 2017 and has now published them as a dataset on Zenodo:

Hill, Nathan, Nattier, Jan, Granger, Kelsey, & Kollmeier, Florian. (2020). Chinese transcriptions of Indic terms in the translations of Ān Shìgāo 安世高 and Lokakṣema 支婁迦讖 [Data set]. Zenodo. http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3757095

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Turkic kaymak and Sinitic sū: a dairy product and a food texture

From Jacob Reed:

Inspired by Miss Gao's 小高姐’s latest video, I've been trying to track down how 酥 acquired its present, seemingly contradictory connotations of "crispy" and "soft / relaxed". Paul Kroll's Classical / Medieval dictionary lists that it originally comes from the Persian for kaymak / clotted cream. 汉语大词典* indicates that this meaning is first attested during the Tang period.  Neither provide any indication of how we got from kaymak / clotted cream to "crispy" (the use of butterfat in pastry?).

In any case, I'm now curious if there's a more general trend of Sinitic dairy terms (like horse-related terms) coming from Central Asia, which would only make sense.

[VHM:  *Hànyǔ dà cídiǎn 漢語大詞典 (Unabridged dictionary of Sinitic)]

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Sia suay (or xia suay): a Hokkien expression in Singapore English

Here at Language Log, we are quite familiar with Singapore English, which comes in two registers:  Singapore Standard English (SSE) and Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish).  The term we are discussing today can be used in either register.

This multipurpose expression is featured in connection with the COVID-19 crisis in two recent articles in The Independent:

I

"'Sia suay should be the word of the year…' Netizens take a dig at Chan Chun Sing now that panic buying is happening in many countries

Many netizens went online to say that those words had become a kind of catch phrase. It implies something that is a disgrace or an embarrassment", by Anna Maria Romero (3/5/20)

II

"'Let’s not xia suay again, Singaporeans.' Netizens respond to Chan Chun Sing’s assurance that the country has enough food supplies

Many people commented thanking him for issuing the reassuring update in such a quick manner and called for Singaporeans to stand united at this time", by Anna Maria Romero (3/17/20)

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