Archive for Reconstructions

Sino-Semitica, part 2: of massage and Old Sinitic reconstructions

As part of our research on the dictionary of Middle Vernacular Sinitic (MVS) that Zhu Qingzhi and I have been working on for more than two decades, I was tickled by this quaint poem (below on the second page) by the medieval Buddhist poet, Wáng Fànzhì 王梵志 (Brahmacārin ब्रह्मचारिन् Wang; fl. first half of 7th c.).

I have been an avid fan of Wáng Fànzhì's unique poetry for nearly half a century.  Quaint, indeed, and also quirky.  Wang Fanzhi is self-demeaning in a funny, adorable way.  The poem I'm about to introduce you to is a good example of his trademark self-abnegation.

What attracted me particularly to this poem for the purposes of our research on MVS is the first word in line 2, chǎngtóu 長頭 ("for a long time"), which does not exist with this meaning in Literary Sinitic (LS) / Classical Chinese (CC).  Finding chǎngtóu 長頭 ("for a long time") in Wang Fanzhi's poem was already enough of a treat, but when I got to the last word of the couplet, I was even more delighted.  As you will momentarily see, what Wang says about his wife's tummy is funny by itself, but the word he uses to describe what the wife does to her tummy made me even more excited.

But let's read the poem first, then I'll talk about the word in question, namely, méisuō 沒娑 ("massage").

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The Tocharian A word for "rug" and Old Sinitic reconstructions, part 2

[This is a guest post by Zhang He in response to the original post on this subject, which attracted considerable attention, such that a lot of people will be interested in what she has to say.]

1. About the Tocharian A word "kratsu" and 罽 and kràts

I am not expert in linguistics, but from general observation and understanding, it seems that Tocharian A "kratsu" does look or sound close to Old Sinitic "kràts". I would like to add 氍毹 qūshū or qūyū for consideration as well. Doesn't qūshū sound even closer to "kratsu"?  [VHM:  氍毹  MS /ɡɨo  ʃɨo/; OS  (Zhengzhang): /*ɡʷa  sro/]

In several dictionaries (see below), 罽 is interpreted as the same with 氍毹 qūshū. According to 说文, qūshū is a kind of local or regional dialect. I think it could be easily located to 西域 (Western Regions) or 罽宾 (an ancient kingdom in northwest India). As I concluded in my study on carpet terminology –- "The terms 罽, qūshū 氍毹, and 缂 could come from any one of the following: Sanskrit kocava, kocavaka, and kaukapaka, Pali kojava, Old Persian gaud, Niya Kharoṣṭhi koj̱ava, Khotanese gahāvara, gaihe, etc., and Sogdian gaudana." Now, there could also be the Tocharian A word "kratsu".

Also, I quoted in my same study on terminology:

"For example, Bailey's entries for Khotanese karasta– and kīḍakyä give such references as:

karasta– 'fur garment'; Pašto krasta 'felt, woolen cloth.' Base IE Pok (?). kēr 'to cut' (Bailey 1979, p. 54)

《康熙字典》:《疏》罽者,織毛爲之,若今之毛氍毹也。《註》師古曰:罽,織毛也。氍毹之屬。
《说文解字》(100–121 CE) 毛部:氍:氍毹、毾㲪,皆氊緂之屬,蓋方言也。从毛瞿声。毹:氍毹也。从毛俞聲。

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Indo-European "cow" and Old Sinitic Reconstructions: awesome

For at least four decades, I have suspected that IE gwou- ("cow") and Sinitic /*[ŋ]ʷə/ (< uvular? [Baxter-Sagart]) ("cow") are related.  Some new scientific research makes this surmise all the more believable.

More than three decades ago, Tsung-tung Chang already published on this idea in his "Indo-European Vocabulary in Old Chinese", Sino-Platonic Papers, 7 (January, 1988), p. 18 (of i, 56), citing Pokorny 482 gʷou and giving "gou" as his OS reconstruction.

Looks pretty simple and straightforward, doesn't it?  Well, it isn't simple at all

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The Tocharian A word for "rug" and Old Sinitic reconstructions

There's a Chinese character 罽 (Mandarin jì, Old Sinitic *kràts), which means "rug, carpet; woolen textile; fish net").  On the basis of its sound, meaning, place, and date of occurrence, it would seem to be related to Toch. A kratsu "rug".

This raises two questions:

1. Does this Tocharian word have cognates in other IE languages?

2. Who borrowed it from whom?   Sinitic from Tocharian or Tocharian from Sinitic?

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Prakritic "Kroraina" and Old Sinitic reconstructions of "Loulan", part 2

What follows is Doug Adams' draft of an excursus that is not trying to be complete in itself (i.e., it's not a free-standing article), but rather something that will provide a certain amount of orientation to readers of the review of Schmidt's Nachlass (for which see the first item in the "Readings" below).

[Excursus: The Name of Lóulán/Kroraina: It is universally assumed (1) that Lóulán (the contemporary Chinese pronunciation of the relevant Chinese characters) and Niya-Prākrit Kroraina (Sogdian krwr'n) refer to the same place[1] and, further, (2) that they are, at bottom, the same word.  In discussions of Lóulán/Kroraina, Lóulán is confidently given the earlier (Old/Middle?—the age is not usually noted) Chinese pronunciation of *γləulan or the like (Schmidt gives *γlaulan).  Since Middle Chinese (ca. 600 AD) /l/ is known to reflect Old Chinese (ca. 1000-200 BC) /r/, it would seem to be a short hop to a reconstruction of *γrəuran in, say, 500 BC.

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Prakritic "Kroraina" and Old Sinitic reconstructions of "Loulan"

Inquiry from Doug Adams:

As you know I'm working on a review for JIES [Journal of Indo-European Studies] on KT Schmidt's Nachlass [VHM:  see here].  I need to say something about the name Loulan itself and, not unusually, I'm sinking uncontrollably into the quicksand of reconstructed Chinese. The question arises concerning the first syllable, represented by Karlgren's character 123b. The modern pronunciation is lóu. Because it is assumed to be the Chinese transcription of the first syllable of the native word Kroraina, one finds, in discussions of Loulan, reconstructions like *gləu or *γləu, with the (unstated) assumption that the *l stands for a yet earlier *r. But, when the name Loulan is not part of the discussion, i.e., in general reconstruction, the initial is just *l– or, earlier, *r– (Schuessler gives OCM * or roʔ [and Late Han (about the turn of the millennium) *lo or lioB]) The Khotanese word referring to Loulan/Kroraina is raurana– and is obviously the same word as the Chinese and, indeed, very probably a borrowing therefrom.         So where does the *gl-/*γl– come from? Or is the Chinese Loulan not a transcription of Kroraina but merely an accidental (partial) look alike?

Any elucidation you can give would be appreciated.

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Tocharian, Turkic, and Old Sinitic "ten thousand"

Serious problem here.

Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish, p. 507b:

F tümen properly 'ten thousand', but often used for 'an indefinitely large number'; immediately borrowed from Tokharian, where the forms are A tmān; B tmane, tumane, but Prof. Pulleyblank has told me orally that he thinks this word may have been borrowed in its turn fr. a Proto-Chinese form *tman, or the like, of wan 'ten thousand' (Giles 12,486).

Source (pdf)

[VHM:  the "F" at the beginning of the entry means "Foreign loanword"]

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Of horse riding and Old Sinitic reconstructions

This post was prompted by the following comment to "The emergence of Germanic" (2/27/19):

…while riding horses _in battle_ is post-Bronze Age (and perhaps of questionable worth at any time), I think riding in general is older, and probably (assuming the usual dating of PIE) common Indo-European.

The domesticated horse, the chariot, and the wheel came to East Asia from the west, and so did horse riding:

Mair, Victor H.  "The Horse in Late Prehistoric China:  Wresting Culture and Control from the 'Barbarians.'"  In Marsha Levine, Colin Renfrew, and Katie Boyle, ed.  Prehistoric steppe adaptation and the horse,  McDonald Institute Monographs.  Cambridge:  McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 2003, pp. 163-187.

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Galactic glimmers: of milk and Old Sinitic reconstructions

Often have I pondered on the origin and precise meaning of the Sinitic word lào, luò (reading pronunciation) 酪 ("fermented milk; yoghurt; sour milk; kumiss"); Old Sinitic (OS) /*ɡ·raːɡ/ (Zhengzhang).  My initial impression was that it may have been related to IE "galactic" words.

Possibly from a Central Asian language; compare Mongolian айраг (ajrag, "fermented milk of mares") and Turkish ayran ("yoghurt mixed with water"). The phonetic similarity between Sinitic (OS *ɡ·raːɡ, "milk"), Ancient Greek γάλα (gála, "milk") and Latin lac ("milk"), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵlákts ("milk") is worth noting (Schuessler, 2007).

(Wiktionary)

Paul Kroll, ed., A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, p. 256a:

1. kumiss, fermented mare's milk (also cow's or sheep's) < Khotan-Saka ragai (with metathesis)

    a. yogurt, milk curdled by bacteria

As Schuessler (2007), p. 345 notes, the fermented drink "arrack" may be a different etymon, a loan from Arabic 'araq ("fermented juice").  (Pulleyblank 1962:  250 contra Karlgren 1926) [VHM:  full references below]

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Of jackal and hide and Old Sinitic reconstructions

[The first page of this post is a guest contribution by Chris Button.]

I've been thinking a little about the word represented by chái 豺* which I would normally reconstruct as *dzrəɣ (Zhengzhang *zrɯ) ignoring any type a/b distinctions. However, it occurred to me that a reconstruction of *dzrəl (for which Zhengzhang would presumably have *zrɯl) would give the same Middle Chinese reflex (I'm not citing Baxter/Sagart since they don't support lateral codas presumably for reasons of symmetry). I'm not sure if outside of its phonetic speller cái 才 there is any reason to go with -ɣ rather than -l in coda position for 豺. However, if we go with a lateral coda as *dzrəl, it looks suspiciously similar to Old Iranian šagāl from Sanskrit śṛgāla (perhaps even more so if we fricativize the Old Iranian /g/ to /ɣ/ intervocalically as in modern Persian).

[*VHM:  This is always a challenging word for translators.  "jackal" and "dhole" are two possibilities.]

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Of honey, bee, mead, and Old Sinitic reconstructions

Pamela Kyle Crossley wonders:

Why, when mima– words for "honey" are so widespread across Eurasia, do English speakers say "honey" instead of some modern form of medhu or meli (except when referring to mead, of course)? Turns out all the Germanic languages left the medhu theme early on, and instead went with variation of *hunaga, which they might originally have cut off from hunigcamb. It sort of suggests that these Germans first encountered honey as imported in combs or frames, not as if they were extracting it from the bees themselves.

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Of ganders, geese, and Old Sinitic reconstructions

I used the expression "take a gander" in something I wrote this morning.  Curious about its origin, I found this:

"Where Did the Phrase 'Take a Gander' Come From?" (Today I Found Out [9/22/12])

This is an interesting, informative article, from which I learned much, including the PIE root for "goose",  and the fact that geese can  fly as high as 30,000 feet!

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Sinitic historical phonology

[Or, as David Prager Branner, who wrote the guest post below, jokingly calls it, "hysterical phrenology".  Note that Branner uses Gwoyeu Romatzyh ( "National Language Romanization"), a type of tonal spelling, for the transcription of Mandarin.]

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This is on the subject of Carbo Kuo's 郭家寶 performance of Shyjing "Shyi yeou charngchuu 隰有萇楚" ("In the low wet grounds is the carambola tree") in Jenqjang Shanqfang's 鄭張尚芳 various antique reconstructions, sent to me by Victor Mair. It pleased me a lot. The issue is one of art, not scholarship, and it should be judged as art.

[VHM:  must hear]

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