Archive for Language and history

Languages and cultures of Central Asia

Herewith, I wish to announce the publication of a stupendous Festschrift in honor of András Róna-Tas’s 90th birthday. 

András Róna-Tas, distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Szeged, Hungary, winner of several international prestigious prizes, has devoted his long academic career to the study of Chuvash, Turkic elements in Hungarian, Mongolic-Tibetan linguistic contacts, the Para-Mongolic language Khitan and other Central Asian languages and cultures.

This book, presented to him on the occasion of his 90th birthday, contains a collection of papers in Turkic and Mongolic Studies, with a focus on the literacy, culture, and languages of the steppe civilizations. It is organized in three sections: Turkic Studies, Mongolic Studies, and Linguistic and cultural contacts of Altaic languages. It contains papers by some of the most renowned experts in Central Asia Studies.

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Tuoba and Xianbei: Turkic and Mongolic elements of the medieval and contemporary Sinitic states

James Millward sent in a very interesting and important communication (copied in full below) touching upon the ethnic composition of what has now become the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) a thousand and more years ago, especially its Turkic and Proto-Turkic components, together with its proto-Mongolic and para-Mongolic congeners.

Since it is of crucial significance for the early middle, middle, and modern history of the East Asian Heartland (EAH) and Extended East Asian Heartland (EEAH) (see the second item by Victor H. Mair in the "Selected readings"), this is a topic that I have long wanted to address in extenso on Language Log, so I welcome Professor Millward's timely submission on the origins and identification of "Tuoba".

Inasmuch as this lengthy post is chiefly about a group called Tuoba (in Modern Standard Mandarin [MSM] pronunciation of the Sinitic / Sinographic transcription of their ethnonym), supposedly a clan of a people called Xianbei (MSM pronunciation of the Sinitic / Sinographic transcription of their ethnonym), and because it is a very thorny and complicated issue having contemporary political implications, we had better gain a modicum of familiarity with who the Tuoba and Xianbei were, as well as where and when they lived.

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Sailor's bed

If I were a cruciverbalist, I might use that as a clue for "hammock", though it didn't turn up here:

https://www.wordplays.com/crossword-solver/sailor%27s-bed

nor here:

http://crosswordtracker.com/clue/sailors-bed/

but it was first here:

https://crossword-solver.io/clue/sailor%27s-bed/

With somer a-comin' — though spryng has barely sprung, at least not in these parts — it's time to drag out our dusty, trusty hammocks and hang them between two trees.  But, historically, just what is a "hammock", and where did the word come from?

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The cognation of "Rusyn", "Ruthenian", and "Russian"

Etymological aficionado that I am, as I suspected "Ruthenian" is related to "Russian".

Some notes:

Related to Ruthene, Ruthenian, Ruthenic, from Medieval Latin Rutheni, Ruteni, related to Russi, Ruzi as Prutheni, Pruteni is to Prussi, Pruzi (Prussians). Compare Rus, Russ, from Old East Slavic Русь (Rusĭ), compare Byzantine Greek Ῥῶς (Rhôs).

(source)

Ditto for "Rusyn":

From Rusyn руси́н (rusýn), from Old East Slavic Русь (Rusĭ, Rus). Compare Ruthenia.

(source)

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New open-access volume on Rusyn studies

Email from Wayles Brown:

I noticed the discussion on Rusyn that appeared on Language Log, and thought some participants might be interested in hearing more about the topic.

Here is a new book on Rusyn studies which just came out in Japan. [The back of the title page, in English, gives the year as 2021, but I gather that the front says "Sapporo, March 2022" in Japanese.] As you'll see, I wrote the introduction, having been interested in Rusyn for some time, and the articles are by people who know more about Rusyn than I do.

As you see from the letter from Mr. Fujimori of the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University, everyone is welcome to forward it to others who might be interested.

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Tai People in South China

[This is a guest post by Bob Ramsey]


Fairy Tale-like Landscape in Guangxi

Millions in South China today, especially in Guangxi, are not Han Chinese at all, but “Tai.” Tai groups in China include, among others, the Dai, the Li, and the Zhuang. Culturally and linguistically related to the Thai (or Siamese) of Thailand, Tai in China don’t ordinarily stand out as different. They live among Han Chinese. Most look and act Chinese. They wear the same clothes. Most are bilingual in Cantonese or some other variety of Chinese. Nevertheless, the PRC classifies them as minorities, and some pose for the tourist trade, sporting exotic “native” clothes and putting on colorful festivals for paying visitors.

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South China becoming Chinese

[This is a guest post by Bob Ramsey]

Museum of Chinese Writing near Anyang*, in North China:

*First stable capital of the Shang / Yin Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BC) and the site of the discovery of the largest cache of oracle bone inscriptions (beginning of the Chinese writing system).

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Taishan and Chinatown

From Bob Ramsey:


Pell Street in New York’s Chinatown, 1899

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Serial blind dates

This story (referencing Australian ABC News [1/13/22], with video)  has been doing the rounds in the Taiwan media:

"Chinese bachelorette locked in blind date's apartment after Henan's snap lockdown:

Woman says her date's performance under lockdown left much to be desired"

By Liam Gibson, Taiwan News (1/14/22)

This extraordinary report begins thus:

An unmarried Chinese woman surnamed Wang (王) had her blind date dramatically extended by several days after authorities announced an immediate lockdown.

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World's largest inscribed stele: politics and polemics in Northeast Asia

About ten years ago, I stood next to this gigantic granite stele which is situated in the present-day city of Ji'an (coordinates of city center:  41°07′31″N 126°11′38″E) on the bank of the Yalu River in Jilin Province of Northeast China, directly across from North Korea:

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Growing up Chinese in Uyghurstan

This post was inspired by Bruce Humes' "Growing up Uyghur in Xinjiang: 'Setting Sail in a Chinese-language World'” (12/22/21):

In China’s Minority Fiction, Sabina Knight notes how China is pushing its ethnic minorities — particularly the Uyghur in Xinjiang — to master Mandarin:

“The question of cultural survival haunts Patigül’s Bloodline《百年血脉》(2015). The novel situates the narrator—who, like the author, is half-Uyghur and half-Hui—within the matrix of the Han majority’s aggressive promotion of Chinese:

As my father, he needed to demonstrate that he knew about Chinese, but . . . his knowledge was [just] bits and pieces he’d picked up from other Uyghurs in the village, and he still spoke Uyghur most of the time; I, on the other hand, went to a Chinese school and was setting sail into a Chinese-language world. (trans. Natascha Bruce)

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Missionary Linguistics; the joys of interpreting

Geoff Wade called my attention to this interesting website: The Digital Orientalist (also accessible via Twitter).  The current issue is on "Missionary Linguistics – Latin, Portuguese and Japanese resources online", by Michele Eduarda Brasil de Sá (12/24/21).  The article begins:

In the mid-90s, I was an undergraduate student taking Latin and Japanese classes. People looked at me as if I were doing something silly and had no idea of the meaning of the word “job market,” usually asking my reasons to study languages that were so… different. Well, I would go really fine on answering that I started learning them by curiosity and liked them. In the Humanities, we get used to being asked  “what for?” about the things we love to study.

That’s when I first learned about Jesuit grammar books and dictionaries on the Japanese language. As for grammar books, we must not understand them strictly as the ones we use nowadays, of course. They are called artes and bring information about the language and history, religion, and habits – summing up, relevant information for newcomers who needed to get rapidly acquainted with the people. (For the primary databases with related material, see James Morris’ Beyond “Laures Kirishitan Bunko”: Digital Repositories for Studying 16th and 17th Century Japanese Christianity). By that time, I had no idea of how relevant they were for the history of Japanese Linguistics. One of these books is João Rodrigues Tçuzzu‘s Arte da lingoa de Iapam, where, in its first part, he offers a pattern of cases (nominative, genitive, and so on, following the Latin tradition) for nouns and pronouns with the addition of particles, clarifying that there are neither declensions nor plural or gender inflections in Japanese:

(Free downloadable version here)

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China's Japan

According to this website of stars with the surname Chu 楚, Sara Chu was born in Japan, China:

Chǔ Jǐn (Sara Chu), shēngrì:  1974 nián 10 yuè 29 rì (xīngqí'èr), chūshēng dì: Zhōngguó Rìběn, xīngzuò: Tiānxiēzuò

楚谨(Sara Chu),生日:1974年10月29日(星期二),出生地: 中国日本,星座:天蝎座

Chu Jin (Sara Chu), birthday: October 29, 1974 (Tuesday), place of birth:  Japan, China, constellation: Scorpio

I've never heard of Sara Chu, and I've never heard of a place in China called "Japan", but it's possible that I missed both of them.

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