Pulled noodles: Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin lāmiàn

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Some notes on the origins of the words and characters for wheat, flour, and noodles in Turkic and Sinitic languages

On the Xinjiang Studies list, a number of questions about noodles and the words for them in Sinitic and other languages have come up.

First of all, Sue Naquin called to my attention this article which seems to show a connection between Uyghurs and the invention of pulled noodles (lāmiàn), which the Uyghurs call laghman:

Amy Qin, "Q. and A.: Jen Lin-Liu on Noodles and Their Origins".

I replied to Sue:

No, that's much too late.

Jen Lin-liu's right in looking toward the northwest, but there were noodles in that area long before the Uyghurs got to Eastern Central Asia (around the middle of the 9th century).

Then, hoping to elicit some evidence for the origin of the Uyghur word "laghman", I posted this note on the Xinjiang Studies list:

Laghman and lamian ("pulled noodles")

This section of the Wikipedia article on lamian is confused and unnecessarily contentious toward Uyghur cuisine.

Before I suggest revisions to the editors, do members of this list have any particular suggestions on how to improve it?

BTW, I've always felt that "laghman" and "lamian" must be related words, but which one came first?

At this point, a member of the list interjected:

Is there  a possible connection between Uyghur lagman and Korean lengmian (which is translated as "cold noodles"?)

N.B.:  I think they meant naengmyeon (랭면 [North Korea], 냉면 [South Korea]), also known as raengmyeon (in North Korea), naeng-myeon, naengmyun, or naeng-myun.

To which I replied:

I doubt that, since the same expression exists in Chinese, lěng miàn 冷面 (i.e., it is Sino-Korean vocabulary) and means something very different from lamian.

Then another member of the Xinjiang Studies list asked this big question:

Is MIAN ("noodles; flour") a Chinese word in origin or was it borrowed from somewhere else?

This is my answer to that question:

The character miàn 麵 ("flour; noodles") is not among the oracle bone and bronze inscriptions, nor is it in Shuowen jiezi, so there's probably no legitimate, original seal form either.  The first we encounter it is the History of the Qi 齊書, "Treatise on Rites" 禮志, which would put it in the early medieval period at the time when north(west)ern peoples from the steppe were occupying the heartland of what is now China.

Its variant 麪 is even later.

The simplified form 面 originally meant "face".  While that is old, and has Tibeto-Burman cognates, it has nothing to do with flour or noodles, and was only employed in the construction of the character miàn 麵 ("flour; noodles") as a phonophore (sound-bearing component).

Nearly two decades ago, I wrote a very long and detailed proposal for considering the Sinitic word mài 麥 ("wheat") as having been derived from an Indo-European source. This is on pp. 36b-38a of "Language and Script: Biology, Archaeology, and (Pre)History," International Review of Chinese Linguistics, 1.1 (1996), 31a-41b.

I think that it is possible that miàn 麵 ("flour; noodles") may well be a nasalized cognate of the IE word for "wheat".  After all, we do know that wheat came to China from the west, and we also know that wheat was an important item in life and death for the Bronze Age inhabitants of the Tarim Basin, whose language was likely to have been Indo-European.  If anyone wants references, I can provide them.

At this point, James Millward commented on the Xinjiang Studies list:

I had assumed that laghmen was a Uyghur adoptation of lamian, and that it dated to the 18th century Qing conquest and subsequent migration of Han and Chinese Muslims to the Xinjiang region.  Given that the dish as currently made relies pretty heavily on tomatoes and peppers (both new world crops) that would suggest a relatively modern development of the dish as we know it, or at least with its sauce.

Here are a couple things that would be useful to know:

1.  What is the earliest Turkological reference to "laghmen" and / or anything noodle-like?  Would Mahud Kashgari's dictionary have anything?

2.  Since Victor was flashing his linguistic chops, is that "gh" in "laghmen" a possible clue for the age of the word?  It seems very strange to have that back consonant come into the Uyghur word if it is a borrowing from Chinese lamian in recent centuries:  a time when at least in Mongolian the "gh" was dropping out (though that's in inter-vocalic environments, which Laghmen is not.  Still, in Kazakh etc. we have tau, vs. tagh in Uyghur, so that gh consonant doesn't seem very stable in these Altaic languages.)   But I'm thinking of  all those bakshi, baghshi,hakusei and similar words for doctor / shaman in many surrounding languages, which all began with the Tang era Chinese pronunciation of the characters we now read as boshi 博士.   Did la 拉 have a velar or other back stop as a final consonant in medieval or earlier Chinese?  If so, that would suggest an earlier borrowing.

Back to Victor's link to the wikipedia post that started all this:  the author there refers to Central Asian Uyghur laghmen; I'm sure many on this list know that the version from former USSR is often very different from that served in Xinjiang.  It's soupier, and seasoned with dill, and thus somewhat Russified.

I published a laghmen recipe in Millward, James, "Chiles on the Silk Road."  Chile Pepper Magazine, December 1993.   Don't run out and try to find this rare article, though, since it was severely modified by the editors for American kitchens, and I didn't really have a good informant on how to make it in the first place.

The final word for today before I post this comes from Leopold Eisenlohr, who is at this moment in Qinghai eating real halal noodles:

Lagman or laghman?

It should be with an h to indicate the غ. It's spelled لەغمەن which I would transliterate as läghmän, while others would go with leghmen.

What I want to know is how lāmiàn 拉面 and Xīnjiāng bànmiàn 新疆拌面 (VHM:  "noodles mixed with sauce") are distinguished and why. In Qinghai it seems more common to call Uyghur noodles banmian than lamian. I think they are the same thing.

Noodles may seem prosaic, but there are many questions about them that remain to be answered.


  1. Victor Mair said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    This can hardly be a word of Turkic origin since Turkic words don't start with l.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

    From Alexander Vovin:

    No native Turkic word can start with initial l-, thus the Uighur word must be a loan. It is not in Mahmuud al-QashGari dictionary, and, of course, nowhere in Old Tirkic, as far as I can judge — not quite a typical Turkic food. Final -gh is a problem, we would expect -p if it were directly from MC. Nothing clicks immediately from Mongolic or Manchu (but I can now only consult my memory, since most of my Manchu and Mongolic materials are in boxes). May be some kind of a contamination with Tibetan thukpa? Or could be a Northwestern Chinese -Ɂ is reinterpreted as -gh?

    The first syllable of Korean layngmyen (NK l- is orthographic, except in the speech of party comrades who are required to stick to it) or SK nayngmyen has nothing to do with the word in question: In Japan it is special type of Korean black noodles that is referred to as reimen, because any other cold noodles are hiyashi udon or hiyashi soba. The origin must be Chinese 冷麺, of course.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 4:37 pm

    From Stefan Georg:

    this is very likely just the Chinese word. The inorganic velar may be an encroachment from/contamination with Uzbek /lagan/, Modern "Uighur“ /lägän/, which is a kind of dish or plate. Such things happen easily with foreign words („gimme a lagan of that Chinese lamian stuff, or was it then /laghman/, anyway, a lagan with that lagman stuff“). /lagan/ itself is < Pers. < Arab. (lakan, a kind of copper basin, not necessarily for cooking purposes, but in P. this can be a frying pan, tajik a dish, plate and the like). The Arabic is nonstandard, but attested (with an „unusual“ /g/-pronunciation, explicitly mentioned) in 17th century Arabic (Egypt, possibly elsewhere). This may (or may not, but it may :-) be part of the history of this non-Turkic word in Uzbek and Turki.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    As already noted by Marcel and Sasha, it cannot be native Turkic with an initial l-. The word is also found in Uzbek, closely related to Uyghur, but more heavily Iranized in its phonology in the “official" Uzbek (stemming from Chaghatay, the real Uzbeks/Özbeks spoke a Qïpchaq Turkic language): laghmon (laġmān/läġmān). You may want to think of an Iranian provenance, although I cannot think of any term in Persian. The latter was the source for laqsha and variants found in Osm. Turkish (lâkçe “patties of rolled paste”, from dim. of lâk [Redhouse, 1890: 1620]. Tatar, Noghay, Qazaq etc. and it was probably borrowed from Turkic into Russ. (dial) loksha, lokhsha (standard form lapsha), Ukr. lokshyna, laksha, lapsha “noodle". I dealt with this and other terms relating to the Middle Turkic pasta culture in my “Chopsticks and pasta in medieval Turkic cuisine” Rocznik Orientalistyczny, XLIX/2 (1994): 73-82.

  5. Eidolon said,

    August 8, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

    According to Wikipedia and the sources it cites, the Chinese called noodles 湯餅 or 煮饼 prior to the use of 面. The dating of noodles in China looks to precede the use of 面 by several centuries at the minimum.

    As for the term itself, is it safe to say that the etymologies of 拉面, 拉, and 面 are each separate? In that case, instead of attacking the problem from the side of 面, I think it is of greater value to find the etymology of 拉. Those familiar with Turkic seem to universally reject a Turkic etymology for lagh-/lah/la, but is there a Sino-Tibetan etymology for it?

    In case there is, I think the parsimonious explanation is that 拉面 is a ST loan into Turkic, whether directly/via an intermediary. That does not, of course, imply that 面 is itself a native ST word for noodle/flour.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 12:06 am


    The earliest form of lā 拉 belongs to the seal script, but it is not found among the bronze and oracle bone inscriptions, so it wouldn't be much older than two thousand years.

    In Middle Sinitic and Ancient Sinitic, lā 拉 would have had a labial (-p) final, not a velar.

    "The Songshi Yangsheng Bu (Chinese: 宋氏養生部), which was written by Song Xu and dates back to 1504, has the earliest description of the method to make lamian."




    In various topolects, there are different words for this type of noodles. The earliest occurrence of the term lāmiàn 拉麵 that I know of (in a work by the feminist-philologist Yu Zhengxie 兪正燮 [1775-1840]) is from the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, hence quite late. See Hanyu Da Cidian 6.501a.

    zdic considers lāmiàn 拉麵 to be topolectal.


  7. Eidolon said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 12:50 am

    Hmm, so the best option for the loan idea is for a late loan – whichever the direction – due to the lack of a labial final and the late occurrence in Chinese…

    I find the term laqsha and its Iranian?/Urdu? precedent lakhshah – vermicelli – interesting. lāmiàn 拉麵 – pulled noodle – occurred to me to be a fairly straightforward morphological construct – it aptly describes what the dish is and how it's made, and is the sort of compound word that one sees emerging in the process of trying to distinguish between different types of noodles. But seeing lakhshah and its variants makes one wonder whether that morphological construct is actually a mirage ie lakhshah>?>lakh(shah)-mien->laghmien/laghman? The mien suffix still begs the question, however, because one presumes lakhshah was already a full word in its own language and did not need to be appended to.

    So who coined lāmiàn 拉麵, in the end? I think one way to investigate further is to see whether 拉麵 was used to describe a different type of noodle than the hand-pulled noodle that it has become tightly coupled with today, because AFAIK the etymology of lakhshah has nothing to do with pulling.

  8. Tom said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    I was wondering what the "Rhapsody on Wheat Foods" (Bǐng fù 餅賦) by Shù Xī 束皙 (ca. 264-ca. 304) said about this, but alas, no lāmiàn 拉麵, just tāngbǐng 湯餅. The closest thing you have, conceptually, in the early period are suǒbǐng 索餅 ("string wheat food") and shuǐyǐn 水引 ("water-pulled' [wheat food]"]. David Knechtges discusses these in a 1986 article in JAOS called "A Literary Feast: Food in Early Chinese Literature" and in an entry for the recently published Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook. Interestingly, he notes that one of the earliest terms for thin noodles, bótuō 餺飥, "does not look very Chinese."

  9. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 6:55 am

    From Peter Zieme:

    Here's another voice: Kashghari has a similar dish: chuqmin (see Clauson Dictionary 408) “a loaf made in the shape of a cake and cooked in steam in a cooking pot”, It is not laghmän, but the second syllable is the same 麵, see Buell's book “Soup for the Qan”, p. 587.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 6:57 am

    From Stefan Georg:

    It doesn’t seem to be attestable before the 20th century anywhere, it will thus simply be the Chinese loan, with that inorganic velar introduced due to some analogy, maybe the one I cooked up, but it should also not be overlooked that there is a prominent placename not too far off from Uzbek territory, Laghman in Afghanistan. No, this would *not* mean that the dish comes from there or has anything to do with the region. But it is not uncommon that culinary items acquire some (historically undeserved) association with a place or region, simply because those who came to use it do not understand its original name.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 7:05 am

    From Leopold Eisenlohr:

    "The Qijia culture of Gansu and Qinghai provinces, for instance, besides providing examples of pre-Erlitou bronze working, was reported in 2005 to have yielded evidence of another abiding ingredient in Chinese civilization, namely 'the oldest intact noodles yet discovered.' Dated from about 2000 BC, they were found at a site called Lajia and had been made from millet flour." (From John Keay's China: a History).

    The Qijia culture also seems to have had cultural contact with Central Asia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qijia_culture

  12. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:08 am

    From Marcel Erdal:

    Interestingly, we could find neither the Chinese nor the Uyghur term in the Pentaglot; can anybody find laghman in Chaghatay?

    [VHM: The Pentaglot to which Marcel refers was published in 1794]

    In Kalmyk (Ramstedt), laG laG ge- is 'brodeln, kochen' and laG laG gedzh ide- 'große stücke essen od. verschlucken'. laghman may have been influenced by some such onomatopoeic.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:29 am

    A new, but directly related question.

    On Language Log, we have often discussed the question of whether or not phonemes can be borrowed from one language to another or whether phonotactic constraints prohibit that.

    See, for example:

    "Dungan: a Sinitic language written with the Cyrillic alphabet"


    "Kiss kiss / BER: Chinese photoshop victim"


    If it is true that phonotactic constraints prohibit the borrowing of phonemes, then how can we have "laghman" in Uyghur, since Turkic words don't start with "l"? And how does the business of Turfan vs. Turpan fit into this?

  14. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:35 am

    From Leopold Eisenlohr [N.B.: Leo has been trying to post comments for himself, but the internet connection from Qinghai will not permit him to do so]:

    For what it's worth, here's an example in Uyghur of the kind of folk etymological treatment läghmän gets:


    The author, apparently one Yasin Ubaydulla, says that an internet pal (whose full name he can't remember) sent him this explanation: "The original name for läghmän was lägmän, referring to the fact that it floats in the water. The root of this word, läg, is similar to that of the word lägläk (kite) – one floats in the air and one floats in the water."

    He does say (and the comments go on a bit more about which version each speaker uses and which they think is correct) that lägmän is the eastern Turpan version, läghmän is the southern Qäshqär/Kashghar version, and längmän is the northern Ili version.

    So I assume lägläk is also a foreign borrowing as an l-initial? I would love to read an explanation of how to understand the lack of l-initials in terms of the saz-lir distinction if someone wants to explain it (basically an alternation between s and l, and z and r, in some Turkic languages as far as I pitifully know).

    The whole context of food names and transmission is extremely interesting. What are samsas in Uyghur are samosas in Hindi and shingaras in Bengali and…that's all I know but I'm sure there are more. And then there's polu/pulao/plov etc. So the possibility of läghmän coming from West Asia is still distinct.

  15. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    On Leopold's mention of samosa, etc., we also have words like mantou in Central Asia, even in Russia:


    And whenever I eat naan (originally a Persian word) in an Indian restaurant, I'm always reminded that it has its analogs all over Central Asia:


  16. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:48 am

    From Stefan Georg:

    A few more details, which may possibly help:

    Jarring has also the form /lengmen/, which he must have heard in the 1920s in places like Kashgar or the like. This is interestingly close to Dungan ЛЁНМЯН „lagman“. Jarring gives a description of the dish in his Materials to the Knowledge of Eastern Turki, Vol. IV, 156-157, which I don’t have in arm’s reach now, but I trust someone has (?). This may easily turn out to be the earliest quotable occurrence in Turki and/or Uzbek (?).

  17. Daniel Tse said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 9:18 am

    Out of interest, what is the PIE root which the article "Language and Script: Biology, Archaeology, and (Pre)History" ties to 麥?

  18. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 9:29 am

    From Peter Golden:

    Gunnar Jarring in his An Eastern Turki-English Dialect Dictionary, Lunds Universitets Årsskrift, N.F. Avd. 1, Bd. 56, Nr. 4 (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1964): 182 has læɣmɛn ~ lɛŋmɛn “a dish, consisting of boiled strips of dough.” He derives it from Chinese, but does not point to a specific term. He offers a full description of the preparation of the dish in his Materials to the Knowledge of Eastern Turki . Lunds Universitets Årsskrift, N.F. Avd. 1, Bd. 47, Nr. 41 (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1951): 56-157, where he notes the Chinese etymology (again Chinese form not give) comes from N.A. Baskakov, V.M. Nasilov, Ujgursko-russkij slovar’ (Moskva: Gos. izd. inostr. i нac. slovarej, 1939): 91. The word is discussed in T.R. Raximov, Kitajskie élmenty v sovremennom ujgurskom jazyke (Moskva: Nauka, 1970):243-244: له ݣمه ن (lǝngmǝn derived from Chin.凉 liang “cold” 面 mian “noodle”) “noodles with meat” (lapša s mjasom), also cites Jarring læɣmɛn ~ lɛŋmɛn.

    A Chinese source seems quite possible.

  19. John Cowan said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

    If it is true that phonotactic constraints prohibit the borrowing of phonemes, then how can we have "laghman" in Uyghur, since Turkic words don't start with "l"?

    I don't think statements like that necessarily count as phonotactic constraints — they may be simply gaps. For example, no native Germanic word can begin with /p/, which would reflect the rare to non-existent PIE *b, but English and even German are full of French and Latin loanwords in /p(f)-/. (The oldest such loan, path/Pfad, is all over Germanic but is probably < Iranian, or less likely Celtic.) Similarly, native French words with Latin etyma in s- plus stop gained an epenthetic vowel and then lost the /s/ (replaced in writing by a circumflex), like êpee < spada, but there are now plenty of English loanwords in French with sp-, st-; compare French stress < English with Spanish estrés, where there is still a phonotactic constraint against /st-/. English has /fl-/ but not /vl-/, and Vlissingen in New Amsterdam became Flushing, Queens, but naive anglophones don't seem to have trouble saying Vlissingen for the original Dutch city today.

  20. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    When I did my “chopsticks” article, based on an Oğuz form, šökü, found in the Hexaglot (mid-14th century) and rather like Modern Uyghur čökɛ (allowing for certain sound shifts), I tried to hunt down all the Middle Turkic terms for noodle/pasta-type dishes. The use of chopsticks by Turkic nomads is attested in the early medieval era and there are pictures of Uyghur gentlemen with them neatly tucked in their sashes (qušaq). In short, the “pasta culture” has some considerable history among the Turkic peoples and I only scratched the surface in my brief article. Unfortunately, läġmān did not appear in the Middle Turkic sources I was using. It is an aspect of Turkic culture that is largely neglected.

  21. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

    From Mehmet Olmez:

    [For those who read Turkish]

    Yazı dilimize Oğuzların günlük konuşma dilinden geçen, dilimize çok eski devirde Anadoluya gelmeden evvel girdiği tahmin edilen iki kelime vardır. Çok eskiden oğuzcaya girmiş olmaları dolayısıyla bu kelimeler Türkçeymiş gibi kabullenilmiş, konuşma dilindeki imlaları yazıya yansımıştır. Dolayısıyla Farsça, daha doğrusu İran dillerine ait imlaları kullanılmamıştır. Bunlardan ilki Anadolu’da yaygın olarak kullanılan erişte sözüdür. Farsça rişta/rişte sözünden geldiği bilinen bu söz belli ki daha Türkler Anadolu’ya gelmeden evvel Farsçadan alınıp kullanılmaya başlanmıştır (Steingass s. 603). Mutfak kültürü açısından bakıldığında, Orta Asya’da hamur ürünleri, hamur kültürü ile fazla bağı olmayan, Türkler “ekmek” hariç, konuyla ilgili kavram ve terimleri çoğunlukla komşu dillerden, Çinceden, Farsçadan ya da Arapçadan almışlardır. Bir örnek vermek gerekirse, en eski olarak “hamur” kelimesi Hz. İsa’nın kahinlerle karşılaşmasını anlatan Eski Uygurca metinde şöyle geçer: ol mogoçlarka taş bėşikniŋ buluŋınta mėn üzmiş teg bir yumgak taşıg üzüp bėrdi “Kâhinlere taş beşiğin köşesinden hamur keser gibi bir yumak (bir parça) taşı koparıp verdi”.[1] Bu Çince men (麵 mian) “hamur, hamur işi” kelimesi bugün de Uygurların en çok pişirdikleri yemeklerden birisinin adında ikinci unsur olarak geçer: lagmen (Çince 撈麵 lao mian veya 拉麵 lamian, Jap. ラーメン rāmen). Çağdaş Uygurcada kullanılan laġmen sözü için, sonda bulunan -g sesinden dolayı 拉 la değil de 撈 lao sözünü düşünmemiz daha uygun olacaktır. Çünkü 撈 lao’nun Eski Çince şeklinin sonunda -w bulunurken (krş. Pulleyblank s. 183) 拉 la sözününün sonunda -p bulunur. -g’nin en yakın olduğu ünsüz -w olmasından dolayı bu şekilde düşünebiliriz. 麵 mian için bak. Pulleyblank s. 214.

    [1] F W K Müller, Uigurica [I], s. 7; söz konusu kelime Eski Uygurcada “un” (?) anlamıyla iki kez daha P. Zieme’nin yayımladığı hasat metinlerinde geçer, bak. 1975, 55. satır ve sayfa 127; 1989 satır 16 ve sayfa 148.

  22. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

    From Sasha Vovin:

    Thanks to Victor for starting this very interesting discussion: it demonstrates how even 'insignificant' at the first glance words can provide us with tons of information.

    Actually the Chinese word (or more exactly its predecessor) is in Pentaglot, but not the Uighur version of it:

    vol. III, p. 3767(Beijing: Minzu chubanshe 1957 reprint):


    Uighur word is obviously not laeghmaen, it is too calligraphic for me to read exactly, but its Manchu transcription is sodzima yugure.

    Manchu has tatangge hangse, lit. 'pulled noodles', an obvious calque from Chinese.

    Mongolian is tatamga qoruqai budag-a 'rice pulled [like] worms' another semi-calque from Chinese. I wonder though whether tatamga really should be tatalga.

    Tibetan is 'then-skyo (Classical), then-kyo (colloquial). 'then is 'to pull', I do not remember what skyo is off the top of my head, but judging from the first component another likely calque from Chinese.

    So it looks like Uighur borrowed its later shortened form 拉麺, while other languages calqued it.

    Mehmet's idea about laeghmaen being from 撈麺 rather than from 拉麺 is very attractive, but I have one little note and two questions: first Pulleyblank transcription law here is misleading, we are dealing here with an off-glide non-syllabic -u, and nor with an approximant or a bilabial spirant. Second, are there any other cases when Chinese -au is borrowed by Uighur as -agh or -aegh? Also, according to de Francis ABC Comprehensive Chinese-English Dictionary, the largest one on the modern Chinese I currently can consult, 撈麺 'seasoned mixed noodles' and 拉麺 'noodles made by pulling the dough' are not quite the same thing. Which type is Uighur laeghmaen? Probably Peter or Mehmet can easily come with answers to both questions.

  23. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    Uyghur sozma ügrä signifies 'stretched noodles'. In Modern Uyghur,
    ügrä is 'soup with thin noodles'. I didn't mention that yesterday
    because there is no word laghman here.

  24. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

    From Stefan Georg:

    > Uighur word is obviously not laeghmaen, it is too calligraphic for me to read exactly, but its Manchu transcription is sodzima yugure.

    It’s sthl. /sozma ugr(i/e)/ (Jarring) „long noodle"

    > Manchu has tatangge hangse, lit. 'pulled noodles', an obvious calque from Chinese.
    > Mongolian is tatamga qoruqai budag-a 'rice pulled [like] worms' another semi-calque from Chinese. I wonder though whether tatamga really should be tatalga.

    Neither, nor. It should be, and is, /tatamal/.

    > Tibetan is 'then-skyo (Classical), then-kyo (colloquial). 'then is 'to pull', I do not remember what skyo is off the top of my head, but judging from the first component another likely calque from Chinese.

    pap, paste, dough (no, I don’t remember this, I looked it up :-)

    I wouldn't assume that the Pentaglot is really instructive about what paople actually „said“ in those languages. Sometimes certainly, but sometimes it only seems to record what people *should* say, like Soviet razgovorniki. It seems to be the case here, where obviously everybody seems to want to form a calque on Chinese.

  25. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

    From Peter Golden:

    The Turkish version of Emir N. Nadžip (Эмир Наджипович Наджип )'s Uyghur-Russian Dictionary (unavailable to me) (Emir Necipoviç Necip, Yeni Uygur Türkçesi, çev. İlklil Kurban, Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu, 2008: 254) has leġmen “kıymalı makarna” (spaghetti/noodles with minced meat). Jarring’s Materials to the Knowledge of Eastern Turki IV:156-157 (noted previously) has a detailed account of the preparation of læġmæn (as he transcribes it). It stresses the use of high quality flour, which is kneaded and torn into very small pieces. The pieces are then greased with fat and made into “wicks” (square pieces), which are stretched and boiled, then put into a basin and rinsed with cold water. The læġmæn is put on a plate or in a cup, sprinkled with some pepper and then the kabab is put on it, along with 2-3 spoons of vinegar (for those who prefer it). The dish is eaten with chopsticks (I have abbreviated and paraphrased the account). In answer to Sasha’s question, clearly we have pulled dough which is mixed with seasoned meat.

  26. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

    From Stefan Georg:

    Let me try to summarize what I have learned and think so far.

    The issue is the provenance of the Uzbek and „Uyghur“ name for a dish of noodles, which basically is found in the form(s) /laghman/, /lagman/, /lengmen/ athl.

    The dish seems to be, by and large, the same as Chinese /lamian/.

    Turkic provenance is a priori out for phonotactic reasons.

    Older attestations in Turkic seem to be lacking, including Chaghatay (Zenker, PC, Borovkov – nothing).

    The oldest attestation found so far is in G. Jarring’s field materials (I do not know from which place, since I do not have Vol. IV here).

    Maybe an earlier attestation may be found in some travelogue, word list or text collection, but it does not seem that it is reasonable to expect a much greater time-depth here. As it looks, the Chinese dish, and its name, may have entered Turkestan together within creasing Chinese presence in the region after the three emperor’s wars. The Qing Pentaglot only mentions (or, then, „prescribes“) calques on Chinese for all its languages.

    Jarring mentions the Turki as simply < Chinese, w/o further comment. The only disturbing detail for this is the word-internal velar. For this, several possible explanations have been mentioned, a word for a dish/plate (/lagan/), of P. < Ar. (and possibly still earlier < Greek) origin, but current in Uzbek and Uyghur. A possible onomatopoetic of the basic shape /lVg/q-/ with a usage around „gobbling“, but also „bubbling“ and the like. A placename in Afghanistan with the exact form /Laghman/ (I would not rule this out too lightly (not because it was my idea, but this helps me a lot to cling to it :-) - I know quite some cases in which, folk-etymologically, foreign words are remodelled to resemble (or be identical with) a (remote) place name, both for food items (very common) and for other things. The „story“ behind this can, then, easily be invented, if any is felt to be needed. This does *not* mean that the Afghan province has anything to do with this dish, only that someone, at some point, felt that it might (it is not in, but also not too far off Uzbek-speaking territory). I think everybody will know similar cases. To the possible sources of the analogical origin of that velar, it is possible to add another one: P. (< A.) /laqm/, gobbling, eating fast, and possibly also P. (< Ar.) /lu/aqma(t)/ (same √) "a mouthful, a morsel, a kind of fritter" (the latter meaning also as P. /luqum/ - note that the orthographic is, in Persian = /gh/.

    Actually *all these* may have played a role („conspired“) in making the (for a monolingual Central Asian Turk not transparent/analyzable) Chinese word more palpable, by smuggling an unetymological velar into it.

  27. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

    From Marcel Erdal:

    Stefan forgot to mention the very good proposal of Ölmez to derive the word from 撈麵 lao mian instead, as being closer phonetically. This is also a well-attested phrase and SOME of the photos offered for this dish on the internet really do look like läghmän.

    The assimilative variant with -ng- seems to be quite well attested in various places. I assume that the Dungan form mentioned was borrowed from Uyghur.

  28. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

    From Stefan Georg:

    That’s right!

    It makes an even better donor, I think.

  29. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

    From Sasha Vovin:

    Mongolian is tatamga qoruqai budag-a 'rice pulled [like] worms' another semi-calque from Chinese. I wonder though whether tatamga really should be tatalga.

    Neither, nor. It should be, and is, /tatamal/.

    Tatamal, of course, makes much better sense, but I have two problems here: in my edition I see two shyd, not one after {m} and before {l}, and also the last sign seems to have too long leg for an {l}, although the latter has a characteristic upward hook for {l}, normally absent for {a} in printed form, but in manuscripts {a} might be upcurved. You are the expert here, so you tell me how to solve this (:-). A mistake in adding one more shyd?

    > Tibetan is 'then-skyo (Classical), then-kyo (colloquial). 'then is 'to pull', I do not remember what skyo is off the top of my head, but judging from the first component another likely calque from Chinese.
    Thanks, my Tibetan dictionaries are still in the boxes (:-).

  30. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

    From Sasha Vovin, replying to Peter Golden:

    Thanks, Peter. Then the semantics definitely works in favor of Mehmet's explanation. If a couple of other examples could be used to demonstrate -u > -gh in Chinese loanwords in Uighur, it will become a definite one.

  31. Victor Mair said,

    August 9, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

    From Brendan O'Kane:

    There are words like “mantou/mandu/mantu/manti” that seem to exist all along the Silk Road. (The Chinese version is the blandest one I’m aware of; the Afghan version described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manti_(dumpling) sounds pretty delicious.)

  32. JS said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    The MC antecedent of Mandarin 'pull' seems to have been an open syllable, with "entering tone" (that is, final -p) a lexicographical artifact (and/or a feature of a different word written with the same graph): this and related points were discussed at length on LL last year — see esp. the note from Bill Baxter here.

    As regards the 撈麵 possibility, might I lightheartedly suggest that we find the Uyghur velar because Bernhard Karlgren and Li Fang-Kuei were correct about a velar or labiovelar coda in the OC 勞 phonetic series… which, um, survived in some vernaculars until the 18th century?

    But especially if James Millward in VHM's original post is on to something re: -agh in Uyghur vs. -au in (some) other Turkic, I suppose we might have a Uyghur borrowing from an MC lau that exploited this analogy, perhaps via some variety with gh > u and in combination with a false/folk etymology?

  33. Victor Mair said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 7:47 am

    From Stefan Georg:

    No, Sasha, sorry for being stubborn, it is really /tatamal/, quite clear (and „sense-making"). Look at other pages of the WT to get the hang of the writing in this work. There really is no riddle.

  34. Victor Mair said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:39 am

    From Sasha Vovin:

    Yes, Stefan, you are absolutely right, and I was completely wrong: there is indeed only one shyd between {m} and {l}, so it is tatamal and nothing else. And you are also right about the style of writing of final {l}. My apologies.

    OK, let us indeed not to stray aside.

  35. Victor Mair said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 11:42 am

    From James Millward:

    1. When I was writing about the Uyghur dish around 1990, I recall not being certain how to spell it. I was not reading it in Uyghur, so didn't know the orthography, but I'd asked in different parts of Xinjiang. I remember hearing and recording laghmen, lengmen, lagmen. But also I heard (and for a while even spelled it this way myself) raghmen. That may simply have been an artifact of pronunciation, since people were not used to initial l and blurred it with r?

    2. I would not dismiss the Dungan ЛЁНМЯН and Jarring's læɣmɛn ~ lɛŋmɛn . The Dunggan presumably reflects northern Xinjiang, and Jarring's would be southern pronounciation. Both have a nasal, Jarring's has ŋ; the Cyrilic is H not нг , but that doesn't seem a great difference. Maybe we are dealing with some kind of liangmian, lengmian term here, coming with Chinese and especially Hui? The n drops out here and there in Uyghur leaving the velar? and there is association with lamian that broadens the vowel to "a" from æ or ɛ?

    That is not so parsimonious, and leaves of the problem than laghmen is not cold, but does explain the velar or uvular in the Uyghur versions. And historically a Hui / Dunggan connection makes great sense. And I wonder why SA (who is Hui from Xining) asked about the Korean liangmian word? that's clearly not related to the Uyghur, but why was he interested in the 'ng' sound?

  36. Victor Mair said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

    From Eugene N. Anderson:

    I can throw into the pot an Afghan lasagna-like dish called lakhchak. Actually lasagna comes from Greek laganon. Maybe something there.

  37. Y said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

    Is Semitic, e.g. Aramaic laḥma’ 'bread, food' a possible source?

  38. SFReader said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    Origin of lagman is clearly linked to very common Turkic word lagsha (noodles) which was since then borrowed in many languages, including Russian (lapsha with the same meaning).

    A Buryat-Mongolian blogger I follow, did a research on its origins a while back and came to conclusion that original Turkic word for noodles was ugre, but the Mongolian had a native term lahsha (from lahshih – to become sticky), therefore, Turkic lagsha was a 13th century borrowing from Mongolian which was then borrowed into Russian and in 20th century was adopted in Russian form back into Mongolian.

    He proves this by this by quote from 14th century hexaglot dictionary where Mongolian column says lahsha and Turkic column gives ugre for noodles.

    He follows by proving convincing Mongolian origin for lahsha and listing a number of possibly related words with same root. Finally, he notices another sense of this word – someone blubbering nonsense which every Russian speaker can easily understand as common idiom Lapshu na ushi veshat – literally “hanging noodles on [someone's] ears” means lying, bluffing or deceiving someone.

    Full post in Russian

  39. cameron said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

    The wikipedia article on Lamian mentions that historical linguists are unsure whether the Japanese (and now borrowed into English too) "ramen" derives from the Chinese word.

    Sounds like mysteries abound around this topic.

  40. Victor Mair said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

    from Eugene N. Anderson:

    I assume people are aware that there is a Laghman province in Afghanistan? from ancient Lampaka via medieval Lamghan, with a metathesis in there. I suspect this is related to the soup somehow.

  41. Eidolon said,

    August 11, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

    "What I want to know is how lāmiàn 拉面 and Xīnjiāng bànmiàn 新疆拌面 (VHM: "noodles mixed with sauce") are distinguished and why. In Qinghai it seems more common to call Uyghur noodles banmian than lamian. I think they are the same thing."

    After hearing the proposals for lomein->laghman, this tidbit by Leopold struck out at me. On Wikipedia under http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lo_mein it says:

    "In Mandarin, the dish [lomein] is more typically called bàn miàn (拌麵)…"

    So Mandarin calls 撈麵 ban mian 拌麵 and Uyghur laghman are at times called 拌麵. I imagine it's because Uyghur laghman does, in fact, resemble 撈麵 a lot of the times, leading to people in Qinghai and Xinjiang calling it by the term they use to call 撈麵.

    Although that's additional evidence for the lomein->laghman theory, I personally think laghman is a catch all term for both 撈麵 and 拉面 because the preparation technique described by Jarring is for 拉面 not 撈麵. It's easy to see how restaurant owners in northwest China didn't necessarily insist on distinguishing between the two leading to the mix-up.

  42. Victor Mair said,

    August 12, 2014 @ 10:07 am

    From Zhenzhen Lu:

    I'm afraid I don't know much about Yu Zhengxie's lexical studies at present…. I found through a quick search on Duxiu (which allows searching through books) the primary text cited on zdic, which I attach (the relevant section starts on the third page of the attachment [VHM: attachment omitted here]), under 麵條古今名義. It looks like a fascinating book on all sorts of terms (the entry after noodles is on an archaic nomenclature for either 包子 or 湯團). The style – with philological investigation combined with the interest in mundane matters – reminded me of the late Ming lexicons / jottings that I had worked on in that Liyanjie paper (I took a another look through 俚言解 – there are entries on various food-related things but no 拉麵). In the noodles entry in the Yu Zhengxie text there doesn't seem to be much mention of 拉麵 beyond the list of terms at the beginning. I also did a brief search through online gazetteers and a 俗文學 database but not much of interest. There is a person by the name of 馬蘇拉麵 in a mid-19th century gazetter 循化廳志 (Xunhua Ting was part of 蘭州府 at the time). This was the earliest gazetteer that showed up with a search for the term.

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