Thai "khwan" ("soul") and Old Sinitic reconstructions

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There's a Thai word for "soul", khwan, that sounds like Sinitic hún 魂 ("soul").

Old Sinitic

(BaxterSagart): /*[m.]qʷˤə[n]/
(Zhengzhang): /*ɢuːn/

I've always assumed that Thai khwan and Sinitic hún 魂 are related, but was never sure in which direction the influence / borrowing spread.

One reason I'm so interested in this question is because, already in BC times, we have evidence in south China (N.B. south) of rituals for calling back wandering souls, which are very similar to such rituals in Thai religion.

Ying-Shih Yü wrote an important article on this subject titled "'O Soul, Come Back!' A Study in The Changing Conceptions of The Soul and Afterlife in Pre-Buddhist China", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 47.2 (Dec., 1987), 363-395. (pdf)

Donald Swearer briefly mentions the corresponding Thai ritual in his Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand, p. 98.  See also Ruth-Inge Heinze, "Tham Khwan":  How to Contain the Essence of Life (Singapore:  1982).

This practice is discussed in David Holm's 2004 book, Recalling Lost Souls. Actually, most of the texts included in that volume (with annotations) are for recitation at soul-loss rituals (buffaloes, pigs, rice, chickens and ducks, and human beings).

Another good place to look is Nguyen Tu Chi's book La cosmologie Muong (L'Harmattan, 1997).

In Thai, this practice is referred to as baci ("calling of the soul").

From Wikpedia, here's a more detailed description of the southern Chinese ritual of summoning the soul:

Summons of the Soul, Summoning of the Soul, or Zhao Hun (Chinese: 招魂, or, with old variant 招䰟; Pinyin: Zhāo Hún) is one of the poems anthologized in the ancient Chinese* poetry collection, the Chu Ci**.  The "Summons of the Soul" consists of a four-part poem. The first part consists of a few lines with no clear relationship to the rest of the poem. The second part is a prolog in the form of a conversation in heaven, in which God (帝) orders the Ancestor Shaman Wu Yang (巫陽) to go down below to earth and help out in the case of someone whose soul has wandered off. Part three is the actual summoning of the soul, by means of threats and temptations. The fourth part is an epilog (luan). (Hawkes, 2011 [1985]: 222) The authorship of "Summons of the Soul" has been attributed to Qu Yuan, but Song Yu is more likely. (Hawkes, 2011 [1985]: 223) The "Summons of the Soul" is very similar, but longer, than another of the Chu ci poems, "The Great Summons" (Da zhao). Both poems derive from a shamanic tradition of summoning the soul of someone who has seemed to die, most likely originally with the intention of having it to re-animate its former body (but in the later literary tradition this was meant more allegorically). The two poems both follow a similar pattern: threats of dangers lurking in all directions to which the soul might wander and then detailed lists with tempting descriptions of magnificent sensual pleasures which would be available as a reward for the soul's obedient return (Hawkes, 2011 [1985]: 219-221)

[VHM:  *Southern Chinese; **Elegies of Chu]

Wu (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Wade–Giles: wu; literally: "shaman") are spirit mediums who have practiced divination, prayer, sacrifice, rainmaking, and healing in Chinese traditions dating back over 3,000 years.

….

could be a loanword from Iranian *maguš "magi; magician" (cf. Old Persian maguš, Avestan mogu), meaning an "able one; specialist in ritual". Mair (1990) provides archaeological and linguistic evidence that Chinese wu < *myag 巫 "shaman; witch, wizard; magician" was a loanword from Old Persian *maguš "magician; magi".

Mair connects the nearly identical Chinese Bronze script for wu 巫 (above) and Western heraldic cross potent , an ancient symbol of a magi or magician, for which both words were ultimately borrowed from the same Iranian word

Coblin (1986:107) puts forward a Sino-Tibetan root *mjaɣ "magician; sorcerer" for Chinese wu < mju < *mjag 巫 "magician; shaman" and Written Tibetan 'ba'-po "sorcerer" and 'ba'-mo "sorcereress" (of the Bön religion).

Wikipedia

So we see that the shamans (–> magi) are deputed by thearchic dì 帝 OS /*teːɡs/ (Zhengzhang), /*tˤek-s/ (Baxter-Sagart) to call back the wandering soul.

Incidentally, the ancient forms (oracle bone and bronze) of the glyph for dì 帝 bear a striking resemblance to the Sumero-Akkadian sign dingir ("god, deity")  (usually transliterated as DIĜIR).

The concept of "divinity" in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for "sky", and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of "divinity" is thus with "bright" or "shining" hierophanies in the sky.

Wikipedia

Cf. "divinity", PIE root *dyeu- "to shine," in derivatives "sky, heaven, god")

References on "dingir":

"Neo-Babylonian brick" (8/10/12)

John Didier, In and Outside the Square: The Sky and the Power of Belief in Ancient China and the World, c. 4,500 BC – AD 220. Volume I: The Ancient Eurasian World and the Celestial Pivot.

See also Didier's three massive volumes in Sino-Platonic Papers, 192 (September, 2009), where these materials were first published.

ขวัญ

Thai

Etymology

Compare Middle Chinese (MC ɦuən, "spiritual soul"). Cognate with Lao ຂວັນ (khuan). Shan ၶႂၼ် (khwǎn).

Pronunciation

Orthographic ขวัญ
kʰ w ạ ɲ
Phonemic ขฺวัน
kʰ ̥ w ạ n
Romanization Paiboon kwǎn
Royal Institute khwan
(standard) IPA(key) /kʰwan˩˩˦/

Noun

ขวัญ (kwǎn)

  1. morale, courage, heart, spirit.
  2. fortune, luck, prosperity, merit.
  3. cowlick (whorl of hair on top of the head).
  4. animistic life force, the vital essence of any living thing (plant or animal), especially of crops.

From David Solnit:

Like you, I've noticed the similarity of khwǎn and 魂. The word is widespread in the Tai family; Li Fang-kuei reconstructs proto-Tai *xwənA. I had assumed that it was one of the many words that Tai borrowed from Chinese around the time of the Han dynasty. These words tend not to be found in the non-Tai languages of the Tai-Kadai (or Kra-Tai if you prefer) family which is the main reason I assume that the direction of borrowing is Chinese > Tai. But I had a quick look around and in the Kam-Sui group I found Ai-Cham kwan1 and Kam kwɐn1. The former is glossed 'evil spirit' and latter, in a trilingual dictionary, is glossed English 'soul', Chinese 靈魂, Thai วิญญาณ winyaan. Not very conclusive of anything, really. I looked around in other Tai-Kadai languages and didn't find any obvious candidates for cognacy with khwǎn. I don't know of any Austronesian/Austroiatic etymologies that have been proposed for it.

The gloss of the Kam form is interesting because, as you may know, Thai culture includes two concepts that are conventionally translated 'soul'; winyaan persists after death and is the thing that can be reincarnated; while khwǎn can leave the body during life if a person is hurt, frightened, or otherwise upset, in which case you need to call it back (cf. 招魂?). So why didn't the dictionary authors gloss kwɐn1 as khwǎn? Did the Thai co-authors judge that the Kam meaning was more like winyaan than khwǎn? Don't know.

There's probably lots in the anthropological literature about these concepts in Thai culture, especially khwǎn; it would be interesting to see what corresponding concepts there might be in other cultures of Southeast Asia and China, both Tai and other. I dare say you've already done some looking into that. Anyway, I would guess that khwǎn is the older word, dating back at least to Han-dynasty times, while winyaan is clearly from Indic (the Thai Royal Academy dictionary says it's Pali), so it would date to the time that the Thai acquired Buddhism, late first millennium C.E at the earliest.

It may also be worth noting that the Chinese reconstructions with uvular stops rather than velar are a nice match for the Tai reconstruction with velar fricative rather than stop. (If I remember correctly, Haudricourt proposed a velar/uvular contrast in place of Li's velar stop/velar fricative contrast).

So much for Thai khwan and Sinitic hún 魂, both of which mean "soul".

The situation is made doubly difficult because, as alluded to above, there is not just one soul in traditional Sinitic metaphysics, but two:  hún 魂 and pò 魄, respectively the celestial and the terrestrial souls.

Similarly, Thai conceptions of the spirit world also have multiple souls, for which see "Ghosts in Thai culture", especially phi and khwan (see here and here).

So where do we stand at the conclusion of this lengthy post?

First of all, there is ambiguity about what language family Thai belongs to.

Bob Bauer:

The Thai lexicon has loanwords that have come not only from Chinese, but also Pali/Sanskrit, as well as other languages of the region, e.g., Burmese, Khmer, Vietnamese, etc. (English loanwords in Thai are also numerous). So, the Thai lexicon is a very mixed bag. However, I do recall that Paul K. Benedict has claimed that in an early period of their contact Thai also loaned words to Chinese.

Tsu-Lin Mei

Ostapirat has shown that Thai is related to Austronesian, and not to Sinitic. I have no idea about the etymology of the Thai word KHWAN.  We know South China, in the part that is immediately south of the Yangtze River, is Austroasiatic.  And that Austro-Thai is further south, in present day Kwangsi and Gueizhou.

In the final analysis, we shouldn't imagine that there was ever a stage when Sinitic language and culture were pure and pristine.  From the Bronze Age and before down to the present day, there has always been a swirling congeries of linguistic and cultural components drawn from a supposedly Sinitic core and the numerous, varied groups who surrounded and permeated it.

Readings

And a little-known bonus from Sino-Platonic Papers:

64 Jan.
1995
Arne Østmoe
Bangkok, Thailand, and Drøbak, Norway
A Germanic-Tai Linguistic Puzzle 81, 6 PDF

Plus a better-known bonus from the same series:

7 Jan.
1988
Chang Tsung-tung
Goethe-Universität
Indo-European Vocabulary in Old Chinese i, 56 PDF

Also:

Norman, Jerry; Mei, Tsu-lin (1976). "The Austroasiatics in Ancient South China: Some Lexical Evidence" (PDF). Monumenta Serica. 32: 274–301. JSTOR 40726203.

[Thanks to Bob Bauer, Tsu-Lin Mei, David Holm, and Pattira Thaithosaeng]



30 Comments

  1. julie lee said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 4:49 pm

    As Professor Mair points out, the Sumerian sign _dingir_ ( , resembling a star), meant god and sky, It is very similar to the Chinese character _di_ 帝 ("god"), especially as this character was written in the Oracle Bone Script of the first millennium BCE. (See John Didier's _In and Outside the Square_ Sino-Platonic Papers, no 192. online). I believe with Mair that the Sinitic characterd 帝 _di_ was derived from the Sumerian sign because of the similarity in sound-and-meaning. Did John Didier in his work _In and Outside the Square_ mention the Sumerian connection? I can't seem to find a mention of Sumerian in his discussion of the character _di_ "god".

    Has anyone connected the Mongolian word _tenger_ "sky" to Sumerian _dingir_ "god, sky"? I wouldn't be surprised if Professor
    Mair has, somewhere in his writings. We have the Tengri Mountains, also named Tianshan ("Heaven Mountains" ) in Mandarin. I believe the Mongolian word _tenger_ "sky" comes from Sumerian _dingir_ "sky", and this would suggest ancient cross-continental transmission. across Eurasia.

  2. julie lee said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 4:57 pm

    re Sumerian _dingir_:

    the Sumerian sign can be seen in Wikipedia "dingir". I couldn't copy it to this blog.

  3. Thomas Rees said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:20 pm

    You couldn't enter the cuneiform sign "dingir"? It's Unicode U+1202D

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:20 pm

    U+1202D : CUNEIFORM SIGN AN. Stilll searching for a font which supports it, though …

  5. Thomas Rees said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:21 pm

    Nope; won't copy.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:25 pm

    I can copy-and-paste it, but without comment preview cannot guarantee that it will appear : if it does, it is between the following two square brackets : [].

  7. julie lee said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 5:50 pm

    Thomas Rees:

    Thanks for the Unicode number.

    Correction: The similarity between the Oracle-Bone Sinitic _di-_帝 "god" character and the Sumerian _dingir_ "god," sign is not in "sound-and-meaning" but in "graph-and-meaning". As far as I know, Victor Mair was the first to point this out.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 6:08 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    The Tai Race: Elder Brother of the Chinese: William Clifton Dodd: 9789748496627: Amazon.com: Books

    http://www.amazon.com

    The Tai Race: Elder Brother of the Chinese [William Clifton Dodd] on Amazon.com. … This book was of great importance for the intellectual and political history of Thailand during the first part of the century. Its traces can still be found in those chapters of Thai schoolbooks that deal with the original homeland of the Thais.

  9. David Marjanović said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 6:42 pm

    Thank you for the links to the two Sino-Platonic Papers papers on similarities between Sinitic and IE; I'll try to read them as soon as possible!

    Incidentally, the ancient forms (oracle bone and bronze) of the glyph for dì 帝 bear a striking resemblance to the Sumero-Akkadian sign dingir ("god, deity") (usually transliterated as DIĜIR).

    I don't know. The cuneiform sign really does look like a star. The oracle-bone & bronze form is markedly asymmetric; I could be convinced it's meant to depict a comet, but hardly a star.

    Whether the words are related is a very hard question; it has been proposed that Sumerian is very, very distantly related to Sino-Tibetan (and, slightly less distantly, to the geographically much closer North Caucasian languages among others), but that needs a lot more work – regular sound correspondences, for instance, have not been established.

  10. Rafael said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 6:56 pm

    "Vinyaan" is really Pali. It's written in Thai (วิญญาณ) exactly like Pali viññāṇa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vij%C3%B1%C4%81na), and it is used as a Buddhist term would normally be in Buddhist country: both as a technical term, "counsciousness" (of some sensory data), and popularly as "soul". There are even two วิญญาณ entries on Thai Wikipedia.

  11. R. Fenwick said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

    @David Marjanović:
    The cuneiform sign really does look like a star. The oracle-bone & bronze form is markedly asymmetric; I could be convinced it's meant to depict a comet, but hardly a star.

    I can absolutely imagine the asymmetry of the bronze and oracle bone forms arising from nothing more than the inherently asymmetric nature of the wedges that make up a cuneiform sign in the first place. The small left and right vertical strokes could be intended to suggest the serif (for want of a better term) of the horizontal wedge, and the single stroke across the top of the oracle-bone form makes perfect sense as a simplification of multiple serifs.

  12. Chris Button said,

    January 28, 2019 @ 11:30 pm

    It may also be worth noting that the Chinese reconstructions with uvular stops rather than velar are a nice match for the Tai reconstruction with velar fricative rather than stop.

    Actually it wouldn't be a stop instead of a uvular, but rather *w- for 魂 as OC *wə́n > EMC ɣwən with which the Proto-Tai connection is then apparent. Baxter & Sagart seem to have removed OC *w- from their phonemic inventory as a result of their uvular hypothesis about which I remain unpersuaded (I reconstruct uvulars in different environments), although at least they have created some symmetry with their similar lack of *j- (I follow Pulleyblank's suggestion that it became *ʔj-).

    If I remember correctly, Haudricourt proposed a velar/uvular contrast in place of Li's velar stop/velar fricative contrast.

    I think Haudricourt's suggestion for q- and ɢ- was later revised by Li to x- and ɣ-. However, it seems more modern reconstructions have reintroduced uvulars on top of Li's revisions to make even finer distinctions (I'm not qualified to comment on their relative merits, although I always find the supposed presence of typologically rare /ɢ/ to be a little suspicious).

    Incidentally, the ancient forms (oracle bone and bronze) of the glyph for dì 帝 bear a striking resemblance to the Sumero-Akkadian sign dingir ("god, deity") (usually transliterated as DIĜIR).

    I remember being blown away by the Didier/Pankenier comments regarding the origins of the 丁 in the Great Square of Pegasus which is bolstered by the extensive word-family evidence in OC.

    However, I am not really convinced by Didier's and Pankenier's separate, yet somewhat related, ruminations regarding 帝. I prefer to follow the proposed association with 締 about which Takashima in his Bingbian commentary has an excellent discussion regarding the "binding" component attested in other oracle-bone characters. It is worth noting in this regard the etymological link between religion and Latin religāre "bind fast" (regardless of whether it could perhaps be a later folk etymology as has apparently been suggested).

  13. julie lee said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 1:22 am

    @ R. Fenwick

    I agree with R. Fenwick's description of the Sinitic Oracle Bone version of the character 帝 _di_ "god". The Sumerian sign _dingir_ "god" is a pictograph of a star, as Professor Mair has pointed out, albeit an abstract pictograph. The Sinitic Oracle Bone version of
    _di_ "god" is an abstract version of the abstract Sumerian pictograph in that the thick end of the Sumerian wedge-shaped stroke (the "serif") is represented by a small line, and the top line of _di_ is a simplification of three "serifs" , as described by R. Fenwick. That is,
    three "serifs" are joined into one line. By doing this, the scribe
    has not only abstracted the Sumerian sign but has deliberately changed its visual impact—it no longer looks like a star but like an offering on an altar, as in worship of a god. That is how I would interpret the Sinitic graph.
    (Correction: the Oracle Bone character dates to at least the 2nd millennium BCE, not the 1st millennium.)
    I agree with David Marjanović that it is questionable whether
    Sinitic _di_ and Sumerian _dingir_ are related _words_. The similarities between the Sinitic character and Sumerian sign are in graph-and-meaning, not necessarily in graph-meaning-and-sound.

  14. David Marjanović said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 5:20 am

    I can absolutely imagine the asymmetry of the bronze and oracle bone forms arising from nothing more than the inherently asymmetric nature of the wedges that make up a cuneiform sign in the first place.

    True.

    I always find the supposed presence of typologically rare /ɢ/ to be a little suspicious

    I agree – and note how Baxter & Sagart avoid it: the *m or similar is there to provide the voicing at some later date, after the *qʷˤ has changed to something else, and the voiceless *qʷˤ explains the voiceless kh in Thai.

    (It doesn't explain the aspiration, but maybe the kh represents a fricative; the *qʷˤ would have became a fricative at some point anyway, as shown by EMC ɣ > LMC ɦ > Mandarin h.)

  15. Chris Button said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 10:08 am

    Actually it wouldn't be a stop instead of a uvular, but rather *w- for 魂 as OC *wə́n > EMC ɣwən with which the Proto-Tai connection is then apparent.

    To be clear, a uvular is also quite possible in 魂 either since OC *ʁə́n and OC *wə́n would both give the same EMC reflex of ɣwən.

    @ Julie Lee

    The Sinitic Oracle Bone version of_di_ "god" is an abstract version of the abstract Sumerian pictograph…

    The problem with such interpretations (some of which we have discussed on LLog and many of which are still unfortunately found in published works) is that they involve simply looking at an oracle-bone character without any context whatsoever and saying that it happens to look like something! Oracle-bone characters should instead be interpreted accordingly:
    – the concepts they represent based on the written contexts in which they occur
    – the etymological relationships of the words they represent within the context of larger word-families
    – their graphic composition within the context of similar forms found in other characters.

  16. ohwilleke said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 12:52 pm

    Borrowing from Tai to Chinese seems more plausible in the larger historical context.

    The associated religious practices with the term for this kind of soul seem to be associated with South China and SE Asia, but not with North China.

    The Chinese language (or language family) and Han culture are widely understood to have originated on the Yellow River about mid-way between the sea and the mountains, and then to have relentlessly extended it cultural influence first to South China and then to SE Asia at the dawn of the historic era in the region.

    South China and SE Asia had more cultural and linguistic affinity to each other than North China and South China did until this happened, so it is highly likely that their religious practices and terminology would have been shared as well.

    There are also DNA links between populations in SE Asia and Southern China that are absent in populations in Northern China, and SE Asian language speaking populations had more in common with each other as well. For example, genetically Hmong-Mien people look like an offshoot of a Mon-Khmer population (both of whom would be part of the "base" layer of language and culture in SE Asia) per Cai X, Qin Z, Wen B, Xu S, Wang Y, et al., "Human Migration through Bottlenecks from Southeast Asia into East Asia during Last Glacial Maximum Revealed by Y Chromosomes." 6(8) PLoS ONE e24282 (2011) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024282.

    Per the same source, Tai-Kendai languages (e.g. Thai) are believed for multiple reasons historical, archaeological and genetic to be arrivals from the North and East (relative to Thailand) in the last 3,000 years, basically driven out of South China to SE Asia by the Southern advance of the Han Chinese civilization at the same time.

    See also Hugh McColl, et al., "Ancient Genomics Reveals Four Prehistoric Migration Waves into Southeast Asia" BioRxiv (March 8, 2018):

    early genomes from Hoabinhian hunter-gatherer contexts in Laos and Malaysia have genetic affinities with the Onge hunter-gatherers from the Andaman Islands, while Southeast Asian Neolithic farmers have a distinct East Asian genomic ancestry related to present-day Austroasiatic-speaking populations. We also identify two further migratory events, consistent with the expansion of speakers of Austronesian languages into Island Southeast Asia ca. 4 kya, and the expansion by East Asians into northern Vietnam ca. 2 kya. These findings support the Two Layer model for the early peopling of Southeast Asia and highlight the complexities of dispersal patterns from East Asia.

    The East Asians making their way into northern Vietnam ca. 0 CE would be part of the same wave as the Thai migration from southern China to Thailand, retreating from the expanding Han who start at the Yellow River and advance south to the Yangtze and beyond, starting out as a millet farming civilization and assimilating a rice farming one to the extent that it didn't flee to SE Asia.

    While usually the superstrate language predominates and largely replaces the substrate language, substrate languages are particularly long lasting in the face of this kind of pressure in the religious context as demonstrated by many examples: Sumerian was used for religious purposes long after Akkadian became the everyday language of Mesopotamia, Hattic persisted in religious use long after Hittite was the language of Anatolia, Hebrew persisted in religious use long after it was a dead language in everyday use, Latin continued in religious use long after it ceased to be used in everyday speech. It seems likely that at least some Harappan religious concepts and myths influenced Indo-Aryan Vedic religion, etc.

    So, if we have a place that was originally aligned with Tai religiously and its practices are found in the Sinicized Southern Chinese people and the Chinese language has a term consistent with Tai religious practice used in the same way, it seems like there should be a strong bias in favor of a Tai to Chinese borrowing, instead of visa versa, and the similarity of the way that it is used certainly seems to point to the word being the same concept with a common source one way or the other. This analysis is also well supported by that point that:

    "But I had a quick look around and in the Kam-Sui group I found Ai-Cham kwan1 and Kam kwɐn1. The former is glossed 'evil spirit' and latter, in a trilingual dictionary, is glossed English 'soul', Chinese 靈魂, Thai วิญญาณ winyaan."

    Ironically, even though the word was probably borrowed from Tai to Chinese, the Thai language and religion probably actually have their origins in Southern China and are probably recent arrivals to SE Asia.

    The Iranian/Mesopotamian connection of Wu and the Chinese word for diety look independent, with a connection via the Silk Road to Northern China seeming more plausible given what we know about history in the right time frames than one via a Southern route, and honestly given the sheer simplicity of the Chinese words in question and the fact that there are often multiple words in a language which could plausible be considered words for diety and shaman, the possibility that these similarities are mere coincidences is also real.

  17. Chris Button said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 1:19 pm

    If the loan is coming from Tai and it's after the OC period then we should really be looking at its Han form that would have been much closer to the EMC form ɣwən and as such we can exclude any discussion of an original uvular in OC (since they would all have disappeared by then). For what it's worth (possibly nothing at all), the phonetic series of 云 to which 魂 belongs supports OC *w- (at least in my system).

  18. Jonathan Smith said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 2:59 pm

    @ Chris Button OT here but Didier's (2009) suggestions concern circumpolar stars and possible connections with OBI 丁 (among many others) — NOT 定 or the Square of Pegasus. Much of the reason that Pankenier's considerations of the latter, which date to the mid-1990's, are so compelling is because they begin with attested descriptions of 定 as a proto-Lunar Lodges element intimately connected with alignment of built structures: Erya "營室謂之定", Shi jing "定之方中", etc…

  19. Chris Button said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 6:14 pm

    @ Jonathan Smith

    Thanks for the clarification. Wasn't there a brief spat between them about who discovered what first? By the way, I don't recall Pankenier mentioning that 丁 *táɲ is also phonetic in 天 *tʰə́ɲ (reduced to the horizontal line on top) although maybe he did. Also, to be fair to Pankenier regarding 帝, he does attempt to incorporate a word-family analysis into the argument (similar to the great job he did with 丁), but I'm not convinced by his interpretation of that and think an alternative works far better.

    In light of my earlier comments, I should probably add that I also very much like Prof. Mair's association of 巫 *màɣ with Old Persian "maguš" which I find very convincing. It's a shame some OC reconstructions of 巫 make it look less promising than it actually is: Zhengzhang and Schuessler reconstruct *ma; Baxter & Sagart reconstruct *C.m(r)[o] .

  20. Jonathan Smith said,

    January 29, 2019 @ 10:10 pm

    @Chris Button It is a matter of ideas as opposed to discovery but my advice would be go straight to the relevant publications; not at whole lot unites these authors' discussions IMHO. In the interest of full disclosure, I am now reminded that Didier's (2009 Vol. II p. 170 note 8) understanding of Pankenier's ideas of this period came via a pre-publication draft of my 2011 Early China paper… there is a pretty fair chance that my remarks there were not very precise :/ :/ :/ :/ :/
    Not sure what to think re: 帝 although I very much agree with your above methodological remarks regarding how OBI ought to be approached.

  21. Xerîb said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 11:53 am

    The other concept 魄 pò conventionally translated "soul" also has some tantalizing areal parallels as well. I've read here and there that 魄 "soul, vital force" is etymologically the same as 霸 pò "new moon", and that this relation between "soul" and "moon" is found elsewhere "by cognation or convergence": Tibetan བླ bla "soul" and ཟླ་བ zla "moon", with additional parallels in Hmongic (Axel, Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 417). What are the words in Hmongic languages that are involved? Is something like White Hmong hli "moon" beside plig "soul" meant?

  22. Xerîb said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 11:55 am

    The other concept 魄 pò conventionally translated "soul" also has some tantalizing areal parallels as well. I've read here and there that 魄 "soul, vital force" is etymologically the same as 霸 pò "new moon", and that this relation between "soul" and "moon" is found elsewhere "by cognation or convergence": Tibetan བླ bla "soul" and ཟླ་ zla "moon", with additional parallels in Hmongic (Axel, Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 417). What are the words in Hmongic languages that are involved? Is something like White Hmong hli "moon" beside plig "soul" meant?

  23. John Didier said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 4:11 pm

    @Julie Lee: you are right that in In and Outside the Square I did not propose a direct link between Sinitic di and Sumerian dingir. It was indeed Victor Mair who first proposed that, in his paper "Religious Formations and Intercultural Contacts in Early China," which, in 2009, at time of press for In and Outside the Square, was pre-publication. I mentioned Dr. Mair's identification of di and dingir in SPP 192 (In and Outside the Square….), Volume III, on p. 260-1.

    @Jonathan Smith: you are right that in 2009 I learned of D. Pankenier's very recent projection of Sinitic ding 口 onto ecliptic stellar patterns as Chinese ding 定 only with your having kindly forwarded to me your pre-publication EC paper that quoted directly from D.P.'s then-unpublished paper on the same. (Again, thank you.) As a matter to note in passing, I do not agree at all with Mr Pankenier's identification of Sinitic ding 口 with Chinese ding 定, because, frankly, it is preposterous, as I expressed in detail in In and Outside the Square, V. II, p. 234-46. But it is incorrect to state that D.P. focused on Sinitic ding 口 at all prior to that time in 2009; he never did until that time, in 2009, long after he had enjoyed perusal of my 2003 draft MS: his 1995 EC paper included a brief mention of only Chinese ding 定 (and not at all Sinitic ding 口, which at that time very apparently was thoroughly outside of his purview), and only in passing, in a footnote, in which note he demonstrated rather embarrassingly clearly that he did not even know where the asterism ding 定 should be in the sky: he misplaced it rather substantially (please do go and check this footnote), and in no way did he attempt to connect Chinese ding 定 with Sinitic ding 口.
    In the summer of 2001, during a two-month research trip back to the East Asian (formerly Gest Oriental) Library at Princeton University, I settled on my stellar projections of the Sinitic graphic forms of both Sinitic di 帝 and ding 口 (Chinese 丁) onto stellar patterns of the then-northern celestial pole. Soon thereafter, in the fall of 2001, in my required applications to ACNS and the Jacob Javitz fellowship programs in early China for fellowship support, I described these, my astronomical projections, in quite some detail. My original stellar projections were also included in my lectures to an audience at Sichuan University in March 2002, to the students of my Colorado State University (CSU) classes in Chinese history in 2002, and in my first one-volume draft of In and Outside the Square that I submitted to the University of Hawai'i Press late in 2003 for the Press to consider for publication. In January 2004 the UHP Editor sent my MS to, first of all, D. Pankenier, to ask him to serve as a referee. He declined, but, significantly, he had received the full MS, and only thereafter did he write and submit his paper projecting Sinitic di onto polar stars to JAOS for publication, his "Excursus" of his article having quite obviously sourced directly in my projection of Sinitic di onto the northern polar celestial stars of ca. 4500-1000 BC as found in my 2003 MS.
    Further, however, in that same winter-spring 2004, when I necessarily had to apply for tenure at CSU, at the time unbeknownst to me the History Department at CSU also chose D. Pankenier as a potential external referee of my tenure case (and, by his own admission, he accepted), and, thus, Mr. Pankenier received a second copy of my MS at that time, in May-June of 2004. In fact, in early June of 2004 Mr. Pankenier also received a third copy of my MS from John S. Major, who, despite having agreed to referee my MS for UHP in utter confidentiality, brazenly sent my full MS to D. Pankenier to review it in secret. In all such copies of my 2003 MS I had detailed all of my theses regarding both Sinitic di 帝 and ding 口, among many other matters, including my first-ever projections of these graphs onto the nocturnal northern celestial polar stellar patterns, theorizing that the graphs served as terrrestrial graphic representations of the highest thaumaturgical entities propitiated by the Shang court.
    Suffice it to say that D. Pankenier did not ever project the characters for di 帝 or ding 口 (Chinese丁) astronomically until after, beginning in January 2004 and continuing through June 2004, he had enjoyed triple receipt of copies of my 2003 draft MS of In and Outside the Square in which I had laid out explicitly all of my stellar projections of Sinitic di 帝 and ding 口 .

  24. julie lee said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 6:38 pm

    @John Didier: Thank you for the page reference for di and dingir
    in your Sino-Platonic Paper no. 192.

  25. Jonathan Smith said,

    February 1, 2019 @ 9:54 pm

    @ Prof. Didier. Thanks very much for your thoughts, and for your encouragement way back when. My suggestion to those who are interested in these issues remains to look carefully at the literature. For my part, having read and cited both your and Prof. Pankenier's work, I hope I have a good sense of the similarities and differences. Thus —

    re: "In January 2004 the UHP Editor sent my MS to, first of all, D. Pankenier, to ask him to serve as a referee. He declined, but, significantly, he had received the full MS, and only thereafter did he write and submit his paper projecting Sinitic di onto polar stars to JAOS for publication, his "Excursus" of his article having quite obviously sourced directly in my projection of Sinitic di onto the northern polar celestial stars of ca. 4500-1000 BC as found in my 2003 MS."

    This is an extremely serious accusation and I don't think it is true. It is easy to confirm that Pankenier had presented the relevant work at the fourth Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (INSAP) conference at Oxford in early August 2003; the proceedings, complete with the relevant diagrams regarding Di 帝, are Out There (pp. 287ff). My thought on the matter is that sometimes people just happen to think in broadly similar directions. What do you say? And at any rate, here, as elsewhere, Pankenier's and your specific proposals turn out to have very little in common.

    re: "it is incorrect to state that D.P. focused on [OBI] ding 口 [> 丁] at all prior to […] 2009"

    I did not state that. SO we might argue that Pankenier ought to have said in his 2009 presentation something along the lines of "Prof. Didier's m.s. also mentions the OBI character "口/丁" vis-à-vis early astronomy~asterisms"? This must have been pointed out, thus note 50 (p. 49) in the Writing and Literacy… version of the study. And again, the astronomical proposals in question, to say nothing of the underlying methodologies, could hardly be more different.

    re: "[Pankenier] did not even know where the asterism ding 定 should be in the sky [in Pankenier 1995]: he misplaced it rather substantially (please do go and check this footnote)"

    I looked at it again and am not sure what you mean here.

    Most generally, I am unclear about what you feel the published record ought to contain such that your ideas would be more properly acknowledged. Clearly you disagree vehemently with Pankenier (and also with me) on all particulars — which can be a very productive sentiment indeed as far as publication is concerned. I say go on doing your own thing!!

    Sincerely,
    Jonathan
    first.last@cnu.edu

  26. Chris Button said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 6:27 am

    I prefer to follow the proposed association with 締 about which Takashima in his Bingbian commentary has an excellent discussion regarding the "binding" component attested in other oracle-bone characters. It is worth noting in this regard the etymological link between religion and Latin religāre "bind fast" (regardless of whether it could perhaps be a later folk etymology as has apparently been suggested).

    Takashima makes the interesting observation that when 帝 refers to the deity is it usually written with the binding/shackling component attested in graphs like 方, 帚 etc., but when referring to the sacrifice the said component is usually written with the rectangle-like component. The implication (as I see it) is that in the case of the sacrifice, it seems there has been some graphic convergence with 束 as another "bound" item.

  27. Chris Button said,

    February 2, 2019 @ 6:56 am

    @ Xerîb

    Further to your point, Mallory & Adams in their Encyclopedia of IE Culture have the following note:

    Within the structure of reconstructed IE cosmogony, the moon tends to be derived from the mind or from the seat of thought, the breast. Unlike most of the other cosmogonic transformations, e.g., wind is from the breath (of a primordial giant), the heavens are from the head, the association between the moon and human anatomy, found in lndic, Greek, Slavic and Romanian sources, lacks a transparent connection. Bruce Lincoln has suggested that it may have been motivated in early IE times on the (?vague) phonological similarity between *méh₁-nо̄t ~ *meh₁-n(é)s- 'moon' and *men- 'to think, mind' and its extensions.

  28. AntC said,

    February 6, 2019 @ 8:12 am

    Thank you for the 'bonus' papers from SPP. They give a lot of closely-related food for thought. I'm still trying to digest them.

    They both take the same approach: observing sound-alikes/sense-alikes of vocabulary between Germanic and early Chinese or early Tai/Kadai. The words they consider are mostly monosyllabic (in Germanic), and 'contentful' — that is not 'grammatical' particles or prepositions or pronouns or numerals or other 'infrastructure' of the language. IOW I'm not seeing Swadesh lists.

    To an extent taking only contentful vocab is necessary because all the languages are analytic rather than inflected. Chang Tsung-tung explains this approach (and Arne Østmoe follows suit) by taking Germanic stems reconstructed to about 2,000 to 1,000 BCE " a rational time assumption would be "within the second millenium B.C."". Specifically this means after the operation of Grimm's and Werner's laws (so Germanic vocab is distinct from IE-in-general) but before Germanic absorbed inflection from later Romance influences. (The supposition is that although recorded Gothic appears to be inflected, this is from a later date, and the records are mostly bible translations from highly inflected IE languages, especially Latin/Greek, with a suspicion the translators imported calques and inflections to make a literary superstrate, whereas the vernacular substrate would not exhibit inflection.)

    So far so good: both authors are very clear about their methodology. One further point: for both Chinese and Tai/Kadai, the claim is that Germanic monosyllables were borrowed with both consonant clusters and their consonantal coda. Neither target language (families) have those phonetic features today. So the claim is the languages changed phonetically after the borrowing, with the vowel quality, tones and nasalisation deriving from a combination of the Germanic vowel and coda. Initial consonant clusters: liquids got absorbed into the vowel quality; or the cluster morphed to a single consonant (such as st- to ts- or zh- or dz-); or one of the consonants just disappeared; or got an extra vowel inserted between the consonants, giving a bisyllabic word. (Prof Mair is always reminding us how many bisyllabic words there are in Chinese.)

    The methodology/explanations leave open a question: The great achievement of the Comparative Method in identifying the Indo-European language tree (and a methodology for identifying other language families), is to trace parallels in morpho-syntax; then we can show languages have genetically related substrates rather than mere word borrowing or 'areal features'. Sound pattern parallels across morpho-syntax can be compared to sound-alikes/sense-alikes in wider vocabulary. This distinguishes sound-alikes that are coincidences or false friends or onomatopoeic. Then that substrate sets a sound pattern into which later borrowings get bent. (This is not to say the pattern remained static thereafter: it's often diagnostic for when some later word was borrowed as to which endogenous sound pattern changes it underwent.)

    So for example, English has a Germanic substrate, even though the majority of modern English's vocabulary is Romance borrowings. (And ref the English Great Vowel Shift for the timing of later borrowings.) Philologists are in the very lucky position of having enough recorded evidence to see how that happened. Not so for Chinese or Tai/Kadai of the second millennium BC.

    But, but … Can we be sure those target languages did have clusters and codas (but not tones) at the time of borrowing? If so, what was the substrate and where/which language family did it come from, and how can we show that? The main resource Chang Tsung-tung draws from is historic tables of rhymes. But these are from very much later dates, when the tonal system was already developing.

    If we don't have morpho-syntactic parallels, per the 'proper' Comparative Method, how do we reject the possibility that the sound-alikes are coincidences, etc? How do we explain why word X was borrowed but similar-sounding or same-semantic-area (in the source language) word Y wasn't? In both papers, the wordlists contain mostly everyday vocab; the sort of things a pre-existing language would already have words for/not imported artefacts or technology or crops/animals the Germanics would be bringing with them.

    How did such borrowing get 'imposed'? In the case of English, we know it was the bloody Norman overlords, then the bloody churchmen with their Latin, then the scribal classes with more Latin/Greek and their cultural cringe for 'uncouth' Anglo-Saxon.

    Or … Chinese is a Germanic substrate language. I'm not seriously suggesting that. I'm asking: what evidence can we give to reject such a suggestion?

  29. John Didier said,

    February 6, 2019 @ 11:27 am

    @Jonathan Smith. Thank you for your thoughtful note, Jonathan. Regarding my reference to David Pankenier's footnote in his 1995 Early China article: in footnote 2 (p. 121-2) he identifies Chinese ding 定 with the lunar mansion yingshi 營室 (i.e., shi 室), and then in the text of p. 124 he identifies yingshi to be located in Aquarius / Pisces; he so identifies yingshi with Aquarius / Pisces twice more, in Table 1 (p. 124) and Figure 1 (p. 125; Fig 1's caption reads, "Planetary Massing of 1953 B.C in Aqr/Psc (Yingshi)"). Thus he located his ding 定 (and thus also the lunar mansion shi 室 / 營室 yingshi ) mistakenly in Aquarius / Pisces rather than in the correct Pegasus (α and β Pegasi), meaning that in 1995 he did not know the correct location in the sky of his ding 定 (and thus also of the lunar mansion shi / yingshi). My point was that, therefore, at that time, mislocating ding 定 in Aquarius / Pisces, he could not have been developing an astronomical projection of Sinitic ding < *teeŋ 口 onto the square of Pegasus, since such a projection that he later proposed (2009) depended on his identification of Sinitic ding < *teeŋ 口 with Chinese ding 定, i.e., the yingshi / shi asterism that forms half of the square of Pegasus. My original reference to this issue in my earlier post was a response to your statement in your earlier post that, "Didier's (2009) suggestions concern circumpolar stars and possible connections with OBI 丁 (among many others) — NOT 定 or the Square of Pegasus. Much of the reason that Pankenier's considerations of the latter, which date to the mid-1990's, are so compelling…." In my original reference I wished to clarify that in the mid-1990s he was not offering considerations of the latter (the square of Pegasus) as you had suggested. All best wishes, John

  30. Eidolon said,

    February 6, 2019 @ 9:01 pm

    > I'm asking: what evidence can we give to reject such a suggestion?

    As Alexander Vovin said in the other thread…

    "Any genetic relationship hypothesis is fallible by the demonstration of either a) that the data it is built upon is corrupted or false; or b) that it does not stand the scrutiny from the viewpoint of the comparative method (i.e., correspondences are irregular ad there are unaccounted for segments), or by both a) and b)."

    If the correspondences do not fulfill the actual criteria of the comparative method, or cannot be shown to fulfill them due to a lack of definite data, then obviously one cannot show that the relationship is genetic. But in the case of the latter, it would also be very difficult to claim the relationship is not genetic, because when there is no definite data, hypotheses are not falsifiable. Such is the source of endless controversy.

    It is one reason to bring in evidence from outside of linguistics, for which I suggested looking at the population genetics of Tai people, in the other thread. Since, as you observed, it would be rather strange for large swaths of every day vocabulary to be replaced without a series of demographic impositions, which must leave a trace in the underlying population. Not that it's impossible to explain away such a trace, but in the absence of other evidence, the principle of parsimony should apply.

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