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Since about the 90s, pho has been popping up all over the place.  It has been especially conspicuous after the turn of the millennium, and I think it adapted well to the pandemic as a quick and ready kind of street food.  I've often wondered whether it had anything to do with French "fire" or Cantonese fan2 粉 ("noodles; vermicelli").  Rather than continuing to fruitlessly speculate in my waking hours, as I did again this morning, I figured it's about time I looked up what the authorities say.  So here goes:

Borrowed from Vietnamese phở.


That much we all agree on. 

First appeared in dictionaries in 1931.

Clipping earlier lục phở, nhục phở, corruptions of Cantonese 牛肉粉 (ngau4 juk6 fan2; SV: ngưu nhục phấn, beef noodles), likely as a result of street cries.

Equivalent to a non-Sino-Vietnamese reading of Chinese (fěn); compare its Sino-Vietnamese reading phấn, and bún (rice vermicelli). More on Wikipedia.

A popular folk etymology holds that the term instead came from French feu (fire), as in pot-au-feu.



type of Vietnamese soup, probably from French feu "fire" (see focus (n.)) "as in pot-au-feu, a stew of meat and vegetables of which the broth is drunk separately as a soup" [Ayto, "Diner's Dictionary"] which would have been acquired in Vietnamese during the French colonial period.



Vietnamese phở, from alteration (possibly to avoid similarity to phẩn, excrement, or by protraction of the vowel in the cries of street vendors) of phấn in nhục phấn, meat and noodle soup (loan translation of Cantonese yuk6 fan2 : yuk6 meat + fan2 flour, rice noodle) : nhục, meat + phấn, flour (from Middle Chinese pun', from Old Chinese *mə.pənʔ, husked rice; perhaps akin to Tibetan dbur, to smooth).

(American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed.)


Reviews of 19th and 20th century Vietnamese literature have found that pho entered the mainstream sometime in the 1910s. Georges Dumoutier's extensive 1907 account of Vietnamese cuisine omits any mention of phở, while Nguyễn Công Hoan recalls its sale by street vendors in 1913. A 1931 dictionary is the first to define phở as a soup: "from the word phấn. A dish consisting of small slices of rice cake boiled with beef."

Possibly the earliest English-language reference to pho was in the book Recipes of All Nations, edited by Countess Morphy in 1935: In the book, pho is described as "an Annamese soup held in high esteem … made with beef, a veal bone, onions, a bayleaf, salt, and pepper, and a small teaspoon of nuoc-mam (fish sauce)."

There are two prevailing theories on the origin of the word phở and, by extension, the dish itself. As author Nguyễn Dư notes, both questions are significant to Vietnamese identity.

From French

French settlers commonly ate beef, whereas Vietnamese traditionally ate pork and chicken and used cattle as beasts of burden. Gustave Hue (1937) equates cháo phở to the French beef stew pot-au-feu (literally, "pot on the fire"). Accordingly, Western sources generally maintain that phở is derived from pot-au-feu in both name and substance. However, several scholars dispute this etymology on the basis of the stark differences between the two dishes. Another suggestion of a separate origin is that phở in French has long been pronounced [fo] rather than [fø]: in Jean Tardieu's Lettre de Hanoï à Roger Martin Du Gard (1928), a soup vendor cries "Pho-ô!" in the street.

Many Hanoians explain that the word phở derives from French soldiers' ordering "feu" (fire) from gánh phở, referring to both the steam rising from a bowl of phở and the wood fire seen glowing from a gánh phở in the evening.

Food historian Erica J. Peters argues that the French have embraced phở in a way that overlooks its origins as a local improvisation, reinforcing "an idea that the French brought modern ingenuity to a traditionalist Vietnam".

From Cantonese

Hue and Eugèn Gouin (1957) both define phở by itself as an abbreviation of lục phở. Elucidating on the 1931 dictionary, Gouin and Lê Ngọc Trụ (1970) both give lục phở as a corruption of ngưu nhục phấn (Chinese: 牛肉粉; Cantonese Yale: ngau4 yuk6 fan2; "cow meat noodles"), which was commonly sold by Chinese immigrants in Hanoi. ([ɲ] is an allophone of /l/ in some northern dialects of Vietnamese.)

Some scholars argue that phở (the dish) evolved from xáo trâu, a Vietnamese dish common in Hanoi at the turn of the century. Originally eaten by commoners near the Red River, it consisted of stir-fried strips of water buffalo meat served in broth atop rice vermicelli. Around 1908–1909, the shipping industry brought an influx of laborers. Vietnamese and Chinese cooks set up gánh to serve them xáo trâu but later switched to inexpensive scraps of beef set aside by butchers who sold to the French. Chinese vendors advertised this xáo bò by crying out, "Beef and noodles!" (Cantonese Yale: ngàuh yuhk fán; Vietnamese: ngưu nhục phấn). Eventually the street cry became "Meat and noodles!" (Chinese: 肉粉; Cantonese Yale: yuhk fán; Vietnamese: nhục phấn), with the last syllable elongated. Nguyễn Ngọc Bích suggests that the final "n" was eventually dropped because of the similar-sounding phẩn (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; "excrement"). The French author Jean Marquet refers to the dish as "Yoc feu!" in his 1919 novel Du village-à-la cité. This is likely what the Vietnamese poet Tản Đà calls "nhục-phở" in "Đánh bạc" ("Gambling"), written around 1915–1917.

Phở uses a common variety of Chinese rice noodle called ho fun, (traditional Chinese: 河粉; simplified Chinese: 河粉; Cantonese Yale: ho4 fen3) which is believed to have originated in the town of Shahe (Chinese: 沙河; pinyin: Shāhé; Jyutping: Sa1ho4*2), now part of the Tianhe District of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, southern China.[45][circular reference] The Cantonese also use the word (Chinese: ; Cantonese Yale: ho4 ho4*2; "(Sha)he noodles") as well as (Chinese: 牛肉粉; Cantonese Yale: ngau4 yuk6 fan2; "cow meat noodles") to describe Phở. The two words share close approximation and could be a cognate of one another when considering varying regional and dialectical pronunciation differences.


Thus it is evident that the origins and etymology of such an important, worldwide dish as pho are highly complex and hotly contested.  What say ye, Language Log readers?


Selected readings



  1. KeithB said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 9:40 am

    Lately I have been seeing it written "correctly" on signs – with the marks over the 'o', not just as pho.

  2. GeorgeW said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 9:42 am

    Why is it spelled 'ph' instead of 'f' in English?

  3. cameron said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 9:57 am

    @ GeorgeW : the English spelling reflects the Vietnamese spelling. Vietnamese in general gave up 'f' in favor of 'ph' – they currently don't use 'f' except perhaps for foreign words.

  4. Rodger C said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 10:03 am

    I've read (perhaps on here) that Vietnamese 'ph' used to actually be an aspirated stop.

  5. Coby said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 10:21 am

    Hence the "Doonesbury" character named Phred.

  6. Taylor, Philip said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 11:27 am

    I can offer no speculations on the etymology of phở (although my Vietnamese wife may be able to offer some insights) but merely to note that we have been offering phở on our (hotel) menu for some years. For much of that time, our Cornish/English/Irish/South African/Ukrainian front of house staff have tended to refer to it as /fo/, and attempts to inculcate the correct pronunciation have met with little success. However, for the last couple of years we have featured an ever-increasing number of vegan dishes on the menu, many of which are glossed as including (e.g.,) faux “beef”, faux “chicken”, faux “pork”, and even faux “fish of the day”, so /fo/ for phở is now very likely to be misunderstood, as a result of which I am delighted to be able to report that some (if not yet all) are making excellent progress with capturing and using the correct pronunciation.

  7. GeorgeW said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 11:39 am

    @Cameron: Are you referring to English orthography when used by Vietnamese?

    @RogerC: I had guessed that it was aspirated in Vietnamese now, but that does not seem to be the case.

  8. David Marjanović said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 1:29 pm

    Given what a pot-au-feu is, the Sino-Vietnamese etymology is a lot more convincing.

    I've seen a place somewhere in the US where the ở was rendered as a cup with steam rising from it.

    I've read (perhaps on here) that Vietnamese 'ph' used to actually be an aspirated stop.

    Yes, and kh still is one in some places (in others it has turned into [x]).

    Th isn't going anywhere, though.

  9. cameron said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 2:04 pm

    @ GeorgeW : all I was saying is that it's spelled "pho" in English because it's spelled phở in Vietnamese. We don't fuss with the diacriticals, which Vietnamese is so famously abundant with, but we retain the ph to keep it recognizable as the same word.

    The Vietnamese have lots of diacriticals to represent all the vowel/tone combinations, but they historically jettisoned the letter 'f' and opted to use the ph combination instead. While they abound with symbols for vowels, perhaps they figured they could be parsimonious with consonant symbols

  10. Jonathan Smith said,

    May 17, 2023 @ 5:22 pm

    The idea that the now-pan-Chinese name for rice flour (or tapioca starch etc.) noodles (e.g. Cant. fan2) is simply the (Chinese) word 'powder' is itself dubious — the signs that this is really a south(western) regionalism, perhaps of non-Sinitic origin, are all there.

  11. KIRINPUTRA said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 4:39 am

    Jonathan Smith's caveat is interesting!

    王力's 字-tionary has 穀物製成的食物 as a gloss for 粉, with a usage example from the Mongol era in what appears to be Mandarin.

    Not that this moves the needle either way (as to the etymology). But it highlights the "spectacular overlooking" of matters of etymology in the Sino-language space.

    I wonder: Are there sources (that I must've overlooked) that deal with the etymologies of Sino-etyma (not "字 etymologies) extensively & systematically?

  12. David Marjanović said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 9:01 am

    they historically jettisoned the letter 'f' and opted to use the ph combination instead

    No, they didn't have the sound [f] in the 17th century when the spelling system was devised by Portuguese missionaries. It developed later from the [pʰ] that was spelled ph, and the spelling has simply been kept.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 10:16 am


    Yes, indeed! Would that we had such a genuine etymological dictionary for words in the Sino-language space. Axel Schuessler's Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese made a gigantic leap forward for character etymology, but we still have need for a dictionary of Sinitic word etymology.

    One way to begin to attack the problem is through comparison of comparable terms in the various topolects.

    As you can see from the title of the Hànyǔ fāngyán cíhuì 漢語方言詞彙 (Sinitic topolect vocabulary), it is a collection of words, not characters. Although its entries do not explicitly mention etymology, by correlating the lexemes for specific objects, etc., one can quickly gain an idea of which are cognate and which have different roots.

    A very fine dictionary of Taiwanese words, which gives etymologies, including sometimes Austronesian roots, is Zhang, Yuhong 張裕宏, TJ Taiyu baihua xiao cidian TJ台語白話小詞典 (Tainan: Yaxiya guoji chuanboshe, 2009). You can order it online from Taiwan and have it shipped internationally to the US. I think that Zhang was a Cornell graduate trained under Nicholas Bodman (please correct me if I'm wrong about that).

    A massive compilation of Middle Sinitic vocabulary that Zhu Qinhzhi 朱慶之 and I have been working on for more than two decades, and that hopefully will be finished within about two years, will make a significant contribution to basic Sinitic etymology.

    Finally, a major project for a 漢語詞源辭典 that I began around three decades ago and had gotten about two-thirds of the way through before it got derailed because of the deaths of my co-editor, Bái Wéiguó 白維國*, and several of the two dozen other contributors. But the project is still hanging on, and — if things ever settle down enough in the PRC for me to go back and work on it for an extended period of time — I still have hopes that it will one day be completed. The goal was to cover the etymologies of all the entries in Xiàndài Hànyǔ cídiǎn 现代汉语词典 (Dictionary of Modern Mandarin).


    *Before he passed away, Bai Weiguo was instrumental in bringing to completion the multivolume 近代汉语词典 (2015), which is very useful for figuring out the etymologies of words in Mandarin.

  14. tsts said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 12:33 pm

    I am not a linguist or specialist in Asian languages. But just a few comments from someone who knows some limited amount of Cantonese:

    – I find it odd to bring French feu in. Would it not make more sense to relate it to the Cantonese word for fire, which is fo?

    – there is a name in Cantonese for a certain type of beef soup often served in Vietnamese restaurants, fo2 ce2 tau4 (using jutping) 火车头 (meaning locomotive). There are several Vietnamese restaurants with names that seem to refer to this dish, for example (xe lửa apparently corresponding to ce1 tau4
    – but not sure as I do not know Vietnamese).

    I might be way off here. And it is possible that fo2 ce1 tau4 entered Cantonese fairly recently. And many Vietnamese restaurants in the US are run by Chinese Vietnamese speaking Cantonese. But I would expect the origin somewhere in that cauldron of Cantonese and Vietnamese that I imagine Hanoi was a few decades ago.

  15. Jim said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 4:16 pm

    I went to a Vietnamese/Laotian restaurant years ago which stressed that phở was soup and pho (long-O) was BBQ, specifically an at-table fire pot that you self-cooked chunks of meat over. (I had kangaroo.) This would seem to lay in the feu/fire argument in some way.

  16. Jim said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 4:18 pm

    And because I happen to have a #leatherdadjokes for this (dated 2018/08/07, but I first crafted it around 2000):

    Those high-end Pan-Asian fusion places now sell Vietnamese soup:
    Foo foo faux phở

  17. Chris Button said,

    May 18, 2023 @ 10:46 pm

    So not knowing any Vietnamese, it looks to me like the vowels of phở and phấn differ in the length: former longer, latter shorter. That makes sense if the shorter one is coming from Cantonese short /ɐ/ and is at the same time phonotactically constrained from occurring in an open syllable. Drop the -n of phấn and then add some compensatory lengthening, and phở results. It's not a bad theory, particularly if all that distinguishes phấn from meaning excrement is a tone that would be less consequential when influenced by the shouting intonation of a street hawker.

  18. xiesong said,

    May 19, 2023 @ 9:45 am

    I think "pho" from "phan 粉" is pretty much settled. Perhaps it is time that the rest of energy should be fired upon towards the trouble-maker "feu." I have a list of pronunciations of "fire" in "F7 linguistical nations." Here we go: English fire, German feuer, French feu, Spanish fuego, Latin ignis, Italian fuoco, Greek fatia or pyr. They are dressed up in pretty good uniforms, except one outlier – Latin "ignis" which needs deep and hard looking and the result will be rewarding. There is no problem with Greek pyr because we have f vs p in father vs pater. For comparison, I also prepare so-called "dialects" of "F7 (Fire 火) areas" along the southeastern coast of China, but this time the list of areas and the list of pronunciations are separate without corresponding order (you need work on your own to find out). The areas are: 苏州 suzhou, 上海 shanghai, 温州 wenzhou, 闽南 minnan, 客家 hakka, 潮州 chaozhou, and 广州 guangzhou. The prononciations are: fo2, ho3/he3, fo3, hue2, hu, hou51, fu45. Note: 1. The sound of "fue" in Spanish fuego is particularly close to one of the above. 2. The g/c sounds from the second syllabels may come from kh – h sound.

  19. Philip Anderson said,

    May 19, 2023 @ 5:45 pm

    It’s believed that Proto-Indo-European had two different words for fire, one of which gave us fire/pyr and their relatives, and the other Latin ignis and the god Agni:₁n̥gʷnís
    But the Romance words feu, fuego, fuoco and Portuguese fogo are not related to ‘fire’, but derive from the Latin focus, a hearth, which replaced ignis. Nor is the (Modern) Greek φωτιά (fotia) which came from the Ancient Greek word for light (hence our photograph). Don’t be fooled by the unrelated initial ‘f’.

  20. xiesong said,

    May 19, 2023 @ 9:06 pm

    @Philip Anderson
    Come on, no one is being fooled here. Would it make a lot better sense that light comes from one of the natural sources that generates it? In case of phatograph, that is fire, other than sun, moon, or lightening. The same rationale may also be applicable to the case of Latin ignis and the god Agni in which Agni might be backformation of ignis. Writing a fictional legend about a god is a lot easier than hard study of etymology.

  21. AntC said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 5:20 am

    @Philip A the Romance words feu, fuego, fuoco and Portuguese fogo are not related to ‘fire’, …

    From the linked wikipedia entry on h1n̥gʷnis:

    fire as an animate entity and active force was known as *h₁n̥gʷnis, while the inanimate entity and natural substance was named *péh₂ur (cf. Greek pyr; English fire)

    I'm not seeing the romance terms you quote as down-home comfortable/domestic 'hearth'.

    *péh₂ur doesn't explain the velar in …cus, …go or Is there contamination from the gʷ ? How?

    Tierra del Fuego as in very animate/active volcanoes.

    Con fuoco as a musical direction. (My piano teacher was always scolding: you're not sounding angry enough.)

    OTOH @xiesong The sound of "fue" in Spanish fuego is particularly close to one of the [Chinese coastal words for 'fire'].

    I hope you're not suggesting the Romance 'fire' word is somehow cognate between Indo-European and S.E. Chinese(?) How would the word get transferred? All languages have ancient words for fire. What would have been the Chinese vs I-E pronunciations at the time of claimed transfer?

    "pho" from "phan 粉" is a long stretch — particularly given the different sound-values for the romanisations (see @DM's comment). Again, when did this transfer take place; what were the historic pronunciations at the time?

    Are you able to cite some authorities, or is this what wikipedia calls 'original research'?

  22. Chris Button said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 6:38 am

    @ AntC

    "pho" from "phan 粉" is a long stretch — particularly given the different sound-values for the romanisations

    I'm not sure I'm following you here. The only real difference (ignoring the phonotactic considerations associated with open vs closed syllables) is the -n coda (although it's loss does perhaps need more support than the excrement and street hawking suggestions above). The comment about pʰ- versus modern f- seems anachronistic.

    The Old Chinese forms of 火 don't have anything in common with the Indo-European forms behind French "feu" (although I do agree that it surely has absolutely nothing at all to do with phở). Li Fang-Kuei even reconstructs 火 with a bilabial, which I think is probably correct. It looks like Baxter & Sagart used to follow Li but do not anymore. Ironically, they do however still want to derive 血 "blood" from a bilabial, although Schuessler (correctly in my opinion) takes them to task for that.

  23. Chris Button said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 6:39 am

    *its loss

  24. Philip Anderson said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 8:54 am

    Either fire > light or light > fire is semantically possible, but which was the original meaning of phos? The primary meaning in Ancient Greek was clearly light, particularly daylight (which is I think more fundamental than fire):φάος
    However, it’s meaning has changed in Modern Greek;
    I am not trying to fool anyone, just provide some facts.

  25. Philip Anderson said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 10:08 am

    The suggestion is that PIE had two distinct words for fire, one with a more ‘active’ sense, not that this sense continued in its descendants. It seems that different language families kept one word or another, or neither (e.g.Welsh tân is unrelated).
    Extending the sense of “domestic fire” to fire in general doesn’t seem that big a jump; a number of words in Classical Latin did not survive because they were replaced by different words in Vulgar Latin (equus v caballus, ignis v focus).
    Latin focus did not come from *péh₂ur, but had a different origin (Latin would have kept the *p, as in pater: p > f in the Germanic languages was a consequence of Grimm’s Law. Focus > fuoco, fuego, feu is quite regular for those languages.

  26. AntC said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 3:55 pm

    @Philip A Latin focus did not come from *péh₂ur, but had a different origin …

    Ok thank you, that makes more sense except …

    _What_ origin?

    Why does the wiki entry I quoted even mention *péh₂ur, but not the 'focus' origin? (Yes I can see the regular derivations from 'focus'.) Etymonline also discusses only those two PIE words.

    @Chris B The comment about pʰ- versus modern f- seems anachronistic.

    (I assume you mean D.M.'s comment.) Doesn't whether it's anachronistic depend on when it's hypothesised the borrowing/transfer took place?

    Are you saying the romanisation for "phan 粉" shows it also was pronounced with pʰ- historically?

    Then did both Vietnamese and Chinese morph pʰ- to f- over the same timescale?

  27. xiesong said,

    May 20, 2023 @ 9:51 pm

    @ AntC
    One of the principles in ancient Chinese academic practice is 孤证不立 gu zheng bu li, which means single evidence alone can't establish the case. So I'm here to add one more piece of evidence. Please see below the connection between water and Chinese 雨 yu (rain).
    @Philip Anderson
    No need to argue "chicken or egg." Here is a good example to show that ancient european scholars might have used Chinese 雨 yu (rain) in coinage of water, since rain is the source of water in less strict sense. Below are the pronunciations of 雨 yu in southeastern areas in China:
    yu231 – 苏州 suzhou; yu – 上海 shanghai; wu34 – 温州 wenzhou; u3 or ho4 – 闽南 minnan; yi3 – 客家 hakka; u2 or hou6 – 潮州 chaozhou; jyu (yu) – 广州 guangzhou.
    Clearly the sound of 雨 yu is either i, u or iu (yu). "U sound" matches wa in English water, German wasser, and vo in Russian voda. French eau sounds like u but spelling is like iu. "I (yi) sound" may correspond to Greek hydor. The "t/d sound" in European languages might be related to Chinese 滴 di (dots inside of 雨 yu), meaning waterdrop. You might be surprised to see that "aqua" in Latin family may also be connected to Chinese literature. Hard to believe it, but there is only thin paper between known and unknown.

  28. Chris Button said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 9:06 am

    @ AntC

    I'm not dimissing the comment as something irrelevant to the broader topic, i just don't see how it's material to the discussion about whether phở and phấn are related or not.

  29. xiesong said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 6:37 pm

    @Chris Button,
    I do believe that some European words (the number is growing) are cognate with Chinese words, but the way of connections varies. It can be simple and straightforward, as we see in case of fire, and also air, which is the counterpart of Chinese 霭 ai (definition: 云气 yun qi:, meaning cloud and air). It can be indirect as we see in case of water and Chinese word for rain (雨 yu). Some can be tricky. For example, Latin word mare for sea may well be cognate with 每 mei that the part of form in 海 hai (sea), which is enhanced by ancient Greek hal (sea). The reason we keep talking about pronunciations from SE China is because they preserve ancient Chinese features. As for your questions on how these words travled to Europe and at what time. That is not really up to Chinese to answer them.

    Chris Button said,
    ….OTOH @xiesong The sound of "fue" in Spanish fuego is particularly close to one of the [Chinese coastal words for 'fire']….I hope you're not suggesting the Romance 'fire' word is somehow cognate between Indo-European and S.E. Chinese(?) How would the word get transferred? All languages have ancient words for fire. What would have been the Chinese vs I-E pronunciations at the time of claimed transfer?

  30. AntC said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 8:31 pm

    @xiesong, the quote starting "OTOH … I hope you're not suggesting …" is from me.

    I suggest you study what 'cognate' means, and how to demonstrate cognates via the Comparative method.

  31. Chris Button said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 8:31 pm

    @ xiesong

    You are quoting AntC above, not me.

    However, in terms of your search for cognates, transmission questions aside, might I recommend you take some time to learn about comparative historical linguistics before making any more such suggestions.

  32. Chris Button said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 8:32 pm

    AntC beat me to it by a matter of seconds!

  33. xiesong said,

    May 21, 2023 @ 11:35 pm

    @ AntC & @ Chris Button,
    I don't know if there is any specified definition of "cognate" in your community. If I believe there is connection in their origin between two words that are from "seemly different" linguistic systems, I surely use it, why not? I am sorry if I indeed misused it, but here is what I get for the word "cognate."
    cognate (adj.): 1640s, "allied by blood, connected or related by birth, of the same parentage, descended from a common ancestor," from Latin cognatus "of common descent" (source also of Spanish cognado, Italian cognato), from assimilated form of com "together" (see co-) + gnatus, past participle of gnasci, older form of nasci "to be born" (from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget").

  34. xiesong said,

    May 22, 2023 @ 12:27 am

    A positive response in Latin languages is "si," which is phonetically and semantically identical to Chinese 是 ( shi in Mandarin; si /see/ in the south). French word oui sounds like Chinese 韪 wei. If you look up in early Chinese dictionary, it says "韪, 是也 ye," meaning 韪 is 是. "也 ye" in the end of this three-word sentence functions like "is." which is close to English “yes." How can anyone ignore this simple phenomenon and treat it as coincidence if he/she knows these connections?

  35. AntC said,

    May 22, 2023 @ 2:08 am

    @xiesong I don't know if there is any specified definition of "cognate" in your community.

    The sense in 'historical linguistics' is what my message linked to. (Did you even follow that link?) Yes etymologically the word derives from blood relations/descended from a common ancestor/etc. It has a term-of-art meaning in the context here ('descent from common ancestor words'). It seems you're not getting it: you're cherry-picking sound-alikes as pronounced today, with no knowledge of their ancestry/the sound pattern changes that would identify how they sounded at the time of hypothesised transfer.

  36. AntC said,

    May 22, 2023 @ 2:46 am

    can anyone ignore this simple phenomenon and treat it as coincidence

    Yes, linguists get plagued by these alleged coincidences all the time. Ignoring it is how they keep sane. (Disclaimer: I am not a professional linguist. I do not claim to be sane.)

    This response has been discussed on LLog. Here's an example list of astonishing coincidences.

    BTW, 'yes' in English derives from OE gise, gese. That link shows reconstruction back to PIE. Which of those candidate words from which point in time are you claiming corresponds to which pronunciation (in Old Chinese?) at which point in time?

    For such a short word and frequently-used sense (with many synonyms/equivalents in many languages), I'd be astonished if you couldn't cherry-pick a sound-alike(-ish)/meaning-alike(-ish). Oh, except for those languages where a sound-alike to 'no' means 'yes'-ish (incl Polish, Greek, according to Google).

  37. xiesong said,

    May 22, 2023 @ 11:15 am

    @AntC said,
    The reason that I did't put pronuncitions of 也 ye from SE China, when I added a paragraph to my quick reply, is because there is not much variations in this word and it goes from yi, ye, ya or ia, similar to what I heard from "yes" in English conversitions ( ye, yeah, or ya ). Of course, I studied the word "yes" long long ago, I was particularly courious about g sound in gise/gese whether it is /g/ or /dʒ/. Later on I learn that Greek gamma has /y/ sound when it is followed by vowl of i or e, thinking that g in gise might have been /y/ sound.

  38. Philip Anderson said,

    May 22, 2023 @ 2:53 pm

    Wiktionary gives a possible derivation from PIE *bʰeh₂- (“to shine”), and/or an Armenian word bocʿ for flame.բոց%23Old_Armenian
    The root doesn’t seem to have meant ’fire’ in PIE, nor Classical Latin, but developed that meaning in Vulgar Latin, which was passed to daughter languages. See section 4 on the DMLBS tab here, in contrast to the other references:

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