Chinese and Indo-European Roots and Analogues.

Matt at No-sword has a post about the 1861 paper “Chinese and Indo-European Roots and Analogues” by Pliny Earle Chase (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 8, pp. 5-48):

Spoiler: Chase would like to suggest that the Roman alphabet (and its sister scripts) are derived from the Chinese writing system.

(I’m having trouble reproducing the example passages properly, but you can see them in their original glory here.) He ends with links to “a couple of rather less freewheeling monographs on related ideas, except with the lines of influence going from Near East to Far: Julie Lee Wei’s Correspondences Between the Chinese Calendar Signs and the Phoenician Alphabet, and Brian R. Pellar’s The Foundation of Myth, On the Origins of the Alphabet, and On the Origins of the Alphabet: New Evidence.” A nice combination of the exploded old and the thought-provoking new.

Comments

  1. anyone seriously interested in possible connections between Chinese and Indo-European should be aware of http://www.sino-platonic.org/, where Victor Mair (who also is a frequent poster on this and other subjects on Language Log, http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll) publishes non-mainstream papers on language, East-Asian and otherwise. a cursory search yields the following titles:

    http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp167_old_chinese_proto_indo_european.pdf
    http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp125_chinese_proto_indo_european.pdf
    http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp115_chinese_proto_indo_european.pdf
    http://sino-platonic.org/complete/spp007_old_chinese.pdf

  2. For some reason, a bunch similar theories involving Semitic languages cropped up recently. There’s the lexical root theory by Zaidan Jassem (Google his name) for Arabic and the SDH system which adopts a similar approach to the Tanakh (http://thechronicleproject.org/PDF1/researchnotesmaster.pdf).
    Now we have two more participants in this glorious search for the ultimate meaning of Semitic roots. Couple of days ago, this appeared in my inbox and then a few days later this. Both involve Arabic and both insist on describing themselves as scientific.

  3. “Pliny Earle Chase”

    Boy! They really knew how to name ‘em back then!

  4. The list of Pliny Chase‘s occasional publications for that Society is pretty impressive in its breadth.

    It includes similar comparative etymology efforts for Sanskrit and English and Yoruba (and everything).

    A memoir said that he could read 120 languages (including dialects) and was one of two or three people in the country who could read Eliot’s Indian Bible. (I suppose by that time that included Wampanoags, though I’m not sure the author thought to consider that possibility.)

  5. marie-lucie says:

    I wonder if he was related to Pliny Earle Goddard, a later linguist who studied some Amerindian languages.

  6. I wonder if he was related to Pliny Earle Goddard, a later linguist who studied some Amerindian languages.

    If you consider me a genealogist on this board :) – the answer is, no close relation.

    “Pliny Earle Goddard, ethnologist and linguist of American Indian languages (24 Nov 1869 – 12 July 1928) was born in Lewiston, Maine to Elmira (Almira) Nichols (Niclos) and Charles W. Goddard, a minister in the Society of Friends”. In the 1910 census, Charles W. Goddard (b. 1840 in Maine to Robert and Patience Goddard) has a different, younger wife from Ohio. Almira was b. ca. 1838 in Kennebec, Maine, to Stephen Nichols and Hannah Bracketts; she is aka Emerline A Goddard (and her newborn son, Pliney) in 1870 Census. In marriage documents, she’s Ann Elmira Nichols (married Charles Goddard at Vassalboro, Kennebec, Maine, on 23 October 1862)

    “Pliny Earle Chase (Worcester, Massachusetts, 18 August 1820 – Haverford, Pennsylvania, 17 December 1886)”; he was named after his mgf Pliny Earle I (December 17, 1762 – November 19, 1832) from MA. Pliny Earle Chase’s mat uncles were Pliny Earle II, John Milton Earle, and Thomas Earle.

  7. Chase might have been named after Pliny Earle I or Pliny Earle II or even Pliny Earle Chase, however. I note that both the Earles and the Goddards were Quakers.

  8. As was Pliny himself, of course.

  9. Stefan Holm says:

    Pliny?

    Is there any explanation why the English unlike the rest of the world (known to me, that is) don’t say Plinius? Or say Mark Antony instead of Marcus Antonius? Plato instead of Platon? Aristotle instead of Aristoteles? Ptolemy instead of Ptolemaios? Hadrian instead of Hadrianus? Virgil instead of Vergilius? And so on.

    I can understand my name coming as Stephen, Stephane, Esteban, Istvan, Stepan, Stepanos etc. (haven’t checked, so I don’t how King James Bible named the first of the martyrs). Not to mention John (Johannes, Johan, Johann, Juha, Ivan, Sean, Juan, Jean, Giovanni, Iovan…) But when it comes to those, the non-Biblical classics, I find it a little curious that English has changed them. Are the Normans to blame?

  10. French Pline and Italian/Spanish/Portuguese Plinio. Slavic languages, and English, must have followed the Romance?

  11. But when it comes to those, the non-Biblical classics, I find it a little curious that English has changed them.

    Why? What’s so special about Biblical names, or names of any kind for that matter? Names are just a particular kind of word, and when words are borrowed they get adapted to the borrowing language. The nominative ending is a part of Latin that was not needed in English (or in Russian, for that matter, where Brutus is just Брут).

  12. Stefan Holm says:

    Slavic languages, and English, must have followed the Romance?

    Yes, Dmitry, but unlike the rest of Europe (and I believe the world), Russian kept the original Latin respublika (республика) as opposed to French République.

  13. Stefan Holm says:

    Christianity arrived upon us some 1000 or more years ago. That explains – to me – why the names in the Bible have been adapted grammatically to their former heathen langugages (like John or Steve). But the classical Greek or Roman names didn’t arrive in our habitates until some 500 years later, when we slowly were beginning to be a little bit litterate. If I accept your argument that when words are borrowed they get adapted to the borrowing language, you maybe in return could give me a clue to why at least Scandinavian and German have been true to the spellings of the classics.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Sino-platonic papers linked to by flow are indeed very far from mainstream, though fascinating in a rather ghoulish way.
    The last of them, for example, after quite a lot of quite plausible looking proposed Chinese/IE cognates concludes that Chinese is a kentum-language particularly close to “Northern Germanic”, and that Northern (but not Southern) Germanic is particularly conservative within Indo-European because it resembles Chinese by being “poor in grammatical categories” compared to Sanskrit, Greek and “Southern Germanic.” It’s hard to know where to begin.

    Other papers happily give eg Old French proposed cognates of Chinese words simply as lookalikes, without any consideration of the origin of the French words, along with Sanskrit etc. The detailed lists of supposed cognates are well outside any of my competences but look fishy in much the same way as all the Nostratic stuff on the face of it. Classical Chinese moreover has a famously large vocabulary and it must be fatally easy for a scholar well versed in the language to find a plausible “cognate” to practically any monosyllable. The considerable uncertainty about the phonology of the older language must make the production of spurious cognates all the easier.

    It’s frustrating to see so much scholarship and enthusiasm deployed in the absence of basic understanding of real historical linguistics. I don’t think it’s really a kindness to not-well-established scholars to publish this sort of thing as it stands.

    I don’t have any problem at all with the idea that Indoeuropean charioteers might have contributed cultural and linguistic features to an Old Chinese elite – the idea is fascinating and surely worthy of study. But it’s not well served by scholarship of this sort.

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stefan Holm:

    I don’t know, but guessing:

    The English habit of truncating classical names is presumably derived from French in general, though admittedly the details often differ; if this is right, then the question becomes “why does French treat classical names differently from German and languages following in the German tradition of classical scholarship?”

    I would guess that this is because French is actually derived from Latin, and contains numerous doublets (even triplets) where a word coexists in forms regularly derived from Latin by normal sound changes alongside words re-borrowed into French from Latin at different epochs, like chef alongside capital, ecole beside scolaire etc etc etc. French is a remarkable example of a language containing multiple strata of borrowing from former stages of itself. In this kind of language it’s hardly remarkable that classical names can turn up in forms varying from those developed by regular sound change from Latin, like Pierre, to outright learned borrowings which just replicate the Latin, and intermediate types galore. (The same has happened in other Romance languages, but the contrasts are particularly striking in French because it’s undergone such profound phonetic changes. I mean, chef from caput!? eau from aqua!?)

    In German, it would obviously be much more natural simply to borrow the original form as is.

  16. English, I think, borrowed the Classical names through French, at least in part, so they have been adapted twice. Thus French Pline, Marc_Antoine, Plato/Platon, Aristote, Ptolémée, Hadrien, Virgile are all adapted in the same way as ordinary Latin words are adapted to French.

  17. David E: Note that école like livre is a semi-learned term, not directly descended from Latin, as noted in our discussion from last year.. It’s really Spanish that has a lot of these and not so much French; in Spanish they are called semicultismos.

    Other wonderful French reductions are hui < hodie (now replaced by au jour d’hui ‘today’s day’) and /u/ (at least in Quebec French) < Augustus (not yet formally replaced by /omwedu/).

  18. Stefan Holm says:

    Hat
    Far from questioning any people’s right to call whoever they like whoever they like, I was just wondering why. I once saw a play written in your language where there were characters called Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, Horatio and Laertes. Why weren’t they named ‘Cloddy,’ Pauly’, ‘Filliy’, Horace’ and ‘Larry’?

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    There is a parallel in the Sinosphere, where (for example) the great Tang poet Li Bai is Ri Haku in Japanese and Lý Bạch in Vietnamese. The Japanese and Vietnamese forms preserve (more or less) the final -k the man himself would have pronounced in his personal name, which has been lost in Mandarin.

    The Japanese and Vietnamese forms are the German analogues: they reflect learned traditions of pronunciation of Classical Chinese dating back to approximately the same time period as Li Bai himself, adapted to foreign sound systems and subsequently altered to varying degrees as the host languages themselves changed over time. (Hence the palatalisation in Vietnamese and the -u in Japanese.)

    The Mandarin form on the other hand is as it were the French side of the analogy; the pronunciation has evolved within Chinese as the Chinese of the Tang era has developed into Mandarin (among other “dialects”.) But the actual development hasn’t simply followed regular sound laws, but has been influenced by the continuing use of Classical Chinese as a literary language and the continuing use of pronouncing dictionaries originally created for the language of a thousand years ago, so that the same morpheme may have different reflexes in the modern language depending on whether it is read with a literary or a colloquial reading – this is why this same poet was previously familiar to us all as Li Bo.

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Stefan Holm:

    Easy. Our Bard was plagiarising your fellow Scandinavian Saxo Grammaticus.

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    Or as we would call him, Grammatic Sax.

  22. I was just wondering why.

    David Eddyshaw has been giving some great explanations, which I can’t improve on.

    I once saw a play written in your language where there were characters called Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, Horatio and Laertes. Why weren’t they named ‘Cloddy,’ Pauly’, ‘Filliy’, Horace’ and ‘Larry’?

    Ah, there you have me! You’d have to ask someone much more deeply immersed in the details of the history of English borrowings from Latin than I.

  23. Thanks for the link!

    That list of other publications is impressive. “Notes on Possible Vowel Sounds Not Used in Any Language” sounds like something a H.P. Lovecraft character would discover in his mysteriously vanished uncle’s papers.

  24. marie-lucie says:

    SH: the classical Greek or Roman names didn’t arrive in our habitates [Scandinavia] until some 500 years later than Christianity:

    The classical names arrived together with Europeans’ (re)discovery of the classical languages, eagerly studied by scholars. Of course scholars were also eager to display their erudition, which included pronouncing the ancient people’s names as close as possible to the original pronunciation. In English only a few well-known names have been anglicized, as with Pliny, Livy and Aristotle, who were probably mentioned in early Christian literature such as the works of St Augustine or the Church Fathers.

    In French the Latin names, new and traditional, continued to be frenchified until quite late, before some of them reverted to the Latin original, perhaps for the same reason, but other names from Romance languages were also frenchified. In Corneille’s plays, Latin names such as Titus appear as Tite (and “Livy” is still known as Tite-Live even though in Modern French the emperor is Titus). The Spanish names in Le Cid are adapted to French (Chimène for “Ximena”, Don Diègue for “Don Diego”, etc). I am not sure if Brutus appears in one of Corneille’s plays, but he would have been called “Brute”, which would have been unfortunately homophonous with the common noun. In later plays by Racine, some of the Latin names are still Latin, such as Britannicus, but well-known Greek names have their French adaptation, such as Phèdre and Thésée. As for Marc, Antoine and a few others, there is no distinction made between these common first names, derived (at least traditionally) from saints with these names, known through Christian literature, and the names of historical characters.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    /u/ (at least in Quebec French) < Augustus (not yet formally replaced by /omwedu/)

    In my own speech, for août ‘August’ (month) I can use any of /u/, /ut/ (both usually after en) or /omwadu(t)/ “au mois d’août”, literally ‘in the month of August’. I have not tried to determine under what conditions I use each of them. Both en and au mois de can be used interchangeably, with any month name.

    I doubt that in Quebec /omwedu/ would be considered formal (in terms of pronunciation).

    In La Fontaine’s fable La cigale et la fourmi (the cicada and the ant, 17C), the cicada asks the ant for a loan and promises to repay her avant l’août ‘before August’, and the t is probably not meant to be pronounced.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    (Sorry for the extra italics, I have not yet mastered how to do them with the Canadian French keyboard – I know it theoretically but it does not yet come automatically)

  27. Fixed!

  28. marie-lucie says:

    merci!

    More about août ‘August’

    There is a well-known French song Au trente-et-un du mois d’août which celebrates the capture of an English frigate (a 30-gun ship) by a smaller (6-gun) French ship commanded by the famous corsaire (privateer) Surcouf on August 31, 1800 (I remember mentioning it here some time ago). The title is identical to the first line, and the word août at the end is pronounced /a-u/, rhyming with nous /nu/ ‘us’ at the end of the next line. The pronunciation in two syllables may have been current at the time, perhaps as a regional variant or simply a spelling pronunciation, but here it is used to fit the word to the melody. In the La Fontaine fable I mentioned above, more than a century older than the song, the word only has one syllable, as in Modern French.

  29. No mention of Alfred Kallir? Surely some mistake!

  30. m-l: Somewhere (but I can’t find it now), Geraint Jennings spoke of a Channel Islands song in French that similarly began with a very specific day-month date, reporting an apparently fictional shipwreck. In English this style of a specific date would tend to indicate factuality. (However, Stan Rogers’s wonderful ballad “Barratt’s Privateers” does begin “The year was 1778″ even though it is entirely fictional, and furthermore refers to Sherbrooke (N.S.), a town founded only in 1815.)

    I relate this, perhaps wrongly, to the French style of political speeches that goes something like this:

    We must at all times recall the spirit of 30 April, as clarified by the events of 9 July, while nevertheless avoiding the trap of 2 October!

    (I made up these dates, but I’m sure you recognize the flavor.)

  31. David Marjanović says:

    German does drop -ius from all but the shortest Latin names, so the stressed syllable (which keeps its stress!) ends up as the last one: Ovid, Sueton, Vergil – and even sometimes Mark Anton /ˌmaːkanˈtoːn/ even though the common names are Markus and Anton /ˈantɔn/.

    Also, the apostles are Petrus and Jakobus -/ˈkoː/-, not Peter and Jakob -/kɔb/, and the saint and the pope are Franziskus rather than Franz.

    The detailed lists of supposed cognates are well outside any of my competences but look fishy in much the same way as all the Nostratic stuff on the face of it.

    Don’t confuse Nostratic with Greenberg’s & Ruhlen’s mass comparison. The Nostraticists, at least those in the Moscow School, are very careful to use the comparative method. Their advances are hampered by the quality of the data available to them.

    “Notes on Possible Vowel Sounds Not Used in Any Language”

    I’ll need to read that, because I don’t think any such vowels exist, even though some are limited to maybe 5 or 10 languages worldwide.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, is that in the list of Pliny Chase’s publications? Because I don’t have access to that. :-(

    At sino-platonic.org, on the other hand, there’s a paper on the expansion of Indo-European by Eric “Mainstream” Hamp. That I need to read ASAP. :-)

  33. Trond Engen says:

    Good luck. I read his article in the collection from the (first?) Dene-Yeniseian workshop, and I found it completely impenetrable.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    JC: the French style of political speeches

    Yes, some dates are so well-known that the year is hardly mentioned. In Paris there is a street called rue du 4 septembre “Sept 4 Street” commemorating an event about which I don’t remember anything, even the year. But in the US, the year of “9-11″ is rarely mentioned either.

    DM: [in German] the apostles are Petrus and Jakobus -/ˈkoː/-, not Peter and Jakob -/kɔb/

    I am surprised that the apostles have Latin or Latinate names. In French and English those apostles are called by French or English equivalents: Pierre/Peter, Jacques/James (the last one an older French form, preserved in English). In both languages Jacob is the son of Isaac, not a companion of Jesus.

  35. It’s various trees by Hamp with brief commentary by someone else. Interesting but not exactly self-explanatory.

  36. marie-lucie says:

    Eric Hamp

    DM, your link leads to a single blank page even though the length is supposed to be over 200 K.

    TR, I was at that conference too. Because Vajda’s proposal on the Dene-Yeniseian connection (earlier suggested, but never demonstrated) was expected to be very controversial, it was important to stress that he was using tried and true historical methods. EH (then aged 89, I think) was invited to present as the grand old man of traditional historical linguistics, with interests not only in Indo-European but in a variety of other languages including Amerindian ones (which is why I had met him at other conferences). I was very disappointed at his presentation this time. I guess it was supposed to bring people up to date on Indo-European and the comparative method (something the workshop participants were presumably quite aware of), but it was very disorganized. He distributed a handwritten handout which gave examples from a variety of IE languages but which was barely decipherable because written in a tiny script, with often non-parallel lines, etc. The lecture also went on far too long. I have not read the final published paper, which is presumably based on those notes. I would skip it, since I am sure that the information in it is available in many other publications. That said, EH is a delightful old gentleman on less formal occasions, and us non-Indo-Europeanists appreciate his wider interests.

  37. rue du 4 septembre

    It commemorates the fall of Napoleon III and the start of the Third Republic.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Merci, JC! I must have learned it in history class as a teenager, but not thought about it since.

  39. Also, the apostles are Petrus and Jakobus -/ˈkoː/-, not Peter and Jakob -/kɔb/, and the saint and the pope are Franziskus rather than Franz.
    But the truncated / integrated into German names can be found as well, e.g. in the church calendar June 29th is “Peter und Paul”, and the bird whisperer is also known as Franz von Assisi (see e.g. this church in Vienna). I’d assume that the coexistence of two forms (latinate and truncated) has something to do with the coexistence of popular traditions and the humanist return to more classical forms.

  40. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    “But in the US, the year of “9-11″ is rarely mentioned either.”

    One of the main streets in Santiago (Chile) is called “11 de septiembre” (it commemorates Pinochet’s coup in 1973). Something I’ve always intended to do is to see whether 11 de septiembre 2001 or 11 de septiembre 1973 exist as addresses, but I’ve never got around to it. Google Maps puts 2001 in the middle of an intersection (next to the Hotel Neruda!). Probably it just interpolated between addresses that do exist. (In Santiago buildings are numbered according to how many meters they are from some datum; they don’t go up in 2′s.)

  41. David Marjanović says:

    It’s various trees by Hamp with brief commentary by someone else. Interesting but not exactly self-explanatory.

    Yeah; the commentary just describes the two trees (from 1989 and 2012) and the maps (hypothetical migrations and substrates). The trees contain interesting and surprisingly non-mainstream hypotheses, but no evidence supporting them is mentioned except for the claim that “some form of Winter’s Law” is found outside of Balto-Slavic in Messapic and Illyrian; no examples that would illustrate this claim are given. Particularly novel is the idea that an IE branch closely related to Germanic was spoken in Greece before Greek; I have no idea what makes Hamp think so.

    DM, your link leads to a single blank page even though the length is supposed to be over 200 K.

    It’s a pdf. If your browser can’t display those or your connection is too slow, right-click/long-click on the link and choose “save target as”.

    But the truncated / integrated into German names can be found as well, e.g. in the church calendar June 29th is “Peter und Paul”, and the bird whisperer is also known as Franz von Assisi

    True. I think the isolated forms are the more classical ones, while any amount of context triggers the truncated/integrated ones.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    DM: about the blank page: I usually have no problem downloading pdf’s. I won’t try your alternate method, because after your description of the paper I am not really interested in reading it! But thanks anyway.

  43. M-L: Just FYI, I occasionally have trouble downloading PDFs from Sino-Platonic Papers, but the problem usually resolves itself if I try again the following day.

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