FROM ELAMITE TO CHINESE.

Ortu Kan at Ahnenkult posts a paragraph from Loanwords in the World’s Languages: A Comparative Handbook, edited by Martin Haspelmath and Uri Tadmor (we discussed their work here—the Japanese section is apparently terrible); the etymology both Kan and I find particularly impressive is bolded:

Introduced fauna and flora are an area where loanwords are typically found. Borrowed animal names in Mandarin include shīzi 獅子 ‘lion’ (< Old Persian šer/šē/šī ‘lion’) and 駱駝 luòtuo ‘camel’ (originally tuotuo, borrowed during the Han Dynasty from Xiongnu dada ‘camel’). In addition, xiàng 象 ‘elephant’ is of possible Kra-Dai origin (cf. Thai chááŋ ‘elephant’; elephants were indigenous to the Kra-Dai homeland but not to the Sinitic homeland). Borrowed names for introduced plants include níngméng 柠檬, 檸檬 ‘the citrus fruit’ (of Austronesian origin, cf. Malay limau), pútao 葡萄 ‘the grape’ (ultimately from Elamite *būdawa ‘wine’), mógu 蘑菇 ‘mushroom’ from Mongolian moku/mo::k and bīnglang 檳榔 ‘areca palm’ (of Austronesian origin, cf. Malay pinang ‘areca palm’).

As Kan says, “Wonder how many lost intermediates that one passed through.” (I am also struck, though, by “of Austronesian origin, cf. Malay limau“; is Malay limau ‘citrus fruit’ of native origin? I would have guessed it was borrowed from Persian لیمو līmū ‘lime.’)

Comments

  1. Garrigus Carraig says:

    How are these lineages documented? Are there Chinese texts that say, The Mongolians call them mógu; it turns out they’re tasty/deadly. ? Or rather are these more like educated guesses?

  2. I don’t know that pútao would have required that many intermediates. What’s the Middle Persian word for wine? The Sassanids had a lot of contact with the Chinese, and the last Sassanid king and some of his court fled to Tang China after the Arab conquest. The Arabs also had a lot of contact with the Tang.
    I guess it depends on how old pútao is.

  3. The best case is neither such evidence (which might err as to direction) nor guesswork: it’s that we can show that the word has cognates in the relatives of the borrowed-from language but none, or the wrong ones, in the relatives of the borrowing language. Brush in English is isolated, but in French there are cognates in other Romance languages, so English borrowed it from French.

  4. japanese grape is also budou iirc, i would think what comes first grape or wine and then conclude budawa wine is from putao grape, no?
    that’s just that, something like crude common sense guess, sorry, but yeah how to trace such lineages is interesting, in mongolian wine is dars, grape is usan uzem-water raisin, so it’s kinda curious to think too, what to trace bu syllable or dao syllable ;)
    about moku, mo::k, nice transliteration, i din’t recognise it at first cz it’s möög, but yes, möög means mushroom

  5. Which makes perfect sense, John. I realized after I hit “post” that I was oversimplifying things to the point of stupidity.
    This site suggests it was a Persian loan word, for what it’s worth.

  6. According to Hobson-Jobson, the anthropologist W.W. Skeat (son of the philologist) thought that limau was an indigenous Malay word, and thus presumably the etymon for the Persian, Arabic, and European words.

  7. I thought about that, but none of my dictionaries takes it back beyond Persian, so I assumed it must be considered a coincidence.

  8. “mógu 檳榔 ‘mushroom’ from Mongolian moku/mo::k” should be “mógu 蘑菇 ‘mushroom’ from Mongolian moku/mo::k” (incorrect character). You’ve inadvertently used 檳榔 twice.

  9. For 狮子 shīzǐ ‘lion’, Schuessler’s ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese gives the etymology as IE-Tocharian śiśäk A ṣecake B ‘lion’. (From Pulleybank)
    For 象 xiàng ‘elephant’, a very extended etymology is given:
    Area word: Proto-Tai *ǰangC, Saek saaŋC2 Written Burmese chaŋA, Lepcha tyaŋ-mo, Yidu Luoba a33-taŋ55. (Note that some of the letters above are superscripts).
    It continues: Since it is hard to believe that people all over SE Asia and as far away as the Himalayan foothills would borrow a word for an indigenous animal from Northern China, the Chinese must have been the ones who borrowed this general area word. (Further technical discussion follows). (From Norman etc.)
    葡萄 pútáo ‘grape’: ‘Grape’ is borrowed from Iranian *budāwa or *bādāwa, introduced from Bactria ca. 130 BC. (From Laufer and Norman).
    The other words are not mentioned.
    I’ve shied away from expanding Schuessler’s entries in full since they are highly condensed and require a lot of flipping back and forth to find what the abbreviations mean.

  10. I’m not so impressed by the site that Befuggled links to above. The explanation of Chinese loan words in Japanese is very strange:
    “In Japanese, there are two major ways in which Chinese words are borrowed, i. e., with or without Chinese pronunciations. Words that were borrowed with Chinese pronunciations belong to the 音读 On yomi category. Some examples are the numbers from 1-10, 新闻 as in 每日新闻 (mainichishinbun vs. Mandarin měirì xīnwén). … Words that were borrowed without the Chinese pronunciation belong to the category of 训读 Kun yomi. These words were then pronounced with native Japanese pronunciations. Often the same word can be read either with Chinese pronunciation or native Japanese pronunciation. For example, 京 can be read either as kyo as in Tokyo and Kyoto or as miyako, the former based on Chinese pronunciation and the latter native pronunciation.”
    I find it difficult to understand how a word can be borrowed from Chinese but pronounced with the native Japanese pronunciation. If ‘miyako’ is a ‘Japanese pronunciation’, how can you say it was borrowed from Chinese? The site commits the old fallacy of equating ‘characters’ and ‘words’. (Of course, it’s quite possible that the introduction of characters had a profound influence on the usage of native words, but to claim that ‘miyako’ is a borrowing from Chinese is very strange indeed.)

  11. O/T: I’ve just seen a verb that’s new to me in a football report: “the Wigan defence hashed a series of clearances” – presumably meaning “made a hash of”.

  12. Almost completely off-topic, but for your amusement:
    http://www.douban.com/people/pola_2/status/1040852024/
    @Bathrobe: Indeed, following the author’s logic, the word “human being” in Japanese would be a Chinese loan.

  13. “mógu 檳榔 ‘mushroom’ from Mongolian moku/mo::k” should be “mógu 蘑菇 ‘mushroom’ from Mongolian moku/mo::k” (incorrect character).
    Fixed, thanks.

  14. Well, when linguistics fail, biology must serve. Wikipedia says that limes were first domesticated in Iran, which supports the notion that the word for them spread from there.
    Bathrobe: Not strange at all, once you wrap your head around the Sino-centric notion that written words are logically prior to spoken ones. It’s the written forms that are borrowed, and they may be pronounced Chinese-style or locally, it doesn’t matter. Of course, this is mostly wrong, but it’s consistent, and in some cases it’s actually right. Some Chinese compounds were indeed borrowed in the 20th century from Japanese in written form and pronounced according to their usual Chinese readings.

  15. I’m curious about the assertion that elephants are not indigenous to the Sinitic homeland. Mark Elvin’s book (The Retreat of the Elephants) says that there is abundant evidence of elephants in northern China in the earliest archaeological and literary records of Chinese civilization. If xiang4 is a loan word, then it prevailed despite (apparently) the fact that elephants would have been familiar to the earliest Chinese as wild animals.

  16. What’s the Middle Persian word for wine?
    may. می, μέθυ and mead are cognate.

  17. ‘despite (apparently) the fact that elephants would have been familiar to the earliest Chinese as wild animals.’
    in mongolian elephant is zaan, would it be considered as a borrowing from xiang or on the contrary, i mean where it could stand, zaan, in “Area word: Proto-Tai *ǰangC, Saek saaŋC2 Written Burmese chaŋA, Lepcha tyaŋ-mo, Yidu Luoba a33-taŋ55.” how sounds can change generally, as z-x-s-ch-t or the opposite way, M-l’s explanations sound always very convincing about this kind of word transformations

  18. There was a mammothlike north Asian elephant (Elephas naumanni, now extinct), whose fossils have been found in Japan, where it must have arrived by land bridge. So that could be what was named by the putative Sinitic word for ‘elephant’.

  19. Garrigus Carraig says:

    Thank you, John. That’s of course kind of obvious. I don’t have any sense at all of the history of the Sino-Tibetan family. Rectifying that is my responsibility, although if anyone (you? Hat? Bathrobe?) knows of any useful links I would be obliged.

  20. marie-lucie says:

    word vs character
    A current example is the use of a heart-shaped icon as in “I [heart] New York” (etc). This icon has been “borrowed” or rather adopted into other languages together with the English words translated (or replaced) but the heart-shaped icon pronounced as the appropriate form of a verb meaning ‘to love’ in the various languages. The (visual) icon has been borrowed, but not the corresponding English verb that it is meant to represent.
    An older example is of course the pronunciation of numbers: the so-called Arabic numbers (or rather number signs) “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9″ are used in most countries, and therefore their shapes are readily identifiable, even though the corresponding words in the various languages can be pronounced and written out very differently.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Words that were borrowed without the Chinese pronunciation belong to the category of 训读 Kun yomi. These words were then pronounced with native Japanese pronunciations.
    Isn’t this simply calquing? The difference from alphabetically written languages is that the script itself provides a ready-made system for calquing of concepts.

  22. Well, it’s not ‘simply’ calquing, although it might in some way be comparable to calquing.
    Marie-lucie’s example of the heart symbol is a good one. When Chinese write 我♥中国 wō ài Zhōngguó (‘I love China’), can they be considered to have borrowed the English word ‘love’? And is this a calque?

  23. That should be 我 wǒ.

  24. In the traditional script, ‘elephant’ is jagan in Mongolian. However, that ‘g’ would currently be pronounced something like ɣ, but of course it is not pronounced at all in the modern language, and (IIRC) was possibly not necessarily pronounced even in earlier stages of the language.

  25. However, that ‘g’ would currently be pronounced something like ɣ, but of course it is not pronounced at all in the modern language
    Doesn’t make a lot of sense! The /g/ phoneme before the vowel /a/ is pronounced /ɣ/ in modern Mongolian. However, in many environments, the letter /g/ (ᠭ, corresponding to Cyrillic г) is ‘silent’, including in this word, traditionally written jagan, which is pronounced zaaŋ in modern Khalkha Mongolian. As to whether the ᠭ (ɣ) was pronounced at the time the script was created, I assume so, but I’ve seen the view expressed (I can’t remember where) that it was not pronounced even then, being an orthographic convention for indicating a lengthened vowel.

  26. I’ve messed that up again!
    Should be (1) ‘the letter ‘g’ (ᠭ, corresponding to Cyrillic г)’ and (2) ‘which is pronounced /zaaŋ/ in modern Khalkha Mongolian’.

  27. “being an orthographic convention for indicating a lengthened vowel”
    yes for example khaan would be written khagan, but the ga won’t be pronounced and i always wondered about whether there could be any connection with the jewish kogan/kohen/kahn i forgot which one which meant priest
    yeah i forgot about j/z interchangeability in the old script, but for elephant i can’t imagine saying jaan, maybe it was pronounced that way before, even in the movies from the 50-60-ies words sound pretty differently from how words sound now, and i recall yes- za was pronounced ja too
    japanese zou-san’s zou also should relate somehow to xiang i guess but i think what was really a long way for a word transformation to go is what became from the hunnu’s dada to our temee (camel), something like in a children’s game telephone :)
    i know people would argue then that hunnu were turkic, not mongol etc. and i would say perhaps nobody knows that for sure

  28. marie-lucie says:

    Borrowed names for introduced plants include níngméng 柠檬, 檸檬 ‘the citrus fruit’ (of Austronesian origin, cf. Malay limau)
    According to Wikipedia under “lemon”, the Sanskrit name also begins with n not l: see the second paragraph below:

    Lemons entered Europe near southern Italy no later than the 1st century AD, during the time of Ancient Rome. However, they were not widely cultivated. They were later introduced to Persia and then to Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. The lemon [...] was distributed widely throughout the Arab world and the Mediterranean region between 1000 and 1150.

    [...] One of the earliest occurrences of “lemon” appears in a Middle English customs document of 1420–1421, which draws from the Old French limon [now meaning 'lime'], thence the Italian limone, from the Arabic laymūn or līmūn ليمون, and from the Persian līmūn لیمو, a generic term for the fruit of this kind, which is congnative with Sanskrit निम्ब (nimbū, “lime”).

    If so, the Chinese word níngméng may be borrowed from Sanskrit, and the Malay limau from Arabic (or from another Austronesian language which had itself borrowed it from Arabic). No doubt there were intermediate stages between the original borrowings and the forms in the present languages.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    in addition, xiàng 象 ‘elephant’ is of possible Kra-Dai origin (cf. Thai chááŋ ‘elephant’; elephants were indigenous to the Kra-Dai homeland but not to the Sinitic homeland)
    If there are similar words in the other Kra-Dai or Tai-Kadai languages, it is more likely that those words originate in that family. It is known that there were indeed elephants in China in the distant past, but there have not been too many there in more recent history (eg they don’t seem to appear in Chinese mythology, in contrast to a number of other animals), while there are elephants living in most Southern Asian countries. It is therefore more probable that the Chinese word (or rather an ancestor of it) was borrowed from a Tai-Kadai language, rather than the opposite.
    read: Proto-Tai *ǰangC, Saek saaŋC2 Written Burmese chaŋA, Lepcha tyaŋ-mo, Yidu Luoba a33-taŋ55.” how sounds can change generally, as z-x-s-ch-t or the opposite way, M-l’s explanations sound always very convincing about this kind of word transformations
    Thank you, but without knowing more about the languages, I can’t tell for sure, only make some comments about plausibility.
    The order in which the words are listed in the various languages does not mean that the sounds s, ch, ty, t have changed from one to the other in the order of the list, in the opposite order, or in any other order, and it does not mean that one of those sounds was the original one: they could all have changed from yet another one, such as ǰ which is given for the probable ancestor. I don’t know how reliable the reconstruction with initial is (all the modern sounds are voiceless, only this one is voiced) although no doubt scholars who know these languages have their reasons for the reconstruction (probably involving similar correspondences among other series of words).
    As for Mongolian zaan, formerly jagan: for the latter form, if the g was once pronounced as [g] (later “softened” to [ɣ] before disappearing from pronunciation), then the word is unlikely to be borrowed from Chinese xiàng, but if the borrowing is (relatively) more recent and the letter g only represents a long vowel, borrowing (from an older Chinese version of the word) might be more plausible.
    In order to be more definite a linguist would have to be familiar with the history of documented changes both in the Chinese language and in the Mongolian language, as well as with examples of borrowings between the two languages at different periods of history. Since I am not familiar even with the modern languages, I cannot say more.

  30. thanks, M-l! From reading “Sanskrit निम्ब (nimbū, “lime”).
    If so, the Chinese word níngméng may be borrowed from Sanskrit” i recalled that lemon is nimbeg in my language too, that must be also was a borrowing from sanskrit or chinese, and surely exotic fruits or elephants being foreign borrowings are totally plausible, or maybe the word was the intermediate between nimbu-nimbeg-ningmeng, just reading that ningmeng is from limao didn’t, like, click, for me
    there is another word for lemon jurj, meaning citrus, so lime will be bersuut jurj which means crampy citrus

  31. Character-borrowings are weird. Interesting things happen when proper names are read in another language that uses the same orthography, so that Tanaka Ichirō 田中一郎 becomes Tiánzhōng Yīláng. It’s even more curious when the characters were originally used phonetically to transcribe a foreign word, like with country names; the original motivation was to represent the sounds of the original name, but because the character-word is borrowed graphically, the sounds are mangled beyond recognition. It’s like spelling pronunciations, only worse.

  32. yes for example khaan would be written khagan, but the ga won’t be pronounced and i always wondered about whether there could be any connection with the jewish kogan/kohen/kahn i forgot which one which meant priest
    Cohen / pl: cohanim / כהן/כהנים is the word used for priest in the Hebrew bible. It always carried, or perhaps evolved, a sense of leading or heading: In modern Hebrew a verbal form refers to serving an important role, e.g., in an earned leadership position, such as dean of a university faculty or chairing an organization. Jews bearing the Cohen surname, as well as some others, are traditionally considered descendants of the biblical priestly class. Genetic testing suggests strongly there’s something to the tradition.
    כהן is sometimes transcribed with a K, and sometimes the E gets left out. The G that sometimes displaces the H results from Jews living in Russian-speaking areas, where the language has no H sound. It’s also why Hitler winds up as Gitler in Russian.

  33. marie-lucie says:

    Long ago I saw a Russian movie version of Hamlet (with English subtitles). The hero was called Gamlet throughout.
    I remember my surprise when I learned (I don’t remember at what age, but not very young) that Cohen was a Jewish name. When I was in elementary school, about 7 or 8 years old, there was a girl called Anne-Marie Cohen in the class below mine. To me the ending en indicated a Breton name (as in Le Hen, Goulven, Pleven, Le Pen and many others), so I assumed that Cohen belonged in the same company. If someone had told me that it was a Jewish name, it would not have meant anything to me: at that time I only knew of Jews as people living at the time of Christ, who were mentioned in the catechism.

  34. Malay ‘limau’ reminds me of Portuguese ‘limão’, with a denasalized final diphthong (Malacca was a Portuguese colony for 130 years and Portuguese served as lingua franca in East Asian ports, including South China, in the 15th and 16th centuries);

    The Portuguese word comes from Persian ‘līmū’ or ‘laimūn’ through Arabic ‘limūn’ ou ‘leimun’. Note that the Chinese ‘ningmeng’ has a nasal final, just like Arabic and Portuguese.

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