GENDER-NEUTRAL SWEDISH.

Kevin Mathews has a story about an interesting linguistic development:

Swedes are shaking up their language with a new gender-neutral pronoun. The pronoun, “hen,” allows speakers and writers to refer to a person without including reference to a person’s gender. This month, the pronoun made a big leap toward mainstream usage when it was added to the country’s National Encyclopedia. [...]
“Hen” (pronounced like the English word for chicken) is a modified version of the Swedish words “han” and “hon,” which mean “he” and “she” respectively. The pronoun first emerged as a suggestion from Swedish linguists back to the 1960s. Though it has taken a while for the word to catch on, some Swedish magazines and even a children’s book have now adopted it in their texts. [...]
The push to make “hen” mainstream could face challenges. Even for those sympathetic to the plight, after a lifetime of saying “han” and “hon,” switching to “hen” requires breaking a force of habit. Still, even if the majority do not adopt “hen” into their everyday speech, having an accepted alternative available is yet another step toward Swedish gender-neutrality.

What I want to know is, is this just a pie-in-the-sky initiative with no hope of actually succeeding, like the infamous English “ze,” or do people (other than zealots) use it?

Comments

  1. Jeffry House says:

    I don’t have any on the ground empirical Swedish experience offer, but does it differ so much from the creation of the honorific ” Ms.” to replace Mrs. or Miss?
    Where I live, no one blinks when Ms. So-and-so is referred to.

  2. Titles require far more conscious decision than pronouns.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    If it is being adopted (even on an experimental basis) by magazines and children’s books (especially the latter), it could have a good chance. One thing in its favour is that it is not too different from the gendered pronouns, which resemble each other more than do he and she in English. English attempts with te etc (I didn’t know about ze whith would suggest a stereotypical French accent) sounded more bizarre among the other pronouns than the Swedish addition of a third member to the hVn series. But these are Subject forms: do all the pronouns also have Object forms?

  4. dearieme says:

    It’ll make Swedish visitors very popular in Glasgow.

  5. Oskar Sigvardsson says:

    It’s really a bit too soon to tell, though I personally think that it will probably fall out of usage within a few years.
    This pronoun has been part of a very public debate that has been going on (on and off) for the last few years, so pretty much every Swede is aware of it and knows what it means. For instance, there was a big to-do about it a few months ago when one of Sweden’s largest morning papers decided to ban the word in their style guide. Shortly after that, the Environmental Party (“Miljöpartiet”, I guess you would call them “The Green Party” in English), a fairly left wing party with big support among young people decided to use “hen” throughout in their party platform.
    I’ve used it a few times myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever used it “naturally”, the way you would naturally use singular they in English, for instance. It’s always been in the context of some discussion of gender issues, where I’ve used it to make a point. Just by saying the word you are sort-of allying yourself with both the feminist and LGBT movement (“hen” is sometimes seen as the “transgender” pronoun, and this is all part of a larger debate around transgender issues) and against more conservative forces, linguistic or otherwise.
    That seems to be the pattern with this pronoun right now. Virtually everybody who uses it, uses it to make a point either about the word itself or gender issues (especially transgender issues) in general. I can only recall hearing it used naturally once, where it was just used the way you would use singular they in English, and where the usage was not commented on.
    The biggest hurdle the word has to clear is that it feels incredibly strange and unnatural to use, almost as unnatural as something like “ze”. The word does have a significant movement behind it, but I doubt that in the long run it will be able to overcome that resistance.

  6. Oskar Sigvardsson says:

    @marie-lucie: yes, Swedish pronouns have different object forms, for “han” and “hon” (“he” and “she”), the forms are “honom” and “henne”. One version of the object form of “hen” is “henom”, but the Swedish Language Council (the people that offer advice on these kinds of issues) have suggested that that sounds to close to “honom”, and that you should instead just use “hen” itself as the object form as well. This is similar to the Swedish pronoun “det” (“it”), which is the same in both object and subject form (as indeed “it” is).

  7. Isn’t this story like a year old? I vaguely recall it being discussed here…

  8. The biggest hurdle the word has to clear is that it feels incredibly strange and unnatural to use, almost as unnatural as something like “ze”. The word does have a significant movement behind it, but I doubt that in the long run it will be able to overcome that resistance.
    Sounds about right, and I thank you for your well-informed comment, which is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for when I made the post.

  9. I vaguely recall it being discussed here…
    Wasn’t here; I just did a site search on “Swedish” and the only post I’ve made on Swedish pronouns was back in 2002 and had nothing to do with this.

  10. I think bulbul is thinking of this post on the language log. I have no idea about Swedish pronoun usage, but have a feeling that there could be a significant generational split the way a larger percentage of older folks find singular they forced or unnatural.

  11. I am reluctant to change the topic when the new topic may be less interesting than the old, but was anyone else a little startled by switching to “hen” requires breaking a force of habit?
    I think of “breaking a habit” and “force of habit” as comfortable stock phrases, but this hybrid not so much.

  12. My mistake, thanks Shanth and hat, now I remember. Anyway, my reaction is the same as it was a year ago: it kinda works for me. Not that speak (or read) much Swedish these days, but it kinda rolls off the tongue.

  13. Birdseeding says:

    I’m more optimistic than Oscar as to hens chances, but then I tend to hang out in the sort of circles that use it a lot, among the self-conciously queer parts of the population. (Where I feel it’s got much bigger acceptance than ze ever got in the US. I mean, that green party is Sweden’s third biggest, and even they use it.)
    But I think it may go beyond that. One factor is that it’s been discussed sufficiently much in more mainstream contexts that it’s acquired a status of being quite well-known generally, and the public will now readily understand it even if they don’t approve. That means it can be used as a stylistic device without explanation, and has, in mainstream media and even legal texts! One newspaper headline last year, in a downmarket tabloid no less, read something like “HEN WILL WIN THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST NATIONAL SELECTION” (With a scrambled picture) – thus not revealing which of the two main prospects was slated to win according to the bookmakers. (Yes, it’s a huge deal in Sweden who wins the national selection.) It’s novelty, sure, but ingrained enough to be comprehensible to all, which is a good step on the way.

  14. Kári Tulinius says:

    I’ve been working with a Swedish theater troupe for the last two years. When I went last year they were discussing hen quite a lot. This year I noticed they were using it quite naturally and han and hon were uncommon enough to be noticeable. These are feminist bohemians, true, but this seems to have become a normal feature of the sociolect of young lefties in Sweden.

  15. It’s novelty, sure, but ingrained enough to be comprehensible to all, which is a good step on the way.
    True, and it’s clearly well ahead of ze.

  16. SFReader says:

    Mongolian has no gender pronouns, but sometimes there is a need to indicate gender of a person spoken about.
    So they say “ter emegtei khun” (that female person) or “ter eregtei khun” (that male person)
    Rather complicated, but at least they should rejoice in being progressive gender-neutralists….

  17. not that complicated, it could be shortened to just er/eregtei or emegtei, meaning man/woman, but really there is no words as nouns man/woman or pronouns he/ she – only hun (khun, humuun in the old script) which means human, person, indeed it’s gender neutral
    i always wondered why these words humuun, human sound so similarly, should look them up in the etymology dictionaries i guess

  18. “Human is from *dhghem-, “earth” ”
    earth is gazar, so it’s totally different then

  19. Starostin has linked it first to Turkic “kun” people and further to the Proto-IE: *g’ene-, *g’ne:-/*g’na:-
    Meaning: to give birth, to be born
    attested in most Indoeuropean languages including among others Latin “genus” (from which comes “genetics”) and Germanic *kundi/-z (race, generation) which is ultimately related to English words “kind”, “king”, “ken”

  20. Forgot to mention. The word “gender” also comes from latin “genus”, so it’s related to Mongolian “khun/khumun” as well ;-)

  21. “linked it first to Turkic “kun” people”
    what “it”, khun (khumuun) or human? if genes etc. so must be you are talking about human, it’s arguable what was first, Turkic kun or our hun (khumuun), our hun is from Hunnu’s hun, well, at that time there was no distinction yet turkic, mongolic i guess
    well, i don’t want to hijack the Swedish hen thread with our hun, so

  22. Starostin couldn’t derive a common Altaic root for Turkic “kun” and Mongolic “kumun”
    Probably it’s a case of very, very old borrowing from some Indo-European language (Tocharian or Indoiranian, circa 3000-2000 BC. They are attested archaeologically in and around Mongolia at about that time)

  23. borrowing? from PIE? the most basic word like that? sounds improbable like though what do i know of course, must be there was some proto word for it never mind what classification
    deriving genus from kun also sounds not that convincing, so what works in that case, borrowing too?

  24. You see, in steppe cultures, they usually borrow words together with people…
    It works like this – a tribe speaking one language is conquered by another tribe. The men are killed and women become wives of the conquerors.
    Then children grow up speaking conqueror’s language, but with a lot of words from their mother’s language, including most basic ones.
    There is actually a genetic proof for this. About 4 to 13% of Mongolian population carry R1A1 happlogroup, commonly regarded as Indo-European.

  25. not only the steppe cultures behavior was like that i guess, still within the uralic/altaic languages maybe the most generic words like human maybe could be borrowed, but bringing it from the entirely different language family and say it’s a borrowing sounds izvinite as if like prityanutue za ushi explanation
    when he couldnt find the common root for turkic kun and khumun even! aren’t they the same word exactly, one between the proto common language of the turkic/mongolic ancestors, that could be like pretty plausible, no?

  26. John Emerson says:

    In English “um” as short for “them” works pretty well as a nonspecific object pronoun.

  27. I don’t know if I’ve pointed this out before, but the words ‘wheel’, ‘cycle’, and ‘chakra’ are all derived from the same (Indo-European) root. Of course it’s not immediately obvious just from looking at the words, but it can be proved.
    The fact that one word happens to ‘look like’ a word in another language is no proof of relationship, and the fact that words look totally different does not mean that they are not cognates. So idle surmise about etymologies based on some superficiality of sound or meaning (or lack thereof) is really pretty meaningless.

  28. ‘Pole’ (as in ‘north pole’) is also apparently from the same root as ‘wheel’, ‘cycle’, ‘chakra’.

  29. So idle surmise about etymologies based on some superficiality of sound or meaning (or lack thereof) is really pretty meaningless.
    Eager surmise is even worse, because it encourages others eagerly to conclude that one is superficial. Speculation of any kind morphs into judgment before you can say Jack Robinson.

  30. SFReader says:

    As I understand, similarity between Turkic “kun” and Mongolian “kumun” is not enough. They need to follow certain sound correspondences to determine common Altaic form which in this case can not be established in accordance with known rules.
    As for them being a same word, I am afraid they are not. Current Khalkha Mongolian has “khun” form, but it is well known that the original word was “kumun” as attested in many other Mongolian dialects as well as in written Classical Mongolian.

  31. i dont know i thought i left a comment here right now

  32. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe: wheel, cycle, chakra, pole
    There are two problems with citing cognates to non-linguists: if they are from closely related languages, the resemblances are obvious (like Spanish vino, Italian vino, French vin ‘wine’), so the uninitiated concludes that obviously resemblant forms must be cognates, and therefore cognates are easy to spot without the need for special training; or, as with the above examples from more distantly related languages (at least originally: cycle and pole are borrowings from Greek), there is very little resemblance, so the uninitiated concludes that anything goes, while most of the time explanations are going to be too long and complex (beside requiring comparisons with yet more languages) to appeal to people who are not already knowledgeable about the topic, but those are the exception outside of the linguistic profession (and even within it, since historical/comparative linguistics is not a fashionable specialty at this time).

  33. Bathrobe—
    What is the argument for pole deriving from the same root? (I’m not disagreeing, just curious—this is a topic I don’t know too much about.)
    I see how wheel, cycle, chakra, etc. could all ultimately derive from PIE *kʷékʷlos or however you reconstruct it, but I’m at a loss trying to connect it to ‘pole’ (& some searching around on the internet hasn’t really helped).

  34. Rodger C says:

    @Matt A: I suppose the premise is that polos pelein, which “ought” to be telein?

  35. Rodger C says:

    Thsat was totally screwed by my use of a pointed bracket to indicate derivation. Again: I suppose the premise is that polos is from *kwolos, but in that case how explain pelein, which “ought” to be telein? Analogical leveling?

  36. I got that from the Online Etymological Dictionary:
    cycle (n.)
    late 14c., from Late Latin cyclus, from Greek kyklos “circle, wheel, any circular body, circular motion, cycle of events,” from PIE *kwel- “to roll, to move around, wheel” (cf. Sanskrit cakram “circle, wheel,” carati “he moves, wanders;” Avestan caraiti “applies himself,” c’axra “chariot, wagon;” Greek polos “a round axis” (PIE *kw- becomes Greek p- before some vowels), polein “move around;” Latin colere “to frequent, dwell in, to cultivate, move around,” cultus “tended, cultivated,” hence also “polished,” colonus “husbandman, tenant farmer, settler, colonist;” Lithuanian kelias “a road, a way;” Old Norse hvel, Old English hweol “wheel;” Old Russian kolo, Polish koło, Russian koleso “a wheel”).
    I thought it was interesting so I threw it in as a note. No kudos to me for being exceptionally intelligent or knowledgeable. As I said, it is apparently from the same root; I’m in no position to judge whether the Etymology Online claim is plausible or not.

  37. SFreader: over at the “Muskogean and Lamb’s quarters” thread I had pointed out that brutal conquest needn’t be the cause of language shift: I have to stress that this is even truer in the case of loanwords (your March 31, 10:55 PM comment here).
    Assuming for the sake of argument that Turkic “kun” and/or Mongolain “kumun” are indeed loanwords from Tocharian or from some Indo-European language, I fail to see why their being borrowed need involve conquest of any kind.
    If anything, large-scale borrowing, or borrowing of basic concepts, seems to require peaceful contact much more often than it does violent conquest.
    For example, Michif, probably the most spectacular outcome of languages in contact, arose through peaceful contact. The French element of English, contrary to popular mythology, is not primarily due to the Norman conquest: a majority of French loanwords in English derive from Central French, and not from the conquerors’ Norman French.
    (Read: among these words of French origin in English there is the noun “people”, so if it is true that Mongolian “kumun” is a loanword, well, Mongolian stands in fine company in having borrowed a word to denote this concept).
    Conversely, conquest and mass deportation typically do not appear to leave significant linguistic traces in the language(s) of the deported group. The 1755 deportation of the Acadians, the many Eastern American U.S. Native Tribes expelled to Oklahoma, the small deported nations of the Soviet Union such as the Crimean Tatars or the Volga Germans (the list goes on, depressingly enough)…somehow none of these human tragedies has ended with the birth of a mixed language, or indeed with a language borrowing a great many new words.
    Of course, on account of intra-group mixing and geographical separation new dialects arose (i.e. Cajun versus the Acadian French of Atlantic Canada, Oklahoma versus Carolina Cherokee, for instance), but these new varieties differ among themselves much in the same way that new dialects which arose under more peaceful circumstances do.
    So: if the languages of more recent victims of traumatic conquest do not exhibit any unusual “trace” of this traumatic event, then why should we assume a traumatic event in the distant past whenever we think we have found something “unusual” in a language? I can think of no reason, frankly.

  38. Thanks, Rodger C & Bathrobe. That seems reasonable (though I’m also in no position to judge that *kw- to p- correspondence). Now I’m intrigued by the pelein/telein issue, and I might try looking into that a little further.

  39. Rodger C says:

    Bathrobe’s citation gives that verb as polein, but I know it from Sophocles: Polla ta deina k’ouden anthropou deinoteron pelei. Maybe I’m confusing two different verbs.

  40. (Read: among these words of French origin in English there is the noun “people”, so if it is true that Mongolian “kumun” is a loanword, well, Mongolian stands in fine company in having borrowed a word to denote this concept).
    in fine company? there are not fine too? thanks, i am satisfied with the finesse of my own company / a joke, but hope you get how i get ” frustrated” by such innocent joking comments

  41. Indeed “hen” is used by people in everyday speech, but not by all (and only if the gender of the person is unknown). “Hen” is not intended to replace han/hon, but act as a supplement for gender-neutral people, transvestites, gender-queer people and the like. I remember last year’s National Tests, the final exams in Swedish schools held every few grades. A classmate asked whether she could use “hen” to refer to the article of an author whose sex was unknown. That usage of “hen” was not permitted by our teacher, but I suspect it will come in a decade or two.

  42. Etienne says:

    MattA, RogerC, Bathrobe: Indeed, in the transition from Indo-European to Attic Greek Proto-Indo-European *KW turns into /p/ if it is followed by /a/, /o/ or a consonant, and turns into /t/ if it is followed by a front vowel (This is all from memory, but is broadly correct, I am sure).
    Hence “polos”, from *KWOLOS, is phonologically quite regular: within the verb paradigm, of course, the /e/-/o/ alternation would have meant that a /p/-/t/ alternation would have arisen, which was obviously levelled.
    One area where such a consonantal alternation survived is with the numeral “five” and the ordinal “fifth”: In Attic Greek these are PENTE and PEMPTOS, respectively. I believe that in some Ancient Greek dialects the ordinal was re-made into a more regular-looking PENTOS.
    The Attic forms, however, go back to Proto-Indo-European *PENKWE and *PENKW-TOS (*KW turned to /t/ in the first word and to /p/ in the second one, causing assimilation of the /n/ to /m/). The -TOS suffix for forming ordinals is etymologically the same as the English -TH suffix, incidentally.

  43. Ironically enough, as the Finnish language only has a single pronoun (“hän”) for both he and she, some male writers have suggested that a feminine pronoun (“hen”) should be introduced to make Finnish more “expressive” (more here for those who speak Finnish: http://www.kielikukkanen.fi/2011/han_-_nainen_vai_mies_1111_4.html).
    In any case, no one apart from those certain male writers has taken the suggestion seriously. And why should anyone, because now we Finns have even bridged the gap between the animate and inanimate worlds themselves, preferring to use a single pronoun (“se”; it) to refer to everyone and everything under the sun.

  44. Wait, how did the kw- in kwekwlos change to p- in polos but not kyklos? (this is probably a silly question.)

  45. Trond Engen says:

    s/o: There’s no way to learn the rules for Greek stops. They are insane.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    s/o : how did the kw- in kwekwlos change to p- in polos but not kyklos?
    The two words are related but do not have exactly the same origin. Polos is from *KWOL-os as Etienne said, but kyklos is from *KWEKWL-os, itself from the reduplicated form *KWE-KWEL-os: *KWEL and *KWOL are two variants of the same basic root, and *KWL is the vowelless variant, having lost its vowel because the preceding vowel *E was stressed. At least that’s how I think the reconstruction goes.

  47. marie-lucie says:

    words for man, woman, people as “basic”
    Such words may belong to “basic” vocabulary since every language must have ways of referring to human beings, but that does not mean that the words themselves are basic and have always existed with no other meaning in a given language.
    Man meaning originally ‘human being’ seems to be very old, but there are often different origins for words for ‘woman’. The ancestor of ‘woman’ is Old English wif-man meaning literally ‘woman-human being’. In the Alsea language, a now extinct native language formerly spoken in a region of the Oregon coast, there were several words for women. The most common one (at least as used in legends) meant literally “painted one”, since high-status ladies made up their faces with ochre powder. In another language family of the West Coast, the word for ‘woman’ means literally ‘having a dress’ (probably a wrap-around dress made of woven cedarbark). Obviously such descriptive words cannot have been the basic ones from the very beginning of those languages, but the basic words must have been lost because the descriptive words were preferred for some reason. One reason could be because a word meaning ‘woman’ came to mean ‘wife’ (this is what happened in English), so another word was needed to refer to a woman independently of her marital status. These are just a few examples, but there must be many more in a variety of languages.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    Apparently ‘basic’ words can also be borrowed from other languages, because people are not always satisfied with their own everyday words since they are so used to them and find them obvious and boring, and a word from another language can be useful either for a change, for showing off one’s knowledge, for secrecy, or a variety of other subjective reasons. If the borrowed word catches up in an entire society, the original word can sometimes be forgotten.
    I remember hearing a conversation on French-language radio some years ago, in which some French teenagers were being asked about their tastes in pop music. One boy especially liked the words Here comes the sun in a Beatles song, and he thought the French equivalent (not a word-to-word translation) Voici le soleil was utterly boring. He did not realize that Here comes … is a very ordinary way of speaking in English, not something particularly creative.

  49. SFReader says:

    Regarding basic terms, Starostin links Mongolian-Turkic “em” (woman) to PIE “mater”(mother) and Mongolian “ere”, Turkic “er” (male) to PIE *ar(y) master -> Old Indian *arya (master, lord, Aryan)
    ;-)))
    Astonishingly, the Finnish language also borrowed word “arya” in form “orja”, but the meaning changed to “slave”
    Ancient Finnish warriors must have been awesome fighters….

  50. marie-lucie says:

    the kw > p correspondence
    It may be unusual, but even within Indo-European there are other examples of labio-velars becoming plain labials: for instance in Rumanian limba from latin lingua ‘tongue, language’. There are many examples in some other language families.

  51. Thanks, Etienne & marie-lucie.
    That all seems pretty satisfactory to me now. I had been thinking of something like *kwekwlos as the basic root, though I knew that was reduplicated. A change from *kwol > polos is much easier for me to grasp.

  52. I would say that Here comes the sun has considerably more color than Here is the sun, which would indeed be boring as a song lyric. In particular, it reflects the sun’s (apparent) arrival, in this case by rising earlier than during the winter, rather than its mere proximity to the speaker.

  53. My opinion is that “hen” will become established,
    at least to cover those all-too-frequent occasions when gender is indeterminate and a writer doesn’t want to fall back on “han eller hon” (“he or she”). Just as in English many of us are converging on “they”.
    This issue is mostly a daily trouble to writers on social topics, and that’s where take-up will be quick. Government literature, consumer literature – that will be the vector.
    It might be a few generations before anyone uses it in informal speech (where the occasion for gender indeterminacy barely arises). But I expect Sweden will deliver this, despite a few explosions from columnists like Jan Guillou who are paid to be grumpy.

  54. I forgot to mention, “hen” has a long e similar to the sound in English “cheer”, so it is pronounced more like heer-n than English hen.

  55. Titles can, but can words ever be successfully invented?
    Unless they’re names for technological gadgets. Then who cares?

  56. marie-lucie says:

    JC, here comes the sun
    Good point, but I think that you exaggerate the degree of knowledge of English among the participants in that interview (I heard the whole interview). English has considerable snob appeal in France, often inversely proportional to actual knowledge of it.
    Matt A, *kwekwlos and *polos are not ‘roots’, they are reconstructed forms for the ancestors of the Greek words. These forms include a final -os which is an inflectional suffix, one of several which can be added to indicate various grammatical features such as gender, number and the word’s function in a sentence. This sort of suffix is added to the stems *kwekwl- and *pol-, which derive from Proto-Indo-European roots. It is true that many people (including some authors of PIE dictionaries) refer to such stems as roots, but then they have to accept a multiplicity of root shapes, some of them derived from other roots (as in *kwekwl-). But by definition, a root cannot be derived from something else, it is a basic unit on which other forms are built.

  57. Marie-Lucie- thank you! I knew I was missing something…
    Shelley – Why not? Seems perfectly cromulent to me. Words are coined all the time.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Shelley, of course not everybody spends their time coining words, but apart from new technology where there is a functional need for new words (or for new uses of the same word, see “mouse” as an animal and as a computer gadget), there is also the felt need, especially among young people, to invigorate one’s language by using newly created words which will also sound more forceful, more alive, etc than the apparently old and tired words used by earlier generations: why do parents of teenagers suddenly find that their children no longer speak the same language as they do? Many instances of teenage slang do not survive the teenage years, but some of them eventually become part of general vocabulary. This is also true of the vocabulary of groups which keep themselves (or are kept) separate, either by their choice (of occupation, religion, hobby, sports etc) or by rejection by the larger culture: many words were once limited to the black population in the US, or to the hippie culture, the drug culture, and others, but those words are now part of everyday North American English.

  59. Thanks, marie-lucie. I guess didn’t really mean root, but instead something like earliest common ancestor. It difficult but important to keep all this terminology straight.
    I know that polos is Greek, but my understanding is that something like *kwekwlos is the PIE form for “wheel”.
    In this language log post ( http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=994 —sorry, I’m having trouble linking to the page), Don Ringe writes of the PIE word for “wheel”:

    Reconstructable form: PIE *kʷékʷlo-s (masc.), collective *kʷekʷlé-h2 (→ neut. pl.).
    Analysis: derived from *kʷel- ‘turn’; pattern of derivation (reduplication + zero-grade root + thematic vowel) is unique (archaic?), so this word is overwhelmingly unlikely to have been formed more than once.

    There’s more at this wiktionary page (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Proto-Indo-European/k%CA%B7%C3%A9k%CA%B7los).

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Matt A, quoting Don Ringe:
    >>Reconstructable form: PIE *kʷékʷlo-s (masc.), collective *kʷekʷlé-h2 (→ neut. pl.).
    >>Analysis: derived from *kʷel- ‘turn’; pattern of derivation (reduplication + zero-grade root + thematic vowel)
    I am not an Indo-Europeanist, so I hesitate to doubt statements by a linguist with Don Ringe’s reputation, and I accept that final -os is not a single suffix (as I said earlier) but two morphemes, the thematic vowel -o and the inflectional suffix -s, but after looking at the Wiktionary declension I see that -o and -e (the latter used in the plural) are not exclusively limited to singular and plural respectively.
    Also, as I said earlier, I think that “zero-grade” roots (lacking a vowel) probably evolved from vowel-full roots because of their position in words and especially the placement of stress and subsequent loss of the unstressed root vowel. However, in a case like *kwe-kwl- it would be difficult to reconstruct which of *e or *o should be considered the original vowel, so ‘when in doubt, abstain’, in this case ‘abstain from making an arbitrary choice of vowel’. But a “Pre-PIE” stage would probably not have had “zero-grade” roots.
    Finally, the reconstruction *kwe-kwl-o- seems to imply that *kwe- and *-o are of equal linguistic and historical significance in a “pattern of derivation”. But the reduplicating syllable and the thematic vowel are quite independent of each other: reduplicative *kwe- is based on the root (and probably more likely to be based on *kwEl than on *kwOl) and probably indicate repetitiveness, while thematic vowels are added to roots in order to create actual word forms and have nothing to do with the structure of the roots in question. The fact that in this case the root has given rise to a prefixed reduplicative syllable has nothing to do with the addition of the thematic vowel. The strangeness of the “pattern” (which is not one, since there apparently no other similar forms) must be due to the formation of a noun from a reduplicated form, since Greek normally uses reduplication in verbs not nouns. But this particular reduplication is also evident in some of the cognates in various IE languages, as mentioned in the Wiktionary page listed in Matt’s comment.
    Coincidentally (or perhaps not), a root *kwEl or *qwEl exists in a number of non-Indo-European languages, with the same general meaning and with derivatives also with similar meanings.

  61. It’s generally assumed that ‘wheel, turn’ is a Wanderwort that has gone at least as far as China. Though perhaps few would say that it reaches across the Bering Strait to the wheel-less cultures of the New World, I for one find the idea convincing.

  62. marie-lucie says:

    JC, the ‘wheel’ words in PIE are all derived from *kwe-kwl- , a stem derived from the basic root *kwel which does not itself mean ‘wheel’, only ‘turn, rotate, etc’. So it would not be the ‘wheel’ form and meaning that might have crossed over, but the ‘turn, rotate’ form and meaning. But the geographical range of *kwel or *qwel is wider: *qwel exists in Semitic, for instance.

  63. Right, but in Sino-Tibetan *kolo is ‘wheel’.

  64. I had no idea so many Swedes read Language Hat.
    An interesting wrinkle is that singular they exist in Swedish too (though it’s rarer than in English) but only linguists are aware of it. (Well, except me. I’m not a linguist.) Just making a point of using singular they would have a much greater chance of success, but maybe a much smaller chance of becoming a thing. I’d guess the kind of people who use hen generally likes that it jumps out at you.

  65. marie-lucie says:

    JC: in Sino-Tibetan *kolo is ‘wheel’
    Fine, Sino-Tibetan is not Indo-European.

  66. Indeed. My point was that if the simple root once meant ‘turn’ in ST, it is not reconstructible. It’s just possible that even in IE*kwel once meant indifferently ‘wheel’ and ‘turn’, with the latter meaning eventually being attributed to the reduplicated form only. On the other hand, in wheelless areas, only the meaning ‘turn’ would survive.

  67. David Marjanović says:

    deriving genus from kun also sounds not that convincing, so what works in that case, borrowing too?

    No, common ancestry in Proto-Nostratic. …In that case, however, I need to point out that the palatalized velar consonants of PIE (the g’ in this case) correspond to velar consonants followed by front vowels elsewhere in Nostratic, and [u] is a back vowel. Indeed, it’s rounded, so I’d expect a labialized, not a palatalized, consonant in PIE (). …But the Turkic vowel system has its own history, so maybe this u isn’t retained unchanged from Proto-Nostratic.

    Wait, how did the kw- in kwekwlos change to p- in polos but not kyklos?

    I guess the trick is that kʷekʷ- became kuk-, so there was no kʷ there anymore.

    (this is probably a silly question.)

    Not in the least. Leave too many such questions open, and all you have is Grimm without Verner. :-)

    Analysis: derived from *kʷel- ‘turn’; pattern of derivation (reduplication + zero-grade root + thematic vowel) is unique (archaic?), so this word is overwhelmingly unlikely to have been formed more than once.

    Or perhaps it’s unique because it was a hypercorrection due to folk etymology of a borrowed word that happened to sound like it could be a reduplication of *kʷel-.
    Such a hypothesis is of course difficult to test; but there’s a word gigir(a), meaning “chariot”, in Sumerian. “This comparison is controversial due to both, [sic] semantic and phonetic inaccuracy. Nonetheless, the PIE word may be of the [sic] Sumerian origin as it represents an important Mesopotamian cultural innovation.”
    Aleksi Sahala (“2009–2012″, “Corrections made 16.01.”): On the Sumero-Indo-European language contacts. http://www.ling.helsinki.fi/~asahala/

    I think that “zero-grade” roots (lacking a vowel) probably evolved from vowel-full roots because of their position in words and especially the placement of stress and subsequent loss of the unstressed root vowel.

    Maybe that happened often, but it doesn’t account for every zero-grade root, because some of them were stressed. The most famous example is *wlkʷos “wolf”, which was stressed on the syllabic /l/.

  68. “No, common ancestry in Proto-Nostratic.”
    hm, i see like a pattern in here, a whatever word any such basic like meaning person, human, in our language or any other language east to indoeuropes i guess, so khumuun is a borrowing from PIE
    when it comes to establishing the link between genus and kun, then the common ancestry hypothesis is the most plausible one
    not to mention kun and khumuun having no any such ancestral connections to them

  69. marie-lucie says:

    David: Perhaps … *kwekwl is unique because it was a hypercorrection due to folk etymology of a borrowed word that happened to sound like it could be a reduplication of *kʷel-.
    I read Sahala’s article, and his hypothesis of Sumerian gigir ‘chariot’ as the source for *kwekwl is interesting, but the latter always means ‘wheel’ in all the languages in which it is attested, not ‘chariot’ or ‘wheeled vehicle’, so unless gigir means literally ‘wheels’ it looks like the borrowing might have gone the other way, especially since it is frequent for labialized segments (both vowels and consonants) to delabialize, but the opposite is rare unless there are environmental phonetic conditioning factors. But as I mentioned earlier, roots *kwel or *qwel are very frequent in quite a variety of languages.
    Sahala also mentions resemblant forms from languages and families which are rarely included (I think) in PIE comparisons, whether within or outside PIE, and those lists are very informative.
    (m-l) I think that “zero-grade” roots (lacking a vowel) probably evolved from vowel-full roots because of their position in words and especially the placement of stress and subsequent loss of the unstressed root vowel.
    (DM)Maybe that happened often, but it doesn’t account for every zero-grade root, because some of them were stressed. The most famous example is *wlkʷos “wolf”, which was stressed on the syllabic /l/.
    Actually, Sahala stresses it on the syllabic /w/ (unless that is just a spelling mistake). But stress on a syllabic consonant (which shares some characteristics with vowels) is not an argument against stress being normally on a vowel.

  70. marie-lucie says:

    read: i see like a pattern in here
    Actually, there is no such pattern, and in any case you cannot generalize from just one or two examples. What may look like a simple comparison of two words has behind it a lot of other comparisons of words in several languages and of the ways they probably arrived at their present forms, according to rules of correspondence and of change between one language and another, identified through many such comparisons. These rules concern correspondences and changes in sounds and are independent of the word meanings.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    read, here’s a famous example: German haben and Latin habere. Both mean “have”. Better yet, they both consist of habe- with the German infinitive ending -n or the Latin infinitive ending -re; the stem is identical. And Latin and German both belong to Indo-European. So, are these words related?
    Nope. Here’s how we can tell: In other words, Latin h never corresponds to German h, it corresponds to German g. German h corresponds to Latin c instead.
    German b and Latin b sometimes correspond, but under certain conditions German b corresponds to Latin p instead, and under yet others to Latin f.
    Therefore, habere – which sometimes means “hold” more than “have” – shares a common ancestor with German geben “give”, and haben shares one with Latin capere “grasp, seize, catch”.
    (To really figure this out, you’d need to compare many more languages than just these two. In the process, you’d discover further surprises; for instance, the common ancestor of Latin b and German b wasn’t [b]. I’ve tried to be very brief.)

    it looks like the borrowing might have gone the other way, especially since it is frequent for labialized segments (both vowels and consonants) to delabialize

    True. I think the main argument for the direction is the fact that wheels and carts are first attested in Sumer.
    The really big problem in comparing PIE and Sumerian is that they weren’t spoken next to each other, so any loans in either direction must have been passed on through at minimum a third language. That quickly makes such hypotheses untestable. I can speculate that the labialization was a hypercorrection to adapt the word to its PIE folk etymology, or maybe even that the labialization was actually there in Sumerian*, but there’s no way to tell.
    I remember having read about a Proto-Caucasian word */hwəːlVkweː/ or thereabouts (where V is an unidentified vowel), meaning “wheel”, a few years ago. That would be interesting, especially because wheeled vehicles show up quite early in eastern Anatolia and thereabouts. But of course it could be a loan in either direction, with assimilation and folk etymology in PIE or alternatively with dissimilation and metathesis in Caucasian. If it’s from PIE, it can’t actually have been borrowed into PC, which was probably spoken much earlier; separate borrowing into West and East Caucasian could explain why the vowel symbolized as “V” hasn’t been reconstructed (it can’t be, because the attested vowels lack a PC ancestor). Too bad I can’t find my source; I thought it was the preface to the etymological dictionary of Caucasian (Nikolayev & Starostin 1994), but I can’t find it in there.
    * Some Sumerian words are sometimes written with g-, sometimes with b-; the modern interpretation of this is that Sumerian had a /gʷ/ but no cuneiform series for it.

  72. David Marjanović says:

    …Oh. The “much earlier” part appears to be nonsense. I forgot to edit it out.

  73. Rick Ramirez says:

    My mother-in-law used to use the phrase “it doesn’t eat bread.” She was born in Amsterdam in 1925 so it may originate from there, definitely in Europe though since she traveled throughout. I am not sure myself where it originated from. She told me that it meant if you had something that you didn’t know what to do with, if it didn’t eat bread, you could hang on to it because it didn’t cost you anything. You could wait and determine what to do with it later.

  74. caffiend says:

    Is 極 another cognate of pole, cycle, chakra etc.?

  75. “it doesn’t eat bread”
    in our language there is a saying too “khool nekhekh bish” means ” it wouldn’t demand meals” about something useless to keep around but which could become useful one day, so better to keep it, must be a careful consideration in the nomadic lifestyle when too much is a burden too few is inconvenience

  76. Etienne says:

    The curse of reading too much is that in the end you lose track of who proposed what when, and sometimes don’t even remember if an idea is yours or someone else’s. This is the situation I find myself into regarding the relationship between the verbal root *KWEL- “to turn, rotate” and the nominal root *KWE-KWL “wheel”.
    Someone, or perhaps this is some crazy noti–err, idea of mine, found another possible instance of a reduplicated verbal root yielding an agentive noun (wheel=that which turns/rotates). This is the relationship between *BHER- “to carry, bear” and the Indo-European noun for “Beaver”, *BHEBHR-US.
    While most assume a relationship between this word and the Indo-European root BHREU- “Brown”, I or somebody else wondered whether it comes from a reduplication followed by dissimilation of the verbal root “to carry”: *BHER-BH(E)R-(US). A beaver would thus have been “That which carries”, and indeed beavers are the only (land) animals in Northern Eurasia who may be said to carry large loads.

  77. “brown – bhreu”
    bor is brown in my language, is that a borrowing from somewhere too, i agree to concede to proto-nostratic common roots / a joke with a smiling emoticon
    about the wheel words ours are so completely different sounding: wheel – dugui, ergekh for turn, tuil for pole
    for some reason i cant recall beaver, it’s not bulga/suusar which is sable i am sure

  78. Trond Engen says:

    Etienne: I like the “beaver” suggestion. From these examples I’d have thought that the semantics of reduplication was durative/iterative rather than agentive: “Restless roller” and “carry-on carrier”. Or they could have been nursery words.

  79. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: the relationship between *BHER- “to carry, bear” and the Indo-European noun for “Beaver”, *BHEBHR-US.
    Great find! This pattern is exactly like that of *KWEKWL-: the reduplication is a partial one, affecting the initial consonant, plus a vowel which may or may not be related to the root vowel (it could be just a vowel inserted to break up the initial *CC cluster resulting from the reduplication).
    Partial reduplication is attested in many languages and indeed tends to mean duration (of stative verbs) or repetitiveness (of punctual verbs): a wheel keeps turning, a beaver spends much its time carrying branches. I think the agentive nominal is indicated by the thematic vowel and inflectional suffix.

  80. Trond Engen says:

    Ah, of course. Thanks, marie-lucie.

  81. marie-lucie says:

    English beaver, German Beber, etc have a French cognate, the old, obsolete word le bièvre, apparently of Gaulish origin. This word is only found in some toponyms. The current word for ‘beaver’, le castor originally referred to the glands producing this secretion (castoreum).

  82. Trond Engen says:

    Hah, I learned this word just the other day, reading about the former brook, now part of the sanitary system of Paris, la Bièvre. There’s a tiny street in the Vth carrying its name.

  83. Yes, that’s my association with it as well.

  84. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, it’s not a brook, it’s a real river. I see that it crossed Rue Mouffetard just where it becomes Avenue des Gobelins. Originally it met the Seine at the Jardin des Plantes, but it was diverted west, presumably (my presumption) following the smooth curve of what’s now Rue Monge, and then finally Rue de Bièvre. When I’m going to Paris and the Vth in a couple of weeks, I’ll be walking up and down Rue Mouffetard thinking of beavers.

  85. marie-lucie says:

    I lived in the Vth for a couple of years as a student, and I had never heard of the street (Rue de Bièvre), let alone the old river.
    I had run into the word before, and I always thought that bièvre was feminine, as in the name of the street, until I checked the TLFI before writing my earlier comment, and there it is given as masculine, but the examples are ambiguous (and the word is presumably too archaic to be mentioned in the Dictionnaire de l’Académie). The Gaulish word is reconstructed as (probably) masculine (ending in -os), and there is a Late Latin form bèber mentioned, which must be masculine as well. The modern form is compatible with either gender, on the model of la chèvre ‘goat (esp. female)’ or le lièvre ‘hare’.

  86. Trond Engen says:

    Crossover from A Bad Guide:
    The birdname No. tiur “capercaillie”, Gk. tethrax “capercaillie, black grouse” etc. is suggested by Chantraine (as followed by Bjorvand & Lindeman) to be reduplicated from IE *tar- “talk”.

  87. Trond Engen says:

    For no good reason except that it rhymes with bjor “beaver” and has no good etymology outside Germanic, I wondered if No. tjor, ON tjóðr “fastening rope, chain for an animal”, OHG zeotar “wagon shaft” etc. might be a similar formation, maybe from the “tree” root, but I don’t think it ads up. We’ll have a *w in the wrong place, Gmc. *tew-drá- or some such.

  88. Trond Engen says:

    Gk. tétraks, sorry! I should never trust memory on the orthography of foreign languages.

  89. Trond Engen says:

    Don’t bother with me. I’ll just keep talking nonsense to myself until I fall asleep.

  90. Good night, Trond.

  91. marie-lucie says:

    la Bièvre
    This river has its own Wiki page (in French). They mention the alternative origins, from a word for beaver or from brown. But the river used to go through a swampy area, the type of terrain preferred by beavers, and I don’t remember rivers being named for their colour, which changes with the seasons.
    The street in the Vth arrondissement is called Rue de Bièvre, not Rue de la Bièvre as I would have thought. The lack of an article before the name must be an older pattern, as in Rue de Seine in Paris, and Rue de Sarthe in the town where I grew up, where the river is named la Sarthe.

  92. Trond Engen says:

    Many Norwegian rivers are named for their colour.
    (But I do like a near-zero-derivation from bèber better.)

  93. Hat, did you accidentally blow off my long comment on rivers named for their color, and if so, can you get it back at all? In summary, there’s a Red River “of the North” flowing into Lake Winnipeg and another “of the South” flowing into the Mississippi. There are several Yellow, Green, Black, Blue, and White rivers elsewhere in the U.S. New Zealand has the Brown and the Grey. The Orange River in S.A. is named after the House rather than the color. No Pink or Purple/Violet Rivers that I can find, though.
    In Quebec there is La rivière Rouge, of which fr.wikipedia says: “fut mentionnée en 1699 sur une carte de Franquelin. L’une des principales explications quant à son nom est la couleur de son eau due à l’oxydation du fer présent dans le bouclier canadien. Cependant, son eau serait plus claire que celle des rivières avoisinantes. Une autre explication viendrait d’un gisement de craie rouge située au lac Nominingue que les Algonquins et les Iroquois utilisaient pour se peindre.” The same name is also applied to a river in Ontario in the hybrid form “Rouge River”, and to the Red River of the North mentioned above when speaking of it in French.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    All right, some rivers are named for colours. (I think “craie rouge” is a literal translation of “red clay” but that is more likely to be “ochre”, which comes in various tints and was widely used for face and body paint among the original tribes).
    However, in the case of la Bièvre, I don’t think the colour of the river had anything to do with it, since the only attested meaning is “beaver”, never “brown”. Even if we could accept that the animal was named after its brown colour in PIE (like the bear, but the reduplication rather suggests a verbal origin), this origin would have long been forgotten by Gaulish times. Besides the name of the river, there is the village or town of Bièvres in the same area. As I mentioned earlier, this is (or was originally) a region of marshes and swamps, therefore of beaver habitat before the swamps were drained or otherwise managed according to human needs (and the beavers disappeared).

  95. Trond Engen says:

    I had another thought, but I had to get home to my books before I acted on it: Norwegian has two forms of the word for beaver, bever/bæver as the main/urban form and bjor/bjur as the rustic/rural form found in Norwegian and Swedish toponyms. The former is a loan from Low German or thereabouts, reflecting the trade with furs, and corresponds to the West Germanic forms. But the relation between the two forms is not straightforward, even within Germanic, and it struck me that the “bever” family might be borrowed from Latin or Celtic. LLat bèber would seem to fit quite well.

  96. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. I think “craie rouge” is a literal translation of “red clay”
    Actually, it is the wrong translation. La craie means ‘chalk’, while ‘clay’ is l’argile (a feminine word). Ochre is a type of clay.

  97. marie-lucie says:

    Trond, apparently the Latin word was fiber (which fits in with *BHEBHER), and LLat bèber is probably a borrowing from Gaulish. I don’t know Germanic historical linguistics well enough to know whether bjor/bjur fits in with the reduplicated root or with the root of bear (the animal, not the verb).

  98. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, I understood that. I see that I should have written “from Celtic, maybe by way of Late Latin”.
    Bjorvand & Lindeman give two Germanic forms, *be(b)ura- for the inherited NGmc. forms like bjor and *bebru- for the WGmc. ones like beaver. The derivational relationship between them is not clear.

  99. Trond Engen says:

    Back to tiur etc., from *ter- (not *tar-, obviously).
    There’s a barely existing but probably related verb, Icel. þiðra “touch lightly; make advances”, No. dial. tidrande “lively”, Sw. dial. tedra “misbehave”, reconstructed on comparative evidence as *þi-þér-o:n-. For the noun, the suggested reduplicated form is *te-tr.-o- and/or *ti-tr.-o- with zero grade in the root. This yielded *þeþurá- or *þiþurá-, quite parallel to the “beaver” word.

  100. Trond Engen says:

    Back to tiur etc., from *ter- (not *tar-, obviously).
    There’s a barely existing but probably related verb, Icel. þiðra “touch lightly; make advances”, No. dial. tidrande “lively”, Sw. dial. tedra “misbehave”, reconstructed on comparative evidence as *þi-þér-o:n-. For the noun, the suggested reduplicated form is *te-tr.-o- and/or *ti-tr.-o- with zero grade in the root. This yielded *þeþurá- or *þiþurá-, quite parallel to the “beaver” word.

  101. Trond Engen says:

    Sorry for the duplicate. I couldn’t dream of making an unwarranted comment just to be no. 100. And to apologize just to stay no. 100 after the duplicate is removed – unthinkable!

  102. Trond Engen says:

    If bjor and tiur are parallel formations, and tiur is formed as a zero-grade reduplication parallel to a reduplicated verb, then also bjor ought to be formed as a zero-grade reduplication *bi-bur-/*be-bur- to a reduplicated verb *bi-bér-o:n-. If this verb developed as its parallel, I think it would have become ON bifra. As it happens, a verb like that exists, but it means “shake, shiver”. This has no known etymology, apparently, except a connection to bífa “ibid.”. It’s at least imaginable that a verb meaning “carry to and fro; work constantly” would have been contaminated by the similar verb meaning “shake”. But without further evidence and an attention to details well beyond my abilities, this is just another round of speculation.

  103. Trond Engen says:

    Another night talking nonsense to myself. Even the spammers have left me in despair. This would probably have been a good time to be pseudonymous.

  104. Hat, did you accidentally blow off my long comment on rivers named for their color, and if so, can you get it back at all?
    Aargh… Sorry! Assuming your comment did get caught up in a mass de-spamming, I’m afraid it’s gone for good. My deepest apologies.
    And Trond, you’ll never walk alone!

  105. The more obvious ones I know are:
    Black River for the Amur (Mongolian and Manchu).
    Yellow River for the Yellow River.
    Blue River for the Yangtze (Mongolian).
    Red River in northern Vietnam (Vietnamese).
    I’m sure there are many, many more.

  106. marie-lucie says:

    But those colours are “true”, bright colours, not dull mixed ones like Brown.

  107. The Blue Nile

  108. Alas, all that Wikipedia has to say about the Brown River is: “a short river of New Zealand. It flows northwest to meet the Poerua River five kilometres southeast of Lake Brunner.” It may, for all I know, be named after an explorer named Brown. The distribution of English color surnames is also curious: White, Black, Brown, Green are extremely common, Red is marginal (I once knew slightly a Virginia Red, quondam Chair of the Music Department and then Dean of Humanities at CCNY — I believe it was her married name), and *Blue, *Yellow, *Orange, *Purple, *Violet unknown.
    But brown water is a standard term meaning ‘riverine’: a brown-water navy is one that is primarily concerned with the defense of a country’s navigable rivers. It is opposed to black water ‘sluggish streams and swamps’, green water ‘harbors, bays, and ports’, blue water ‘the open ocean’, and in another dimension to white water ‘rapids and waterfalls’.

  109. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is there a color lurking (probably indirectly via a surname) in the etymology of Lake Brunner where the waters of the Brown River subsequently end up?

  110. and in another dimension to white water ‘rapids and waterfalls’
    and in still another dimension greywater ‘sullage’

  111. there is Tsenkheriin gol (blue river), Kharaa (black) and Ulaan (red) rivers too, i didn’t know about the red one, maybe the lesser known local rivers have a lot of this kind of names in Mongolia
    our rivers’s names sound beautiful Onon, Orkhon, Selenge, Tuul, the most famous ones, but the meanings of them are obscure in my language, i wonder whether they are really from Turkic languages, though there are of course Mongolian names too, like Nariin (narrow), Shaazgain (magpie’s ) , Chuluut (stoney), Tes (sharp), Tamiryn gol( powerful) etc
    Amur (Amar) murun is for example means peaceful, Moskva (Mushgia) means windy
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_of_Mongolia

  112. rivers’

  113. Volga in Mongolian is Ijil (twin) murun, i wonder why it is called that maybe the basin is kind of like divided, no? should look it up
    I wonder what its meaning is in Russian too, Volga, nothing direct that i can recall

  114. Lake Brunner was named after Thomas Brunner.

  115. John Cowan: “Blue” is not a common English surname, but it’s hardly unknown, and probably more common than “Red”. Wikipedia, for example, lists 12 notable people of that namek (though some are probably pseudonyms). And there’s one Blue in my local telephone directory.

  116. Tim: Interesting. Here they all are:
    Barry: born Green.
    Ben: born Bernstein.
    Billy: probably born a slave with no real surname.
    Bob: a real Blue, I’m guessing a translated Blau.
    Callum: a real Blue.
    David (actor): no clue if he’s true Blue.
    David (musician): born Cohen.
    Josh: true Blue.
    Lionel: very likely another translated Blau.
    Mick: born Omelko.
    Vida: no clue.
    Violet®: legal name, but surely not original.
    So that’s three real Blues and four maybes. Jews, of course, got their surnames from bureaucrats. Looking at Wikipedia’s list of 25 notable Blaus, only the French cousins Alfred and Édouard, the Latvian (of Baltic German descent) Harald(s), the Swiss Max, the American Karl, and the Germans Hermann and Rolf cannot be easily established as Jewish.

  117. Trond Engen says:

    It just struck me that ON bífra could be related to Lat. febris. And, lo and behold, EtymOnline says some want to explain that as reduplicated from a root represented by Sanskrit *bhur- “be restless” . Which incidentally happens to be the shade of meaning I wanted to add to the carry-root.
    The -u- of the Sanskrit reconstructed root looks strange and would probably need an explanation. A perfective? “Having worked hard” -&gt “being shaky” -&gt “being restless”?

  118. Trond Engen says:

    ON bifra (I see I gave it a long vowel up there. Sorry for that.) relates to Lat. febr- in the same way as þiðra relates to tetr- of tetricus “rigid, gloomy, sulky”.

  119. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve tried to think of a way to derive tirade from tetr-, but if there is one, it’s early Romance phonology, and that’s beyond me.

  120. David Marjanović says:

    Great find!

    I agree!

    This pattern is exactly like that of *KWEKWL-: the reduplication is a partial one, affecting the initial consonant, plus a vowel which may or may not be related to the root vowel

    That’s generally how IE reduplication works! In Latin, the perfect stem of pend- “hang” is pepend-

    German Beber

    Biber with i.

    If this verb developed as its parallel, I think it would have become ON bifra. As it happens, a verb like that exists, but it means “shake, shiver”.

    German bibbern “shiver”. I think the -bb- is purely orthographic, indicating the short i (Biber has a long one). …If so, it’s an onomatopoietic exception to a regular sound change, I guess. Or it could be from a southwestern dialect that hasn’t lengthened the vowels of open syllables; I have no idea if the word exists in Switzerland (it’s not native to the parts of Austria I’m familiar with).

    It just struck me that ON b[i]fra could be related to Lat. febris. And, lo and behold, EtymOnline says some want to explain that as reduplicated from a root represented by Sanskrit *bhur- “be restless” . Which incidentally happens to be the shade of meaning I wanted to add to the carry-root.

    Awesome, awesome, and awesome, respectively.

  121. David Marjanović says:

    Amur (Amar) murun is for example means peaceful,

    But how did a change into u?

    Moskva (Mushgia) means windy

    But how did sh change into s, in a language that has a sh, and i into v? And isn’t that place awfully far west?
    Allegedly, maska ava is “mother of the she-bear” in Mari, and bears are important in traditional Mari religion.

    Volga in Mongolian is Ijil (twin) murun, i wonder why it is called that maybe the basin is kind of like divided, no?

    No, it’s just a coincidence.
    Keeping in mind that Mongolian regularly turns di into ji, let’s use Wikipedia as a dictionary: just go here and mouse over the list of languages in the left sidebar.
    Bashqort: Иҙел /iðel/
    Chuvash: Атăл /at/…whatever vowel…/l/
    Kazakh: Еділ /edɪl/
    Tatar: Идел /idəl/
    …and the capital of the Khazar kingdom was named Itil.

  122. David Marjanović says:

    Uh, no, Atil.

  123. wiki says about Khazars:
    “They appear to stem from Mongolia and South Siberia in the aftermath of the fall of the Hunnic/Xiōngnú nomadic polities. A variegated tribal federation led by these Tűrks, probably comprising a complex assortment of Iranian,[19] proto-Mongolic, Uralic, and Palaeo-Siberian clans, vanquished the Rouran Khaganate of the hegemonic central Asian Avars in 552 and swept westwards, taking in their train other steppe nomads and peoples from the Sogdian kingdom.[20]”
    so Atil wiki says means big river, why it should be from Chinese adeshui and how shui will transform to til though i have no idea, when ijil means what it means twin or the same, in Mongolian, i would rather believe the linguistic continuation, unterrupted oral tradition, the word could be a borrowing or just simply directly from our language too, just a hypothesis, as good as any other
    about a becoming u, it’s something like peculiarity of Russian pronunciation i guess, they can’t pronounce our words the way we pronounce them, so Amarsanaa, a national hero who defeated the Manchus becomes in the Russian spelling Amursana too, or Ulaanbaatar – UlanBator, the same way of the sound transformation works in there i guess, anyway, we were before Russians in and around Amur area, so our dibs i guess can’t be contested there/ a joke
    but if seriously, did i say anything about etymology of these words, i said these words are/ sound in Mongolian like these, we use these names for these rivers this way, can’t we do so?
    it’s the same as LH says he can’t write Engelgardt in the German spelling, or any other English spelling of the geographical landmarks any other way reflecting local spelling customs, so English spelling conventions should be all as if like indisputable, but ours should be explained every s or sh?
    maa, that’s just my pov and it could be right or wrong and i won’t change it i’m afraid, i just say so to warn you, so to speak, against, i mean, spare you some, that, unfruitful long disputations, i guess
    cheers

  124. David Marjanović says:

    so Atil wiki says means big river, why it should be from Chinese adeshui

    You’ve misunderstood. Nobody says it’s from Chinese; instead, adeshui is how contemporary Chinese sources call it. The de part is the closest Chinese can come to til.

    Ulaanbaatar – UlanBator

    That’s just spelling; the pronunciation is the same as far as possible.

    but if seriously, did i say anything about etymology of these words, i said these words are/ sound in Mongolian like these

    You asked if the Volga divided its basin in two or had any other plausible connection to “twin”. I answered that question. That’s all.

    but ours should be explained every s or sh?

    This is about sounds, not spelling.

    that’s just my pov and it could be right or wrong and i won’t change it i’m afraid

    Not even if it’s wrong?

  125. well, it would take some reasoning to prove it wrong in my eyes i guess, and that usually takes more than blog threads, i mean i hopefully don’t argue that the earth is flat or god exists/doesn’t exist, so i think i’m entitled to my opinions like anybody else regarding anything i fancy to ponfder about without anybody trying to prove me wrong at all, like, costs
    other your answers, as we say tootsov, means the same as in russian zachteno, though spelling UlanBator doesn’t exactly bring it close to the native pronunciation, so i think that should be pointed out if you talk about sound changes, how a becomes o, for example

  126. regarding mother of the she-bear it sounds kind of like far from being believable, a river to be called that, though i would acknowledge it as another possible suggestion, when mushgia – windy – izvilistaya seems like it comes directly from its topography

  127. Trond, the whole family tirer/tirar(e) in Romance is more than a bit mysterious, but tirade in English and French is clearly a special use of Italian tirata ‘volley’, sc. a volley of words. Etymonline thinks tirer/ar(e) is a semi-arbitrary shortening of martirer/ar(e) ‘suffer martyrdom’.
    If the English had not fought the Peninsular War, would anglophones refer to guerrillas as franc(s)-tireurs? I like to think so.

  128. Original name of Amur river in Mongolian was Khar-Muren (Black River).
    The variant Amar-muren appears to be quite recent borrowing from Russian Amur. As Bathrobe can testify, they still call it Khar-Muren in Inner Mongolia.
    How exactly the Russians came out with name Amur remains a mystery to this day.

  129. marie-lucie says:

    Amur River
    There are other peoples living in the Amur Valley and thereabouts, speaking different languages, so the name does not have to be Mongolian.

  130. yes, there are other people, i said we use the name like this, maybe they call it differently, but for us it’s Amar(Amur)peaceful, so you can make your conclusions, sure

  131. SFReader says:

    As we know, the Manchus and Tungusic peoples called the river Sakhalian-Ula and the Chinese called it Heilong-jiang.
    They don’t resemble anything even remotely close to Amur.
    So the word is not Mongolian, not Manchu-Tungus and not Chinese, then who is left?
    PS. One exasperated scholar failing to find a plausible origin of the word in all local languages has suggested that Amur might have been an abbreviated version of Mongolian Khar-Muren (without initial Kh in first word and final -en in second)
    I don’t find this version satisfactory ;-)

  132. Inner Mongolians usually call whatever directly translating it from hanzi, i wouldnt get surprised if it’s called black river in Chinese, then it’s kind of like becomes a universally accepted theory, i know
    as i said before uninterrupted oral tradition from generation to generation might be a stronger persisting evidence, that’s how the languages are getting handed down the generations anyway, no? than any old scrolls that i know document everything, but are prone to loss or biased interpretation
    regarding such mysteries as SFR mentions, anyway
    just a thought, since i dont know how it is called in Chinese, so I could be wrong, just never heard it called Khar murun, at least in my country

  133. SFReader says:

    Well, the only Mongolians who live near the river are Inner Mongolians. They surely should know how to call a river where they live….

  134. SFReader says:

    Amur in Chinese is 黑龙江 Hēilóng Jiāng, literally means a River of Black Dragon

  135. see, something with black! / half-joke
    i mean, the things written can be prone to not only loss or biased interpretation, but to biased making too, just generally speaking, not about this case
    about oral tradition, not any more errors could be introduced like in the kids’ game “telephone” i hope since it’s not whispering, but transferring knowledge in the clear mind from an elder to the younger person in response to the curiousity of the latter
    i remember asking my late uncle about such things and his answers, he was a geography prof at MUIS back in the 70ies when i was a kid, so you understand how i imagine things
    were must be happening, and, sure, my own “bias” in that too

  136. SFReader says:

    I am half-tempted to suggest that Amur is named after Cupid (Amur in Russian).
    Would be a very romantic name…
    Alas, Cossack ataman Ivan Yurievich Moskvitin who first mentioned Amur in 1643 report, doesn’t strike me as a person with classical education

  137. why only the Inner Mongolians can testify cz they live around the river, when our armies swept around the area how many times in history, they were in a way explorers too, yes, however surprising that would sound to the western/european/caucasian, whatever word you prefer, ears
    so hopefully your cupid naming cossack most probably heard the word from one of the gazarchin mongols

  138. SFReader says:

    Well, we have his report and it says:
    “И он, Ивашко, взяв с собой толмача и тех баб с товарищи своими роспрашивал: как они были в плену, в которой земле. И те тунгуски ему, Ивашку, в распросе сказали: были де оне в Орде на Омуре реке, как орду зовут и оне имя забыли, а тут де гора, а в ней руда серебряная. И тое де руду плавильщики плавят и многие люди живут деревнями и хлеб пашут, а бой у них лушной, а приходят де к той горе Амуром рекою суды большие с торговыми людьми, а с какими товары торгуют и оне про то не ведают”
    Ivan Moskvitin says that he found two Tungus women who fled from slavery in a Horde on Omur river. They told that there is a mountain and silver ores and people of this Horde smelt ore and live in villages and plant cereals and have bows and arrows and large trading ships come to this mountain along the Amur river.
    IMHO, the story is probably refering to the Dagurs on upper Amur – a Mongolic speaking people, engaged in settled agriculture.
    The Dagurs were forcibly removed from Amur by Manchus during Russian-Manchu war of 1650s.
    So the origin of the word should be either Mongolic (Dagur is a language closely related to Mongolian, but somewhat archaic) or Tungus.

  139. SFReader says:

    Note that Moskvitin is not quite sure whether the name of the river is Omur or Amur.
    Judging by surname Moskvitin, he was probably a native of Moscow and as such would be speaking with Moscow accent pronouncing unstressed “o” as “a”.
    Hence, he probably heard something close to Omur with stress on second syllable.
    The result doesn’t look Mongolian (I hasten to add that modern Mongolian “muur” – “cat” is very unlikely to have anything to do with river name)

  140. where it says that there were two women and that they were in slavery? there is nothing like the number of women or how they were living in the horde in the paragraph, see, it’s so easy to introduce such not that small errors into a report when it’s translated.. and what is worse it gets then cited from now on as an indisputable proof of something or other
    okay, twas nice talking to you, hope i’ll get back to my sleep

  141. ah, v plenu, okay, i take back that part
    from what you wrote all, i conclude that Amur is indeed from our Amar
    cheers

  142. plen is not exactly slavery too, i should add i guess

  143. SFReader says:

    I am not sure what other possible status civilian captives (women at that!) could have had in 17th century Siberia.

  144. spelling UlanBator doesn’t exactly bring it close to the native pronunciation
    Well,
    1. The native pronunciation of the vowel in the final syllable is not /a/, it’s more like English schwa, although phonologically it is probably regarded as a reduced form of /a/.
    2. The native spelling (not Cyrillic) is ‘bagator’, not ‘bagatar’. Historically it is thus not /a/ but /o/.
    So statements like ‘spelling UlanBator doesn’t exactly bring it close to the native pronunciation’ are not totally convincing.

  145. I’m not sure why read thinks that Mongolia is a custodian of pure Mongolian. There are plenty of cases where Inner Mongolia uses the traditional term and Mongolia has changed, or where Inner Mongolia uses a Mongolian word but Mongolia uses a word borrowed from Chinese.
    As for Amur/Amar, I have no idea where the name came from. The fact that in Mongolian and Manchu it is known as the Black River does seem to suggest that this is a traditional name for the river. It was well beyond the range of Chinese control until the Qing dynasty, so positing Chinese influence is not totally convincing.

  146. why only the Inner Mongolians can testify cz they live around the river, when our armies swept around the area how many times in history, they were in a way explorers too
    I think the Inner Mongolians were included in those armies. Neither Genghis Khan nor the Mongol armies were an exclusive possession of the Khalkha.

  147. “There are plenty of cases where Inner Mongolia uses the traditional term and Mongolia has changed.”
    that’s true, i respect them that they could preserve their heritage under that much pressure, but still they and us are different now, and they were of course the part of Mongolia proper until the Manchus separated us making them to adopt the whatever views were their Chinese subjects’, the Manchus themselves have perished, the language and culture if not the physical people, it’s really our own resistance genes i guess that kept Inner Mongolians for that much longer being themselves, not disappear like the Manchus
    but really the Cossack tale really seems like an evidence to the Mongolian origins of Amar river naming, i was not claiming that before, now i am as if like more than convinced, thanks for citing the primary source!

  148. “what other possible status civilian captives (women at that!) could have had in 17th century Siberia.”
    they were in the captive state i guess, but not slavery like the slavery in the classical western sense, hopefully

  149. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: I am half-tempted to suggest that Amur is named after Cupid (Amur in Russian)
    It is always strange for a French person to see Amour on a map of East Asia! In French the name of the river is written and pronounced identically with amour meaning ‘love’ (as a noun), used also as one of the names of Cupid/Eros (the pronunciation is identical with that of “Amur” in Russian, etc). But nobody (at least nobody credible) is suggesting that that is the origin of the name.
    On the other hand, it is well-known that names of rivers tend to be extremely long-lived, rarely replaced by other names (unless they are a translation of a meaningful name such as “black river”). Even when a territory has repeatedly changed languages because of being conquered, conquerors tend to maintain the local names of rivers (as in France or England, where many river names are pre-Celtic, or as in North America where many river names are indigenous, like Mississippi or Potomac). So if Amur does not have a meaning in the languages currently (and historically) spoken in its region, it could be a very ancient name, a leftover from an otherwise forgotten language (in which the name might have meant ‘black’).
    This would not be the only case in Asia: for instance, Yeniseian languages are now extinct except for Ket, but names of places and rivers in Siberia show that languages from the same family were once spoken over a much wider area, South of their present location.

  150. SFReader says:

    —I think the Inner Mongolians were included in those armies
    I don’t think we can use term Inner Mongolians in 13th century.
    The area only BECAME Mongolian in 13th century and before that was populated by various peoples described in Secret History as “Qara-Qitadun, ĵurčedun ĵuino erekun omoqun”
    As far as I know, nobody could satisfactorily explain just who these “ĵuino” (Pelliot transliterates as Juyin) were. They appear to have been nomadic, probably Mongolian-speaking people living in what is now eastern Inner Mongolia and providing military service to armies of Jurchen Jin empire.
    What happened to them after the Mongol conquest is not easily understood. Probably the region was settled by a number of Mongols from Mongolia proper and local population was subjugated and later assimilated into Mongolian nation.
    Western Inner Mongolia had even stranger ethnic history, but this is probably completely offtopic and not interesting to other posters

  151. Actually, it’s interesting to me. (I must say, this is one of the odder thread swerves in recent memory!)

  152. SFReader says:

    Well, eastern part of modern western Inner Mongolia was populated by the Onguts (also known as White Tatars). They were nomadic Turkic speaking Nestorian Christians with rather advanced culture (thousands of Christian crosses were found by archaeologists in the region). They also served as a border troops/mounted federates for the Jin dynasty. In 1205, the Ongut chief Alakush-tegin had a good sense to ally with Genghis Khan. His son married Genghis Khan’s daughter Alaqai.
    The tribe appears to have maintained authonomy well into the middle of 13th century. How and when the Turkic speaking Christian Onguts have disappeared and were replaced by Mongolian speaking Buddhist/Shamanist Inner Mongolians is not well understood.
    The fate of their neighbours to the west is clearer. The Ordos region is currently a desert, but at the beginning of 13th century it was a densely populated country of irrigated agriculture with large cities and vigorous culture. The people who lived here were called Tanguts and their country was known to Chinese as Xi-Xia dynasty.
    In 1226, the Tangut ruler had caused wrath of Genghis Khan by failing to follow terms of previous treaty. It was his last campaign. He died there in Tangut country in 1227 and before death ordered total extermination of Tangut people.
    The country was devastated, cities burned, irrigation canals destroyed. Ordos became a desert again and very likely completely depopulated.
    By late 14th century, it was populated by nomadic Mongols who probably had no relation to previous population.
    And then again, history made a turn. New Chinese Ming dynasty decided to conquer the region and settle it with Chinese military settlers. While Ordos was technically a desert, it is surrounded by the Yellow River on three sides, so it suited well to irrigated agriculture.
    A century of conflict ensued. For over a hundred years, there were Chinese cities in the desert and Chinese peasant-settlers cultivating grain in their farms. But the Ming proved to be militarily inept and lost the war to able Mongol ruler Batmunkh Dayan Khan. By early 16th century, Chinese cities were evacuated, Ordos depopulated once again and became Mongolian, apparently settled by Mongols from elsewhere.
    Current Mongols of Ordos are descendants of 16th century Mongol settlers. From 19th century on, the Ordos is being once again settled by Chinese who now greatly outnumber Mongols.
    In English speaking world, Ordos is primarily known for the so called “ghost city of Ordos” – a brand new city built in the desert for settlers from all over China.
    The inhabitants of westernmost Inner Mongolia are Khoshuut Oirats who arrived quite recently in later 17th century.

  153. i respect them that they could preserve their heritage under that much pressure, but still they and us are different now
    There is an undercurrent in read’s comments that not all denizens of LH will understand. On one thread I referred critically to Mongolian nationalism; read interpreted that as being directed at pan-Mongolism. It wasn’t what I was referring to.
    In Mongolia at present there is a very strong tendency to deny ‘Mongolness’ to any Mongols other than those who live in Mongolia. There is an equally strong tendency among the Inner Mongolians to insist that they are Mongols, too. read’s comments should be understood in the light of Mongolians’ attitudes to their own co-ethnics as ‘different from us now’. I think there is still a strong desire among many Inner Mongolians to be accepted as Mongols, but the Mongols of Mongolia are very grudging about giving such recognition. As an Inner Mongolian colleague once told me, he felt very uncomfortable going to Mongolia because they made him feel like he wasn’t a Mongol.

  154. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: completely offtopic and not interesting to other posters
    Never underestimate the range of interests here.

  155. – So if Amur does not have a meaning in the languages currently (and historically) spoken in its region, it could be a very ancient name, a leftover from an otherwise forgotten language (in which the name might have meant ‘black’).
    I personally suspect that the name Amur was invented by Moskvitin (or his interpreter Semen Petrov). “Mu” means water in most Tungus languages and his informers probably were talking about “upriver” or some other similar term which Russians mistook for name of the whole river.
    In a similar vein, Canada actually means “village” in Iroquiois language which the French explorers took to mean the entire country ;-)

  156. the christian crosses were found and that makes the culture rather advanced! really eurocentrism is pretty difficult to talk to
    about the extinct language having a word Amu, it’s pretty strange to see such strong bias, to what lengths one can go, to accept whatever not existent words theories just ti deny our version any plausibility
    well, it’s important to keep just reminding people that there could be different views too

  157. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’m not going to speak to “advanced,” but Nestorians were (at least until 20th century diaspora) about the least Eurocentric flavor of Christian out there, since after various unfortunate conflicts of the 5th century they were able to survive and flourish only outside the boundaries of the Empire and their missionary activity was thus all directed further east, leading to substantial presence in e.g. pre-Muslim Persia, Southern India, and (until sometime around the Yuan->Ming transition?) China as well as various intermediate stops along the Silk Road etc., with their remaining non-diasporic presence in more recent centuries being centered in the not-very-Euro environs what is now Iraq (where they are typically found among those who ethnically self-identify as “Assyrian”).

  158. Dear erudite hattites: I have always heard qara-muren as the Yellow River, how come it designates this one and also Amur?

  159. i was talking about your nowadays judgements, suppose one would find not the crosses but some totem poles or statues of buddha and conclude the culture rather not that advanced, that’s kinda how the sentence sounds to the non-european ears
    about qara muren that says black, not yellow, must be one of the errors of interpretation or translation that could be in the text you link to, cant open it for some reason though
    unless q transforms due to some fancy sound changes to mean sh, then it’s shar muren or yellow river

  160. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: Awesome, awesome, and awesome, respectively.
    Thank you, thank you, and thank you. I didn’t think it was readable to anyone.
    John C.: Trond, the whole family tirer etc.
    I know. That’s why it would have been nice to clean up the mess, but also why it won’t work.

  161. Well, the naming of the Yellow River as the ‘Black River’ seems to give us two choices:
    1. The same name was applied to more than one river but the old name dropped out in the case of the Hwangho. This would invalidate the claim that ‘uninterrupted oral tradition from generation to generation might be a stronger persisting evidence, that’s how the languages are getting handed down the generations’.
    2. Written sources are wrong.
    When faced with something that read has never heard of before, she invariably chooses the second.

  162. hm, why do you analyze me again, not the question presented?
    i told you my opinion, though i am not an erudite hattite, that is like what’s true is true
    the qara to shar transformation, seems like a curious thing to happen if it can happen, though for anybody knowing the language it is impossible to misspell like that or misunderstand the meanings of the words

  163. marie-lucie says:

    Amur/Amar
    If “Amur” originated as “Amar”, the change of vowel from “a” to “u” needs to be explained. It is more likely that “Amar” comes from “Amur”, since the vowel “a” is easier to pronounce (requiring less distinctive lip and tongue positions) than the vowel “u”. (This is true in the known evolution of many languages).
    If neither “Amur” nor “Amar” have a meaning in a known language of the general area (spoken now or known to have been spoken in the distant past), then it is likely that the word is very old as the name of the river, and is not from one of the known languages (otherwise, the name of the river would have evolved along with other similar words in the language in question).
    If the river is known in several languages of the region by names all meaning “Black River”, it is possible that those names translate an older word with a similar meaning, but from a lost language. However, in the absence of more information it is impossible to say what that language could have been.
    As for the resemblance of the name with French amour (from Occitan amor, which continues Latin amor, all meaning ‘love’), it can only be a coincidence.

  164. i think the explanation amar is coming from amur as if like totally biased, russians can’t say amar they say amur, it can’t be explained by the easiness of pronouncing the sound, by whom, by the inhabitants of the area, by the russian explorers?
    well, i’m out of this discussion, i know i won’t convince you otherwise, as you can’t me too

  165. marie-lucie says:

    the qara to shar transformation
    Such a transformation would be extremely bizarre unless it occurred over a period of centuries or millenia with numerous intermediate stages. Directly from one to the other is impossible as the mouth and tongue positions for the sounds q and sh are too different. In any case, IF there had been such a change in one word, there would have been the same change in many other words originally beginning with q and now beginning with sh. If there are currently some words beginning with q and others which are similar but begin with sh (as with qara and shar), and they mean different things, then q cannot have changed to sh otherwise there would not be any more q words, only sh words.
    There is a mistake somewhere, perhaps one person made the mistake in copying or translating and others reading that person’s work just keep repeating the same mistake.

  166. SFReader says:

    —how come it designates this one and also Amur?
    See my explanation of complex ethnic history of western Inner Mongolia.
    There were so many breaks of continuity of historical tradition that at some point the banks of the river were populated with people unfamiliar with old traditional Mongol name for the river.

  167. SFReader says:

    @J.W. Brewer
    Fall of Nestorians in Mongolia and around is probably connected to the so called Nayan revolt.
    As Marko Polo writes, this prince and his people living primarily in eastern Inner Mongolia and southern Manchuria were Nestorian Christians and revolted against emperor Khubilai in 1280s. Nayan went so far that he painted cross on his flags, perhaps considering himself a Crusader of sorts…
    Khubilai defeated Nayan and there was some persecution against Nestorian Christians perhaps involving some forcible population relocations.

  168. SFReader says:

    @Bathrobe
    Mongolian history is full of sudden, violent breaks of historical continuity and abrupt population relocations (sometimes to other continents)
    That so much survived of oral tradition in such conditions is simply outstanding. But much, much more has been lost and will never be recovered.

  169. Well, in the traditional orthography, амар ‘quiet’ is written ‘amor’ or ‘amur’.

  170. why do you analyze me again, not the question presented
    Because despite your constant criticism that other people are biased (‘Eurocentrism’ pops out without the slightest provocation), you yourself are highly biased but present your biases as your own ‘opinion’, which nobody can convince you to modify.
    i think the explanation amar is coming from amur as if like totally biased, russians can’t say amar they say amur, it can’t be explained by the easiness of pronouncing the sound, by whom, by the inhabitants of the area, by the russian explorers?
    If you knew your own traditional script instead of going by what seem to be nothing more than vague feelings and biased convictions, you wouldn’t need to write such nonsense.

  171. Incidentally, I’m not suggesting that the Russians picked up the pronunciation from the traditional script. To figure out whether they may have got that pronunciation direct from the Mongols (or a Mongol dialect) would need a lot more legwork than that (e.g., when did the pronunciation /amor/ change into /amar/?). But just calling an explanation ‘biased’ just isn’t good enough. You may never have heard of the Amur being called the ‘Black River’, but that’s a problem with your own lack of knowledge, not something to be denied or distorted simply because you don’t want to believe it.

  172. i have problem with black coming from possibly the black dragon version
    and if in the traditional script it is written amor, then o and u are used interchangeably, one might say amur as well
    i say biased because i find it that when the most seemingly direct amar-amur connection is being denied, but amur-cupid connection could be found plausible, that is just as if like ridiculous and highly biased, and who else but me would you reprimand so freely, for lack of knowledge, among the LH readers?
    yes, i don’t know chinese and it’s not only me who chose to spare us some hanzi knowledge and if it makes you treat me as if like not par to your knowledge heights, that shows your arrogance, not my ignorance, i believe
    cheers, i have nothing to say else, to you at least

  173. SFReader says:

    —i have problem with black coming from possibly the black dragon version
    Read, you got it exactly backwards. Chinese have a miriad traditional names for Amur river (it seems every dynasty starting from early Han had a different one), but Heilongjiang is most definitely a translation of traditional Manchu name Sakhalian-ula(perhaps with dragon added as a title). The emperors of Qing dynasty were ethnic Manchus as you know.

  174. good, then, Khar murun is never used in my country, we us Amar murun, so that is that and it can’t be undone, i’m afraid, whatever is the etymology

  175. use

  176. SFReader says:

    —Khar murun is never used in my country
    Just did a brief google search
    “-Амур мөрөн Монго­лоос эхтэй гэдэг үнэн үү?
    -Амур мөрөн буюу мон­голоор Хар мөрөн гэдэг л дээ.”
    - Is it true that Amur river has beginings in Mongolia?
    - Amur river is called Khar Muren in Mongolian.”
    -Amur or Khar muren?
    This is taken from interview with Academician, Dr.Sc., Prof. D.Dorjgotov, Director of the Institute of Geography of Mongolian Academy of Sciences
    I guess he, of all people in Mongolia, should rather know how Amur is called in Mongolian…

  177. So ‘Mongolia’ is the only variety of Mongol that is possible in your opinion? If it’s not used in ‘your country’ you’re not interested in it. How is your Mongolia-centrism any different from Eurocentrism?

  178. This constant confusion between Mongolia-country-in current borders and historical Mongolia reminds me American-Latin American quarrel over use of name America.
    Latin Americans even invented a special term – estadounidense to avoid calling people of the United States as Americans.
    Something similar can be detected with use of term Khalkha to refer to Mongolia-country. This is, of course, historically incorrect, because almost a third of its territory is occupied by western Mongolian lands which never were part of Khalkha region

  179. what’s with this always bringing up khalkha mongol distinction in our conversation, i am for example buriad mongol from father’s side, from mother’s side khalkha, it’s not about ethnicities, it’s about independence, surely all are welcome, if not the chinese or russian points of view on everything is showing up in one’s making
    i remember talking to an inner mongolian student, never met anyone speaking always so favorably about China, as if like he wanted to propagandize something or other to me, or many buriads in russia speaking only russian as if it’s beneath them to speak their own dialect, one can’t blame them fully, their environment dictates their behavior, but still one first being able to respect own culture and history will be able to respect other cultures and people, if one can’t do so towards own kind, all kinds of xenophobia is possible in one’s mind imo, however ironically it might sound i guess
    about Dr. D must be he is someone soviet educated, say one word about mushgia or amar and be invited to the gulag resorts, it must be not that great perspective for anyone, though how old he is i have no idea of course, the article just shows how conventional conventions are born, his saying Amur murun everywhere in the article sounds not very natural sounding, linguistically, to my ears at least, though it’s not like if to type Amar in the newspaper that could become a diplomatic problem, well, what’s written is written, as Russians say, “ne vyrubish’ toporom” – can’t be chopped out by the axe

  180. yes, there are other people, i said we use the name like this, maybe they call it differently, but for us it’s Amar(Amur)peaceful, so you can make your conclusions, sure
    Inner Mongolians usually call whatever directly translating it from hanzi, i wouldnt get surprised if it’s called black river in Chinese
    why only the Inner Mongolians can testify cz they live around the river, when our armies swept around the area how many times in history, they were in a way explorers too, yes,
    from what you wrote all, i conclude that Amur is indeed from our Amar
    i have problem with black coming from possibly the black dragon version
    good, then, Khar murun is never used in my country, we us Amar murun, so that is that and it can’t be undone, i’m afraid, whatever is the etymology
    All that nonsense about Inner Mongolians, Chinese, Russians, biases, etymology, pronunciation changes, indignation at Cupid jokes and all the rest, because of one simple thing: read didn’t know that Амур мөрөн буюу мон­голоор Хар мөрөн гэдэг л дээ!
    This time read has really come away from her interminable wranglings with egg on her face.

  181. marie-lucie says:

    read: when the most seemingly direct amar-amur connection is being denied,
    The link may be that people felt a connection between Amur, the name of the river, and their word amar meaning ‘peaceful’, and changed it accordingly. But Bathrobe above found out that in the Old Mongolian script amar is written amor or amur. If so, the river name might indeed be Mongolian and mean ‘peaceful, quiet’ rather than ‘black’. But in that case, why bother trying to find another origin for the name, such as a drastic (and implausible) shortening of shar murun or a similar word sequence?
    As for the change from Old(er) Mongolian amor/amur to Modern amar, while Russian has Amur: it is frequent that a word borrowed from one language remains intact in the borrowing language, while it changes (along with other words of similar pronunciation) in the original language. An example is the French word meaning ‘raspberry’, which is framboise (pronounced approximately [frambwaz]). In Spanish this word is frambuesa [frambwesa]: this is because when the French word was borrowed and adapted into Spanish (around the 16th or 17th century), it was pronounced [frambwez]. In most French words which had [we] at the time, the [we] later changed to [wa] in France, but this did not happen in Spanish, which kept the [we] in this word as in many Spanish words such as bueno ‘good’ (pronounced [bweno]).
    … but amur-cupid connection could be found plausible
    The Amur-Cupid “connection” was a joke. SFR said: I am half-tempted to suggest that Amur is named after Cupid (Amur in Russian)
    I think that if he did find it plausible he would not have used “half-tempted to suggest”: this wording seems to mean: “I have no idea what is going on, so I will just throw out this crazy idea just for fun”.
    Just in case someone took SFR’s “half-suggestion” seriously, I took pains to say that the French spelling for the river (Amour) had nothing to do with the same spelling for the French word for ‘love’. It’s a coincidence that the two words sound the same. The Russian name (Amur) for the Latin god of love (Cupido) is probably the French word amour which is also used as another name for Cupido (there are lots of French borrowings into Russian). It just turns out that in both Russian and French the word for the feeling of ‘love’ or the mythological ‘god of love’ sounds the same as the name of the river, even though there is absolutely no connection between the Amur River and the French word for ‘love’.

  182. i sure got his half-joke, but your pains of explaining the french spelling i took for your accepting that suggestion, true
    well, i’ll stand on my ground, it’s russians adopted amur from whatever, the traditional spelling in uigurjin, even if it is written amo/ur it is pronounced amar, or their corrupting pronunciation of amar to amur, either way, it’s from our language to russian, not the other way around

  183. stand my ground, the correct idiom it seems

  184. i’ll stand on my ground, … either way, it’s from our language to russian, not the other way around
    You haven’t got the faintest idea. You’re just taking whatever you want to believe and standing pat. You’ve already been proved wrong over Хар хөрөн, why do you think your ‘unchangeable opinions’ are anything but biases?

  185. marie-lucie says:

    read, So my first attempt at explaining the IMPOSSIBILITY of a connection between French amour and the name of the Amur river had the opposite effect! I guess my explanations were not as convincing as I thought. But thank you for letting me know.
    Regarding the name of the river, of course the name was not given to it by Russians, who did not get to the valley until quite late in history, and in any case the word is not Russian at all. As I mentioned before, people who have studied the names of rivers have found that these names are very long-lived. When people rename a river (which does not happen often), they usually give it a name which is meaningful in their language (like “Yellow River”), or the name of another river they know from the country they come from, and whatever language amur is from (Old Mongolian or something else), it is not a Russian word.

  186. “Secret history of Mongols” tells this story about beginning of Mongolian nation:
    “There came into the world a “Borte Chono” (blue-gray wolf) whose destiny was Heaven’s will. His wife was a “Gua Maral” (beauty fallow doe). They traveled across the inland sea and when they were camped near the source of the Onon River in sight of Burkhan Khaldun and their first son was born, named Bat Tsagaan”
    A brief geography lesson – Onon river joins Ingoda river and forms Shilka river. And Shilka’s confluence with Argun river forms Amur.
    So one can say that Mongolian history literally begins at the source of Amur river…

  187. read is complaining about this:
    Original name of Amur river in Mongolian was Khar-Muren (Black River).
    The variant Amar-muren appears to be quite recent borrowing from Russian Amur.
    read believes that:
    1) Khar-Muren is not the Mongolian name for the river.
    2) The variant Amar-muren is not a quite recent borrowing from Russian Amur.
    This is what all the fuss is about.
    Point 1) has already been dealt with, although read claims that the professor in question is only saying that for fear of being consigned to the gulags.
    Point 2) is the problem. SFreader said, “How exactly the Russians came out with name Amur remains a mystery to this day.” read is adamant that it was borrowed from Mongolian. It would be useful if SFreader could back up his assertion that Амар мөрөн is a relatively recent borrowing from Russian and we can all have a peaceful life.

  188. —it is not a Russian word.
    If it arose as a result of drastic mispronounciation, misunderstanding or mistranslation of native word by Russians, then it’s really a Russian word, isn’t it?
    PS. One is reminded of Urga, a Russian name for Ulan Bator before 1924.
    It comes from Mongolian word Өргөө, Örgöö meaning “Residence”.
    It’s doubtful that the city was ever called by Mongolians Örgöö or Urga (only palace of Bogdo Gegen, head of Mongolian Buddhists situated in the city would be called Bogdyn Örgöö)
    But Russians took the word to be a name of the city and so it stayed on world maps…

  189. –It would be useful if SFreader could back up his assertion that Амар мөрөн is a relatively recent borrowing from Russian and we can all have a peaceful life.
    I have somewhere a book on Russian-Mongolian relations in 17th century with letter of Dzungar ruler Galdan-Boshigtu-Khan to Russians explaining geography of Amur river basin.
    I’ll check what it says and if it has original Mongolian text. This should settle the issue.

  190. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe: assertion that Амар мөрөн is a relatively recent borrowing from Russian
    How is Amur used in Russian? In French we say le fleuve Amour even though other rivers do not use the word fleuve (usually a large river), because l’Amour alone would seem to mean ‘Love’ and therefore be a potential source of confusion or at least an unwanted diversion. In English the word River is often (but not always) used with the name: the Mississippi River = the Mississippi. Does Russian commonly use an equivalent of “river” as well as the name? it could be simply that the phrase Амар мөрөн indicates Russian influence, while the name of the river is Mongolian or at least non-Russian in origin.

  191. the phrase can’t indicate Russian influence since Amar never goes alone, we always say river together, like Amar murun, Baigali dalai, Tuul gol, the name is honorific, bc it’s believed that the nature objects have their own spirits and could be dogshin/ doshgin – wild tempered, people name their kids river names sometimes, there are given names Tuul,Selenge, Tamir, still it is considered khatuu – hard name choices to give to people, it’s not exactly taboo, but kind of like wishing the name bearers more firm fates i guess, these naming conventions i find interesting too, why, there are no people named Moskva or Oka in Russia or Delaware, Missouri, or Seine, right? or maybe there are, i just don’t know

  192. Sorry for the confusion. Мөрөн means ‘river’. The question is whether or not Mongolian borrowed the name Амар (amar) from Russian.

  193. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: If it arose as a result of drastic mispronounciation, misunderstanding or mistranslation of native word by Russians, then it’s really a Russian word, isn’t it?
    mispronunciation: other examples of “mispronunciation” such as Urga above (and another example given earlier) are not “drastically” different from the originals. The consonants are identical, and even though the vowels are different, they do not obscure the structure of the word. Vowel change is extremely common (although not random) and likely to occur even over just a few generations, obscuring the fact of borrowing by making the words of two languages different even without resorting to an explanation by “mispronunciation” (see my example of ‘raspberry’ in French and Spanish). Drastic examples would be for instance French eau [o] from Latin aqua, or oeil/yeux [öj - jø] ‘eye/s’ from Latin oculus/oculi, in which the original words are unrecognizable.
    misunderstanding: of what? no meaning is given or even hinted at for the name. Your example with Urga gives ‘city’ as a misunderstanding for ‘residence’, but a large ‘residence’, palace or compound inhabited by a local ruler and his household could be seen as a town or even city (is there a difference in Russian?). In Europe many town names refer to a fortress around which a town grew: in France many such are called Château-something in the North, Castel-something in the South, but not because château or castel ever meant ‘city’ or ‘town’, in fact the original Latin name meant ‘little camp’ (similarly with Castel(lo) in Italy, as with the papal residence at Castelgandolfo, and with the words ending in chester or cester in England).
    mistranslation: How do you translate a name which cannot be explained in its own language of origin? the name Amur is not translated into Russian at all since its meaning in Mongolian or other language is not attested. Similarly the French name of the river, Amour, is not a “French word”, it just sounds like an existing French word.
    It is a Russian word: by “Russian word” I meant a word with a Russian structure and meaning or partial meaning, not a borrowing.

  194. marie-lucie says:

    Мөрөн means ‘river’
    I gathered that, and I did not know that this word was always used together with the name of a river. My Russian being minimal, I was not sure if Russian did the same.
    River names given to people: there is a river in Ireland called Shannon, and in Canada you meet both men and women with this name (more women than men). I can’t think of others at the moment but I think there are a few.

  195. SFReader says:

    Checked the book. Alas, the letter doesn’t mention Amur directly. It’s mainly a complaint about treaty of Nerchinsk.
    Roughly “I hear you were dividing some land at Nercha. This land is not Chinese, it’s Mongolian land. I conquered Mongolia and therefore this is my land you are divvying up, shame on you!”
    Galdan’s envoys made more extensive oral statements (some are very interesting like a claim that Amur forms Mongolian-Chinese border all way down to the ocean), but unfortunately it only survives in Russian translation where the river is invariably called in Russian – “Amur-reka”

  196. SFReader says:

    Some additional reading revealed very interesting fact. The word Amur was originally used by Moskvitin’s Cossacks exploring lower Amur. While Cossacks who reached upper Amur first originally called it Shilkar.
    Apparently the Dagur Mongols who lived on banks of Shilka river and upper Amur did not have a distinct name for river beyond confluence of Shilka and Argun. For them, the upper Amur remained the same river Shilka.
    Hence, I am forced to conclude that traditional Mongolian name Khar-Muren belongs to literary Mongolian (and likely a translation of common regional name for river). Ordinary Dagur Mongols who actually lived on its banks called the river Shilka/Shilkar.

  197. SFReader says:

    I found another extraordinary statement made by Tungus woman named Damanji from upper Amur to Russian official Akinfov (circa 1652)
    “называют де русские люди Ярко с товарищи Амуром рекою Шилку реку, а дауры и тунгусы тою реку зовут Шилкой, а не Амуром”
    “Russian men Yarko (ie explorer Yarofei Khabarov) and his comrades call the Shilka river – Amur river, but the Daurs and Tungus call this river Shilka, not Amur”

  198. Trond Engen says:

    Prompted by this discussion, I read about the Nivkh today. Wikipedia states that the first Russian explorers called them Gilyak. Apparently this is another obscure name tentatively attributed to Tungusic.

  199. SFReader says:

    The people of lower Amur had a range of names for the river. The Nivkh/Gilyak called it Mangla (Strong river), the Udege – Mangmu (Strong water), the Ulchi – Manggu (Strong river), the Negidal – Mamngu/Mamu (Strong river), the Oroch and Orok (not to be confused with Tolkien’s Orcs) called it Mangu (Strong one), etc.

  200. SFReader says:

    I must add that the latter word led to some confusion with Mongols. Some of the 12th century sources mention war between Jurchen Jin empire and some people called Mangu/Manggu. Some researchers believe that this refers to conflict with early Mongol state called Khamag Mongol Ulus, but some consider it a conflict with tribes of lower Amur.

  201. SFReader says:

    —these naming conventions i find interesting too, why, there are no people named Moskva or Oka in Russia or Delaware, Missouri, or Seine, right? or maybe there are, i just don’t know
    Russians, Americans and the French happen to be Christians (or used to be Christians).
    Hence, they usually give either Christian names or traditional national names which can serve instead of Christian name. This severely restricts the number of available names.
    Popular Mongolian names of 20th century (like Sunflower, Starray, Iron Axe or Eternal Light) would seem to Westerners like names of Indian chiefs from Wild West.

  202. exactly, “you are divvying up, shame on you!”
    thank you for the citation, see Galdan Boshigt and me arguing the same things, Amar murun is ours, so is Argun and Shilka, if not the lands now, then the legacy of naming at least, so i win!
    “would seem to Westerners like names of Indian chiefs from Wild West”
    so what, what’s your claim there, add there its sounds rather not that advanced culture, and the western mind’s workings are as if like revealed there, for us it’s our naming conventions like for you your christian traditions and who says that those can’t be different like that, not better and worse, names in kanji also have meanings almost similar sounding if to translate literally, so then japanese and chinese names must be also sound like the native americans’ names too, what it gives

  203. Amar murun is ours, so is Argun and Shilka
    This possessive nationalist approach is exactly the problem with read. There are never facts, only facts that support her own nationalist narrative. Woe betide anyone who says something that disagrees with her preconceptions; she will whinge and carp until everyone is thoroughly fed up, and blame everyone but herself when people get exasperated.

  204. about Shilka, if it was first Shilkar, so there might be ready translation too, linking it possibly to the black version – shil khar – glassy black – a very possible phrase to describe the black color, and of a river surface to that, just another suggestion of course, just Shilka doesn’t have meaning in my language, maybe it has in Tungus
    i don’t get people get so frustrated by the arguments, for me it’s all fun, the conversation, learning new things, new turns of the discussion, before of course people start calling me names, there is an easy solution it seems to me, please argue about the subject of the discussion only, not my person and we’ll avoid all the rough places

  205. for me it’s all fun, the conversation, learning new things, new turns of the discussion, before of course people start calling me names, there is an easy solution it seems to me, please argue about the subject of the discussion only, not my person and we’ll avoid all the rough places
    But you don’t learn anything new; you just reconfirm and add to your prejudices. Plus your style of discussion is to go off the deep end and attack people who offend you and your biased beliefs; that’s where the rough places come from, not from anything else. Worse still, you almost wilfully misunderstand what people say (Cupid was a prime example from this thread) and get quite offensive about it. People don’t get frustrated by the arguments; they get frustrated by your aggressive and unreasonable behaviour.
    In fact I haven’t been ‘calling you names’, merely describing what you do, although not in flattering terms because there isn’t much there deserving of flattery.
    No doubt you consider yourself a worthy representative of downtrodden women and exploited Third World countries everywhere, allowing you to justify your fits of pique against ‘the West’, but much of the time you manage to come out with bigotry that’s as breathtaking as anyone’s. The only difference is that you are never willing to reconsider your bigoted ideas.

  206. In fact, you like to cherry-pick facts to support your ideas. You pester people to come up with facts that you like, resent and harass them if they come up with facts you don’t like, and generally take the lazy approach of assuming that your beliefs are correct, no matter what evidence anyone might come up with. You fancy yourself a great upholder of Mongolia’s cultural identity, but you are too lazy to even find out the traditional spelling of амар. Instead you make stupid comments like ‘i think the explanation amar is coming from amur as if like totally biased’. Where’s the fun in arguing with someone like that?

  207. your complaints sound like white men dont like to lose, poor oppressed white men
    you rather keep us downtrodden meek and silent, i know i know, should apologize for being too vocal for whatever cause, i guess there
    well, it’s the last time to respond to your ad hominems, so
    cheers, hope you’ll reconsider your own behaviour too

  208. all kinds of xenophobia is possible in one’s mind imo, however ironically it might sound i guess
    It is indeed ironic, because you are the only regular contributor here I would describe as hyper-nationalist and xenophobic. You probably find that description funny, because you know you can’t possibly be either, since you’re read and you’re Mongolian and there can’t possibly be anything wrong with you. Here’s a heads-up: every nationalist and xenophobe feels that way. Just change “read” to [X's name] and “Mongolian” to [X's nationality]. It’s human, all too human, but it’s not good for discourse.
    i don’t get people get so frustrated by the arguments, for me it’s all fun, the conversation, learning new things
    It’s frustrating because you don’t in fact ever learn anything, you go on spouting your old nonsense. And posting provocative nonsense in hopes of stirring people up and having “fun” has an ugly name in internet discourse which I won’t bother spelling out, but again, it’s not good for discourse. I don’t know why I bother saying this, because you’re not going to change, but I guess it makes me feel better to get it off my chest.

  209. you rather keep us downtrodden meek and silent
    Thanks, I needed a laugh!

  210. good, one more count to the losing camp
    the only difference what matters in your description of xenophobes is who has the power, to silence, to marginalzie, to drive away
    for the powerless, god forbid me having such powers, of course, online or in real life, it’s all the struggle to keep up one’s identity, to be self and be proud of it

  211. marginalize

  212. to silence, to marginalzie, to drive away
    Congratulations. You certainly have the power to silence those who disagree with you (through sheer persistence and that habitual pose of being wronged), to marginalise rational argument, and to drive away people who even remotely sympathise with your views. You’re remarkably good at it.

  213. River names given to people: there is a river in Ireland called Shannon, and in Canada you meet both men and women with this name (more women than men). I can’t think of others at the moment but I think there are a few.
    I think very few. In well-bred circles river names are considered quite volga.

  214. Actually, the most popular river name given to people is “Don”.

  215. I’ve heard of Jordans of both sexes. I wonder if there’s a trans Jordan.

  216. J.W. Brewer says:

    Perhaps fictional tv brothers Frasier & Niles Crane were named by parents with a river theme in mind (some leeway for variant spelling needed)?
    Floating around U.S. tv punditry you can find Niger Innis, whose father Roy Innis was a famous activist back in the ’60′s who may have had an “Afrocentric” period. I’m not sure whether the son was named after the river or the country, however. There is supposedly a youtube celebrity named Tay Zonday, but that seems to be a stage name, and I am skeptical as to whether the River Tay was the inspiration.

  217. Shannon (originally only a female name) means ‘wise river’, so it is a plausible sort of name for both a river and a person in contexts where names typically mean something.

  218. marie-lucie says:

    A few comments ago SFReader quoted a Mongolian scholar, Academician, Dr.Sc., Prof. D.Dorjgotov, Director of the Institute of Geography of Mongolian Academy of Sciences. This scholar is a geographer, but there are other kinds of scholars in Mongolia, including linguists. Surely the topic of the origin of Amur must have occurred to some of those Mongolian linguists. It would be interesting to know what they have to say.

  219. Trond Engen says:

    Many must have looked for a relation between the rivername Manggu etc. and ‘Mongol’? Is there really nothing there?

  220. marie-lucie says:

    Today’s newest LH post (“NYAMAKALAW”) quotes a text which includes a sentence relevant to the recent developments in this thread: the topic is a word (dieli) which refers to one class of professionals (traditional singer-songwriters) in one African language and to a completely different class (leatherworkers) in a different language. The writer quoted wonders if the words are related, or …

    Or is the resemblance between these two category labels simply one of those unfortunate linguistic coincidences that seem to breed so much idle speculation?

    as in Amur vs. amour/amor, as well as many similar instances of homophony.

  221. SFReader says:

    There are all sorts of suggestions on Manggu/Amur being a mysterious source of name Mongol.
    Alas, the Manggu are situated in lower Amur and nothing indicates that Mongols or their ancestors ever lived there (upper Amur or thereabouts is more likely though, but there is very large distance involved – about same as from Scandinvia to Greece).

  222. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    On mistranslation. The Russian Cossacks on Amur relied on interpreters from Tungus.
    Now, Tungus (currently Even and Evenki) language is spoken from Yenisey to Pacific in area larger than continental United States and comprises dozens of mutually unintelligible dialects.
    So, when Moskvitin asks through his interpreter who learned Tungus on Yenisei “what the name of this river?”, what are the odds that native of Pacific coast would understood his question correctly, answer correctly and his answer would be understood correctly?
    I’d say about same odds as similar conversation between Marie-Lucie and some Romanian fisherman on lower Danube ;-)))

  223. SFReader says:

    @read
    Shilka derives from Evenki word “ǯēlge” – crack, narrow passage.
    Starostin considers it a common Altaic word and links to Mongolian “čölȫ”(written Mongolian čilüge(n)) with meaning of “space between”. I suppose the word “orgon choloo” – prospect, avenue is similar

  224. —thank you for the citation, see Galdan Boshigt and me arguing the same things, Amar murun is ours, so is Argun and Shilka, if not the lands now, then the legacy of naming at least, so i win!
    Galdan was conqueror of Khalkha Mongolia and laying claim to all lands which earlier paid tribute to Khalkha rulers by right of conquest.
    Probably I need to reproduce his letter. It’s in 17th century Cyrillic transliteration (which is another pleasant surprise -who knew that Cyrillic was used for writing Mongolian so long ago!)

  225. –Actually, the most popular river name given to people is “Don”.
    I never knew that Don Korleone was named after a river! ;-)

  226. marie-lucie says:

    SFReader: when Moskvitin asks through his interpreter who learned Tungus on Yenisei “what the name of this river?”, what are the odds that native of Pacific coast would understood his question correctly, answer correctly and his answer would be understood correctly?
    I think you are imagining an unrealistic situation: one person, one language, one question, one answer, and that’s it. If the experiences of early travellers (explorers, traders, missionaries, etc) crossing the North American continent are comparable to those of Russians travelling through Siberia, those people did not travel with just a single interpreter through the entire trip but engaged new interpreters and dismissed earlier ones at strategic places where various tribes congregated at least during certain times and more or less bilingual speakers could be found. During the trip, sometimes even a simple question had to go through several interpreters, and the answer too, in reverse order, since no one could speak all the various languages spoken between distant points (“mutually unintelligible dialects” count as different languages in practical terms). Similarly, a European traveller going from Madrid to Moscow in a horse-drawn carriage would probably have needed to employ several interpreters in turn (usually servants who had travelled with former masters, stayed in one or more foreign countries and picked up some of the languages). So even if one or two of the Russian traveller’s companions stayed with him for the duration of the trip, these people were unlikely to be up to the task of interpreting throughout the length of the journey, and therefore some of the traveller’s crew was probably changed at intervals according to their knowledge of the language(s) spoken in the area(s) they were going through.
    As for the question “What’s the name of this river?”, supposedly uttered at the end of the trip, it might make sense to ask it when coming upon a small river, but it is unrealistic for a huge one, known far and wide, like the Amur (or the Saint-Laurent, the Columbia or the Rio Grande in North America), on which moreoever the exploring team would probably plan to be travelling (by boat, raft, canoe, whatever) for a portion of the trip. Reaching such a river would not happen just by chance but would have been anticipated and therefore talked about for days if not weeks, so on reaching it the appropriate question to ask was more likely to be a request for confirmation: “Is this the Amur River?” than for the name itself. Even if the traveller or interpreter had made a mistake on first hearing, the mistake would no doubt have been corrected during the trip. When travelling on the Amur River, the name had to be “corrected” anyway, because this very long river has or had different names in different sections of its course, most likely the names used for it in the languages of the various people encountered along the way.

  227. SFReader says:

    @read
    Galdan Bohshigtu Khan’s letter to Russian ambassador Fedor Golovin and Irkutsk Governor Alexei Kislianskiy
    As you can probably notice, the language of the is not quite Mongolian. It’s a 17th century variety of Oirat language, but understandable enough to Mongolian-speakers today.

  228. SFReader says:

    I especially liked phrase “Mongol ta bida koyurtu adali dain mun” (“Mongols are enemies of ours and yours”)
    What a shocking statement from a man considered a national hero in Mongolia!

  229. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    Yes, it’s true that Ivan Moskvitin knew beforehand about some great river to the south and it was one of the goals of his expedition.
    The problem is that he was looking for great “Chirkola” river. And as you probably can guess Chirkola is just another variant of Shilka!
    So he came looking for Shilka and then “learned” from natives that they call it “Amur/Omur”!
    Only later it became clear that they don’t and never did, but name Amur already stuck

  230. Only later it became clear that they don’t and never did, but name Amur already stuck
    Aren’t you forgetting that they got it from the Mongols? hmmm?

  231. SFReader says:

    @Bathrobe
    There were no Mongols on lower Amur in 1640 ;-)
    To be fair, the lower Amur region was briefly included in the Mongol empire in 1260-1320s and Mongol troops were stationed there for several decades.
    Apart from this brief episode, there was no Mongolian population in the region.

  232. Trond Engen says:

    A Proto-Turkic or Proto-Tungusic exonym formed from a locative or something would have been so nice, but I knew I couldn’t expect that.
    I understand that it’s a long way from Mongolia to the lower Amur, but I thought maybe the gap could be closed. Isn’t it believed that much of current Mongolia was inhabited by Turkic speakers, and that Mongols originated east of (or in the eastern parts of) their current area? How far west does the Mang- names reach, and is there no reason to believe that it had wider currency in the past?

  233. SFReader says:

    I don’t know, seems very farfetched (though there are scholars fascinated with this idea)
    Even if we overcome distance, there is still a question of enormous difference in way of life.
    I mean, how could you plausibly explain incredible transformation of fishermen of lower Amur into steppe nomads of Mongolia? And where is the evidence?

  234. notice he always says bogdoiskoe, that’s foreign tibetan religion influence for him through which the manchus were trying to divide and conquer mongolia at the time, when he was trying to keep all mongols together, but he was a conqueror too so it’s no wonder he fought khalkha and southern mongolia as his vassals
    the oirats were doing all to unite mongolia back for which they were almost totally exterminated by the manchus, when the southern mongols pledged alliance with the manchus, so it’s pretty clear who is a hero and who are thought as traitors in our history
    some think though that through his conquests galdan boshigt in a way made the rest of mongolia to join the manchus seeking their protection, but that’s from today’s perspective, everybody has their own share of doing right and wrong, in our history

  235. SFReader says:

    @read
    Bogdokan was a common title for Manchu emperor of China, used both in Mongolia and Russia (and in the West too)
    It has nothing to do with Buddhist religion

  236. “To be fair, the lower Amur region was briefly included in the Mongol empire in 1260-1320s and Mongol troops were stationed there for several decades.
    Apart from this brief episode, there was no Mongolian population in the region.”
    but they could leave the name behind them even though there were no people there, surely Galdan boshigt wouldn’t keep those talks with the Russians not knowing all he places names, if he claims them his, and moreover agreeing to call the river by some totally made up new Russian name, that’s just too unbelievable
    names are important for us i was trying to explain how many times, cz it is believed the spirits are behind them, so it’s just can’t have been so that Russians would come and start naming our rivers, that name just wouldnt stay, it’s the other way around how it happened, that’s for sure

  237. SFReader says:

    @read
    Don’t you notice how you consistently apply double standards to history?
    When southern Mongols submitted to Manchus seeking protection from Ligdan Khan, you call them traitors.
    But when Khalkha Mongols did the same seeking protection from Galdan Boshigtu Khan, you are ready to excuse them ;-)))

  238. about Russia, i dont know, everything east to them are either chinese and their emperors are bogdokhans of course, never heard Manchu emperor to be called Bogdo in Mongolia, though the manchus would have liked that very much, that would acknowledge spiritual leadership over mongols, no, that is a totally made up claim, manchu emperor could have been called whatever many titles one more flattery than teh other, but not bogdo khan

  239. what double standards, what caused to join the manchus and become part of manchu/ which became china now if not their alliance, the earlier time it happened making it look even more treacherous
    and where i excuse khalkhas i said there are such views blaming galdan boshigt to which i don’t as you see agree

  240. Trond Engen says:

    I’m not suggesting a change in lifestyle, and I wouldn’t dream of squeezing Mongolian in between the other languages of the lower Amur without solid evidence. I imagined a much wider currency of the rivername Mang-, so that it denoted the river even as far upriver as a plausible Mongolian urheimat.
    That said, Hungarian is evidence that riverine hunter-gatherers can become steppe nomads.

  241. SFReader says:

    @read
    I would be extremely interested to learn your theory on how Russians got to call emperor of China Bogdykhan.
    I mean, the title is obviously Mongolian, so how exactly did the Russians adopted this term if Mongols never called Manchu emperors by this title?

  242. SFReader says:

    —what caused to join the manchus
    I am surprised that you don’t know. Principalities of southern Mongolia joined Manchus fearing aggression of Ligdan Khan who wanted unite all Mongols under his rule.
    Galdan Boshigtu had exactly same ambition which led to exactly same result – Khalkha Mongols fled to seek Manchu protection rather than submit to Galdan.

  243. Trond Engen says:

    In other words, I’m speculating idly based on

    one of those unfortunate linguistic coincidences that seem to breed so much idle speculation

  244. SFReader says:

    —Hungarian is evidence that riverine hunter-gatherers can become steppe nomads.
    I think this view of Hungarian prehistory is incorrect.

  245. “i’m surprised”
    you didnt read my words what i said next to the words you quote, do i argue against the facts how they joined the manchus
    it was shortsighted of them to seek protection from a foreign empire, when they could stand strong united
    but still note that they plegded alliance, by their own will, not got subjugated, and that alliance was declared ended with the fall of the manchus

  246. Trond Engen says:

    The common Uralic lexicon is heavily tilted towards riverine hunting-gathering, but I’m no stranger to the idea that (Pre-)Proto-Uralic speakers became horseborn (semi-)nomads east of the Ural at the same time as PIE speakers (or even earlier). Do you think Hungarian is the descendant of the language of such a group?

  247. SFReader says:

    I think we should distinguish between Uralic and more specific Ugric components. The latter was steppe culture for a very long time – perhaps all way back to the invention of horse-riding

  248. marie-lucie says:

    It is often interesting to compare Wikipedia articles in different languages on the same topic. Sometimes they are obviously translated from one to another, but they often give different details.
    The French article on Amour (fleuve) gives the origin of the name as a Buryat word meaning ‘muddy’, while the German article gives Evenk Tamur meaning ‘great river’ (Evenk being a relative of Manchu in the Tungusic family). I am not qualified to evaluate the merits of these claims.
    I did not know that the Amur river started from the confluence of two rivers, the Shilka and the Argun, so Shilka is not a local name for the larger river created by its merging with the Argun. I also learned that there are three distinct sections of the river, according to the terrain it flows through: a mountainous area at the Western end, then an extensive plain where the river snakes in very long meanders and receives other affluents, and finally a large swampy area before it reaches the sea. Such different regions would appeal to, and help develop, very different human cultures. Indeed the estuary is the traditional territory of the Nivkh (Gilyak), who are/were hunters-gatherers-fishermen.

  249. muddy is not amur in buriad as far as i can recall of course, muddy is shavkhaitai, shalbaag, namagtai, bulingartai
    i dont think river names were given having not auspicious meanings, rivers were revered such that we have customs to keep river waters pure, like never washing anything directly in the river, never taking water from river with not clean shanaga ladle

  250. i wanted to find something showing how the petitions called the manchu emperor, couldn’t find yet, i wish of course i was a historian to know the primary sources well or at least read our old script, or chinese, well, though i hope as that of a layman interested in our own history my opinion shouldnt be disregarded, i don’t opine on the matters australian for example trying to infuse whatever biased views there could be, like taking the british side or the aboriginals’ views, just for example
    anyway this narration is good, though not about Galdan boshigt’s period http://www.ask.com/wiki/Outer_Mongolian_revolution_of_1911?o=2800&qsrc=999

  251. Trond Engen says:

    If you assign ugricity to early horseriders, don’t you move common Uralic too far back?

  252. Trond Engen says:

    I should link to a very interesting discussion of Uralic origins on GeoCurrents last autumn. Unfortunately, Jaakko Häkkinen’s link to his paper doesn’t seem to work anymore.

  253. Trond Engen says:

    But some of it can be retrieved through fellow commenter German Dziebel’s review.

  254. Going through a Russian-Buryat dictionary, I tried to find a Buryat word for ‘muddy’. Nothing came up that resembled or suggested ‘Amur’.

  255. i don’t opine on the matters australian
    But you do pipe up to criticise, for instance, a Russian writer’s views on Russia (none of your business, surely), and I seem to remember a remark about ‘white men’ (not sure where that comes from). No need to make a show of virtuously holding back on matters Australian.
    I feel that a lot would be gained if views were expressed more objectively, instead of a mixture of opinion and indignation (especially when accompanied by remarks like ‘you’ll never change my opinion’ or expressions of highly emotional self-deprecation).

  256. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    The supposed Tamur is quite obviously a mix of Chinese Da/Tai (high, supreme) and common Tungus Mu (water).
    I suppose they could call it that – it’s common in the region to use poetic descriptions instead of real name (for example, most mountain names in Mongolia are just that – honorary epithets. Real names are unknown or known only to shamans)
    The use of Chinese Da/Tai was also very common in Tungusic languages and in Mongolian.
    Capital of Mongolia used to be called Da Khuree (Great Monastery) before 1924.
    However, there is one issue which needs to be explained – why and how would Russians drop the initial D/T?
    Are there any examples that such thing is possible?

  257. ‘highly emotional self-deprecation’ should be ‘complaining self-deprecation’.
    ‘Though i hope as that of a layman interested in our own history my opinion shouldnt be disregarded’ is just another expression of injury at your own particular biases not being supported.
    Without those complaints that people don’t take your opinions seriously enough, much of what you say is actually quite interesting.

  258. SFReader says:

    Buryat Wikipedia informs us that the river is called Amuur in Buryat.
    And no, it doesn’t mean “muddy”. In fact, it doesn’t mean anything (well, I suppose it could mean a phrase “A? Cat?” ;-)

  259. SFReader says:

    —If you assign ugricity to early horseriders, don’t you move common Uralic too far back?
    I am afraid we have no other choice. A quote from Wikipedia article on Ugric languages:
    “The Ugric languages share considerable amounts of common lexicon not found in the other Uralic languages. This includes both basic vocabulary, e.g. “fire” (Hungarian tűz, Mansi таўт /taːwt/, Khanty тут /tut/) as well as more specialized terminology, particularly the word for “horse” (H ló, lov-, M луў /luw/, Kh лав /law/) and related items such as “saddle” (H nyerëg, M нагэр /naɣər/). This latter fact together with an importance of horse motifs in Ob-Ugric folklore has been used to argue for locating Proto-Ugric in the southernmost parts of Siberia, in close contact with nomadic steppe peoples if not nomadic themselves.”
    This suggests that speakers of proto-Ugric already were a horse-riding culture.
    I wouldn’t insist on them being the early riders though – they were most likely Indo-Europeans and proto-Ugric peoples must have borrowed from them, so, say, 3rd millenium BC or thereabouts.

  260. SFReader says:

    I think we already discussed on some other thread another Mongol word with meaning similar to “muddy” – shiver/shibir.
    This is an origin of name Siberia ;-)

  261. The Buryat Wikipedia article actually says:
    Нэрэ “Амуур” – манжуур хэлэнэй «амар», «дамуур» – «ехэ мүрэн». Хитад нэрэ юм – «Хэйхэ» (хитад: 黑河, «Хар мүрэн»).
    “The name Amuur – Manchu Amar, Damuur – ‘great river’. Chinese name – Heihe (Chinese: 黑河 ‘black river’).

  262. SFReader says:

    They are obviously wrong about Manchu. We know the Manchu name for the river – Sakhalian-ula.
    The closest one could get to Damuur is Da-mu (great water). And where the final -r comes from?
    I am not familiar with Manchu or Tungus grammar, could anyone knowledgeable explain?

  263. i dont know to what lengths you would go suggesting such improbable versions like complex chinese-tungusic fictional names when there is a direct mongolian name which you just don’t want to consider out of your own bias
    i don’t complain, i say that my opinion is that of our laypeople, not educated specifically in history or linguistics, but that’s our current opinion and the attitude take it or leave it seems like should be a justifiable attitude to grant to any side in any discussion, especially if it concerns directly our matters
    browsing i found this link, which is interesting, have no idea whether it’s fictional or not, but if it’s a university website, must be a historical document was translated, the letter of our khan sounds wise and humble if it’s not forged to obtain privileges for taoists at the time, couldn’t make what the sage taught him more though, doesnt seem like anything extraordinary happened in their exchanges, anyway, reads interesting http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/changchun.html

  264. “хитад: 黑河, «Хар мүрэн»”
    see, it was indeed translation from the chinese hanzi

  265. SFReader says:

    –see, it was indeed translation from the chinese hanzi
    Where is your Mongol patriotism? It’s obvious that Chinese name is a translation from Mongolian! ;-)

  266. SFReader says:

    —my opinion is that of our laypeople, not educated specifically in history or linguistics, but that’s our current opinion
    I am glad that you finally admitted.
    As we have established the more knowledgeable people in Mongolia are perfectly aware that the real Mongolian name is Khar Muren. But uneducated people are entitled to believe their folk etymology

  267. i maintain Amar murun is Mongolian version, not Khar muren through Inner Mongolian translation of the Chinese naming from whatever it comes, black dragon or 黑河
    okay, nothing to add for me for now, so let’s i say stay at our own respective versions, but that ta-mur da-murs sound really like made up names, is my opinion, that’s all

  268. —when there is a direct mongolian name
    Find just one reference that the river was called in Mongolian Amar or Amur before 1640 and I will be first to admit that I was wrong ;-)

  269. i don’t think that changes anything, my admitting that i am not a historian or linguist, i told my opinion about your link upthread so i won’t repeat it

  270. that’s why i keep saying dont believe always the written references that can be written biased interpreted the same way or just plain forged, when oral tradition wouldnt lie
    maybe that’s really something in our genes not trusting the written word, that the messengers in the old times were made to learn by heart the message and to not reveal it if captured, a rather long historical tradition, what will you do against it, but really i resent sometimes that there were left few written documents to present them to SFR as an evidence

  271. “a Russian writer’s views on Russia (none of your business, surely):”
    and it’s not for you to tell that to me
    if Russians compare their own whatever perceived backwardness to our culture or just generally to Asiatics/Asians, that’s my very direct business to object to that attitude, as a Russian commenter acknowledged too

  272. i say that my opinion is that of our laypeople, not educated specifically in history or linguistics, but that’s our current opinion and the attitude take it or leave it seems like should be a justifiable attitude to grant to any side in any discussion, especially if it concerns directly our matters
    If everyone took this attitude, there wouldn’t be much to discuss on Languagehat.
    As has been asked of you several times, are we supposed to accept all your pronouncements even if they are wrong?
    Why are your often uninformed and stubbornly-held beliefs better than other people’s attempts to find something beyond ‘current opinion’? In fact, what is there to discuss at all?

  273. if Russians compare their own whatever perceived backwardness to our culture or just generally to Asiatics/Asians
    Your original objection was to Eurocentrism.

  274. you may try to read the thread again to recall all the objections i made, one does not exclude the other
    and reconsider your arrogance first before lecturing me on my ignorance

  275. dont believe always the written references
    A healthy attitude, but in your case it’s selective. If the written source agrees with your beliefs, embrace it. If it doesn’t, reject it as biased or forged.

  276. It’s still none of your business as it’s Russian history, not yours.

  277. what’s your business to opine on our history then?

  278. In fact, I don’t believe that we should refrain from commenting on or thinking about Russian history. That is a ridiculous position.
    I was merely pointing out your hypocrisy, that is, your attitude that no one can comment on Mongolian history but you yourself can comment on Russian history.

  279. —but really i resent sometimes that there were left few written documents to present them to SFR as an evidence
    It’s actually a myth. Mongolian, Chinese, Taiwanese and Russian archives are filled with hundreds of thousands and possibly even millions of historical documents written in Mongolian or in other languages, but relating to Mongolia.
    I have great hopes that current efforts at digitalization, cataloguing and enabling digital search will result in many historical discoveries.
    Of course, we still need actual people – historians and linguists – to read these documents. And here is the problem – not enough trained people able to read old Mongolian (of course, Inner Mongolians have a great advantage here. They have vastly more people who can read old texts as well as many more documents and this should reflect in their scholarly output)

  280. where i said noone can comment on Mongolian history? comment as you like but if i perceive it is disagreeing with my beliefs and values, i will be arguing, can’t i? why arguing should be such a prohibited thing here to draw your rather too rude objections you won’t let you express to anyone else than me?
    i think you owe me more than one apology to continue to talk to me

  281. good, SFR, hope you will be providing many more such sources in the threads that would have the discussions of our matters, like the Galdan boshigt’s letter, that was helpful
    cheers, i have to go to sleep

  282. where i said noone can comment on Mongolian history? comment as you like
    Then what was the meaning of the comment that ‘i don’t opine on the matters australian’, if not a criticism of me for opining on matters Mongolian?
    There is nothing wrong with arguing. The problem is the manner of arguing, and the attitude of being deeply wronged if anyone disagrees with your beliefs.

  283. Here is a link to article about historical collections of National Library of Mongolia
    Collection of Tibetan religious and scholarly literature alone has over 1.5 million books and sutras and is believed to be the largest in the world.
    Mongolian, Manchu and Chinese historical documents and manuscrips collected there also number in tens of thousands.

  284. Bathrobe might be interested in studying this catalogue – about 3 thousand old Mongolian books and manuscripts from Mongolian Collection of the Institute of Oriental Studies in Leningrad, USSR.
    Contents of Collection

  285. Some of the titles are amazing!
    Like these two, for example.
    Yoo-ropa tib-un tobchi-ya. Ded debter 1655 (Book on continent of Europe. Second volume, 1655) and Yoo-ropa-yin gajar ba qariyatu tib-uud- chom keleju – 1655 (Description of lands and people of continent of Europe, 1655)
    I’d be extremely interested to learn what Mongolian geographers had to say about Europe in 1655.

  286. Hat, please feel free to delete the worst part of above tit-for-tat. I am ashamed to be dragged into such childish word matches. It’s true that some of my comments have been rude, but I find it highly disingenuous of read to accuse others of rudeness when it was the rudeness of her constant complaints and attacks on other people that provoked it.
    In fact, I don’t give a fig if someone comments about British or Aboriginal views about Australian history (as long as they are not overtly racist). I do, however, object to constant complaints and carping, and I do object to the distortion of history and language presented by read’s anti-Chinese, anti-Inner Mongolian views (very common in Mongolia), which she seems to believe must take precedence over even the merest suggestion that there is another interpretation of language or history.

  287. And there is a document mentioning Amur river in the title too.
    Unfortunately, it’s a rather late document dating from late 19th century Russia.
    Amurun jig-a-yin gineral gubirnator-un keregemten Simkiyaviychi-yin erilge-du ogtogsen medegen (news collected for the official Simkevich in service to the Governor-General of Amur Region)

  288. (It’s not just the anti-Chinese slant; it’s the belief in an almost ‘Aryan-race’ version of Mongolianness that bristles at suggestions of outside influence on the Mongols, whose language and culture was surely passed down in pristine state from ancient times and could only influence others, never been influenced by them.)

  289. SFReader, it looks very interesting. I’m curious to know where the geography book was published. Would it have been early-Qing Beijing, or somewhere else?

  290. It appears that 1655 is an index number, not a publication date.
    So it could Buryat or Kalmyk book dating from 18-19 century. But still interesting nevertheless.

  291. Another interesting title “Yuvan ulus-un bichig” and related “Yuvan ulus-un nigucha teuke”.
    Yuvan probably means Yuan, so the titles should translate as “Book of Yuan dynasty” and “Secret History of Yuan dynasty”
    The latter appears to be a variant of “Secret History of Mongols”

  292. Your reference to these thousands and thousands of documents reminds me of an article recently in the Independent, entitled China wants to give minorities a higher standard of living. What’s so tyrannical about that? by one Isobel Yeung.
    Leaving aside the main point of the article, there is a paragraph that concludes with a rather breathtaking example of ignorance and dismissal of minority cultures:
    The recent discontent has arisen due to the authorities’ enthusiastic ‘recovering grassland ecosystem’ policy pursued over the last few years, where previously nomadic minorities, including Mongols and ten other minorities residing in the region, are seen to have been be turfed off their land by coal-hungry Han (the ethnic group which makes up about 92 per cent of China’s population). As a result, they are jerked in to the glare of modernity, or worse still made into rare museum pieces lamenting the loss of their herds and grasslands, their unwritten languages and practical skills.
    Perhaps she was referring to the ten other minorities, but given the massive proof of centuries of literacy in old collections in Ulaanbaatar and Leningrad (and no doubt elsewhere), such a dismissive attitude to the languages of ethnic minorities is a pretty damning revelation of the author’s ignorance.

  293. SFReader says:

    Presumably she is talking about Evenki language. Of course, it has written language and literature stretching back to over a century – a result of Soviet and later Chinese efforts to develop their culture.
    But of course, this doesn’t mean that Evenki people lacked literacy before that. They had writing, it’s just that they used other peoples’ scripts – Mongol, Manchu, Chinese and Russian.
    For example, we have written evidence that the so called “horse Tungus” people of Shilka river valley used Mongolian writing in 17th century.

  294. SFReader says:

    Or take Manchus, for example. Their current script dates to 17th century and their literature (especially administrative documents) is very extensive. Almost all documentation in China for 17-early 20th centuries was written in Manchu.
    But this, of course, doesn’t mean they lacked literature before 17th century. In 13-16th centuries, the Jurchen, as Manchus were known back then, used Mongol script and Mongol language for their writing.
    But before that, in 12-early 13th century, the Jurchens had a powerful state – the Jin empire with population of 60 million, comprising all of Manchuria, half of Mongolia and half of China. And of course, they had their own script (two varieties) and extensive literature in it.
    But this doesn’t mean that Jurchens lacked literacy before 1115. They were subjects of Khitan Liao empire and used Khitan script and Khitan language for writing, dating back to 10th century.
    But this again doesn’t mean that Jurchens or their ancestors had no literacy before 10th century. In 698-926, the ancestors of Jurchens, then known as Mohe people comprised majority of population in the kingdom of Bohai. The elite of this state were the ethnic Koguryo (thought to be related to ancient Japanese, not Koreans) and they had flourishing high culture and used Chinese writing.
    Example of Bohai writing
    But this doesn’t mean that Mohe lacked literacy before 698. They were subject of the kingdom of Koguryo (Bohai was its successor). History of Koguryo dates back to 37 BC, when they achieved independence from Han empire of China. Of course, they had writing all along and it was in Chinese. The northern part of the kingdom was populated by the Mohe people, who often reached the ranks of the kingdom elite and presumably could read and write in Chinese.
    Of course, this also doesn’t mean that people of Kogureyo of whatever ethnicity lacked writing before 37 BC. The region where they lived was for over two centuries part of Han China and before that of the Qin empire. And of course, there was literacy and writing and cities and culture. It was of course Chinese and used by the elite, but nevertheless the mass of population were natives and they were exposed to the Chinese literacy.
    And we can go even deeper into history of southern Manchuria and discuss ancient states of China – primarily state of Yan, with history stretching back to 1045 BC. Their expansion into southern Manchuria came rather late, but they traded with ancestors of Kogureyo/Mohe/Jurchen people long ago. Also, it’s not quite clear what their population was ethnically – they well may have included ancestors of later Kogureyo/Mohe/Jurchen peoples.
    And of course, the territory of the future state of Yan was part of the Shang state, which invented Chinese writing sometime in 14th century BC.
    And before that….
    Well, I must stop here – external origins of Chinese writing is a subject of extreme controversy, it would suffice to notice that the northern neighbours of Shang state, including a region where the Manchu/Jurchen/Mohe peoples lived later on had something to do with it.

  295. “an almost’ Aryan-race”
    you say such things and are offended by my reactions, and instead of just simply apologizing you appeal to LH’s hattic powers, dont your faith in written word get some kind of rebuke right there
    i’m offended by the suggestion “given the massive proof of centuries of literacy in old collections in Ulaanbaatar and Leningrad (and no doubt elsewhere), such a dismissive attitude to the languages of ethnic minorities”, so without those libraries we should have been considered backwards, inferior, be dismissed? yeah, indeed what’s so “tyrannical” about that?
    well, i’m glad that these libraries exist and are proof of our heritage and literacy in at least your eyes
    i know that you get irritated at the slightest disapproval of Inner Mongolians, believe me i am a firm defender of them before anyone in my country maligning them undeservedly, and the disagreement between them and us is long- lasting as you see through centuries to be settled in the blog threads, i always say i say my opinions that represent my and i believe our current beliefs and these views can be, it seems to me, presented without need to correct them each time to reflect exactly your own views
    SFR suggested the advantage of Inner Mongolians in reading the libraries, hopefully they would do so fully unbiasedly cz once adopted Chinese” cultural hegemony” is almost impossible to argue against, it has such an elevated status of indisputableness that if the extensive libraries didnt exist due to some or other reasons, they could be just simply lost and were being lost, if not written in the first place, that our defeat is almost guaranteed, in your/ big brother China’s eyes

  296. SFReader says:

    —Aryan-race
    Godwin’s law strikes again!
    Well, let’s try to bring it back to linguistics.
    Did you know that Arya is a popular Mongolian name?
    Yes, it comes from Sanskrit and means noble and exactly same Arya as in Aryan race….

  297. I know one Ariya, my coursemate in the medschool
    about the neonazis in my country, when i see their pictures in the newspapers, never met one in real life, i cant help but think to suggest to deport them somewhere and see whether they’d dare to wear all those uniforms and all the regalia then, how they would be beaten up, i guess, very quickly all the bravado, vsya dur’ i shelukha as russians say, would disappear it seems to me, seem like they are a few dozen of stupid and narrow minded young people who have never suffered in their lives to be able to empathise with other people’s sufferings, it seems they shouldnt be given such newspaper coverages even, they are very few i believe
    otoh, it would be scary if they would get some kind of reception elsewhere, even in europe, or russia

  298. i’m offended by the suggestion “given the massive proof of centuries of literacy in old collections in Ulaanbaatar and Leningrad (and no doubt elsewhere), such a dismissive attitude to the languages of ethnic minorities”
    these libraries exist and are proof of our heritage and literacy in at least your eyes
    Do you never stop getting offended?

  299. dont say such things and i wont

  300. Your taking offence is unreasonable and offensive in itself. I was criticising the author of the article for her ignorance. Did you think I was defending her? Perhaps you should read more carefully before you go into high dudgeon.

  301. Trond Engen says:

    SFReader3rd millenium BC or thereabouts
    Still rather early. But there’s another idea that’s been lurking since I read about those early riders on the eastern steppe. Maybe they were Turkic, or even Mongolic, living there in the contact zone with Uralic, and then trekking east with the new opportunities and the push from Indo-Europeans behind them. It’s tempting to concider Mongolic the carrier of areal features to both Tungusic and Turkic. And wildly speculative.

  302. SFReader says:

    —Maybe they were Turkic, or even Mongolic, living there in the contact zone with Uralic, and then trekking east with the new opportunities and the push from Indo-Europeans behind them.
    There is sufficient evidence which firmly places speakers of proto-Mongolic languages somewhere in southern Inner Mongolia as far back as Neolithic.
    The line of succession goes like this:
    Mongols (12th century AD-present)-> Shiwei Menggu(350 AD – 11th century AD) – > Xianbei (150 BC-300 AD) – > DongHu (7th century BC – 150 BC)- archaeologically corresponds to Upper Xiajiadian culture (夏家店上層文化) (1000-600 BC) – > Lower Xiajiadian culture 2200–1600 BC -> Hongshan culture from about 4700 BC to 2900 BC
    The latter two neolithic cultures are settled agriculturalists based in southern Inner Mongolia and southern Manchuria very much resembling Yangshao culture (ancestor of Chinese civilization). Transformation to nomadic lifestyle began with Lower Xiajiadian circa 600 BC.
    Sources
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongshan_culture
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Xiajiadian_culture
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_Xiajiadian_culture
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donghu_people
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xianbei
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiwei
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongols

  303. Trond Engen says:

    SFReader: There is sufficient evidence which firmly places speakers of proto-Mongolic languages somewhere in southern Inner Mongolia as far back as Neolithic.
    Far better than my speculations, surely, but firmly?

  304. SFReader says:

    Well, there is quite a lot of literature on the subject asserting exactly this claim, so the question is settled for me, at least.
    Here is a useful summary
    Hongshan Culture and the Proto-Altaic Speech Community

  305. SFReader says:
  306. Old Russian map of Amur river
    The map is oriented with south upwards.
    Note name Shil’ka on the top – actually it’s Onon river beginning somewhere in Khentei mountains of Mongolia. Russians apparently thought that Shilka and Onon are the same river (in current view Shilka starts with confluence of Onon and Ingoda)
    The name Amur is given only to lower Amur, after confluence of Sungari (Shingal on the map) and Amur.
    Finally, apart from the map, the most interesting thing about it is name of the author – Daurian colonel Afanasii Petrovich Beiton.
    Beiton was an ethnic German, native of Prussia. He was a veteran of Thirty Years War, served Russia as military specialist for many years, fought in war against Poland, then married a Russian girl, converted to Orthodox Christianity and was sent to Siberia with reinforcements for frontier war with China.
    For three years, with a handful of soldiers Beiton defended heroically Russian fortress of Albazin on upper Amur against much more numerous Manchu armies (300 Russians against 12 thousand strong Manchu army) and surrendered it only after the treaty of Nerchinsk was signed.

  307. SFReader: “But of course, this doesn’t mean that Evenki people lacked literacy before that. They had writing, it’s just that they used other peoples’ scripts – Mongol, Manchu, Chinese and Russian.”
    I presume you mean that they wrote in those languages, rather than writing their own languages in those scripts.
    Trond: “It’s tempting to consider Mongolic the carrier of areal features to both Tungusic and Turkic. And wildly speculative.”
    I wouldn’t say “wildly”. It’s a fact that Mongolian shares more with Turkic on the one hand, and with Tungusic on the other hand, than either one shares with the other. That’s the main reason nobody can say for sure whether (Micro-)Altaic is a true language family or a Sprachbund. It’s conceivable, I suppose, that Mongolic is the receiver rather than the donor of these shared features, but I don’t know of anybody who takes that position at present.
    SFReader: “[T]he most interesting thing about it is name of the author – Daurian colonel Afanasii Petrovich Beiton.” Indeed. One wonders what sort of un-Orthodox or un-Russian name he had before that he needed to be rechristened “Athanasius”. Pagan names used in Germany today (Helmut, Wolfgang, etc.) are basically products of the 19th century, so that can’t be it. Named after a Catholic saint with a unique name? One wonders.

  308. My understanding is that Russians required rechristening and rebaptising regardless of the previous name.
    Catherine the Great was rechristened even though her Lutheran name was perfectly Russian and Orthodox Sophia

  309. Trond Engen says:

    John C.: Mongolic as the feature carrier between Tungusic and -rkic isn’t that speculative, but Mongolic as the (hush, don’t tell read I said so) intrusive carrier of Uralic contact is.

  310. J.W. Brewer says:

    The practice of the Russian church with respect to rebaptizing and/or renaming converts from e.g. the Lutheran church has not been consistent over the centuries, so I’m not sure what the story may have been with Beiton. There were presumably some German first names that were reasonably common in the 17th century that did not have well-established equivalents in Russian (or in the Orthodox calendar). August is one that comes to mind starting with an A.

  311. Trond Engen says:

    Never mind “Afanasii”. What’s “Beiton”?

  312. SFReader says:

    There are variants of spelling. On the map, it’s written as Baydon.
    All spellings appear quite English, yes. Unfortunately, sources state that he was native of Prussia and I can’t imagine why an English family would decide to have a child in Prussia in late 1620s of all places!

  313. SFReader says:

    Though if it can be shown that Baydon was also a Scottish surname, this would more explainable.
    Scots were poor as mice back then and emigrated in droves to every place, including Poland, Prussia, Russia, etc

  314. poor as mice
    I know the English expression ‘poor as a churchmouse’; would it be possible to say ‘poor as churchmice’ here? Sounds funny.

  315. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe: ‘poor as a churchmouse’; would it be possible to say ‘poor as churchmice’
    Google “church mice” and you will find plenty of instances, whether in the phrase with “poor” or by itself. The idea is that a mouse or mice living in a church can’t find much food there, since it is not a place where people eat and therefore leave crumbs and scraps. Nevertheless, mice can be found in churches in the winter when they have come in to get away from the cold.
    I know the phrase in both singular and plural versions, but I have never seen “churchmouse/churchmice” written as one word as if the phrase referred to a species of mice, or to something quite different but called that. Such compounds would be stressed on the first syllable (CHURCHmouse), which is not the case in normal English.

  316. Although “church mouse” is written as two words, it does have a compounding accent, at least when I say it: “poor as a CHURCH mouse”. The philosopher C. West Churchman was my father’s fellow student and later his close friend (indeed, he and Russ Ackoff were responsible for introducing my parents to one another); my parents usually referred to him as “Churchmouse”, though not generally to his face.

  317. Trond Engen says:

    I used to know a captain Churchmouse. Any relation?

  318. Unlikelihud.

  319. J.W. Brewer says:

    Hmm. “Churchman has been cited by Noam Chomsky as the only professor from whom he learned anything as an undergraduate.” That seems like rather a heavy historical burden for poor Churchman to have borne.

  320. marie-lucie says:

    church()mouse/mice
    All right, it must be a compound.

  321. SFReader says:

    Father Iakinf Bichurin (more on him below) wrote this about Amur:
    “Amur, in Chinese Hei-long-jiang, which literally means black dragon river; in Manchu Sakhalian-ula, in Mongolian Khara-muren (Large river is called in Chinese jiang, in Manchu ula, in Mongolian muren; middle size river is called in Chinese he and shui, in Manchu bira, in Mongolian gol and usu (oso)); in both languages the name means Black River. The river starts in Khentei mountains under name Onon; Russians call the river Amur (Amur (Amor) is a Mongolian word which means quiet. It’s difficult to explain why Russians call the river Amur. Albaziha river which joins Amur near Albazin is called Emur in Tungus. Was this a source from which name Amur was borrowed?) from confluence of Shilka and Argun all way to the ocean; on the other hand, Chinese call Amur – Black river from the confluence to the joining with Sungari-ula river; and from here to the delta call it Hong – Dong-Jiang, in Manchu: Sungari-ula. In ancient times, Amur was called in Chinese Hei-shui, which means Black River. This name is given because of black color of its waters”.
    “Амур, по-китайски Хэй-лун-цзян, что от слова до слова значит: черного дракона река; по-маньчжурски Сахалянь-ула, по-монгольски Хара-мурэнь (Большая река называется на китайском языке цзян, на маньчжурском ула, на монгольском мурэнь; средняя река называется на китайском хэ и шуй, на маньчжурском бира, на монгольском голь и усу (собств. осо).); на обоих языках: черная река. Принимает начало в Гэнтэйском хребте под названием Онон; русские называют сию реку Амуром (Амур (собств. Амор) есть монгольское слово, значит спокойный. Трудно отгадать, почему русские назвали сию реку Амуром. Речка Албазиха, против Албазина, впадающая в Амур, по-тунгусски называется Эмур. Не отсюда ли заимствовано слово Амур?) на протяжении от соединения Шилки с Аргунию до впадения в море; китайцы напротив Амур называют черною рекою от стрелки до соединения с Сунгари-улою; а от сего места до устья дают ему название Хунь-тхунь-цзян, по-маньчжурски: Сунгари-ула. См. в ч. II, в Прибавлениях номер VI. В древности Амур по-китайски назывался Хэй-шуй, что значит черная река. Название сие дано ей от темного цвета воды”.

  322. SFReader says:

    Again, author of this piece is an incredible interesting character.
    Father Iakinf (Hyacinth) or Nikita Yakovlevich Bichurin was a Russian priest sent to Peking Russian Orthodox Mission in 1807. He learned perfect Chinese, Mongol, Manchu and a few more languages and spent most of his time there studying Chinese and Mongolian history. He got in trouble with Church authorities who accused him of lack of religious zeal and exiled him to Valaam monastery where he translated many ancient Chinese manuscripts (some of them were never translated again, into Russian or any other language)
    He is considered a founding father of Russian and European Sinology.

  323. SFReader says:

    And a brief note about Russian Orthodox Mission in Peking.
    It’s history is rather peculiar. During siege of Albazin, some Russian Cossacks were taken prisoner (and some appear to have defected willingly).
    In accordance with ancient tradition, Manchu emperor took them in his service and settled near Beijing. The Albazin Cossacks formed a unit of the imperial guard called “yellow-stripe standard”. The Cossacks married Chinese women and gradually lost Russian language, but not their Orthodox Church.
    Russian Government was very concerned with their plight, especially a danger that they might became apostates and applied diplomatic pressure with China which led to formation of Peking Orthodox Mission.
    By the end of 19th century, there were about 1000 Albazanians in Peking, which by then had little physical resemblance with Russians, but still kept Christian faith.

  324. thank you, SFR! maybe i could have been right about the shil khar version too :)
    Onon gol, Shaazgain gol are the place where i spent a summer at my grandma’s when was three so i still remember how i learned the words must be, you might be skeptical three years old, but i really remember a lot from when i was a kid, so understandably i felt possessive about the discussed word, sorry for fighting at times :)
    i wonder whether the story with our khaan’s letter is genuine, SFR? if it’s real, i find his letter moving, the quest for knowledge and openness of reception, trying to reach out, at his time, maybe it’s a genuine story, i remember reading about it reproduced in the novel by V.Yan, must be it comes from the same source

  325. marie-lucie says:

    I think the amazing Father Iakinf has it.

  326. i thought Bichurin is not a clearly Russian family name, looked up and wiki says he’s from Chuvashiya, another evidence that the great Russian culture was really been built with many ethnic minority people contributions too, the thought that needs maybe more recognition, if you pardon me my opinions on Russian culture
    maybe his origins explain his linguistic talent
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyacinth_(Bichurin)

  327. Bichurin is a Russian surname of Turkic origin (bai – rich, chura – hero, warrior). He may have been of non-Russian origin judging by his surname, but we can’t presume that he was Chuvash.
    By the way, both parts of his surname have cognates in Mongolian.
    I would translate his surname as Bayan Tsoros ;-)
    PS. Tsoros – is a well known Oirat Mongol clan name, the ruling dynasty of Dzungar Khanate were Tsoros. The word Tsoros comes from Turkic chura/chor and means “warriors, heroes”.
    I think Khalkha Mongolian no longer has this word, but Oirat and Kalmyk have “tsor” in singular and “tsors” in plural with same meaning

  328. “we can’t presume that he was Chuvash.’
    if you followed the wiki link it says he was from a family of chuvash priests, and his biography too, the sentence there saying that he is a son of “bezvestnogo dyachka, chuvasha po national’nosti” sounds like the general attitude how the russian narrative goes, with the undertones of arrogance regarding minorities i think
    can’t they write neutrally, i understand it is tempting to contrast the lowly origins and the scholarly heights he achieved, still sounds like off-putting
    http://gov.cap.ru/hierarhy_cap.asp?page=./86/1278/1305

  329. Read, I’ve read quite a few books on Bichurin, so I am quite aware that the issue of his origins is far from settled.
    For example, in March of 1803, he filled and personally signed a register form of Voznesenk monastery where in column “из каких он наций” (of which nationality) he wrote “великороссийской” (Great Russian)

  330. maa, that also is the issue of self-identity i guess, maybe he was put in such a situation to recognize self as a velikoross, the word itself says something don’t you think? many educated minorities embraced their belonging to Russia and overzealously even i would guess, but wouldnt ethnically russian just write russian in there? though i don’t know what were the conventions of answering such questions back then, so his word is his word, sure

  331. i recalled there is an expression “tsor tsor hiih” -to answer as if like insolently, fighting like against authority, maybe it is left from, i mean comes from the word you describe chura-tsoros, who knows, or maybe it is irrelevant, i always thought that’s something resembling the japanese sound words structures charachara, kirakira for example, our language have many such words too, tus tas (loud noise), hor hor (another sound description, of running water for example), shaldar buldar (petty matters) and others

  332. The word Tsoros comes from Turkic chura/chor and means “warriors, heroes”.
    Obviously the source of Yiddish (> English) tsuris ‘troubles’, since one side’s warrior is another side’s big problem.
    What? You say it isn’t, it’s from Hebrew? Obviously you are an anti-Turkite. Probably of Greek descent. Or Kurdish (excuse me, “mountain Turkish”) origin. All the world is constantly crushing the Turks! Weep, wail!

  333. I’ve read it several times in English, and I’m not sure exactly how our Father Iakinf Bichurin has resolved the problem.
    Russians call the river Amur (Amur (Amor) is a Mongolian word which means quiet. It’s difficult to explain why Russians call the river Amur. Albaziha river which joins Amur near Albazin is called Emur in Tungus. Was this a source from which name Amur was borrowed?
    What it says is that:
    (1) Amur is a Mongolian word which means quiet.
    (2) It’s difficult to explain why Russians call the river Amur.
    (3) Albaziha river … is called Emur in Tungus. Was this a source from which name Amur was borrowed?
    We already knew that Amur means ‘quiet’ in Mongolian. What we don’t know is (a) Whether the Mongols called it that, and (b) whether the Russians borrowed that name from them.
    For (a), the rest of the extract tells us that the Mongolians called it “Khara-muren”; no mention of “Amur”.
    For (b), Father Iakinf Bichurin does not actually say that the Russians got the name from the Mongols. He merely points out what the word means in Mongolian, and for the etymology suggests as one hypothesis a non-Mongolian origin (Tungusic).
    Apart from the new Tungusic suggestion, we are no closer to resolving (a) and (b) than we were before.

  334. “He merely points out what the word means in Mongolian”
    hope you won’t say next that the russians gave the word to us, why it’s so difficult for you to even just suppose that what could have followed perhaps logically was the other way around, especially if nobody knows how that naming occurred
    now, in Emur how e becomes a then, it will become a very easily i guess when it’s convenient to explain your theories

  335. SFReader says:

    – I’m not sure exactly how our Father Iakinf Bichurin has resolved the problem.
    He didn’t. We still don’t know why Russians started to call it Amur

  336. Unless we can prove that the Mongols called it the Amur river before the Russians did, then there is a distinct possibility that the Mongolians got the name off the Russians and not vice versa.
    Looking at the various possibilities:
    1) The Mongols called the river ‘Amur’ and the Russians took this name from them. (No evidence that the Mongols called the river ‘Amur’.)
    2) The Russians took the name ‘Amur’, a word with a Mongolian origin (meaning ‘quiet’), from some local people. Although the name was originally Mongolian in origin, it was not a widespread name among the Mongols and was only borrowed back into mainstream Mongolian under Russian influence.
    3) The Russians took the name ‘Amur’ from a non-Mongolic origin (possibly local people). Because the name meant ‘quiet’ in Mongolian (especially in the traditional script), it was quickly and easily borrowed into Mongolian, replacing the earlier name for the river (Хар мөрөн).
    Unfortunately, from what we can tell, there is no evidence that the Mongolians ever called the river the ‘Amur’, throwing doubt on the possibility of borrowing from Mongolian to Russian. But we also don’t know where the Russians got the name from, so nothing definite can be said about a possible Mongolic origin.
    When we say that ‘amur’ is the Mongolian word for ‘quiet’, one interesting point is being missed.
    Let us assume that the river was known as amur müren in the traditional script. When changing over to Cyrillic, the Mongolians had a choice between two spellings: Амур мөрөн amur mörön, reflecting the Russian spelling, and Амар мөрөн amar mörön, meaning ‘quiet river’. For Russian words in Mongolian, it is quite normal to use the original Russian spelling, even when that spelling is incorrect as a representation of the Mongolian pronunciation. Words spelt in the original Russian manner are thus marked out as ‘foreign words’. What is intriguing in this case is that the Mongolians chose Амар мөрөн ‘quiet river’ in preference to Амур мөрөн ‘amur river’. By using Амар мөрөн, the Mongolians are specifically claiming that this is not a Russian word but a natural Mongolian name. You will notice how scathing read was about our geographer Prof. D.Dorjgotov for using the Russian spelling.
    I can think of several possible explanations for the use of Амар мөрөн rather than Амур мөрөн.
    1. The name was felt to be of old Mongolian origin (possibly through historical memory, as read suggests); therefore a Russian spelling was unjustified.
    2. ‘Quiet river’ was felt to be so well established as a natural native name that using the Russian spelling would have been ‘forced’. This does not assume a historical basis; merely that the borrowed name ‘fitted like a glove’ as far as the Mongolians were concerned.
    3. The Mongolians were unwilling to concede that the name of this major river in their area came to them through the Russians and chose the native-name explanation over the borrowed-name explanation, even though this was historically unjustified.
    Since the name Амар мөрөн sounds so natural, I can understand why read feels quite indignant that it is a Mongolian name that the Russians borrowed, and not vice versa. The main problem is whether this version of events can be justified by the historical record, and judging from what SFReader has given us, it is not.

  337. marie-lucie says:

    I suggested earlier that the word could be from one of the other (neither Russian nor Mongolian) languages or dialects spoken in the region. Father Iakinf suggested the name “Emur”, the Tungusic name of an affluent of the Amur. (Where two rivers of similar size merge, it can be difficult to know which one should be considered the main one, and rough maps made on the spot can also be mislabelled).
    I looked up Tungusic languages, some of which are spoken in the Amur region. The best candidate seems to be the Upper Aldan dialect of Evenki, one variety of which is spoken on the Upper Amur.
    What about the different though similar names? In one Russian text above, the Amur was also called “Omur”, and Father Iakinf records “Emur”. The stressed syllable must be “mur”, used identically in all three words. The differences in the initial vowels, which were most probably unstressed, suggest to me that the local pronunciation was not exactly “a”, “e” or “o” but a vowel intermediate between these sounds.
    Evenki and other Tungusic languages have a number of vowels, particularly those pronounced in the central area of the mouth (so does Mongolian, although with fewer vowels in that area). Russian does not have those types of vowels. How would a Russian speaker record foreign words including vowels for which the Russian alphabet did not provide models? Such a person would hesitate, and try different vowel letters from their own language. (Similarly, English speakers recorded American Indian languages with a variety of different spellings, as the recorders tried their best to write what they thought they heard).
    Moreover, Russian itself is not always consistent about its own vowels: bolshoi sounds more like “balshoi”, while bolshe keeps the “o” pronunciation suggested by the spelling. A person who did not know how to write Russian would probably use “a” not “o” and write the equivalent of “balshoi”.
    I think that the Russians settled on Amur as a generic spelling, either because the most common pronunciation sounded to them closer to their “a”, or because the Evenki dialect they were most used to did start with “a”, or because the “a” form was also used in Mongolian or another language important in the area.
    One would have to know more about the location of a Russian military or trading post or settlement on the river, from which the name could have spread to other such places where there were Russians.

  338. marie-lucie says:

    (I only saw Bathrobe’s comment after I posted mine).

  339. You will notice that the Mongolians are quite forthright in using Mongolian names for cities and rivers in Russia in preference to using Russian names. It would have been quite easy for the Mongolians to use Russian names, given that they switched to Cyrillic and were under heavy Russian influence in matters of language, but they have quite consciously stuck to Mongolian names (e.g. Эрхүү erkhüü for Иркутск Irkutsk, as well as river names SFReader has already noted). The idea that a ‘Mongolian name’ was given precedence over a ‘Russian name’ is not unconceivable.

  340. marie-lucie says:

    The idea that a ‘Mongolian name’ was given precedence over a ‘Russian name’ is not unconceivable.
    Oh, it is totally conceivable, even probable, except that the “Russian name” in question was not a word in the Russian language, but in another language. The name could have been Mongolian, but could also have been an Evenki name which happened to be similar to a Mongolian word.

  341. Let me give a totally different example to illustrate the possibility that Амар мөрөн amar mörön, despite appearances, is a borrowing from Russian.
    Japanese has borrowed the English word ‘can’ (as in ‘tin can’) and the Dutch word ‘kan’ with the same meaning, that of a metal container for storing food. In borrowing the English and Dutch words, the Japanese at the time took advantage of the fact that there are existing Chinese characters, 缶, 罐, and 鑵, pronounced kan (older pronunciation kwan) in Japanese, which have a similar meaning to the borrowed term. For instance, the character 罐 guàn refers to an old Chinese vessel (not necessarily made of metal) used to cook or present food. By using a Chinese character instead of katakana (カン) to write this loanword, Japanese makes it appear that 缶 is from Chinese, not English/Dutch.
    It would certainly not be strange for a Japanese native speaker to insist that 缶 is a Sino-Japanese word, and not a borrowing from English/Dutch, based on ‘linguistic intuition’. But we have enough historical records from this era to demonstrate that the origin of kan in the meaning of ‘tin can’ is English/Dutch, not Chinese. Japanese dictionaries note the Dutch/English origin, pointing out that Chinese characters were assigned on the basis of similar pronunciation and meaning.
    While read’s intuition that ‘Amar’ is an ancient Mongolian name fro the river certainly cannot be ruled out, it is also possible that ‘Amar’, like 缶, is a borrowing that just doesn’t look like a borrowing.

  342. m-l and I seem to be engaged in a game of leap frog in our comments :)
    I personally feel that the Mongolians did borrow Амар мөрөн from Russian, for reasons that I’ve mentioned. But since there are no clear records on the origin of the name ‘Amur’, there’s still room for other possibilities. Nothing is definite.

  343. m-l: In one Russian text above, the Amur was also called “Omur”, and Father Iakinf records “Emur”. The stressed syllable must be “mur”, used identically in all three words. The differences in the initial vowels, which were most probably unstressed, suggest to me that the local pronunciation was not exactly “a”, “e” or “o” but a vowel intermediate between these sounds.
    The stress is indeed on the second syllable. In (Standard) Russian, unstressed /a/ and /o/ are quite indistinguishable due to vowel reduction, becoming [ɐ ~ ʌ] in pretonic position (as here), and simply [ə] in other syllables (but /ɪ/ after palatalized and retroflex consonants). So the difference between “Amur” and “Omur” is purely orthographic, both being /ɐˈmur/; per contra, “Emur” is /jɪˈmur/.

  344. marie-lucie says:

    JC, OK for the a/o (more or less) alternation. Would /jɪˈmur/ have had its /j/ at the time of Father Iakinf?

  345. per contra, “Emur” is /jɪˈmur/
    The Russian text given by SFReader gives Эмур, not Емур. Would this also be pronounced /jɪˈmur/?

  346. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, in your Japanese example, “kan” was indeed a European word. In the name of the Amur River, the name of the river is NOT a Russian name, but most likely an adaptation of a native name, most likely Evenki. It is possible that Russian was the intermediary between that name and the Mongolian one, but I would not say that the name was a Russian word or was borrowed “from” Russian rather than “through” Russian (or rather, through a Russianized form of the word).

  347. Mongolian Амар /amər/ has a reduced vowel in the second syllable, unlike Russian Амур, which has the stress on the second syllable. It’s hard to see why the Russians would have borrowed the Mongolian word in this way, with stress shifted to the second syllable.

  348. marie-lucie says:

    The Russian text given by SFReader gives Эмур, not Емур
    Thanks Bathrobe, in this case, it is definitely /εmur/.

  349. The Japanese example is designed to show that it’s possible for speakers to perceive a borrowed word as being ‘native’ (or in the case of Japanese, Sino-Japanese) when it’s not. The proximate source of the loanword is what is relevant here, not the distal one (whether the unknown source of ‘Amur’ or proto-Germanic *kanna, possibly Latin canna).

  350. Otherwise, yes, there are differences between the two cases: 1) Sino-Japanese vs English/Dutch, and 2) Mongolian vs via Russian from unknown language.

  351. see, emur/ jimur, i knew how you would explain the sound shifts/ transformations, thank you very much, so amur/ amar totally needs explanation, a becoming u, and totally improbable even if in the traditional script its spelling is amur, very straightforwardly
    but in case of emur/ amur, it’s just a vowel shift, a matter of spelling, totally natural it’s maybe even not two different sounds though one sounds like e in ethnic, another one is a in mars, must be e/a shifts cant be distinguished by the linguistics, unlike a/u, next you will say perhaps jimur is the original word not amur, and perhaps this thread will become already a written evidence to last for centuries for that explanation
    well, when Mr B says nothing is definite and everything is possible, i think i should take his word as not ruling out Mongolian name altogether, at last(!), as his wish to meet me halfway, cz i will remain at my position, only added by Bichurin’s description and Galdan Boshigt’s letter

  352. SFReader says:

    —it’s possible for speakers to perceive a borrowed word as being ‘native’
    I’ll add another example.
    Mongolian Яармаг (Yarmag) comes from Russian ярмарка (yarmarka), ultimately from German Jahrmarkt (annual fair).
    The borrowing from Russian is relatively old, 18th century probably and maybe even 17th. And Russian has of course, borrowed the German word even earlier (via usual torturous route – Ruthenian dialects

  353. SFReader says:

    — Father Iakinf suggested the name “Emur”, the Tungusic name of an affluent of the Amur. (Where two rivers of similar size merge, it can be difficult to know which one should be considered the main one, and rough maps made on the spot can also be mislabelled).
    I have an excellent suggestion. Remember that the source of Moskvitin’s info with first mention of Amur were two Tungus women who fled from capitivity from somewhere upriver and told him that they lived on great river called Amur/Omur.
    Well, it just occurred to me that the Tungus women might have been living in captivity on Emur river (somewhere in Albazin area of upper Amur) and told Russians that, but interpreter Petrov or Moskvitin himself have misunderstood and decided that the great river is called Amur, not small tributary river.

  354. i dont care about yaarmag, a borrowing then borrowing, any such secondary words could be from wherever, chinese or english or french but the basic words and landmarks, what is my own is my own, i’m not willing to concede amar to e/ji/ta/mur, only because someone fancies to read it that way

  355. SFReader says:

    Read, your strongly held opinions unfortunately not supported by facts.
    Forget about faraway Amur, let’s look at Mongolia itself.
    Onon.
    Orkhon.
    Selenge.
    Kherlen.
    Khovd.
    Zavkhan.
    Tuul.
    Eg.
    Tes.
    Delger-muren.
    This is a list of longest rivers in Mongolia.
    How many of these river names are actually Mongolian? I think only the last one (abundant river)

  356. to your satisfaction i already mentioned that fact in the beginning of the discussion, yes, so that’s nothing new to me for you try to enlighten me on
    yes, those rivers have must be turkic or uigur or kirgis or perhaps even mongol names, just maybe lost their first original meanings, as you see is possible with tsor-tsoros

  357. SFReader says:

    — those rivers have must be turkic or uigur or kirgis or perhaps even mongol names
    To understand origin of Mongolian river names, first you need to know a bit of history.
    Mongols first arrived in current territory of Mongolia in 10-11th centuries, as part of Khitan conquest, I assume. The steppe was not completely empty at the time and for a couple of centuries there was a mix of Mongolian and Turkic tribes which persisted until age of Genghis Khan.
    Now, this doesn’t mean that no speakers of Mongolic languages lived there before that. While period of 552-920s is an age of dominance of various Turkic peoples, historical sources tell as that in 93-552, Mongolia was dominated by Xianbei peoples and their descendants, who spoke some variety of Mongolic.
    Before that, in 2nd century BC- 93 AD, Mongolia was populated by Turkic speaking Xioung-nu people (known in the West as Huns).
    Who exactly lived in Mongolia before that somewhat a mystery. There were nomads of Indo-European (apparently Iranian) origin in the western and central part of Mongolia from Bronze age times, but it appears from archaeological sources that in a few centuries before Xioung-nu came, they have managed to overrun all of Mongolia. Ancestors of the Mongolic people – the so called Donghu lived to the southeast – in current south of eastern Inner Mongolia. The ancestors of the Xioung-nu lived to the west, in Ordos region of Inner Mongolia.
    However, we can’t just assume that these Indo-European nomads gave names to Mongolian rivers. Ultimately, they were arrivals from the west (several waves are recorded, starting from Tocharians in 3300 BC)
    So for original source of Mongolian river-names we have to go to the aboriginal population which was in place at the time of arrival of invaders from the West.
    They are known as Glazkov culture, they lived in the Baikal region, upper Amur and apparently in Mongolia as well. They were racially Mongoloid people hunter-gatherers. They are presumed to be ancestors of speakers of Tungusic languages and they appear to have lived in the region for a very long time (from late Neolithic, at least).
    So it seems quite probable that most ancient layer of Mongolian river-names is ultimately of Tungusic origin, we just can’t establish this with any certainty due to extremely long time passed since – who can say what Orkhon would have meant in proto-proto-Tungusic spoken in, say, 2000 BC?

  358. so how the name was translated to the xxi century if not the uninterrupted historical memory from as you say neolithic times? that is a rhetorical question
    maybe you can present the earliest written records of exactly the name Orkhon or any other name in the list that are earlier or from around the first Amur records too, so that would make some kind of parallel argument, no? i mean if it’s earlier than the Amur records, but absence of such records would perhaps mean exactly how oral history of Amur is maybe not that different from Orkhon, doesnt matter what proto- tungusic or proto- mongolic are their origins, just curious, and you are the specialist one to know about and present the written records i presume, thanks! though maybe that’s a too easy assignment for you, ii tried to look up but nothing comes out except the Orkhon scripts info which dont mention the Orkhon name itself
    about us “arriving” only in the 10 th century to Mongolia, your mentioning various” mongolic” people before that, doesnt it like contradict your own words? so why those mongolic people cant be considered our direct ancestors, when everything lifestyle, language and shared culture points to that? so we maintain that we are continuation from the Hunnu, and what was before them, in various alliances of course with other Turkic, Uigur and not mentioning other mongolic others like Rouran, Kidan, Xianbei,(not in a chronological order) and others not mentioned perhaps too

  359. Very late to the party, but I’m surprised no wag (other than me) has pointed out

    “Hen” (pronounced like the English word for chicken)

    Who would have guessed hen was pronounced /ˈtʃɪkən/ ?

  360. read:
    Continuity in river names doesn’t require any cultural continuity at all beyond a single conversation:
    Frenchman (pointing): “What do you call that?”
    Ojibwe: “Big river”.
    Frenchman: “Very well, Missisippi!” (writes it down).
    And there you go. Missisippi it will be throughout the French, Spanish, and (current) American occupations.
    Also, don’t confuse Mongol, Mongolic, Mongoloid. England has been occupied by a Germanic people for 1600 years, but never by Germans. The Xianbei spoke a language related to Mongol, but they were not Mongols, any more than the French are really Portuguese. And as for lifestyle, living on the steppe is pretty constraining there: the land will only support pastoral nomadism, at least under pre-modern conditions.

  361. “The Xianbei spoke a language related to Mongol, but they were not Mongols”
    true, but the Mongols could come descended from Xyanbei, true or not? seems like it can’t be ruled out that easily

  362. Descended? Maybe so. I’m descended from Charlemagne (like all Americans of European ancestry), but that doesn’t make me French (or Frankish). I might even be descended from Genghis Khan, but that doesn’t make me even a little bit Mongol. In either case, the blood of kings (Irish ones too) runs in my veins, but as the father of an adopted daughter, I’m not one to take genetic relationship too seriously.

  363. i objected to our “arriving”, i guess i can claim i won my point,
    so you USians arrived really, but we were where we were and bc we were/are not all that indifferent to how to name our rivers securing or not the cultural or linguistic continuation, we are still where we are perhaps, just broadly speaking
    cz maybe we didnt/dont want to be cited in a similar way as the Native Americans “And there you go. Missisippi it will be throughout the French, Spanish, and (current) American occupations.” (!) occupations, colonizations or whatever, the name i guess is still Ojibwe, not French, Spanish or American
    to have only the names left would have been like too sad for anyone, so you understand my unwillingness to concede any points in this discussion

  364. marie-lucie says:

    Back to Father Iakinf: he wrote:
    Russians call the river Amur (Amur (Amor) is a Mongolian word which means quiet. It’s difficult to explain why Russians call the river Amur. Albaziha river which joins Amur near Albazin is called Emur in Tungus. Was this a source from which name Amur was borrowed?
    So, point by point:
    - “Amur” is what Russians call the river but this word does not have a meaning in Russian.
    - “Amur” or “Amor” is a Mongolian word which means quiet: In other words, there is (or was at the time) a word “amur” or “amor” in Mongolian which means ‘quiet’, but the word is not the Mongolian name of the river. At the time, the M name was khar murun or khar mörön (in approximate transcription) which means ‘black river’, as do other names for the river in Chinese and other languages. The old Mongolian script records the name “Amur” with a “u” as in Russian. Question: What is the approximate date of this text (or these texts)? in what context is this word found? Is “Amur” presented as an alternate or local name for the river?
    - It’s difficult to explain why Russians call the river Amur*:
    * original : Trudno otgadat’, pochemu russkie nazvali siyu reku Amurom. (google)
    a) it is not a Russian word, and b) why should they call it by a single Mongolian word meaning ‘quiet’, when several other languages (including Mongolian at one time) call it ‘black river’, with two words’?
    - Albaziha river which joins Amur near Albazin is called Emur in Tungus.*
    *original: Rechka Albaziha, protiv Albazina, vpadayuschaya v Amur, po-tungusski nazyvaetsya Emur. (google)
    If we accept that the mur element (possibly mu-r) in Tungusic languages means ‘river’, it is not surprising that two rivers have this element in their names. I thought earlier that there might have been a confusion between the Amur and its affluent, but I now think that Amur and Emur must be distinct names, each including the element mur (or mu-r ‘river’).
    I also think that it is quite possible that Amur was the original, Tungusic name of the bigger river, or at least of a major section of it, and that it was replaced at least officially by phrases meaning literally “Black River” later (note the word [from what language?] “Albaziha” replacing Tungusic “Emur”, while “Albazin(o)” is cited as the first Russian [Cossack] fortress and settlement in the Amur valley).
    - Was this a source from which name Amur was borrowed? : by “this” I presume he means Tungus, the language now called Evenki. I think that that is the most likely explanation.
    To summarize my conclusions:
    - Amur is most probably a tungusic form, the original name of the river.
    - At one point it was officially replaced by a phrase meaning ‘black river’, as in Chinese and one or two other languages.
    - The original name continued to be used unofficially, including by the Russian soldiers and settlers in the area, whose usage preserved the old pronunciation. Probably through these Russian sources, the name was adopted in other European languages.
    - At some point the name merged with that of the Mongolian word for ‘quiet’, hence the modern Mongolian name meaning literally ‘quiet river’ which appears to have largely supplanted the ‘black river’ one.

  365. m-l: If we accept that the mur element (possibly mu-r) in Tungusic languages means ‘river’
    To accept this we need to know that mur means ‘river’ in Tungusic. The only Tungusic language given in Father Bichurin’s passage is Manchu, which uses the word ula for a large river.
    A different version again is given at Russian Wikipedia:
    Наименование реки произошло от общей для тунгусо-маньчжурских языков основы «амар», «дамур» — «большая река». Китайцы называли Амур «Хэйхэ» (кит. 黑河, «Чёрная река») — «чёрная река», затем «Хэйлунцзян» — (кит. 黑龙江, «Река чёрного дракона»).

    У монголов Амур назывался «Амур Хара-Мурэн» — «чёрная широкая река». По-маньчжурски река называется «сахалиян ула», где «сахалиян» означает «чёрный», а «ула» — «вода». Собственно река Амур начинается после слияния рек Шилки — «узкая долина» по-эвенкийски и Аргунь — «широкий» (ергунь) в переводе с монгольского.
    The source at 2 is СКОЛЬКО ИМЕН У АМУРА?, which gives an unsourced and confusing list of the name in a variety of languages. For instance, Амур is given the meaning ‘river’ or ‘big river’ depending on the language (not to mention French where it is given the meaning ‘love’).

  366. SFReader says:

    –the Mongols could come descended from Xyanbei
    Yes, the Mongols are descendants from one branch of Xianbei, called Shiwei.
    Shiwei had a subgroup called Menggu or Manggu mentioned in 8th century Tang sources and this is thought to be a first reference to direct ancestors of Mongols.

  367. SFReader says:

    About “arriving to Mongolia”.
    Again, we here encounter a terminological difficulty. The country-of-Mongolia-in-current-borders is not same as historical Mongolia.
    I’d say that Mongols were aboriginal population in historical Mongolia (namely, a region in eastern and south-eastern Inner Mongolia), but not in country-of-Mongolia-in-current-borders.
    And by aboriginal I mean being there much longer than 1000 years

  368. so unless, as SFR says, there is a written source showing one or the other arguing side is right, all further discussion is as if like meaningless and will be going in circles, i perhaps cant produce Amur in the earlier Mongolian scripts before Moskvitin’s, cz as we established, our scriptures were prone to heavy loss, but hope you’ll find something about Orkhon, i’ll keep my opinion to me until then, that the oral tradition is what brought those river names to us
    “not in country-of-Mongolia-in-current-borders.”
    sure the borders were much wider to include the Inner Mongolia, Dzungaria and much of Siberia i guess and shifting to the east or west at times through all those empires

  369. SFReader says:

    —maybe you can present the earliest written records of exactly the name Orkhon
    I think it was mentioned first in history of Han dynasty in form Anhou. Old Chinese pronunciation probably was something like Arghu. Old Turkic inscriptions call the river Orqun.
    Tuul river is mentioned in history of Sui dynasty (circa 636 AD) as Duluo river.

  370. SFReader says:

    —To accept this we need to know that mur means ‘river’ in Tungusic
    There is a word “mu” meaning water in many Tungus languages. It is common in the region to use word “water” for river (as father Iakinf explained – Chinese call middle sized river ‘he’ or ‘shui’ (water) and Mongols call it ‘gol’ or ‘us’(water))
    As I mentioned above, this word forms a part of name for Amur among some lower Amur peoples – Mangmu (strong water) in Udege, for example.

  371. oh, that was easy, great, hope you wont say, Anhou, Arghu is Chinese for Orkhon, dont they sound pretty far from each other though, when how Amur/Amar differ from each other and all this syr bor from mere u and a differences, and i meant in the Mongol scripture, to make the oral tradition point

  372. murun is river in Mongolian, if mur is that significant in all other languages involved

  373. It’s a common Altaic root.
    Proto-Mongolian: *mören
    Meaning: river
    Russian meaning: река
    Written Mongolian: mören (L 548)
    Middle Mongolian: muren (HY 2, SH), murän (MA)
    Khalkha: mörön
    Buriat: müre(n)
    Kalmuck: mörṇ
    Ordos: mörön
    Dongxian: moren, moran
    Baoan: moroŋ
    Dagur: mure (Тод. Даг. 155, MD 192), mur (Тод. Даг. 155)
    Shary-Yoghur: merēn, merēm
    Monguor: murōn (SM 250)
    Proto-Tungus-Manchu: *mū
    Meaning: water
    Russian meaning: вода
    Evenki: mū
    Even: mȫ
    Negidal: mū
    Spoken Manchu: mukē, mukū (347)
    Literary Manchu: muke
    Jurchen: mo (51)
    Ulcha: mū
    Orok: mū
    Nanai: muke
    Oroch: mū
    Udighe: mu-de ‘inundation’
    Solon: mū
    Proto-Korean: *mɨ́r
    Meaning: water
    Russian meaning: вода
    Modern Korean: mul
    Middle Korean: mɨ́r
    Proto-Japanese: *mí(-n-tú)
    Meaning: water
    Russian meaning: вода
    Old Japanese: mjidu
    Middle Japanese: mídú
    Tokyo: mìzu
    etc

  374. And I am afraid to bring out the Nostratic (or even Borean) etymologies.
    It’ll suffice to say that Indo-European has the apaprently related word *mar- which developed into Slavic morje and Latin mare and English mere (lake), German meer etc

  375. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe, can you provide a translation of your Russian quotes above? I know a little Russian, but not enough to follow the details without some help.

  376. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    Here is an early French map of the river (1734)
    Early French map
    Albazin (a Russian name for the fort, after a Daur prince Albaza who lost it to the Khabarov’s Cossacks in 1650) is called on the map Jaxa (it appears to be a local name). Note a river called Emour which joins Amur (on the map – Saghalien-Oula) near Jaxa(Albazin)
    All names for the map are from Manchu, presumably via French Jesuits in Peking.

  377. I don’t know Russian, either, but this is my shot at it:
    The name of the river comes from the common basic Tungusic-Manchu term “amar”, “damur” – “large river”. The Chinese called the Amur “Heihe” (Chinese 黑河, “Black River”) – “Black River”, then “Heilongjiang” – (Chinese 黑龙江, “Black Dragon River”).

    The Mongols called the Amur “Amur Hara-Moron” – “black broad river.” In Manchu the river is called “sahaliyan ula”, where “sahaliyan” means “black” and “ula” – “water.” Actually, the Amur River begins after the confluence of the Shilka – “narrow glen” in Evenki and the Argun – “broad” (ergun) translated from Mongolian.
    What I found interesting were:
    The presentation of ‘amar’ and ‘damur’ as Tungusic-Manchu terms. If it is true, this puts the word ‘amar’ in a somewhat different light i.e., no longer a modern Mongolian term! But I did have trouble with that section. Maybe SFReader can put me right.
    The Mongolian name is given as “Amur Hara Muren”, where “Amur” appears to mean ‘broad’.
    The last sentence about the ‘Argun – “broad” (ergun) translated from Mongolian’ doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
    At any rate, the Russian version of Wikipedia seems to only confuse matters further. I really suspect that people will put up anything they find, without really understanding it.

  378. SFReader says:

    I am not certain that Ergun (Russian form Argun) is Mongolian. It doesn’t mean broad (the correct word for that is actually өргөн “Orgon”)
    In fact, there is no such word in Mongolian dictionary. I suppose it could be some obsolete form of verb “ergeh” – “to turn, to go round” and it even may make some sense in river context.
    Nevertheless, it may be just a resemblance. I’ve seen another etymology which derived meaning from Tungus word ergune which means “wandering, convoluted”. Of course, both words appear to be close cognates, so this adds to confusion.

  379. —The presentation of ‘amar’ and ‘damur’ as Tungusic-Manchu terms. If it is true, this puts the word ‘amar’ in a somewhat different light i.e., no longer a modern Mongolian term! But I did have trouble with that section. Maybe SFReader can put me right.
    Again, aside from issue of Amur, the root amu* is another very common Altaic word with general meaning of quiet, rest, sleepy, etc.
    Proto-Turkic: *ăm-
    Meaning: 1 gentle, quiet 2 to love, desire, rejoice 3 politeness 4 beloved 5 to be quiet
    Old Turkic: amul, amɨl 1, amraq 4, amɨr-, amran- 2, amrɨl- 5 (OUygh.)
    Karakhanid: amul 1, amraq 4, amɨrt- ‘to calm’, amrɨl- 5 (MK, KB)
    Turkish: ɨmɨl, umul 1 (dial.)
    Middle Turkic: ɨmraɣ 4
    Uighur: amraq 4
    Sary-Yughur: amɨr 1, amɨra- 5
    Khakassian: amɨr 1, amɨra- 5
    Chuvash: ъʷmъʷr ‘quiet and grey (weather)’
    Yakut: amarax, amɨrax ‘compassionate’
    Dolgan: amarak ‘compassionate’
    Tuva: amɨr 1, amɨra- 2, amɨraq 3
    Proto-Mongolian: *amu-, *ami-
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 to rest 2 peace, rest 3 to be / become quiet 4 life, soul
    Written Mongolian: amu-, amura-, amara- 1, amur 2 (L 36, 40)
    Middle Mongolian: amin (HY 49) 4, amuxulaŋ ‘peace’ (HY 55), amu- 1, amura- 3, ami-du ‘alive’, amor (IM 432), amu- 1, amur 2, amin 4, ami-du ‘alive’, hamisqu ‘breath’ (MA 100, 102), amur 1, ami(n) 4, amu- 1, amur-li- 3 (SH)
    Khalkha: amar, amgal (

  380. I’ve been studying an Evenki-Russian dictionary and found this interesting item:
    amu – smell like shit
    amun – shit
    amuruk – toilet
    I now have strong suspicion that the dialogue between Moskvitin and natives went like this:
    “What’s the name of the river?”
    “Amu!” (you smell like shit!)

  381. I now have strong suspicion that the dialogue between Moskvitin and natives went like this
    The whole thread was worth it for that! Thanks, I needed a laugh after the last week.

  382. explain the missing r in there and i’ll take you version maybe, really such painstakingly elaborate fictional reasoning when there is a simple and straightforward solution
    it’s easy to drag by the ears as a russian expression goes, whatever improbable hypothesis, maybe i’ll accept better the french word first, than accept that Amar murun came to our language from Russian, and all this just to ignore and try to suppress whatever perceived “grand” or nationalist or whatever other label you would attach to our long suppressed pretensions to our lands and language, you people fall not very far from the stalinist language reformers in that respect imo

  383. You appear to have no sense of humor whatsoever. Can you really not tell when somebody is making a joke? And this:
    you people fall not very far from the stalinist language reformers in that respect imo
    …is verging on the kind of insulting behavior that got you banned before. Try not to go off the deep end.

  384. i explained many times why the river names are important to us, and who is trolling who when compare whatever improbable name versions to shit?
    yes, i dont understand such crude jokes, and maybe you can try to be evenhanded when you converse with your commenters, not single me out every time when taking sides
    i know that i’m not welcome here without being reminded too often and as i said before many times if the matters discussed were not on the Mongolian topics, I wouldnt be here too
    as long as you discuss those topics i’m afraid you have to bear with me

  385. Trond Engen says:

    Amusing!
    For determining the origin of a rivername, especially in such a tumultous region, the derivational pattern must be more important than surface form. Is there a map (or could we make one) of the origin of rivernames in the region?

  386. SFReader says:
  387. maybe you name your rivers shit or whatever, but our traditions treat the rivers as sacred objects and name accordingly

  388. marie-lucie says:

    SFReader: Thanks very much for that French map! It is not easy to read, I will have to get a magnifying glass. Nevertheless I found the Jaxa region and the Emour river (= Father Iakinf’s “Emur”), a tributary of the larger river. Just South of that region there is another river (not a tributary of the Amur) whose name begins with N and ends in -mour, but I can’t make out the letters in between. I haven’t noticed other names with the same ending, but as I said, the writing is difficult to read and I ave not tried to read all the names on the map. Younger eyes than mine should try.
    Just because the map identifies the larger river by its Manchu name (which means “Black River” as in a few other languages, suggesting mutual translations) does not mean that all the other names are Manchu! Even, Evenki etc were also spoken along the river and some of its tributaries, and small rivers rarely have multiple names.
    I mentioned earlier something well-known in toponymy: river names are usually very long-lived, because conquerors (or newcomers generally) usually adopt the names that are already in use in the area. However, for a very large, very long river flowing through the territories of a number of peoples, a central, imperial power (such as the Chinese or Manchu governments) might use (and even create) a single official name for administrative purposes, while the river might have several other names (or translations of the same name) according to the various peoples living in different sections of its shores. The official name then is more likely to be found in historical documents than the local names. “Black Dragon River” has a lot more poetic resonance than just “Big River”.

  389. SFReader says:

    —maybe you name your rivers shit or whatever, but our traditions treat the rivers as sacred objects and name accordingly
    This is another attempt to mislead hatters with invocation of Mongol traditions.
    Fortunately, we have google to enlighten us.
    There is a river called “Baast gol” (literally Shit river) running through the center of Ulaanbaatar. Another “Baast gol” is found in Murun, center of Huvsgul province, it’s a tributary of Delgermuren river. And one more Baast Gol in Tsetserleg, center of Arkhangai province. And yet another Baast gol in Altanbulag, Selenge province.
    Shit rivers of Mongolia

  390. that’s the sad environmental disaster, that the rivers got polluted such to start getting called like that, i blame the too concentrated city life which “modern civilization” brings, it’s not its official name, but rather people started calling it that way i believe due to its pollution, the Baast gol you cite its original name is Dund gol (middle river) or maybe Selbe, never heard about any Baast gol in UB, about others i have no idea, mr CIA agent, just how do you know such things i wonder, really

  391. see Arkhangai’s river is Tsetserleg gol, not baast, too bad they get nicknamed such, now through all that mining booming all would start calling mercury poisoned rivers maybe, and where all those mined copper and gold riches go excavated? to china to produce your pc cables

  392. SFReader says:

    —it’s not its official name, but rather people started calling it that way i believe due to its pollution
    I wonder what happened to Mongol traditions and rivers are sacred objects and spirits and names are important, etc etc?
    It seems all these things don’t stop Mongols from calling rivers rude names….

  393. and who brought all the corruption of the traditions, if not the soviet imposed socialism? they start from renaming rivers, you know, and then erasing the historical memories, banning family names, changing the traditional script
    well, there were many good things too, like the soviet style closed shopping stores, with all the goods for the nomenclatura, more than 98% literacy rate in cyrillic etc. etc. not for me to blame them, i knew those benefits like first hand

  394. but if to suppose the chinese would have taken over, then there wouldnt be us as us at all, so it was okay to put up with the soviets to escape the chinese eradication, so there you are, Amar murun is ours, means peaceful and that’s indisputable, period.

  395. Let’s talk about traditions then. I am afraid that a lot of “Mongol traditions” are not really of Mongol origin.
    Here is an amusing anecdote reported by Pozdneev, I think.
    In 1732, during another round of Dzungar-Chinese wars, the Dzungars invaded Khalkha Mongolia and captured Erdene-Dzu monastery. But were soon defeated by Manchu-Mongol army. And during retreat, many Dzungars were forced to run into Orkhon river and died in its waters, because they couldn’t swim.
    Manchu emperor decided to reward Orkhon river for its contribution to the war effort and officially granted the river title of “Tusheetu gun” (literally, Reliable Prince). Gun is a Mongol title of Chinese origin (from 公 Gōng – duke)
    Since then and until the revolution, Orkhon Tusheetu Gun river was paid annual princely salary of 300 liangs (better known in the West as tael) of silver.
    In a grand ceremony conducted once a year, a Manchu governor himself would come from Urga surrounded by Mongol officials and dignitaries and throw the coins into the river.
    Is this a Mongol tradition? Only in a sense of being officially enforced in Mongolia for over a century.
    Its origin and character is thoroughly Chinese, based on a few historical precedents from ancient Chinese history.

  396. did i say it is a mongolian tradition? never heard about such traditions, hear it here from you for the first time, so whatever manchu chinese are manchu chinese, of course, and do those persist until now, such foreign imposed rituals?
    and who is celebrated as heroes in our history, that’s right, the Oirats, certainly not the manchu alliance seeking noed landlords

  397. —do those persist until now, such foreign imposed rituals?
    Some of these yes, persist to this day and even oficially enforced.
    In 1778, Manchu emperor have granted titles of Bogd-Khan-Uul to the mountains near Urga(now Ulaanbaatar) and two peaks were granted titles of Tsetsee Gun (Wise Prince) and Tushee Gun (Reliable Prince) and decreed that princely salary in silver to be paid to these mountains in annual ceremony (called in Mongolian takhilga).
    The tradition persisted to the revolution and then got abolished by the “Soviet imposed socialism”
    However, in 1995, new Democratic president of Mongolia have decreed resumption of takhilga ceremony. And ever since then, every four year a state ceremony is conducted by president of Mongolia.
    Here is a current president Elbegdorj leading this “foreign imposed ritual”

  398. how would the manchu emperor even know about our mountains and rituals, under the foreign occupation all the decrees would be in the name of the ruling emperor i guess, those were the buddhist rituals which were in their beginnings the shamanist even rituals, similar to piling the stones at every dovoo guvee hills, so those persisted bc they are not foreign, but along the superstitions ans beliefs of native people
    what’s your point SFR, you think you can debunk whatever is held our traditions, you would rather see us cinicized or russified? well, that’s not that easy thing to achieve i am afraid, well, thanks for efforts anyway

  399. Well, I assume that Manchu emperor would be aware of mountains towering over Urga, because his governor (amban said in Mongolian, from Manchu “amban” (high official) and Mongolian “said” (minister, high official)) lived in Urga.
    All these rituals have an overriding goal – to firmly link imperial authority to local landscape so that rebelling against emperor would seem as futile as rebelling against nature itself….

  400. there, who is a governor and who is the emperor, must be the occupying forces should have someone to sit in the occupied country i guess, i doubt the manchu emperor was given that much thought and importance when the mountains themselves really were and are worshipped as spirits of the nature

  401. —what’s your point SFR, you think you can debunk whatever is held our traditions
    There is a concept in antropology and history called “invented traditions”. Authors of the term argue that many traditions held to be old are actually quite recent in origin or even were invented outright.
    This appears to be as true in Mongolia as anywhere else. This entire thread is a proof of that

  402. ha, see, the thread is already a proof of something or other, just as i predicted not a long while ago

  403. The relationship between the Mongols and the Manchus was not as stark as you think, read. Although it might not agree with your nationalist narrative, the relationship between the two wasn’t one of hatred and resistance.
    Try this book:
    Our Great Qing

  404. — the mountains themselves really were and are worshipped as spirits of the nature
    It’s quite probable that there were some Shamanist traditions in place before that, the point is that Manchus have subverted them to suit their purposes. They changed the mountain name from Khan Uul to Bogd-Khan-Uul, they changed both mountain peak names (so thoroughly that nobody seems to be able to tell what their names were before 1778), they changed worshipping ritual, etc.
    And there was, I suspect some bureaucratic intrigue there. You see, before 1778, Urga was a travelling nomadic camp. After imperial decree for worshiping Bogd-Khan mountains, it got stuck in one place, gradually acquired permanent buildings and grew into a real city.
    Maybe the whole tradition got invented, because Manchu governor was just tired of travelling around endlessly, who knows.

  405. i am afraid i wouldnt, i know the manchu were tungusic people and fellow nomads and the alliance with them was af if like symbiotic until the 1900s, but they ultimately got all cinicized and disappeared, so i know all i need to know
    the resistance to the alliance is that it was the reason to be a part of china for a century and a little, it was hard to win our independence back, and certainly nobody wants the inner mongolia’s, uigur or tibet’s fate now, so no chinese propaganda please, nationalist or what it suits our own path, our narrative, and it surely doesnt need the outside correctives, thanks!

  406. I’m aware of the Mongolian tradition of not throwing rubbish into their rivers. It’s true what read says. Unfortunately it doesn’t always show up in practice.
    For instance, the Selbe river is not always a very pleasant sight. From the Internet:
    Одоо Сэлбэ голоо зарим хүмүүс “Бааст гол” гэж нэрлэдэг болсон юм биш үү. Айлууд гол руу мал, амьтны баас, хог, үнс, шороо, жорлонгийн ялгадсаа хүртэл хийдэг болж. Миний хүүхдүүд ингэж байж яаж байгалиа хайрлах юм. Юу ч хэлэх вэ дээ. Одоо хотод маань ногоон байгууламж, мод, зүлэг, бут, сөөг гэж алга.

  407. Yeah, SFReader, how come you know so much?
    From now on we’ll have to call you CIAReader.

  408. @marie-lucie
    Another early French map from 1706
    Note that the river from Shilka-Argun confluence is called Jenghalien-Oula ou R.Noire and only a piece from Sungari confluence to the ocean is called Amour R.
    The authors of the map appear to have used a mix of Russian and Chinese sources.

  409. Talking to read about ‘China’ or ‘the Manchus’ is a bit like talking to Chinese people about ‘Tibet’. It’s a hot button, no-go area. You’ll get a lot more heat than light.

  410. “Manchus have subverted them to suit their purposes”
    which is really doubtful under the manchus there was full autonomy of our matters, at least our mountains and river names were up to us to change or not i believe, before governor, there were all four khans and the spiritual leader bogd gegen, beginning from Zanabazar, they could propose whatever changes in the name of the manchu emperor to earn themselves privileges perhaps, but that the manchus would decree this or that changes by their force, never

  411. why should Chinese be so worked up about Tibet, just give Tibet its independence, and there is nothing more to be all that stressed about, for them, such so different cultures and religion, people, what they gain holding Tibet i really never could get

  412. —were all four khans and the spiritual leader bogd gegen, beginning from Zanabazar
    Of these, one khan title was created by Manchus in 1720s, Bogd gegens starting from 1760s were appointed by Manchus as well, from Tibet, of all places! (in 1636-1760 the title traditionally belonged to members of Tushetu-khan family)
    So much for authonomy…

  413. where you foundd bogd gegeens were appointed, they are reincarnations, and can’t be appointed, so as the khans who were all from the altan urag, and blood successions, so mr CIA agent, you information is wrong
    about Tibet and Mongolia relationship, that’s another story, yes, even though the tibetan buddhism really served to pacify mongols, the conversion to buddhism was also by our own will and choosing
    the more you say SFR, the more you sound someone really hostile to us, better to not have such experts on us, god forbid

  414. Sure, theoretically they were reincarnations to be found. In practice, they were appointed by Tushetu-khans and then Manchu emperors and their decision was “proven” by lamas.
    As for khans, it is well known fact that separate aimag and title of Sain-noyon-khans was established by decree of emperor Yongzheng in 1725 to decrease power and importance of Tushetu-khans, until then the largest rulers of Khalkha.

  415. SFReader says:

    —mr CIA agent
    I am afraid that work of CIA agent is not that actually that glamorous
    Here is boring stuff they write for a living

  416. Yes, CIAReader, your hostility to all that you’ve spent your life studying is becoming more rampant by the moment. Unfortunately one indispensable skill — essential in endearing yourself to Mongolians — has escaped you, that is the skill of being one-eyed. You need to start practising fast.

  417. If China doesn’t hold Tibet, India will, or at least so the Chinese government believes. Culturally the tie between Tibet and India is much stronger.
    m-l: The “N—mour” you are seeing is “Houmar”, as is shown on this much clearer version of the map; it is in fact a tributary of the Amur. It was apparently the name of both the river and the surrounding region. The modern Chinese name of the river is Huma (note that Pinyin h is [x]). There was a Russian fort there named Kumarsk, clearly another version of the same name.

  418. SFReader says:
  419. SFReader says:

    Boldyrev’s Evenki dictionary gives this meaning to “kumar” – plain, flat place

  420. SFReader says:

    Bathrobe, regarding old discussion about literacy among Mongols, here is an extremely interesting document.

    и в шестой день дошли к мунгальским людем, и того же дни мунгальские люди дали де нам подводы и корм и довезли де нас на подводах /стр. 393/ к Кунтуцину царевичю….и он царевичь да и Лаба с ним, кой у него царевича в приближенных, да и слушает того Лабу царевичь и сидит тот Лаба близко де царевича…. да и Лаба де у нас у служилых людей спрошал, почему де вы ходите в нашу землю? если де у вас письмо? и мы де наказную память ему Лабе показали, и он де Лаба, взяв тое память, начало посмотрил и молвил де нам служилым людем: то де в начале первая строка лета и год и месяц да и день, а другая де строка государя вашего царя имя его царское полное, и больше де он Лаба того и не смотрил, лише де память всю розвертел до печати, и посмотря на печать, молвил де нам: та де печать не государева у сей памяти вашей, государеву де я печать сам знаю, потому что де я сам на Москве бывал давно, потому де я государеву печать знаю, да свертел де нам тое память и отдал; и мы де ему Лабе молвили: прямо де ты знаешь, что та печать не государева, печать де та у сей памяти приказного человека, от которого де мы, по государеву указу, посланы, а государева печать с Московского царства от [194] него государя не походит никуды

    Briefly in April of 1652, three Cossacks, Fedor Afanasiev, Lyubim Permitin and Fedosii Vasilev arrived to Mongolian prince Kontacin who had Lama (in text Laba) as an advisor. Lama asked Russians whether they have letter for them. Cossacks showed them their “nakaznaya gramota” (instruction for envoys). Lama looked at the document and said the first line is date and below is full title of your tsar, then looked at the seal and said your letter doesn’t have tsar’s seal, I’ve been to Moscow long time ago and I know. The Cossacks replied that yes, you truly know that this is not tsar’s seal, it belongs to the tsar’s official who sent us and tsar’s seal is never sent away from Moscow.
    I’ll check more on this Lama, he seems quite a character (and what a spectacular showoff!)

  421. oh then you are really a CIA agent, wow, what’s your mission? to help the foreign investors to get hold of the majority shares of the strategic mining objects? to help accomplish the peaceful union of my country to the greater chinese confederation?
    hope neither, and the more you deny the autonomy under the manchus the more reasons to hate the manchus and seek independence, you are right, so that much your comments really has accomplished
    but good luck on the refugees business, helping them you are building your good karma, i approve, just USG denying them resettling how that fits to the refugee conventions, so you are must be from nj, a descendant of the kalmykian refugees, no? am i right? i must be have some like intuition close to yasnovidenie, in the olden times could have become a pretty good shamanka, kkk/ just kidding, about all the cia business, must be you are a specialist ethnologist who for some reason hates the subject of the studies, no? that sometimes seems like also happens with people, ah i remember you wanted to study some other culture i forget exactly which

  422. okay, sorry, you dont hate the subject, but like to troll me, good, troll as you like if such interesting documents like GB letter and others get mentioned and known by the way

  423. read, you are getting delirious. Nobody here is advocating that China take over Mongolia. In fact, I would hazard to say that SFReader would be as unhappy as I would be to see that happen (which is, hugely unhappy).
    But you can’t ask SFReader to subscribe to a strongly nationalistic view of history. SFReader has a well-rounded view of Mongolian history based on broad knowledge and study, not one based on Sinophobia.
    When I was in UB recently a young friend of mine told me that she wanted all foreigners to learn about Mongolian history, especially the Secret History of the Mongols and what happened in 1921. I asked her, well, what about the Altan Khan? She scarcely knew who the Altan Khan was, even though he was an important figure in the history of the Mongols.
    The problem is that in their Sinophobia, the Mongolians have cut off and denied huge parts of their own history, namely those parts that in any way tie their country to China, its territory, or its history. This feeling is understandable given Chinese attitudes to ‘sovereignty’ (in a nutshell, reclaim all Qing territories ‘wrongly’ taken off them), but it truly does distort Mongolian history to be so anti-Manchu and anti-Chinese in everything. Calm down a bit and try to see all sides of the historical record. Acknowledging the facts of the past is no impediment to upholding Mongolian independence in the present.

  424. SFReader says:

    —Mongolians have cut off and denied huge parts of their own history
    I suppose such strange attitudes come from overabundance of history.
    Usually when small nations construct their history, they try to include everything which can be linked to them even remotely. This often involves a lot of creative historiography.
    In Mongolian case, they don’t even need that. History of Eurasia from 13th century to as late as early 20th century is essentially a history of Mongols.

  425. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, SFR and JC, for the links to the maps. Enlarging the first map showed me that I had been wrong about my first guess. JC is right about “Houmar”, and I don’t see any other potential “mour” elements except with the “Emour” river which we have already seen as Emur. The 1706 map with “Amour” used only for the lower part of the river was a surprise as the written references are to the upper river. Not only that, but this map also shows three “Amours” in the sea: an island, a strait, and the sea itself! But the 1773 map, in English (with “or” linking alternate names on several rivers) indicates that Amur applies to the whole river (up to the Onon and Shilka), just like Saghalien Ula, the Manchu name.
    Checking back on Amur on Wikipedia, I found a map in English, a rather clumsily translated version of La Pérouse’s map, which was done after a proper survey of the coast in 1787. It identifies the river as “Amour or Sagaleen river”, and the island (“Isle d’Amour” in 1706, drawn much smaller than it actually is) as “Island of Tchoka or Sagaleen”. I guess that the 1706 mapmaker thought “Sagaleen = Amour” (or maybe even “Love”!), therefore “Sagaleen island = Amour island”. The 1787 map also indicates “Tongousses” on the shore North of the mouth of the Amour, on the sea of “Ochotsk”.
    Given all this, I think that it is more than likely that the name Amur is a Tungusic one, although perhaps not from the language I suggested (Evenki). Note that after reporting the story of the two women captives above, SFR deducted that the name must be either Mongolic or Tungus. Since it does not seem to be Mongolic, it is more likely to be Tungusic (Northern Tungusic, while Manchu is Southern Tungusic).

  426. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    Ethno-linguistic situation at lower Amur is further complicated by existence of Paleoasiatic Nivkh language (formerly known as Gilyak)
    Some Russian sources claim that Nivkh language was a source for name Amur. Unfortunately all forms given (Mamur, Yamur) are not found in my Nivkh dictionary (it says the Nivkh name for Amur is La, after word ‘la’ – ‘wind’ )
    PS. By the way, the word ‘mur’ is found in Even, Evenki and Nivkh languages, but doesn’t mean ‘river’ unfortunately. It means ‘horse’. It’s also a common Altaic word found both in Mongolic and Tungusic and apparently related to Indo-European *mark

  427. SFReader says:

    @marie-lucie
    In 1709, three French Jesuits, Jean-Baptiste Régis, Pierre Jartoux, and Xavier Ehrenbert Fridelli have joined Chinese expedition to the mouth of Amur and later wrote a book about it.
    Du Halde, Jean-Baptiste (1736). Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise
    And more here

  428. so the manchu name is sahalien ula, the manchu are tungusic people, so the southern as you say tungusic name must be is sahalien ula, since there is no a direct word amour in either the northern or southern tungusic languages, always some or other sounds or letters are missing making it either shit or horse or whatever, i would think southern or northern, their languages must be closer to each other than to mongolic, a river holding two different names in almost the same languages, seems like a pretty long winded tale

  429. SFReader says:
  430. — since there is no a direct word amour in either the northern or southern tungusic languages,
    There is no such word in Mongolian as well.
    Word ‘amar’ does occur in all Tungusic languages and generally means “backside, back”

  431. spelled as amur in the traditional script remember
    amar is peaceful, quiet as father Iakinf cited too, he didnt cite tungusic amars for some reason, must be sahalien ula, black river is their version throughout their region, if the northern tungusic people call the island using the same name too
    whether the black river was translation from chinese to tungusic or vice versa is debatable perhaps too, but due to the poetic imagery of the black dragon it is going to be accepted as the chinese were first to name the river that, right?

  432. Note how great traveller Robinson Crusoe calls the river – Yamour or Gamour.
    The book is written in 1719, I wonder what was a source for these names

  433. Found a source for name Yamour. It appears to be
    this French book from 1693
    It looks like that they got information from French Jesuits who talked with Russian envoy Spafari in Peking

  434. “named so from the northern most rations of the mogul tatars” he says, so all is settled, i guess, good good

  435. He is referring to Strait of Tartary (Татарский пролив) which separates island of Sakhalin from the mainland.
    Why people of lower Amur region were called Tatars in Chinese sources (starting from 12th century at least) is another unexplained mystery.

  436. so a sea strait can be named by mogul! tatars, then Amur i podavno, what is settled is settled

  437. Such reasoning is not usually used in scholarly discourse.
    The entire river was under direct Mongol rule in 13-14th centuries, there were ethnic Mongol troops stationed in the area, so of course Mongols had every possibility to name or rename the river as they saw fit.
    Unfortunately we don’t know what river names they used in Mongolian, Yuan imperial sources survived only in Chinese which refer to ShuiDaDa (water Tatars)

  438. oh, scholarly discourse, maybe the scholarly discourse should change its reasoning patterns then, so great, Daniel Defoe supported me in his novel! perhaps his french source authors thought to write adding y to amour just so that it wouldn’t like love in french

  439. ^look like

  440. David Marjanović says:

    The accusation of Eurocentrism followed when SFReader wrote “They were nomadic Turkic speaking Nestorian Christians with rather advanced culture (thousands of Christian crosses were found by archaeologists in the region).” – implying that their culture was advanced because they had all those crosses. Naturally, read went with the uncharitable interpretation that this implication was deliberate.

    On the other hand, it is well-known that names of rivers tend to be extremely long-lived, rarely replaced by other names (unless they are a translation of a meaningful name such as “black river”.

    Or wetness, the funniest example I know.

    Well, the naming of the Yellow River as the ‘Black River’ seems to give us two choices:

    How about a third: confusion among European written sources between German-and-farther-east ch for [x] (which comes, in Mongolian, from earlier [q]) and French ch for [ʃ].

    French amour (from Occitan amor

    *lightbulb moment* So that’s why it’s not *ameur!

    the traditional spelling in uigurjin, even if it is written amo/ur it is pronounced amar,

    Yeah, but since when?
    It’s clear that the traditional script faithfully records how the language was pronounced when the script was introduced; it all makes sense by comparison with related languages and with words borrowed into completely different languages. Similarly, the English spelling records fairly well how English was pronounced around the same time.

    I’ve heard of Jordans of both sexes. I wonder if there’s a trans Jordan.

    Day saved.

    Trond: “It’s tempting to consider Mongolic the carrier of areal features to both Tungusic and Turkic. And wildly speculative.”
    I wouldn’t say “wildly”. It’s a fact that Mongolian shares more with Turkic on the one hand, and with Tungusic on the other hand, than either one shares with the other. That’s the main reason nobody can say for sure whether (Micro-)Altaic is a true language family or a Sprachbund. It’s conceivable, I suppose, that Mongolic is the receiver rather than the donor of these shared features, but I don’t know of anybody who takes that position at present.

    There’s been plenty of such contact, but there’s also a respectable number of features and words that Turkic and Tungusic share to the exclusion of Mongolic (and I don’t mean recent loans between Yakut and Evenki).

    SFReader: “[T]he most interesting thing about it is name of the author – Daurian colonel Afanasii Petrovich Beiton.” Indeed. One wonders what sort of un-Orthodox or un-Russian name he had before that he needed to be rechristened “Athanasius”. Pagan names used in Germany today (Helmut, Wolfgang, etc.) are basically products of the 19th century, so that can’t be it. Named after a Catholic saint with a unique name? One wonders.

    There’s always Athanasius Kirchner of the Mundus Subterraneus…
    On the other hand, there are many saints with perfectly pagan names. Bernhard, Hildegard…

    and from here to the delta call it Hong – Dong-Jiang
    But Хуньхунь-цзян has got to be Huntunjiang, not Hongdongjiang.

    but wouldnt ethnically russian just write russian in there?

    Not at that time, when великороссийской meant “Russian”, малороссийской meant “Ukrainian”, бѣлороссийской meant what it still does in reformed spelling, and русский was the cover term for all three and more. To this day, the Rusyn language in the Carpathians calls itself руски.

    Before that, in 2nd century BC- 93 AD, Mongolia was populated by Turkic speaking Xioung-nu people (known in the West as Huns).

    Well. The Huns have left very few words, mostly names, and those are Turkic, Iranian, Germanic and so on. However, a whole sentence of a language spoken by (some? many? all?) Xiongnu is known to science, carefully written down in Chinese characters – and it’s Yeniseian. Look it up on Wikipedia (I can’t open another tab right now).

    Indo-European *mark

    AFAIK, this root only shows up in Celtic and Germanic, and the latter may well have borrowed it from the former (Proto-Germanic is full of Celtic loans).

  441. David Marjanović says:

    I can’t open another tab right now

    Of course I can. Here goes!

  442. i can recognize two words at least, Särig – as tsereg (troops), and bügüg- buga – deer, do we qualify for the descendants of Hunnus too? seems like there are at least 50% chance of that in there

  443. teh verb forms also seem like familiar Shervashidze’s version of “Sükâ tol’iqtin
    buγuγ qodigo(d)tin”, the suffixes -tin resemble ours -tun in the imperatives, soligtun -change!, boligtun – don’t!, (buu) gologtun – don’t be squamish, etc.

  444. not exactly squeamish , but “don’t be choosy” like meaning in (buu) gologtun

  445. SFReader says:

    —-implying that their culture was advanced because they had all those crosses.
    Well, it is well known fact (even in Mongolia) that Mongols borrowed their script from another tribe of Nestorian Christians – Naimans.
    This rather suggests that culture of Nestorian Christian tribes was more advanced, doesn’t it?

  446. SFReader says:

    Chinese sources recorded a genocide of these Jie people who appear to have some unusual physical features

    Shi Min himself lead Hans in killing the Hu (胡) and Jie (羯) people without regard for sex or age, during the day were severed tens of thousands heads. In total were killed over 200 thousand people, their bodies were dumped outside the city. Troop commanders in various parts of the state received a prescript from Shi Min to be killing the Hus (胡), as a result a half of the people with high noses and bushy beards were killed.[5] Among the 200,000 people who died in the massacre were some ethnic Hans who had high noses or thick beards, both considered to be the indicators of non-Hanness.

    High noses? Thick beards?
    They are not probably even Asian….

  447. naimans were one of our own tribes, like taichiuds kereits tatars hongirad and others, i don’t think they should be called “another tribe of nestorian christians”, wasn’t their belonging to the steppe culture is the first defining feature of them, then the religion i guess

  448. -is

  449. I have nothing at all to add to this discussion, I just want to say that i’m having fun reading it.

  450. SFReader says:

    —naimans were one of our own tribes
    There, there. Shouldn’t you be talking about Christianity being “our religion”? ;-)
    There is now a growing Christian population in Mongolia (almost all Protestant). They are frowned upon for following “foreign religion”, so their best defense is exactly that – this is not a “foreign” religion, it’s religion of our ancient ancestors, Naimans and Kereits!

  451. marie-lucie says:

    DM: French amour (from Occitan amor – So that’s why it’s not *ameur!
    Indeed. There apparently WAS a French word ameur, a direct evolution from Latin amor, but used only about animals during courting/mating season! When Occitan poetry celebrating romantic love became known in (French-speaking) Northern France, the Occitan word (written amor, pronounced like present-day French amour) was eagerly adopted, and its pronunciation was reflected in the French spelling.

  452. Of course, the Even, Evenki and Nivkh word mur for ‘horse’ is related to the Mongolian word mori ‘horse’, as well as the Manchu word, which is morin.

  453. @Bathrobe
    Don’t also forget Chinese ma, Japanese uma, Korean mal, Thai and Lao ma, etc.

  454. —But Хунь-тхунь-цзян has got to be Huntunjiang, not Hongdongjiang.
    I checked, it turns out it’s 混同江 Hùntóng jiāng

  455. SFReader says:

    —AFAIK, this root only shows up in Celtic and Germanic, and the latter may well have borrowed it from the former (Proto-Germanic is full of Celtic loans).
    Beckwith gives following etymology.
    The Old Indic chariot warriors of Mitanni—the maryannu(written ma- ri- ia-an- nu), from Old Indic márya‘young warrior’ (plus the Hurrian plural -nnu)— and the Old Indic marut‘chariot warrior’ are both connected specifically with
    horses and chariots (EIEC277). The word for these warriors has a cognate in Old Persian marīka(from Proto-Indo-Iranian *mariyaka) ‘member of a retinue’ (EIEC630), that is, a band of warriors attached to a lord. “The OInd márya ‘young man’ (cf. Av[estan] mairyo¯‘villain, scoundrel’) is employed to describe the wildly aggressive warband [the Maruts—cib] assembled around the leadership of Indra or Rudra in the Vedas. Although the Indo-Iranian form is usually derived from an e- grade *meriھ o-with cognates in other Indo-European stocks (e.g., Mayrhofer 1986–2000: 329–330), McCone suggests that the underlying form may well be an o- grade (*moriھ os) with a precise cognate in OIr[ish] muire‘leader, chief ’ ” (EIEC31). The correspondence of these forms suggests that the ‘young warrior’ words—from the Proto- Indo-European zero- grade root *mr˚- and the o- grade root *mor of words for ‘to die, death, mortal, youth’, and so on (EIEC150; Pok. 735: *mer-, *moro- s; Wat. 42: *mer)—are related to the derived word *marko (with the highly productive suffix *- ko) ‘horse’ (EIEC 274 *márkos; Pok. 700 *marko-; Wat. 38 *marko-), the ancestor of English mare, attested only in Celtic and Germanic *marko ‘horse’, which thus originally meant ‘chariot warrior’s horse’.

  456. Or wetness, the funniest example I know.
    How did I not know that? That’s hilarious: “The Russian hydronym Volga (Волга) derives from Proto-Slavic *vòlga ‘wetness, moisture’, which is preserved in many Slavic languages, including Ukrainian vológa (воло́га) “moisture” [...] The Slavic name is a loan translation of earlier Scythian (Ῥᾶ) ‘Volga’, literally ‘wetness”, seen also in Avestan Raŋhā ‘mythical stream’ [...] The Scythian name survives in modern Mordvin Rav (Рав) ‘Volga’.”

  457. Trond Engen says:

    Scythian Rā (Ῥᾶ) ‘Volga’, literally ‘wetness”
    Does anybody know the further etymology of that?

  458. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: *mar-ko as the ancestor of English mare: what happened to the *k or *ko then?

  459. SFReader linked to a delightful 1706 map, “Carte de Tartarie”.
    In the lower left green section, labeled Zagatay, just south of “Bokara” and a little west of the yellow-colored “Pet. Tibet Roy.” is “Tocharestan.” Tocharians? A mere 300 years ago? Flight of fancy? Anybody know?

  460. SFReader says:

    Tocharistan was an Arab name of a district with center in Balkh. The name was used until 13th century.
    It’s survival on European maps of 18th century is probably due to lack of more contemporary knowledge of the region (was Marko Polo the last European to visit?)

  461. SFReader says:

    “Pet. Tibet Roy.” is of course a region of Baltistan, commonly called Little Tibet. It’s currently situated in northern Pakistan of all places!
    The local Tibetans have been forcibly converted to Islam, but apparently still face persecution on account of not being devout enough Muslims

  462. SFReader says:

    Zagatay – is of course Chagadai (also spelled Jagatai) – a country in western Turkestan which originally was Ulus of Chagaadai, second son of Genghis Khan.
    Chagaadai means “Whitey” in Mongolian. I have an original theory on why he was named so.
    I probably won’t write an article on that so I’ll share it with you guys.
    You see, Borte, wife of Genghis Khan was abducted by Merkit tribe. The war to free her became a national cause for Mongols and allowed Genghis Khan to turn overnight into a powerful warlord from being a teenage refugee and exile he was before the Borte’s kidnapping.
    Unfortunately when Borte was freed, she turned out to be pregnant. Even since then, the question remains – who exactly was true father of Jochi, Genghis Khan’s firstborn son.
    Suspicions were added when Jochi was born dark-haired unlike Genghis Khan (who was light-haired like all his family).
    Genghis Khan never voiced a complaint and recognized Jochi as his son, but probably was suffering inside.
    So when a second son was born, light-haired this time, he gave him name Chagaadai (whitey) – not very subtle reference to colour of his hair and undeniable proof of Genghis Khan’s paternity.

  463. SFReader says:

    I forgot to add. Name Jochi is probably linked to Mongolian words zochin, zochih, zochir, etc with meanings of “guest, foreign, surprise, shock”.
    Again, a likely reference to dramatic events linked to his birth (or conception)

  464. Heard on the radio today: Baltimore teenage slang has produced a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun “yo”.

  465. i doubt the given names could be that like unsubtle, Zuchi means a small piece of wood to start fire in the stove, a very suitable name for the first born baby
    Tsagaadai, i am not sure, maybe your version has such a, like, pretext, still seems like our khaan wouldnt have chosen such like obvious names at least to not hurt his wife’s feelings, i think baby names are usually given in the tradition of commemorating any auspicious occasion of the day in its name, Temujin’s own name was given to honor a captured rival, the best honor one could give to a person and enemy to that

  466. m-l: In OE, mearh (where final h = /x/) was the masculine form, mire ~ myre ~ mere the feminine. The Middle and Modern English mare has adopted the vowel of the masculine, presumably by analogy; the final /x/ would have been lost in any case, leading to a collision. The native masculine word hengest was also lost, except in obscured form in henchman; English now uses stallion, which is French, though its root is ultimately < Germanic stal ‘stall’.

  467. wait, ghengis khan was blond?

  468. Yuan era portrait of Genghis Khan
    Yuan era portrait of Ogoodei Khan
    Blue green eyes and reddish beards as you can see.

  469. Blond hair is encountered among contemporary Mongolian kids as well.
    They look like this

  470. if he wanted to acknowledge the baby’s light hair he would have called it Sharaadai perhaps, cz this type of light hair is called shar yellow, not white or blonde, but as you see, they have hardly any other caucasian features, the kid’s hair looks a bit burnt on the sun, but yes, there are many people of this light hair color, when kids when grown up the hair will look like brown though, my own and my younger sister’s looked a bit like this with the copper like hue of some strands and now look just regular brown, cz my mom were from Govi Altai, Temujin’s mother Oelun’s birthplace where this feature is the most prominent, with other neigbouring west provinces, Bayan Olgii, for example, there the Kazakhs also look many like this, i remember watching Natgeo’s documentary about them in search of the Amazons, which was talking also about the hair
    Tsagaan white color is considered good, auspicious, pure as mother’s milk, the first analogy what one would say if asked to describe the color, so he could acknowledge anything by it, but almost certainly not the hair color

  471. SFReader linked to a delightful 1706 map, “Carte de Tartarie”.
    Wow, that’s great—I wish I had a big wall-sized copy I could gaze at for hours. Those place names are endlessly fascinating:
    la Grande Novogorod (why feminine?)
    Pskove ou Pleskov (the latter reflecting the same early form as Baltic German Pleskau and Byzantine Greek Πλίσκο(υ)βα)
    Kiovie (why the -ie added to Polish Kijów?)
    Jaick ou Tic R (the former is Yaik, the pre-Catherine name of the Ural River, but what is “Tic”?)
    Carezem (=Khwarezm)
    Alchach ou Tachkunt (the first preserves the ancient name of Tashkent, Shash)
    Caboul (Kabul, clearly in Inde!)
    …and of course the “Royaume de Сialis.”
    And at the very northeastern corner, near the still undiscovered Bering Strait, it says “On ne sait pas ou se termine cette chaine de montagnes, et si elle ne va pas joindre quelque autre Continent”: I love the “quelque autre,” as though there might be any number of unknown continents out there!

  472. (By the way, if anyone wants to discuss Сialis, either copy-and-paste that or do what I did and replace the capital C with a Cyrillic one, because my stupid Blacklist won’t let anyone post that string of letters in the Latin alphabet and I can no longer access it to change it.)

  473. SFReader says:

    French Orientalists always had atrocious spelling habits.
    Probably the worst spelling I’ve encountered was Les Moum-Ghouls….

  474. Aw, come on, that’s charming! I can see a kid’s book featuring les Moum-Ghouls.

  475. heh at least i will haunt you if i perceive some thing or other about us is getting as if like misrepresented here

  476. Hat and Hattics: a better approach to a banned word is to insert <b></b> into it, so Cial<b></b>is comes out as Cialis. That way, searching for it on the page still works.

  477. Much better, thanks, and I’ll try to remember it.

  478. “Carte de Tartarie” / Wow, that’s great—I wish I had a big wall-sized copy I could gaze at for hours.
    It’s a 2.6-meg jpg. Take it to your local large-format print shop (for architects and engineers) and they’ll give you one in 10 minutes.

  479. Trond Engen says:

    When I asked about the etymology of Scythian “wetness; Volga”, the badly veiled reason was the resemblance to No. , Eng. raw and their special meaning “moist, humid, chilly”.

  480. SFReader – Thanks! I did see the first picture before I posted my question, but thought it showed him with graying hair – in every other i’ve ever seen his hair and beard have definately been black. But the hair color in the second picture is clearer.

  481. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: French Orientalists always had atrocious spelling habits
    The 1706 French map seems to fit in with the 1693 French book, which is a travelogue and travellers’ guide, not a scientific description. It is very interesting nevertheless: I was planning to just read the section linked to above, and ended up reading many more pages. I would not describe the author as an “Orientalist”, just a person who found himself in (for a Western European) unusual places and circumstances and wanted to share his experiences and practical knowledge for the benefit of other travellers. He had at least heard or read about the Jesuits then in China, and he also met many “Muscovites” (Russians) during his long journey. As for his transcriptions, I don’t think they are worse than those of British or other European travellers with similar social backgrounds, but they might not be fully transparent for people with little acquaintance with French.
    More travels in Mongolia: a few years ago in Paris I bought a beautiful book (Voyage dans l’Empire Mongol) put together by members of a team of French scholars and scientists who participated in an expedition the aim of which was to replicate as far as possible (eg on horseback) the travels of Guillaume de Rubrouck (also known by a slightly different name), a monk who was sent by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to the court of the “Grand Khan” in the middle of the 13th century, as there was a rumour in Europe that the Khan (about whom almost nothing was known) was favourably inclined towards Christianity and might even be ready to convert. The Khan (“Mangou”= Mongka, a grandson of Genghis) was indeed intellectually interested in the various religions practiced in his territory and at his court in “Caracorum” (including Islam and Nestorian Christianity), and he enjoyed theological discussions, but did not find any of those religions convincing enough to embrace it. Nevertheless, he and Rubrouck seem to have got along well. The book contains a translation from Rubrouck’s Latin text, with numerous annotations from various sources, and beautiful pictures old and new (the full-spread photos of the vast landscapes are breathtaking).

  482. @marie-lucie
    You probably enjoyed reading about small French diaspora in Karakorum.
    Master goldsmith Guillaume Buchier, originally from Grand Pont in Paris, his wife from Lorraine, his son who was interpreter at the court (from French to Mongolian, I gather), another French woman from Metz in Lorraine called Paquette and her three children (her husband was Russian though), more French-sounding people from Syria and Cyprus (from Crusader kingdoms there I assume), etc.
    Silver Tree of Karakorum made by master Guillaume Buchier
    “In the entry of this great palace, it being unseemly to bring in there skins of milk and other drinks, master William the Parisian had made for him a great silver tree, and at its roots are four lions of silver, each with a conduit through it, and all belching forth white milk of mares. And four conduits are led inside the tree to its tops, which are bent downward, and on each of these is also a gilded serpent, whose tail twines round the tree. And from one of these pipes flows wine, from another cara cosmos, or clarified mare’s milk, from another bal, a drink made with honey, and from another rice mead, which is called terracina; and for each liquor there is a special silver bowl at the foot of the tree to receive it. Between these four conduits in the top, he made an angel holding a trumpet, and underneath the tree he made a vault in which a man can be hid. And pipes go up through the heart of the tree to the angel. In the first place he made bellows, but they did not give enough wind.”

  483. marie-lucie says:

    LH: la Grande Novogorod (why feminine?)
    Because its literal French translation is (la) nouvelle ville ‘(the) new town’ (or Villeneuve), and ville ‘town, city’ is feminine in French.
    SFR: the silver tree
    I don’t think the etching represents a realistic picture of the silver tree, it looks like a much later interpretation of Rubrouck’s description.

  484. Trond Engen says:

    m-l: Because its literal French translation is (la) nouvelle ville ‘(the) new town’ (or Villeneuve), and ville ‘town, city’ is feminine in French.
    I was on a course today. The lecturer, a Portuguese professor, used grammatical gender in English, applying “he” to a result and “she” to a balk.

  485. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: You probably enjoyed reading about small French diaspora in Karakorum.
    Yes, there was an amazing variety of people living there, including master craftsmen like Monsieur Buchier (Boucher, the modern spelling, in my French edition).

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