Jungaria.

I’m now about halfway through Perdue’s China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (see this post) and have just gotten to the central event, the extermination by the Qing Empire of the Western Mongol nation he calls the Zunghars in the 1750s: “The [Qianlong] emperor deliberately targeted young and able men in order to destroy the Zunghars as a people…. This deliberate use of massacre has been almost completely ignored by modern scholars.” It’s a splendid, brilliantly written historical account, but history is not the remit of LH, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about the name of the nation, which is variously spelled Dzungaria (the Wikipedia version), Zungharia, Zungaria, Jungharia, Jungaria, and Dzhungaria. (I was tempted to title this post “J/Dz(h)ung(h)aria,” but it looked too ugly.) If the Jungar Empire had not been wiped out, presumably we would have settled on one version, but since it’s been nearly forgotten, we have to look under D, J, and Z in the index of every historical work that might cover it in hopes of finding it. (I’ve taken to penciling in cross-references under each of those letters pointing to whichever one the book uses.)

Fortunately, Christopher I. Beckwith (see this post) published an article called “A Note on the Name and Identity of the Junghars” (Mongolian Studies 29 [2007]: 41-45) that deals with just this topic. He begins by discarding the “very old” folk etymology from Middle Mongolian jegün gar ‘left (or east) hand (or wing of an army)’ (“nonsensical historically”; he later says “it is impossible at this point to establish a genuine etymology of the name”); he continues:

The spellings ‘Dzungar,’ or ‘Zungar’ represent modern Mongolian dialect forms that developed after the Mongol Empire period and have become dominant since the Junghar Empire period. The spelling ‘Dzungar’ reflects the pronunciation of the name in the dominant modern Khalkha dialect, whereas the spelling ‘Zungar’ reflects the modern Kalmyk züünghar [zü:ngar]. […]

The pronunciation züünghar is reflected in a number of modern foreign transcriptions. However, historically contemporaneous oral transcriptions of the name ‘Junghar’ into directly neighboring languages (Russian, Chinese, Tibetan, and Persian) — that is, transcriptions made at the time of the Junghar Empire — regularly give the initial consonant as j-/j– [ʤ] or in some cases unaspirated č– [ʧ], both reflecting foreign [ʤ] […] The most accurate historical spelling in English would thus seem to be ‘Junggar,’ or simply ‘Jungar,’ as in one of the most frequent spellings of the name of their homeland, ‘Jungaria.’ I have however spelled it ‘Junghar’ in order to reflect the undeniable influence of the putative etymology on the modern forms in Mongol dialects. In any case, the pronunciation of their name by the Junghars themselves during the time of their empire thus seems fairly clear.

Me, I’m going with Jungaria because it’s the simplest and apparently reflects their own pronunciation, but feel free to pick and choose according to your own inclination. Nobody will care except a few scholars.

Comments

  1. It’s perhaps best known to pet lovers as the homeland of the popular Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus) — thus in Wikipedia (yes, another spelling variant!). The extinct faunas of Jungaria provide more oddities. We have the Early Creataceous pterosaur Dsungaripterus (note the Ds) and the Middle Jurassic crocodylomorph Junggarsuchus (note the double g).

  2. Good lord: Djungarian, sungorus, Dsungaripterus, Junggarsuchus … there’s no end to them!

  3. One more variation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhongar-Alatau_National_Park (From Kazakh Жоңғар)

  4. Marja Erwin says:

    Even “Jungaria” suggests six different pronunciations:

    Yuungariya, Yungariya, Zhuungariya, Zhungariya, Dzhuungariya, Dzhungariya.

    In scientific names, around Latin and ‘Ellenic terms where J is an alt for I, it strongly suggests Yuunngarsuchus or Yuung-gar-suchus. Which was probably not intended.

  5. Perhaps we could translate Zunghar as “leftists”

  6. You’re a better man than I – I’d have given in to the temptation to write that the Qianlong emperor killed all the Jung men.

  7. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Great post, I love this type of obscure orthographic red meat.

    What do we know about the the phylogeny of Oirat language? Is it descended from the Genghis-era standard or from something similar but distinct?

    And when will we some clarity on what the term Mongolic means? Does it refer to just the immediate language family stemming from Middle Mongol? Or the broader family including Mongolian and Khitan?

  8. I think Oirats were originally Turkic speakers who switched to some Mongol dialect (perhaps related to ancestor of Buryat) relatively late – maybe even during lifetime of Genghis.

    The language kept converging with the standard Mongolian, Pozdneev says that most Oirat dialects by his time (late 19th century) were almost indistinguishable from Khalkha Mongolian.

    Kalmyk, for obvious reasons, remained an outlier, but it’s pretty close too.

  9. …it strongly suggests Yuunngarsuchus or Yuung-gar-suchus. Which was probably not intended.

    Probably not, as Junggarsuchus sloani was described and named by an American-Chinese team:

    Etymologyy. For the Junggar Basin in northern Xinjiang, souchous (Greek) meaning crocodile and for C. Sloan, who discovered the holotype.

    Clark, J. M.; et al. A Middle Jurassic ‘sphenosuchian’ from China and the origin of the crocodylian skull. Nature 430/7003, 1021-1024.

    It should be the Jungar Basin (the standard spelling) and σοῦχος (souchos, Latinised as suchus), but never mind.

  10. The pronunciation is still Jungar in most dialects of Inner Mongolia, including the standard dialect.

    ‘Dzungar’ for the Khalkha pronunciation is phonetically accurate (the Khalkha ‘z’ sound is pronounced /dz/), but many words are also spelt with a ‘z’ when transcribed into English. Hence the existence of two spellings.

  11. I had trouble understanding this sentence:

    I have however spelled it ‘Junghar’ in order to reflect the undeniable influence of the putative etymology on the modern forms in Mongol dialects.

    What exactly does he mean? It almost sounds as though he meant ‘deflect’.

  12. No, I think he means what he says, but I don’t know enough to understand why the -h- reflects that etymology.

  13. I suppose he refers to back consonant γ (Greek gamma) as opposed to front consonant g in Classical Mongolian.

    γar (ghar), not gar. They do sound different.

    I wish I could read Beckwith’s article in full, because he seems to imply that ‘ghar’ in Junghar does not derive from “hand” as commonly thought.

  14. Just sent you a pdf; let me know if you don’t get it.

  15. Thanks, I already got access to the article with help of that criminal mastermind – Alexandra Elbakian.

  16. Etymologyy

    This particular (unintended) y-duplication is mine, not the authors’, so who am I to blame them for Junggar?

  17. Greg Pandatshang says:

    I never knew there was also a Junggar Banner in Inner Mongolia (“banner” is what they call a county there). I assume it has no relation to Oirats but simply has the same etymology. English Wikipedia claims it is written Жэгүнар in Cyrillic Mongolian, but the Mongolian Wikipedia just calls it Зүүнгар.

  18. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Is Зүүнгар pronounced d͡zuːŋgər or d͡zʲuːŋgər in Khalkha? Does ү (historically /y/ but nowadays /u/) induce iotation like е, ё, и, ю, я do?

  19. Greg Pandatshang says:

    γ (Greek gamma) is one of the all-time great Romanisation fails. ğ, already familiar from Turkish, is the obviously alternative. If one insists on a gamma, why not at least use Latin gamma?

  20. David Marjanović says:

    What do we know about the the phylogeny of Oirat language? Is it descended from the Genghis-era standard or from something similar but distinct?

    All or almost all Mongolic languages appear to be descended from the Genghis-era standard, with some doubts around Da(g)ur.

    Khitan is not; and that’s why it’s called “Para-Mongolic”. If this nomenclature were applied to IE, Anatolian and Tocharian would be para-IE.

    It should be the Jungar Basin (the standard spelling) and σοῦχος (souchos, Latinised as suchus), but never mind.

    We ought to be happy simply that the Greek word isn’t misidentified as Latin. Declarations that a word is Greek or Latin in biological nomenclature seem to be made by flipping coins these days.

    English Wikipedia claims it is written Жэгүнар in Cyrillic Mongolian, but the Mongolian Wikipedia just calls it Зүүнгар.

    I strongly suspect that Жэгүнар is a transcription of the spelling in Mongolian script and doesn’t exist in the wild…

    Does ү (historically /y/ but nowadays /u/) induce iotation like е, ё, и, ю, я do?

    No; and recent research suggests very strongly that it has been [u] since time immemorial and only became [y] rather recently in the Oirat/Kalmyk branch, which appears to have reinterpreted the vowel system in Turkic terms.

    Bathrobe’s website says somewhere that /jɔ jo jʊ ju/ are spelled ё ю юу юү…

    γ (Greek gamma) is one of the all-time great Romanisation fails. ğ, already familiar from Turkish, is the obviously alternative.

    It’s really a pity that the Early Soviet letter Ƣƣ (“gha”) didn’t catch on and was abolished so soon.

  21. It’s really a pity that the Early Soviet letter Ƣƣ (“gha”) didn’t catch on and was abolished so soon.

    Obligatory:

    And so it transpired, no more than a month or two later, that somebody equally anonymous had cut Tchitcherine’s orders for Baku, and he was grimly off to attend the first plenary session of the VTsK NTA (Vsesoynznyy Tsentral’nyy Komitet Novogo Tyurkskogo Alfavita), where he was promptly assigned to the ƣ Committee.

    ƣ seems to be a kind of G, a voiced uvular plosive. The distinction between it and your ordinary G is one Tchitcherine will never learn to appreciate.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Voiced uvular fricative by default, but I’m sure there’s some variation somewhere.

  23. Cyrillic ү isn’t a gamma at all, it’s a Cyrillic У /u/ with a straightened tail.

  24. The Dictionary of Xinjiang Peoples 新疆民族辭典, p.407, in the section on Mongol peoples 蒙古族, states that the Dzungar 準葛尓 were one of the four Oirats 維拉特四部之一.

  25. Жэгүнар қосиу

    This idiosyncratic style of Cyrillic spelling is rife at Wikipedia articles on Inner Mongolian banners and appears to be the work of a single person, identified only as 142.105.197.42 (an IP location in Massachusetts), on a single day, 27 May 2016.

    It’s certainly not Mongolian Cyrillic. The қ suggests that it might be related to Kazakh, but қосиу isn’t found anywhere else, not even on Kazakh-language pages. For what it’s worth, that particular contributor also wrote about Islamic issues in Xinjiang.

    While Жэгүнар қосиу gives the superficial impression of being a transcription of the traditional Mongolian spelling Jegünɣar qosiɣu it is not because both ɣ’s are missing from the Cyrillic. If the contributor were transliterating exactly it should be Жэгүнгар қосигу (according to the strange transliteration adopted).

    I wish I could read Beckwith’s article in full, because he seems to imply that ‘ghar’ in Junghar does not derive from “hand” as commonly thought.

    I am not sure what to make of Beckwith. He appears to have his own particular school hellbent on correcting what he sees as traditional errors in historical linguistic analysis in central Asia, but how seriously is he taken by others in the field? Comments SFReader?

  26. He is taken quite seriously, I believe

    For example, Peter B. Golden, one of the most prominent specialists on Inner Asia these days, cites in “Central Asia in World History” (Oxford University Press, 2011) his article on etymology of Junghar (22. Questions regarding the long-established popular etymology of this name are raised by Christopher I. Beckwith, “A Note on the Name and Identity of the Junghars,” Mongolian Studies 29 (2007): 41–45.) and his books “Empires of the Silk Road”, “The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia” and “Koguryo: The Language of Japan’s Continental Relatives”.

    With his academic credentials, Beckwith can afford to be a little eccentric, he will be taken seriously in the field regardless of the nonsense he writes about post-modern culture.

  27. J.W. Brewer says:

    The post-with-lengthy-comment thread about Beckwith that hat linked to in this post itself links to other Beckwith-themed posts/threads from that era of Hattic history. Somewhere in there I mention his book https://www.amazon.com/Phoronyms-Classifiers-Pseudopartitive-Construction-Linguistics/dp/1433101394, which I had at the time recently read part of before getting stuck and/or distracted.

  28. I recall running into video lecture by Lankov – one of Russia’s leading Koreanists – which mentioned Beckwith’s book. He, citing linguist Vovin, disagrees with Beckwith’s thesis regarding Koguryo, but tellingly, on historic, not linguistic grounds.

    “Yes, lists of words from Koguryo records are unquestionably related to Proto-Japanese, but we argue that it was from the language of ancient inhabitants of Koguryo, not language of the Koguryo state elite, who must have spoken some form of Korean”.

  29. January First-of-May says:

    It’s really a pity that the Early Soviet letter Ƣƣ (“gha”) didn’t catch on and was abolished so soon.

    Somewhat infamously known in Unicode as LETTER OI (forgot the full name, but OI is in there) – apparently from its shape – because the guys who originally entered it there got confused, and the back-portability of Unicode standards means it can never be fixed properly.

    (If anything, LETTER OI would be a better name for Mongolian ү.)

  30. David Marjanović says:

    LATIN CAPITAL LETTER OI and LATIN SMALL LETTER OI. As we learned here on LH a long while ago, an errata sheet was published later, where this blunder was commented with “should have been letter GHA”.

  31. It’s not an errata sheet, it’s a list of formal aliases, which also provides the sensible BYZANTINE MUSICAL SYMBOL FTHORA SKLIRON CHROMA VASIS as an alias for the absurd but unfortunately standard Unicode name BYZANTINE MUSICAL SYMBOL FHTORA SKLIRON CHROMA VASIS.

  32. Greg Pandatshang says:

    that’s absurder than David Lynch on bad steroids

  33. At least it’s not BYZANTINE MUSICAL SYMBOL FHTAGN IA IA.

  34. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Thanks, I read a little bit about RTR harmony in Mongolian and Korean. Good stuff, news to me. As long we’re switching γ to ğ for Mongolian romanisation, maybe we should also think about using û and ô instead of ü and ö.

    As a native IE speaker, frontness harmony makes some intuitive sense to me, but RTR harmony seems counterintuitive. I didn’t know that RTR harmony developing into frontness harmony is more usual than the other way around. On the other hand /u/ > /y/ (where /u/ is not markedly short or lax) is a distinctly common development in European languages. Is the corresponding unconditioned shift for mid vowels (/o/ > /ø/) attested within the borders of SAE Land?

  35. David Marjanović says:

    At its very fringe, there’s *o > e in Albanian. I think that’s it. …Well, the French [ɔ] is often a bit fronted these days.

  36. Only long *ū and *ō were fronted in Proto-Albanian. Short *o merged with *a, as in Balto-Slavic and Germanic, and short *u was simply retained.

    In Scots and Northern English, ME ō was fronted (while ū remained back). In some varieties of English (the conservative London and Australian accents) ME u [ʊ] (STRUT) was not only lowered ([ʌ]) and centralised ([ɐ]) but quite strongly fronted. In early Slavic, the contrast between *o and *e (and in other back : front pairs) tended to be transiently neutralised when frontness became re-encoded as a secondary feature (palatality) of consonants in syllable onsets.

  37. David Marjanović says:

    Oh yeah, this variant of the STRUT vowel seems to be why STRUT words (club comes to mind) are pronounced with /œ/ in French.

  38. Chris Beckwith was a graduate student in what was then Indiana University’s Department of Uralic and Altaic Studies when I was on that department’s faculty and he has always been highly regarded. https://sgis.indiana.edu/news-events/sgis-news/2017/2017-04-19-beckwith-dp.html

  39. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Beckwith is brilliant but is he … reliable? Pellard’s review of Koguryo raises more than a couple eyebrows. I recall reading similar remarks about his Chinese reconstructions in Empires of the Silk Road. His appendix on Indo-European in that book contained dicta that were tough to swallow whole: e.g. that the purported PIE mediae and mediae aspiritae series can readily be seen to generally be allophones.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    David M: the French [ɔ] is often a bit fronted these days.

    This is not quite new but to me it is typically Parisian (Parisian French, which is not uniform, is not always considered the standard!).

    Several decades ago (probably in the late 1940’s) a linguist called Marcel Cohen (I think) wrote a paper called C’est jeuli le Mareuc, referring to a local pronunciation of “C’est joli le Maroc” ‘Morocco is pretty’. The fronting of [ɔ] is especially noticeable before a nasal, so that for instance elle est bonne ‘she is a good person’ rhymes with elle est jeune ‘she is young’. A former colleague of mine, born and raised in a non-fashionable area of Paris, very obviously had this feature. When listening carefully however, and trying to reproduce her speech, I had to make the vowel in bonne not only fronted but unrounded compared to that of jeune.

  41. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Here’s the link to Thomas Pellard’s review of Koguryo, the Language of Japan’s Continental Relatives: An Introduction to the Historical-Comparative Study of the Japanese-Koguryoic Languages with a Preliminary Description of Archaic Northeastern Middle Chinese: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00194111/document

    And here’s a review by Doug Hitch of Empires of the Silk Road: https://www.scribd.com/document/269518451/Review-of-Christopher-Beckwith-s-Empires-of-the-Silk-Road-A-history-of-central-Eurasdia-from-th-Bronze-Age-to-the-Present-JAOS-130-4-2010-pp-65 . A typical line from the latter comments: “The endnotes continue the balance between usefulness and iconoclasm.” (one example “… while note 94 maintains that the conspiracy theory about US leadership knowing beforehand about the attack on Pearl Harbor could not be correct since …”)

    And for those of you who are Language Hat fans, here’s an old post (plus 154 comments, most recently from a year and a half ago) about Beckwith’s famous Indo-European appendix: http://languagehat.com/beckwith-on-indo-european/

  42. David Marjanović says:

    e.g. that the purported PIE mediae and mediae aspiritae series can readily be seen to generally be allophones

    Such claims are made every once in a while, always (to the best of my knowledge) as sweeping statements without any attempt to address specific minimal pairs. As long as no details are forthcoming, I feel free to ignore these claims.

  43. Is the corresponding unconditioned shift for mid vowels (/o/ > /ø/) attested [?]

    I did a brief survey touching on this some time ago. I can’t claim anything near completeness, but the closest thing to fronting-unrelated-to-quantity that came up was *ɔ (? > *wə > *wɛ) > /ɥɛ/ in Gallo-Romance — preserved in parts of Occitan, later on > œ in French.

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