The Dictionary of Old English offers a “word of the week,” and last week it was hand-saex, with which Warren Clements has some fun in his Globe and Mail column; surprisingly (to me—I wasn’t familiar with him), he doesn’t linger on the cheap laughs but goes on to a useful examination of the history of the word:

Saex comes from a Germanic root (sah or sag) meaning to cut. It survives today only in the narrowly defined word sax, a tool used to trim roofing slates. But before the Norman Conquest of 1066 reshaped the English language and gave us Middle English – a process that took about a century to filter down to ordinary folks – saex was all the rage.

There is even speculation that the Saxons, the Germanic invaders known once in England as Anglo-Saxons, got their name from the knives they carried. After all, the Old English spelling of Saxon was Seaxan (and Seaxe in the plural).
The saex played a significant role in Beowulf, the epic poem written in Old English in the eighth century or thereabouts. After the warrior Beowulf has mortally wounded the monster Grendel[…], Grendel’s mother comes seeking vengeance. She pulls Beowulf into the watery depths “ond hyre seax geteah, brad, brun-ecg” – which Seamus Heaney translates as “and pulled out a broad, whetted knife.”

He goes on to say that “Since the Dictionary of Old English’s teaser defined hand-saex as a dagger, it is worth noting that dagger, which entered Middle English by 1375, seems to have been dreamed up by the English themselves, without reference to other languages.” Most dictionaries agree with this, but The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition has a more interesting idea, tracing Middle English daggere back to various Romance forms, “perhaps” from Vulgar Latin *Daca (ensis), ‘Dacian (knife),’ from the feminine form of Latin Dācus ‘Dacian.’ Not proven or provable, but clever.

Incidentally, in relation to the saex/Saxon thing, the OED says:

In the well-known story related by Geoffrey of Monmouth after ‘Nennius’, the signal given by Hengist to his Saxons for the treacherous slaughter of their British hosts appears in the form ‘Nemet oure saxas’. The Old English form would be Nimað éowre seax, the n. being uninflected in the plural.

(Thanks, Paul!)


  1. I think “scissors” in Danish and Swedish is still “saks” and “sax”. (according to Google Translate – I don’t have time to look them up in a more trustworthy source)
    And seax is supposedly from an Indo-European root related to a Latin word for “rock” (as in sassafrass), so it might possibly even be a remnant of the time when knives were made of rock. That would be really, really cool.

  2. Høst’s English-Danish and Danish-English Pocket Dictionary has saks for scissors.
    Warren Clements co-authored, along with J. A. McFarlane, the Globe and Mail Style Book. Says so right inside the front cover of my 1990 edition.
    The Mop and Pail (as it is occasionally referred to by the local wags) these days offers online search of the guide. The page even lets you pose a style question to Clements.

  3. SFReader says

    Proto-IE: *sek-, *sēik-
    Nostratic etymology: Nostratic etymology
    Meaning: to cut
    Slavic: *sḗktī, *sēkǭ; *sekɨ̄́rā, *sēčīvo
    Baltic: *sē̂k- vb. tr.
    Germanic: *sag-ṓ(n-) f., *sag-i- c., *sig-Vs-n-ō(n-) f., *sig-l-a-; *sax-a- n., *sak-s-a- n., *sōk=, *sig-i-ɵ-ō f.
    Proto-Germanic: *sagṓ(n), *sagi-z, *sigVsnō(n), *sigla-, *saxa-n, *saksa-n, *sōk=, *sigiɵō
    Meaning: saw, scythe
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Old Norse: sɔg f. `Säge’; segi, sigi m. `Fleischstreifen’; sigδ-r m., sigδ f. `Sense’; sax n. `Schwert; Reling am Vordersteven’, dat. sg. sAkse; sigg n. `Speckschwarte’; saga wk. `sägen’
    Norwegian: sag; sege `Muskel. Faserbündel’; sigd ‘Sense, Schwert’; saks; sigg `Schwarte’; saga vb.
    Old Swedish: saghi `abgeschnittenes Stück’
    Swedish: sɔg; dial. sigd; sɔga vb.
    Danish: sav; save `Pflanzen- oder Fleischfaser’; saks; save vb.
    Old English: sagu, saga `Säge’, sigɵe, sīɵe m. `Sichel’, secg f. `Schwert’; seax n. `Messer, kurzes Schwert’
    English: saw, scythe
    Old Saxon: sega; segisna
    Middle Dutch: sāghe f., sēghe; seisene, seinse, seine; sichte f.
    Dutch: zaag f., maastr. zēg; zeis, dial. zeisen, zeisem, zein; zicht f. `kleine zeis’
    Middle Low German: sāge; segede, {sichte f.} `Sichel’; seyse
    Old High German: sega (9.Jh.) f., saga (9.Jh.) f. `Säge’, {segesna}, segisna (9.Jh.), segansa (9.Jh.) `Sense’, sahs `Messer’, suoha `gge, Furche’; seh (-hh-) `Pflugschar’
    Middle High German: sëge, sage st./wk. f. ‘säge una sägeähnliches’; sëgens(e) st./wk. f. ‘sense’, md. seinse, sēnse, sense
    German: Säge f., Sense f., { Sech }
    Latin: secō, -āre, -uī, -ctum `schneiden, abschneiden, mähen’, segmen, -inis n. `Abschnitt’, segmentum n. `id.’, secespita f. `Opfermesser’, secūris, -is f. `Beil’, sēcula f. `kleine Sichel’; sacēna f. `die Haue des Pontifex’
    Other Italic: Umbr prusekatu `prōsecātō’, proses̀etir `prōsectīs’, prusec̨ia `prōsiciās’
    Celtic: *to-in-sek-, *in-sek- > OIr se(i)che `Haut, Fell’, MIr tescaid `schneidet, beisst’, Ir teascaidh `schneidet, beisst’; ēiscidh `haut ab’
    I note that there is a Mongolian etymology as well*s%C3%B6k-&pg=PA45#v=onepage&q&f=false

  4. SFReader says

    There is an even more spectacular Mongolian cognate for Anglo part of Anglo-Saxons.

    Eurasiatic: *HVŋV
    Meaning: angle
    Indo-European: *ang-
    Proto-IE: *ang-
    Meaning: corner
    Armenian: ankiun, angiun `Winkel’
    Slavic: *ǭgъlъ
    Word: у́гол,
    Near etymology: род. п. угла́, укр. ву́гол, блр. ву́гол, др.-русск. уг(ъ)лъ, ст.-слав. ѫгълъ γωνία (Зогр., Мар., Ассем., Рs. Sin., Еuсh. Sin.), болг. ъ́гъл (Младенов 704), сербохорв. диал. у̏гал, род. п. у̏гла, словен. vọ̑gǝl, род. п. vȏgla, чеш. úhel, слвц. uhol, польск. węgieɫ, род. п. węgɫa, в.-луж. nuhɫ, н.-луж. nugeɫ.
    Further etymology: Родственно лат. angulus — то же, умбр. anglom-e ̔аd аngulum᾽, арм. ankiun, angiun — то же, др.-инд. áŋgam, ср. р., “член”, aŋgúliṣ, aŋgúriṣ “палец”, аŋgulīуаm “перстень”; наряду с и.-е. *аŋg- представлено *аŋk- “изогнутый”; лат. аnсus “кривой, изогнутый”, uncus — то же, греч. ἀγκών м. “изгиб, локоть”, ἀγκύλος “кривой”, др.-инд. aŋkás м. “крюк”; см. Мейе, Ét. 183; Мейе — Эрну 60; Вальде–Гофм. I, 46; Хюбшман 419 и сл.; Уленбек, Aind. Wb. 3. См. у́коть. Относительно Угол — название части Бессарабии, ср.-греч. ᾽Оγγλος, ср. выше, на Буджа́к. Нет основания думать о заимствовании слав. *ǫgъlъ из лат. angulus (как, напр., Вальде, KZ 34, 513).
    Pages: 4,145
    Baltic: *añg-ā̂ f.
    Proto-Germanic: *angḗn m, *angṓ f.; *angVlō
    Meaning: hook, angle
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Old Norse: angi m. `Spitze, Zacken’
    Swedish: dial. ang `Wurzelfaser’
    Old English: anga (onga), -an m. `sting’; angel, -gles m. `hook, fishing-hook’
    English: angle `Angel’
    Old Saxon: angul `haak, visangel’, ango m. `stekel, deurhengsel’
    Middle Dutch: anghe m. `prikkel’, anghel `haak, visangel’
    Dutch: angel m.
    Middle Low German: angel `Angel’
    Old High German: ango (8.Jh.) `Spitze, Stachel’
    Middle High German: ange wk. f. ‘stachel, fischangel, türangel; schoss’; angel st. m., f. ‘stachel; türangel; stift im messerhefte’
    German: Angel f.
    Altaic: *ṑni ( ~ -e) [?*-ŋ-]
    Proto-Altaic: *ṑni ( ~ -e)
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: angle
    Russian meaning: угол
    Mongolian: *önčüg
    Proto-Mongolian: *önčüg
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 angle 2 back (of axe)
    Russian meaning: 1 угол 2 обух (топора)
    Written Mongolian: önčüg 1 (L 636)
    Khalkha: öncög 1
    Buriat: ünseg 2
    Kalmuck: öncǝg 1
    Ordos: önčök 1
    Dagur: nōčoko 1

    One could then literally translate Anglo-Saxon into Mongolian as Untsugtiin Sukhtenguud (Axe-bearers from the Angle)

  5. Jazz musicians, especially sax players, going way back talk about their “axes”–“Got your ax with you? Wanna sit in?” Which led to “cutting” contests. All things are relative.
    ur fiend,

  6. dearieme says

    This post took me to WKPD, where I found a Gaelic usage strongly reminiscent of the “dark” in Dark Ages.
    “Although the primary meaning of dubh is “black”, the secondary meaning of “hidden” is at the root of sgian-dubh, based on the stories and theories surrounding the knife’s origin … Compare also other Gaelic word-formations such as dubh-sgeir “underwater skerry” (lit. black skerry), dubh-fhacal “riddle” (lit. hidden word), dubh-cheist “enigma” (lit. hidden question).”
    And then it occurred to me that when I was a youthful deckhand on a trawler fishing the upper Solway, we referred to the rocky patches on the bottom as “scaurs”, which sounds a bit like the Gaelic “sgeir”. Coincidence? Dunno. (As a default, I tend to assume that any nautical term from my childhood is likely to be from the Vikings.)

  7. SFReader says

    I can’t resist posting this etymology…
    Eurasiatic: *HalpV
    Meaning: weak
    Indo-European: *alp-
    Proto-IE: *alp-
    Nostratic etymology: Nostratic etymology
    Meaning: weak
    Hittite: alpanta- (alpant-) ‘ill, weak’
    Old Indian: álpa-, alpaka- `small, minute, trifling’
    Baltic: *al̃p- vb., *al̃p-na- adj., *al̃p-ā̂ f., *alp-iā̃ f.
    Germanic: *alb-a- m., *alb-i- c.
    Proto-Germanic: *alba-z, *albi-z
    Meaning: elf
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Old Norse: alf-r m. `Albe, Elf’
    Norwegian: alv
    Old Swedish: älf `Albe, Elf’
    Old Danish: elv `Albe, Elf’
    Old English: älf, -es m., ilf, -e f. `elf’
    English: elf
    Old Saxon: alf
    Middle Dutch: alf m. `boze geest, die de mensen zoekt te bedriegen’
    Dutch: alf m.
    Middle Low German: alf `Mare, Alp’
    Old High German: alb (11.Jh.)
    Middle High German: alp (-b-) st. m., n. ‘gespenstisches wesen, gehilfe des teufels; alp, das alpdrücken’; md. alf ‘tor, narr’
    German: Alb m.
    Russ. meaning: слабый
    References: WP I 92
    Altaic: *ălpa
    Proto-Altaic: *ălpa
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: unable, sick; being at service, man-at-arms
    Russian meaning: слабый, больной; бесправный, наемник
    Turkic: *ălp-
    Mongolian: *alba-n
    Proto-Mongolian: *alba-n
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 compulsion, forcing 2 to force 3 service, duty
    Russian meaning: 1 насилие, принуждение 2 принуждать 3 служба, обязанность
    Written Mongolian: alba(n) 1, 3 (L 27)
    Middle Mongolian: alban 3 (HYt)
    Khalkha: alba 3, alba-da- 2
    Buriat: alba(n) 3, alba-da- 2
    Kalmuck: alwǝ, alwṇ 1, 3
    Ordos: alba 3, alba-da- 2, to take a tribute

  8. SFReader: Are you posting from Dolgopolsky’s Nostratic Dictionary?

  9. While I’m enjoying the etymologies, I feel I should point out for the benefit of uninitiated passers-by that “Nostratic” is an unproven (and probably, in my opinion, wrong) theory joining Indo-European, Caucasian, Altaic, and who knows what else into one big superfamily. Take all connections labeled “Eurasiatic” or “Nostratic” with huge helpings of salt.

  10. SFReader says

    I use data from Starostin’s site

  11. SFReader says

    Altaic and Indo-European, IMHO are definitely related. The number of cognates is staggering and could not be a coincidence.
    As for Nostratic, we do need to have a name for common ancestor of Altaic and Indo-European and Nostratic is as good a name as any…

  12. Johan Anglemark says

    Dearieme, isn’t sgeir a loan from Norse? I was fairly certain skerry is, and I assume sgeir is just the Gaelic version.

  13. “scissors” in Danish and Swedish is still “saks” and “sax”
    In Norwegian:
    saks = scissors
    sak = case, matter (legal)
    saksbehandler = caseworker
    saksedyr = earwig
    Much enjoyment can be had by mixing them up.

  14. I have wondered for some time if the Saxons are the people who have given their name to more polities than any other: a tribe/tribal confederation, a dozen or so (depending on how you count them) German duchies, a German kingdom, a Prussian province, three German Länder, three German Landkreise, three (maybe four) Old English kingdoms, a pre-Conquest English Earldom and three English counties (four if you regard West and East Sussex as separate). Plus any others I’ve missed: and counties in eg Jamaica/the US/Canada named after the English ones.
    To repeat myself from the Word Origins site, three seax appear in the county arms of both Essex, the land of the East Saxons, and Middlesex, the land of the Middle Saxons.
    “Messer” is cognate: the OED says that “modern German messer, knife = Old English męteseax ‘meat-knife’”. So “Messerschmitt” = “Sexsmith”: the form “sex”, according to the OED, was a Somerset dialect word for “a tool used by slaters … a kind of straight chopper, with a bill or point projecting from the back for ‘holing’ the slates.”

  15. “And seax is supposedly from an Indo-European root related to a Latin word for “rock” (as in sassafrass),…”
    You’re thinking of saxifrage. Sassfras
    doesn’t grow in Europe. It’s probably a Virginia Algonkian word. Maybe there’s a proto-World etymolgy that links the two.
    Saxifrages do.
    The name means “rock-breaker” and they often grow between rocks in away that looks as if they are breaking them apart, or maybe because some species are used medicinally to treat kidney stones.

  16. Steve Kane says

    It’s interesting how many words there are in Portuguese from the Suevi (originally living between the Angles and Saxons on the current danish border, before moving S. to “Swabia” and hence to here) For instance “Roca” from “Rock” for distaff, “Traje” from “Trachen” for a suit of clothes. I have a theory that you can have a stab at identifying a Suevi village as opposed to a Romano Lusitanian one from the position of the graveyard. In Suevi villages they are right up against the church, and in in Romano Lusitanian – as far away as possible. There are obvious blonde and dark villages too, this is because folk have always left since the Suevi moved in – and few entered up into the villages. The influence of Suevi words in the textile industry is also noteworthy. Not only that but anyone living here in the Alto Minho will notice the natives love of diminutives “…inho” “…ito” etc. sometimes doubled up. I am told this is a feature of Swabia too.

  17. dearieme says

    “isn’t sgeir a loan from Norse? ” Thanks, Johan, I should have thought of that: my default tends to work pretty well, eh?

  18. The number of cognates is staggering and could not be a coincidence.
    I’m a strong believer in coincidence, and I’m also aware of how difficult it is for people to believe in coincidence and how willing they are to give excessive weight to apparent resemblances.
    As for Nostratic, we do need to have a name for common ancestor of Altaic and Indo-European and Nostratic is as good a name as any…
    I would agree if I believed in such a common ancestor, but I don’t. I was trained in a very conservative tradition and am too old to change my spots.

  19. @Jim – Thanks for the clarification on sassafras / saxifrage… I thought the two words were more strongly linked. Shows how hard it is to “prove” connections. (I’m definitely not bold enough to involve Mongolian in this discussion!)
    To add some trivia to the original subject – there’s a type of large sword that shows up in video games called “scramasax” – I’d never heard of it in real life but it has its own dictionary entry.

  20. …oops meant to describe it as “large knife”, not sword. It seems to usually show up as more knife-like.
    Here’s some more info including sightings in video games:

  21. So how about sex?
    Latin secō (-āre, -uī, -ctum) gives section and a host of other derivatives; but sexus is thought to be in there as well, as a first cut (and a deepest) between the male and the female moieties. Partridge, Gaffiot, and the Chambers dictionary – everyone raises this speculatively, but no one appears to settle it. Any late research to report? The people of Earth have a right to know.

  22. marie-lucie says

    SFReader: I consider myself a working historical linguist, but most people in the profession would not consider me as particularly conservative. I agree entirely with LH’s comments about Nostratic, cognates, etc. Until a relationship is proven (mostly through regular phonological correspondences), the term “cognates” should not be used to talk about what are “resemblant forms”. It is possible that there is a genetic relationship between Indo-European and *Altaic, but *Altaic itself is not generally accepted (since I am nor familiar with any the relevant languages subsumed under “Altaic”, I don’t have an opinion on whether or not it qualifies as a genetic grouping). “*Eurasiatic” and “*Borean” are even more problematic than “*Nostratic”.
    Except for “Indo-European”, on which linguists have been working for more than two hundred years, all of these groupings are still only hypotheses, which need to be supported by strong evidence if they are to be eventually demonstrated. In the present context, they should not be taken at face value without more convincing support.

  23. SFReader says

    I think the problem here lies mainly with the linguists and their inability to “prove” genetic relationship.
    I would liken this to mathematical theorem which mathematicians can not prove formally (but which is obviously true).
    I’ve studied several Altaic languages and have no doubt that they are related to Indo-European on some deep level. In fact, such “resemblances” are so obvious that even non-linguist notice them.
    Probably the best example is this phrase from Russian-Mongolian contact jargon:
    Chinii-minii-ne-ponimai (Yours-mine-not-understand)
    Note how Russian speakers intuitively grasp resemblance of Mongolian possessive pronouns to Russian (and for that matter English) ones.
    Chinii (Tvoi -Russian, Thine -English), Minii (Moi-Russian, Mine-English)
    As for denial of Altaic, this is simply ridiculous. No one who studied Turkic and Mongolian languages in any detail can deny that they are related.

  24. SFReader says

    —So how about sex?
    First we need to establish why six and sex are so similar….
    O.E. siex, from P.Gmc. *sekhs (cf. O.S. seks, O.N., O.Fris. sex, M.Du. sesse, Du. zes, O.H.G. sehs, Ger. sechs, Goth. saihs), from PIE *seks (cf. Skt. sas, Avestan kshvash, Gk. hex, L. sex, O.C.S. sesti, Lith. sesi, O.Ir. se, Welsh chwech).
    Coincidence? I think not….

  25. marie-lucie says

    SFReader: such “resemblances” are so obvious that even non-linguist notice them.
    Very obvious resemblances of vocabulary, noticed by non-linguists, are more often evidence of language contact (sometimes from afar, through borrowing through a series of languages) than of genetic relationship. Many truly related words (= cognates), even in fairly closely related languages, do not resemble each other very much, if at all. For instance, there are many French words used in English, German, and Turkish (among others). In fact, many non-linguists think that French and English are closely related (more than English and German, for instance). While English and French are related, they are much less closely related than English and German, in spite of the large number of words common to French and English, which correspond to quite different words in German. As for Turkish, it would be very wrong to conclude (like some of my Turkish students learning French) that Turkish and French are related at all.
    Note how Russian speakers intuitively grasp resemblance of Mongolian possessive pronouns to Russian (and for that matter English) ones.
    Chinii (Tvoi -Russian, Thine -English), Minii (Moi-Russian, Mine-English)

    While the m words all agree in their first consonants, the others are less obvious: I think that in the context of this sentence Chinii and Tvoi are “intuitively” understood because of their parallelism with Minii and Moi, as well as the context in which those words are used. It is easy enough to learn short, useful sentences and to memorize some common words. But if you asked offhand, out of context: “What do you think chinii means in Mongolian?” I doubt that a Russian speaker totally ignorant of Mongolian would immediately say tvoi. As for an English speaker, thine has been out of common use for so long (and associated only with religious language) that it is extremely doubtful that chinii presented out of context (without minii) and without translation would immediately recall any English pronoun even to a linguist.
    No one who studied Turkic and Mongolian languages in any detail can deny that they are related.
    I have not studied these languages, so I cannot form an opinion one way or another, but the proposed “Altaic” includes more than these two families, see for instance Wikipedia for “Altaic”: Altaic is a proposed language family that includes the Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, and Japonic language families and the Korean language. I don’t know if Turkic and Mongolic are related or not, but supposing they are indeed related, it does not mean that they are also related to Korean and/or Japanese.

  26. *Scramasax is a reconstructed word, the (non-Wessex) OE form corresponding to Gregory of Tours’s scramasaxi.

  27. The strongest argument against narrow Altaic, that is, Turkic+Mongolic+Tungusic, is the lack of convincing correspondences between Turkic and Tungusic, suggesting that what we have is a Sprachbund with Mongolic having most of the shared features (natural, since it’s in the geographical middle).
    I agree that Altaic is not firmly established yet (I won’t say “proved” for any scientific conclusion: science is not in the proof business), but I also happen to believe it’s true: I find the arguments for it convincing. I also find the arguments for Nostratic convincing, though less so. As Vajda says, determining the fact of relatedness is probablyl going to be widely separated in time from clinching it from now on: all the low-hanging fruit has been picked.
    On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much conservatism: I mentioned Proto-Austronesian on (just a tiny) Piece of the Internet, (Hat: a new candidate for the blog roll), and the author was originally quite doubtful until I assured them that PA is as well established as PIE.

  28. My brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders when I made my first comment involving “saks”, “saxum”, Danish & Latin – my thoughts should have immediately leapt to Danish-Latin historian Saxo Grammaticus. So- a day or two late – What’s the deal with his name?

  29. SFReader says

    —it would be very wrong to conclude (like some of my Turkish students learning French) that Turkish and French are related at all.
    Eurasiatic: *tilV(ŋV)
    Meaning: tongue
    Borean: Borean
    Indo-European: *dleng’hu̯-
    Proto-IE: *ig’hu-, *ing’hu- (*dl-, *g’h-, *d-, *t-)
    Nostratic etymology: Nostratic etymology
    Meaning: tongue
    Tokharian: A käntu, B kantwo `Zunge’ (PT *käntwo) (Adams 139)
    Old Indian: jihvá- m., jihvā́- f., juhū́- f. `tongue’
    Avestan: hizvā, hizū, hizvah- ‘Zunge’
    Armenian: lezu, gen. lezui; lizu (seit 10. Jh.) `Zunge’
    Slavic: *ję̄zɨ̄kъ
    Baltic: *leĩǯuw-i-s, *inǯuw-i-s
    Germanic: *tung-ōn- f.
    Proto-Germanic: *tungōn
    Meaning: tongue
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Gothic: tuŋgō f. (n) `tongue’
    Old Norse: tunga f. `Zunge’
    Norwegian: tunga
    Swedish: tunga
    Danish: tunge
    Old English: tunge, -an f. `tongue’
    English: tongue
    Old Frisian: tunge
    Old Saxon: tunga f.
    Middle Dutch: tonghe, tunghe f.
    Dutch: tong f.
    Old Franconian: tunga
    Middle Low German: tunge, tonge
    Old High German: zunga f. `Zunge, Rede, Sprache’
    Middle High German: zunge wk./st. f. ‘zunge; die sprache, der sprechende mensch’
    German: Zunge f.
    Latin: lingua, OLat dingua f. `Zunge; Sprache; Landzunge’, demin. lingula
    Celtic: OIr tenge; Cymr tafod, MCymr tafawt, OCorn tauot, MCorn taves, tavas, MBret teaut, NBret teod `Zunge’ (cf. Ir ligur `Zunge’)
    Albanian: gjúhë, pl. -ë f. ‘tongue, speech)’
    Russ. meaning: язык
    References: WP I 792 f
    Altaic: *tilV
    Proto-Altaic: *tilV
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: tongue; voice
    Russian meaning: язык; голос
    Turkic: *dɨl / *dil
    Proto-Turkic: *dɨl / *dil
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: tongue; language
    Russian meaning: язык
    Old Turkic: tɨl (Orkh., OUygh.)
    Karakhanid: tɨl (MK, KB)
    Turkish: dil
    As you can see, Turkish “dil” and French “langue” are cognates!

  30. I was trained in a very conservative tradition and am too old to change my spots.
    …Which is why I am a prescriptivist 🙂

  31. I’ve studied several Altaic languages and have no doubt that they are related to Indo-European on some deep level. In fact, such “resemblances” are so obvious that even non-linguist notice them.
    In fact, such “resemblances” are so common that non-linguists notice them and mistakenly take them for historical relationships. But if you’re not going to accept marie-lucie’s careful explanation, you’re certainly not going to accept my laconic dismissals, so we’ll just agree to disagree. But dismissing the opinion of linguists (and their “inability to ‘prove’ genetic relationship”) is as silly as dismissing the opinion of experts in any field just because you don’t happen to like their conclusions.
    (I would liken this to the sun going around the earth, which is obviously true. I’ve watched the sun coming up many times and have no doubt that it is circling the earth. In fact, this is so obvious that even non-astronomers notice it.)

  32. Grammatically Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and even Hungarian are so similar that it seems hard to believe they don’t have a common ancestor. Or at least emerged from some common Central Asian Sprachbund. All SOV, all agglutinative, all use postpositions, no grammatical markings for gender, etc. I don’t know how strong the evidence really is. I assume the task of proving or disproving the relationship is made more difficult by the fact that these cultures tend to be very sensitive to implications that their past is different from the national mythology.

  33. marie-lucie says

    SFR: If linguists are unable to prove genetic relationship between languages, who then is able to?
    JC: I did mean “established”, a better word than “proven”.
    A relationship can be hypothesized on seriously considered grounds, and even established in general, even if much remains to be done about the details. I think that the Nostratic hypothesis has merit, but I find many of the current reconstructions unconvincing. For Altaic I don’t know enough about the languages. As for Proto-Austronesian, the relatedness of the languages is not in doubt, but I am doubtful about many of the reconstructions.
    More generally, the lists of potential cognates such as those given by SFReader most often involve large numbers of nouns, and nouns are the easiest of all word categories to be borrowed from one language to another. Verbs are much less likely to be borrowed. Both nouns and verbs are categories in which semantic shift is very likely to happen, obscuring the correct relationships and leading to misleading interpretation of resemblant false cognates on the basis of similar meaning. As for pronouns, in spite of a common opinion that they cannot be borrowed, there are in fact documented cases of pronominal “borrowing” (although I think that at least some of such cases might instead involve retention of the pronouns of a substrate language, along with large-scale vocabulary replacement).

  34. @vanya –
    Your last sentence was very well-stated. I am an American living in Japan who knows very little Japanese, and I love comparative linguistics, but I still feel a weird aversion to considering the possibility that Japanese is related to Korean. Second-hand linguistic jingoism by osmosis, I guess?

  35. marie-lucie says

    vanya: Grammatically Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and even Hungarian are so similar that it seems hard to believe they don’t have a common ancestor. Or at least emerged from some common Central Asian Sprachbund. All SOV, all agglutinative, all use postpositions, no grammatical markings for gender, etc.
    Again, I am not very familiar with the languages you mention, but such structural similarities along with considerable differences of vocabulary and of morpheme shapes for the same grammatical meanings are indeed most likely to arise from membership in a Sprachbund (literally a “language union”), rather than from descent from a common ancestor.
    Word order is not fixed in stone: most languages have ways of manipulating word order (eg for selective emphasis, for question formation, and other purposes), so that languages in frequent contact can eventually settle on a common basic order. The use of postpositions vs. prepositions is linked to basic word order (SOV vs SVO).
    Agglutinative structure means that morphemes with specific meanings are kept separate from each other, unlike for instance the verbal endings in older IE languages, which often blend several meanings – person, number, tense, mood – in a single morpheme. Agglutination of separate morphemes for such meanings makes the structure obvious, therefore more likely to be imitated by second language learners.
    Lack of “gender” marking is also to be expected in a Sprachbund if only some of the languages originally had some form of marking, or if the same lexemes had different genders in different languages. Learning grammatical gender, as in French or German, is very difficult for English speakers, for instance, and French and German speakers (and even French and Spanish or Italian speakers) learning each other’s languages also have difficulty since the gender of even closely related nouns is often unpredictable between one language and another, even for words which refer to sexed beings: witness German das Mädchen, das Fräulein ‘the girl, the young lady’, both of which have neuter gender (because of their suffixes, which trigger the gender of the suffixed noun, but borrowed words are usually learned whole rather than analyzed).
    Of course, even if “Altaic” turns out to be a Sprachbund, some of the families within it may still be demonstrably related to each other.

  36. “Grammatically Turkish, Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and even Hungarian are so similar that it seems hard to believe they don’t have a common ancestor. Or at least emerged from some common Central Asian Sprachbund. All SOV, all agglutinative, all use postpositions, no grammatical markings for gender, etc.”
    Well that describes Quechua and most Australian languages and, and…. Dravidian. So those aren’t very diagnostic characteristics. Especially a lack of gender markings is diagnostic of nothing, since it is the default state of affairs, given that masculine/feminine gender marking tends to add no actual information – for the vast majority of nouns – and is thus an idiosyncratic tic in a lnaguage group.
    “I assume the task of proving or disproving the relationship is made more difficult by the fact that these cultures tend to be very sensitive to implications that their past is different from the national mythology.”
    Yeah, like death threats to high school textbook writers who dare to say that there was a migration fom Korea to Japan that may have resulted in the first Japanese state. thjose national mythologies are the equivalent of Creationism in those countries.

  37. J.W. Brewer says

    The thing is, it’s difficult to predict the politics of these things because all different sorts of historical-linguistics claims (some with more scholarly support than others) have been found congenial by different sorts of nationalist/chauvinist groups at various times and places. It could be a source of national pride for ones language to be an isolate, all special and unique. Or it could equally well be a source of pride for it to be part of a little-understood-because-wrongly-denied-by-foreigners-and-imperialists macrofamily of vast geographical scope. E.g., a hundred or so years ago, some of the more exotic/chauvinistic strands of the Hungarian intelligentsia were very interested in things Japanese because the “pan-Turanian” theory linking the languages was either to their taste or they had found a way to spin it to their taste.

  38. SFreader: my impression is that you don’t understand what a genetic relationship means in linguistics. Two or more languages are genetically related iff they were a single language at some point in the past. That is IT. How (dis)similar genetically related languages are today is quite irrelevant.
    Now, some languages are so similar to one another that coincidence can be excluded. Granted. But as Marie-Lucie quite correctly pointed out above, language contact can yield similarities between languages that can easily be mistaken for similarities due to genetic relationship.
    Jim had pointed out that Quechua is similar to the “Altaic” languages: I would like to add that Bengali, an Indo-European language, is also quite Altaic-like (SOV, mostly agglutinative, no grammatical gender, postpositions). That Bengali, Russian and English are very different-looking languages is obvious. The relevance of this fact, when it comes to genetic relationship (all are Indo-European), is nill.
    As for your repeating the claim that French “langue” and Turkish “dil” are cognates: first of all, such a word can be borrowed, as English “language” proves all too well. Second, have a careful look at the actual forms: What do Proto-Turkik *DIL and Proto-Indo-European *IG’HU/ING’HU actually have in common? Nothing, apart from an /i/ phoneme. Moreover, the uncertainties surrounding the reconstruction of the initial consonant or consonant cluster of the Proto-Indo-European form mean that the odds of finding a “match”/”cognate” involving said consonant/consonant cluster are rather good.
    Now, an initial *DL in the Indo-European form works best if this “etymology” is to work: but please note that the alternation between Old Latin DINGUA and CLassical Latin DINGUA, which is a major reason for postulating an initial *DL cluster, has been argued to in fact be a shift from DINGUA to LINGUA within the history of Latin because of the influence of the verb LINGERE “to lick”. If this is accepted, the case for a *DL cluster in Proto-Indo-European is weakened, and the similarity to *DIL boils down to both words beginning with a voiced dental stop. Thus, calling this etymology “fragile/built on sand” is being mild. And unfortunately the same is true for most if not all such “Nostratic” etymologies.
    As someone brighter than I once said, in comparative linguistics quality, not quantity, is what matters.

  39. Indeed. In the Ringe et al. analysis, the grounding for the Greco-Armenian node depends on only two characters, but they are very robust: *a:mr ‘(24-hour) day’ against Latin/Vedic *dye:ws (forgive me for omitting the righteous diacritics) and *h2oyu ‘not’ against Tocharian *ma and otherwise general *ne. The first of these in particular is morphologically unique in the IE languages, and the second is apparently derived from an archaic word for ‘life’. It beggars belief that either of these could be coincidental, and recent borrowing is excluded as well, because the surface forms are too different. Common descent is a more parsimonious explanation than innovation in one language followed by ancient borrowing in the other; a common substrate cannot be ruled out, however.
    Ringe et al. did an interesting sub-experiment using phylogenetic methods on the modern West Germanic languages without reference to their older forms. The result is a complete hairball, with no “best” tree structure. If we knew these languages only in their modern form (the typical case of language relatedness), it would be beyond doubt that they were related, but we would probably never be able to work out how, because of the criss-crossing recent borrowings. Similarly, the Proto-Austronesian hypothesis is firmly established, and the Austronesian languages consist of lots of first-order groups whose relatedness is obvious. But exactly what the structure between groups is, is the subject of constant controversy.

  40. AG: Saxo’s name was a common one in mediaeval Denmark, per WP. I don’t know its etymology.

  41. John, how about just “Saxon” as a personal name, like “Dana”? Or “Frenchy” or “Francesco.”
    Something else to look out for is false negatives due to loss of evidence. If out of all of IE only English, Welsh and Irish survived, there would be no principled reason to consider them genetically related – all their similarities would look to be due to borrowing or areal effects. That would be a reasonable conclusion, just inaccurate.

  42. marie-lucie says

    Jim, this would perhaps be true if the only consideration was vocabulary. But this is where morphology, especially old irregular morphology (such as the forms of to be for IE languages), has a crucial role to play. Comparison of vocabulary is fraught with perils of many kinds, but complex morphology is much less subject to coincidence, borrowing, semantic shift, areal trends, etc.

  43. David Derbes says

    A long time ago (forty-five years) I was interested in old weapons, and tooling through Europe with my mother, visited nearly every museum holding antiquities in several northern European cities. I definitely saw scramasaxes (pl?) in either Edinburgh or Stockholm, maybe both. Large knives, maybe twelve inch blades. The word was then unknown to me. Seemed to be the Scandinavian equivalent of a Bowie knife. May have encountered the term subsequently in Harold L. Peterson’s “History of Knives”.

  44. marie-lucie says

    Proto-Indo-European *IG’HU/ING’HU
    Etienne, are these actually accepted reconstructions? The VCV structure is very strange for PIE, and I am not sure what to make of the G’H segment (or segments). Usually, the apostrophe indicates glottalization, but that does not seem right here. Are these new, alternate reconstructions by Nostraticists?
    “Etymologies”: I had always thought that the word “etymology” referred to tracing the origin of a word. An etymological dictionary lists, for instance, Fr étoile from Latin stella (itself from *ster-la) (and so on back in time to PIE). This is a “vertical” definition. Cognate words in other languages may be listed to provide additional useful information, eg “cf It stella, Sp estrella” (etc), but I would not consider these extra words as part of the “etymology” of étoile. Lately I have been puzzled to find that for some linguists, “etymology” seems to mean list of cognates, a “horizontal” definition. Am I confused, or are they?

  45. ‘Etymology’ according to the “Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics:” The study of the historical relation between a word and the earlier form of forms from which it has, or has hypothetically developed.
    ‘Etymology’ in MWCD is somewhat broader: “the history of a linguistic form . . . by tracing its transmission from one language to another . . . . by identifying its cognates in other languages . . .”
    So, maybe the general understanding of ‘etymology’ is a little different than the technical.

  46. Lately I have been puzzled to find that for some linguists, “etymology” seems to mean list of cognates, a “horizontal” definition. Am I confused, or are they?
    They are. I guess historical linguistics isn’t part of the training of most linguists these days.

  47. marie-lucie says

    I guess historical linguistics isn’t part of the training of most linguists these days.
    Too true! and it has been that way for quite a while. Yet when you ask beginning students of linguistics what part of language they are especially interested in, the majority answer “where words come from” or something to that effect. And graduate programs in historical linguistics are few and far between, in spite of student demand.

  48. Correction: in my comment above I meant the alternation between Old Latin DINGUA and Classical LINGUA: I typed DINGUA both times.
    Marie-Lucie: in Indo-European notation K’, G’, G’H stand for “palatal stops”, whose actual realization is quite uncertain. These merge with the reflexes of Indo-European velar stops in Greek, Latin, Celtic, Germanic and Tocharian, whereas in Baltic, Slavic and Indo-Iranian they yield distinct affricate or sibilant phonemes. Thus, Indo-European *K’MTOM yields CENTUM in Latin, (HE)KATON in Greek, HUND(RED) in English (*K’ turned to H through Grimm’s law, just like Proto-Indo-European *K) versus SATAM in Sanskrit, and STO in Russian.
    The root for “language” would actually best be represented as *C(C)IG’HU/C(C)ING’HU because of the uncertainty surrounding the initial consonant(s). You’re quite right, a VCV structure would be strange for a Proto-Indo-European root.
    And I’m afraid I must agree with our cyberhost: the horizontal meaning of “etymology” which puzzles you seems related to generalized ignorance of historical linguistics among linguists more than to some change in usage among actual historical linguists. While I agree with you that students find historical linguistics very interesting, the marginalization of the field means that all too many linguists will believe themselves up to the task of teaching the basics of historical linguistics to undergraduates.
    True story: when I taught my very first general linguistics class, back when I was a graduate student, I had to use the class material of the professor who normally taught this course. Which was fine at first, but during the week when I introduced historical linguistics I had to make my own hand-outs, as the professor’s class material was so full of errors as to be worse than useless (my favorite: a chart showing “cognates” between Romance languages, a majority of which were in fact loanwords, chiefly learned borrowings from Latin: indeed, under “Romanian” NOT A SINGLE ONE of the words was a true cognate: they were all borrowings from French or Italian).

  49. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: in Indo-European notation K’, G’, G’H stand for “palatal stops”
    I briefly thought this might be the case, but I don’t remember seeing the palatals written that way before. Perhaps it’s because I don’t often need to refer to PIE.
    As for the final U, is it supposed to be an actual vowel, or W? and if W, shouldn’t it be part of the consonant (eg *gwh with both w and h raised)? Is there a reason to write U rather than W? And while I am at it, is I part of the PIE vowel inventory? I thought PIE only had E, A, O, and perhaps even just E and A?

  50. marie-lucie says

    p.s. Unfortunately for the field, I can well believe the anecdote about the Romanian data!

  51. “Jim, this would perhaps be true if the only consideration was vocabulary. But this is where morphology, especially old irregular morphology (such as the forms of to be for IE languages), has a crucial role to play. Comparison of vocabulary is fraught with perils of many kinds, but complex morphology is much less subject to coincidence, borrowing, semantic shift, areal trends, etc.”
    That’s what I mean, M-L. The morphology is exactly where Welsh and Irish on one side and Englsih on the other look really different, while quite a number of oncstructions mirror each other. The truly genetically shared features are strewn about, and however old they are, since the languages have been in situ for so long, they could old borrowings.

  52. Marie-Lucie: “I thought PIE only had E, A, O, and perhaps even just E and A”
    According to Watkins (“The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots”), IE had both long and short /e/, /o/, /a/, /i/, /u/ in addition to four syllabic sonorants.

  53. marie-lucie says

    Thanks, GW. From what I can gather here and there, it seems that the exact number of PIE vowels is still not firmly established, and different authors have different opinions.
    Jim: The truly genetically shared features are strewn about, and however old they are, since the languages have been in situ for so long, they could old borrowings.
    It is true that it can be very difficult to differentiate old borrowings from old cognates, but even old borrowings can often be discovered because they don’t quite follow the rules of correspondences between true cognates, or the phonotactic rules of the borrowing language. Of course, determining the status of old resemblant forms needs very careful analysis within each language and just as careful comparison between the languages.

  54. Marie-Lucie: Indo-European (short) /i/ and /u/ are assumed to be syllabic allophones of /y/ and /w/, respectively: as a result some notations of Indo-European use the letters I and U in all positions. Most use Y and W for non-syllabic, and I and U for syllabic, allophones of the two phonemes, respectively.
    Sometimes, to maintain the parallel with the other four phonemes which could be + or -syllabic (/l/, /r/, /m/, /n/) the syllabic forms of /i/ and /u/ are written as I and U with a special diacritic (small circle directly beneath the letter), with the plain forms being then by default assumed to be non-syllabic.
    As for the palatal stops: the diacritic symbol is normally written directly above the velar consonant…except, of course, in the writings of those Indo-Europeanists who do not believe that Indo-European palatal stops were separate phonemes.
    (Hence, when I read certain “scholars” whom I shall refrain from naming claim that proof of genetic relationship entails a complete reconstruction of the phonology of the proto-language, I assume they are either A) Joking, B) Ignorant as dirt, or C) Irrationally hostile to any new discovery. For most, I suspect B and C, as none has actually dismissed Indo-European on account of the uncertainties surrounding its phonology. Also, all display a remarkable lack of humor. Okay, back to the subject at hand…)
    As for GHW: actually, the labio-velars are typically represented with superscript W, but since in the quoted reconstruction we are dealing with a palatal G we are obviously dealing with a sequence of palatal voiced aspirate stop + U/W, as opposed to a voiced aspirate labio-velar.
    And I agree with Jim: my own impression is that if (Modern) Welsh, Irish and English were the only Indo-European languages left it would be possible to establish that the first two are related, but proving that Celtic and English are related would be impossible: I think we’d have some tantalizing hints, but not enough to prove a genetical relationship.

  55. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: Thanks for the precisions. They confirm more or less what I had learned, but Watkins also has a long version of all the vowels.
    About the Welsh/Irish//English etc hypothesis, I was not arguing that the relationship would be findable, only that certain things are not totally beyond recovery. Whether they are enough to constitute proof of anything, is another problem. But the hypothesized state of affairs is what we find in many parts of the world where existing languages may be remnants of much larger groups. Partial, tentative results are better than nothing, and there is always a remote possibility that other data might come to light.
    … when I read certain “scholars” whom I shall refrain from naming claim that proof of genetic relationship entails a complete reconstruction of the phonology of the proto-language, I assume they are either A) Joking, B) Ignorant as dirt, or C) Irrationally hostile to any new discovery. For most, I suspect B and C, as none has actually dismissed Indo-European on account of the uncertainties surrounding its phonology. Also, all display a remarkable lack of humor….
    I know some of those too, and will refrain from naming them! (they are not necessarily the same ones that you know). Some of them think that because they may have reconstructed the ancestral phonology of a small, obvious group equivalent to, perhaps, Ibero-Romance, they would be equally capable of dealing with the reconstruction of a group comparable to Indo-European, or alternately, that it would be absolutely impossible to reconstruct anything in a group even slightly more diverse than Ibero-Romance. It is either the obvious, or nothing. This is not a scientific attitude! Fortunately the early Indo-Europeanists did not have such prejudices, or they would not even have started on their reconstructive project. In the present state of the discipline, with lesser-known languages which very few people have worked on, I don’t trust displays such as “the phonemic inventory of Proto-XYZ” (there are many such on Wikipedia), when there is no explanation of how this inventory was arrived at. I want to see the lists of forms that the inventory and correspondence rules are based on, and too often the result is very disappointing.

  56. Trond Engen says

    I want to declare /w/ and /j/ the two surviving laryngeals. They are to /u/ and /i/ pretty much what /h1/, /h2/ and /h3/ are to /e/, /a/ and /o/ respectively.
    The elusiveness of the PIE vowel system could be an actual feature of PIE. I have come to think that the oddities stem from early (or Pre-)PIE phases of diphtongisation (schwa + semivowel, not unlike Skånska (Scanian)) and apocope.
    But don’t listen to me.

  57. saksbehandler = caseworker
    The link with “sax”, a knife, is obvious. In early mediaeval Norway, the Department of Social Services would generally resolve most intrafamilial disputes by sending round a large hairy man with a knife who would stab the parties involved in the dispute until the argument went away. The term is still used for caseworkers even though the Norwegian government abandoned “conflict resolution by stabbing” in 1963.

  58. Trond Engen says

    Norway was way ahead of its time. A saksbehandler‘s work was subject to unexpected controls by supervising authorities. These are known as stikkprøver “stabtests”.

  59. Trond Engen says

    diphtongisation (schwa + semivowel, not unlike Skånska (Scanian)) and apocope
    I meant syncope.

  60. “It is true that it can be very difficult to differentiate old borrowings from old cognates, but even old borrowings can often be discovered because they don’t quite follow the rules of correspondences between true cognates, or the phonotactic rules of the borrowing language.”
    Of *the* langauage. Yes, if we are talking about a unified langauge, but in all three of these we are talking about dialect clusters, to this day.
    Your larger point is correct, lots of things are recoverable and this reductionist either/or attiude is lazy and unhelpful. I’m just saying, on the evidence we would have without the rest of IE, you’d never get a conviction ofn the relatedness of Insular Celtic and Insular Germanic languages. (Never heard them called that but it’s about time. The Brits wiould get a chuckle.)
    ” In the present state of the discipline, with lesser-known languages which very few people have worked on, I don’t trust displays such as “the phonemic inventory of Proto-XYZ” (there are many such on Wikipedia), when there is no explanation of how this inventory was arrived at. ”
    Oh my God, sometimes it looks like pure willful esthetic preference. Some of those look like the kind of garden plant collectors put together (like me) – “So why did you put that cactus in with the begonias? It’s looks a little strange.” “Because I love it so much and I didn’t have anywhere else to put it.”

  61. Trond: you may be interested to know that there are at least two Indo-Europeanists, Witold Manczak and William Schmalstieg, who have rejected laryngeal theory. As I recall the latter claims that, in order to explain the oddities of the Proto-Indo-European vowel system, a reduction of diphthongs to monophthongs is a likelier explanation than laryngeals.
    Marie-Lucie: I entirely agree. Considering how radically the reconstructed phonology of Proto-Indo-European has been re-evaluated over the past century, it would be silly (to put it mildly) to believe that various features (including phonology) of other proto-languages which have been studied by a handful of scholars (or sometimes even a single one) could be treated as established fact. At best, such reconstructions are a good starting point.

  62. marie-lucie says

    Trond: I have come to think that the oddities stem from early (or Pre-)PIE phases of diphtongisation (schwa + semivowel,…)
    I think this is very likely, but you mean monophthongization (eg from schwa + w, to long u:), as in Etienne’s wording “reduction of diphthongs to monophthongs”. (The opposite does happen, though probably not at the PIE stage).
    Etienne, “such reconstructions are a good starting point”: at best indeed! only if they have been done competently and the competence is evidenced by at least some examples of correspondences. Here is an actual instance (I won’t name the languages or the linguist): languages A and B occupy neighbouring territories and have many resemblances of every kind, so that their relationship is quite obvious; one difference is that where language A has the phonemes k, q, language B regularly has x, X if in final position, and these correspondences are found in many cognates. One linguist reconstructed the relevant Proto-AB consonants as *k, *X. At least one of the two had to be right!

  63. Trond Engen says

    Etienne: I should say that I have nothing against laryngeal theory, I’m trying to explain to myself what sort of beasts the reconstructed “laryngeals” were. And since I’m learning by immersion, it’s quite likely that I’ve picked the idea up from better thinkers than myself.

  64. Trond Engen says

    picked the idea up
    Interesting editing error. I changed from it to the idea without even thinking of rewriting. It’s interesting because in Norwegian I tend to divide compound verbs like that when the object is slightly emphasised. It’s a western/northern feature (I think) in my otherwise plain southeastern -lect — probably from my father.

  65. Trond Engen says

    I’ve thought of both di- and monophtongization — the tastes on my phtong changes all the time — and I was close to suggesting diphtongization followed by monophtongization. The problem I have with monophtongization alone is that the diphtongs are all schwa + semivowel, which I think is rather odd for a “natural” phonology but likely for secondary diphtongs. And if we posit a preceding phase of diphtongization (something like e -> @’, a -> @R, o -> @RW, i -> @j, u -> @w), I don’t know if we need the subsequent monophtongization to explain the different forms.

  66. Trond Engen says

    But you should still not listen to me. The relation to actual evidence is utterly superficial, so whatever sense I might be making is purely coincidental.

  67. where language A has the phonemes k, q, language B regularly has x, X
    It’s really meaningless whether you use /k/ or /q/, /x/ or /X/ in that situation, and I might, if I were in the appropriate mood, use /k/, /X/ just to signal l’arbitraire du signe (here in the sense of IPA sign).
    More darkly, though, I suspect that it’s common to forget which of [x] and [X] represent what; I was certainly often guilty of this error in former days. We frontophones often get our back fricatives wrong.
    picked the idea up
    This phrase is outnumbered 4:1 on Google by picked up the idea, but I don’t think it’s wrong.

  68. SFReader says

    About old borrowings.
    Proto-IE: *mark(‘)-
    Nostratic etymology: Nostratic etymology
    Meaning: horse
    Germanic: *márx-a-/*marg-á- m.; *márx-i- c., *márx-iō(n-)/*marg-iṓ(n-) f.
    Proto-Germanic: *márxa-z, *margá-z; *márxi-z, *márxiō(n), *margiṓ(n)
    Meaning: steed
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Old Norse: mar-r m. `Pferd’; mer-r f. `Stute’
    Norwegian: merr `Stute’
    Swedish: märr `Stute’
    Danish: mär `Stute’
    Old English: mearh, gen. meares m. `horse, steed’; { miere }
    English: mare
    Old Frisian: OWFris merrie
    Old Saxon: meriha, { merge `Stute’ }
    Middle Dutch: mērie, merrie, marie, marrie
    Dutch: merrie f., dial. mērǝ, mēr, merrǝjǝ, mari
    Middle Low German: mēre, mērie `Stute’
    Old High German: marah- в слож. `Pferd’ (9.Jh.); meriha (9.Jh.) `Stute’
    Middle High German: marc (-k-), march (-h-), md. mar st. n. `streitross’; mɛrhe wk. f. ‘stute, mähre; hure’
    German: Mähre
    Celtic: Gaul acc. markan (Paus. X.19), Marco-durum ON; Ir marc `Pferd’; Cymr march `Pferd’
    Russ. meaning: лошадь (конь/кобыла)
    References: WP II 235
    Altaic: *mórV
    Proto-Altaic: *mórV
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: horse
    Russian meaning: лошадь
    Turkic: *bura (?)
    Mongolian: *mori
    Tungus-Manchu: *murin
    Korean: *mằr
    There is of course possibly related
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *mrāH / *mrāŋ
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: horse
    Chinese: 馬 *mrāʔ horse.
    Character: 馬
    Modern (Beijing) reading: mǎ
    Preclassic Old Chinese: mrāʔ
    Classic Old Chinese: mrā́
    Western Han Chinese: mrā́
    Eastern Han Chinese: mrǟ́
    Early Postclassic Chinese: mạ̄́
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: mạ̄́
    Late Postclassic Chinese: mạ̄́
    Middle Chinese: mạ́
    Fanqie: 姥雅
    Rhyme class: 馬
    English meaning : horse
    This seems to be a case of very old borrowing from one of the Indoeuropean languages dated circa 2000 BC.
    Bronze Age nomadic chariot warriors and all that…

  69. marie-lucie says

    JC: “Signs” may be arbitrary, but phonological change is not. There are, if not laws, at least strong general tendencies, which obtain across vast numbers of languages because of the workings of the human vocal apparatus.
    A change from stop to fricative under certain conditions (notably word-finally and before consonants) is extremely common, while a change from fricative to stop is rare (and such apparent changes can be accounted for by special circumstances). One of the languages here has a pair of stops k, q (palatal and uvular), the other one a pair of corresponding fricatives x, X. By far the most likely situation is that the language with stops preserved the original consonants, the one with fricatives derived them from original stops.
    Two consonants in a pair do not have to change as a pair, but if only one of the original stops had changed to a fricative, one would expect it to be the uvular one (since this happens in many languages) rather than the palatal one (something which also happens, but not as commonly, and not in preference to a uvular). So hypothesizing an original pair of *k (palatal stop) coupled with *X (uvular fricative) in the proto-language is most unlikely on several counts. Of course the linguist could have thought that the proto-language at one point had both *k and *X, but postulating this situation would be unnecessary hair-splitting unless there was a strong reason to hypothesize such a separate intermediate stage (and the data I have seen do not support making such an assumption).
    it’s common to forget which of [x] and [X] represent what
    Perhaps so if you are working with languages which only have one of these fricatives, or in which they are in complementary distribution (as in German ich and ach), but not so much if you are working on a daily basis with languages which always keep them separate.

  70. I dislike the practice of giving Chinese as the only example of Sino-Tibetan. Chinese is relatively stable after ca. 300 but ascertaining the pronunciation before Middle Chinese is quite conjectural and even oldest Old Chinese is not exactly lexically the most typical Sino-Tibetan language.
    (The above remark is obviously not directed to SFReader)

  71. What a lucid methodologist Marie-lucie is! Wouldn’t any historical linguist love to have their work read by her?

  72. SFReader: actually, the word you quote probably did not exist in Proto-Indo-European: quite apart from reflexes thereof only being found in Germanic and Celtic, */a/ was a rare phoneme in Proto-Indo-European which was found in onomatopeic/expressive words only. The Tibetan and Old Chinese words may also be instances of a loanword which entered each language separately, or perhaps where one language borrowed the word from the other. Nineteenth-century German philologists called this kind of word a WANDERWORT: a word that is so widespread that the original language it came from is unknown. And indeed it is possible that the source language is one that left no attested daughter languages and no documents, hence remaining forever unknown to us.
    Marie-Lucie: actually, I’m not sure I agree with you here. I grant you that as a rule stops turn into fricatives, not vice-versa. BUT in final position consonants can undergo various fortitions that are unknown to the same consonants in other positions, and for a final fricative to turn into a stop is by no means unheard of (Classical Armenian final /k’/ goes back to Indo-European final */s/, for example: tellingly, Indo-European */s/ does not become a stop in Classical Armenian in any other position).
    Moreover, why should the Proto-language be assumed to have only had simple fricatives and stops? We could imagine that Proto-AB had some kind of final cluster, say */Ck/ and */Cq/ (the exact phonological identity of C is irrelevant, and possibly unknowable), where A sheds the first member (C) of the cluster whereas B sheds the second member of both clusters after the first member (C) has become a fricative with the same point of articulation as the (subsequently lost) second consonant.
    Meaning that the linguist you wrote about who “played it safe” may well have gotten both wrong, ironically enough.

  73. But you should still not listen to me. The relation to actual evidence is utterly superficial, so whatever sense I might be making is purely coincidental.
    If I had headed notepaper, Trond, this would be the heading.

  74. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: regarding my A/B example, you are right that theoretically there could be more complexity to justify the reconstruction I object to. To make sure, I have just reread the article where these reconstructions are given. The distribution of q and X is slightly more complex than what I stated above, but the correspondences in the languages in question are simple and that there is absolutely no reason to invoke exceptional rules or former clusters. The article is about all the correspondences between these two languages, and the uvular correspondences are not the only ones that I find very problematic.

  75. SFReader says

    Beckwith gives the following etymology for this root
    “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 ( EIEC 277). The word for these warriors has a cognate in Old Persian marīka (from Proto-Indo-Iranian *mariyaka) ‘member of a retinue’ (EIEC 630), 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 *merio- 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 (*morios ) with a precise cognate in OIr[ish] muire ‘leader, chief’ ” (EIEC 31). 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 ( EIEC 150; Pok. 735: *mer-, *moro- s; Wat. 42: *mer)—are related to the derived word *marko (with the highly productive sui x *- 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”

  76. I like Beckwith a lot, but he’s just speculating here. Speculating is fun, but it mustn’t be mistaken for facts.

  77. SFReader: the fact that the word is attested in Celtic and Germanic only does make it less likely that it is an Indo-European coinage. Also, it should be remembered that, because of its phonology and phonotactics, Indo-European must have been a language with a great deal of homophony (A linguist named Guy Jucquois wrote a short monograph on the topic, if anyone is interested). Hence the similarity between *marko and words meaning “mortal, warrior” may be coincidental.

  78. And in general a healthy attitude is that anything that may be coincidental almost certainly is coincidental. That’s why honest historical linguists insist on multiple examples of alleged correspondences; simply accepting any pair of words that seems similar in sound and meaning will produce far more false positives than true ones.

  79. marie-lucie says

    Etienne: A linguist named Guy Jucquois wrote a short monograph on the topic, if anyone is interested
    I am interested.

  80. marie-lucie says

    LH: in general a healthy attitude is that anything that may be coincidental almost certainly is coincidental
    But this attitude can also be carried too far! There are linguists who are so fearful of making mistakes that they doubt anything that is not immediately obvious.
    honest historical linguists insist on multiple examples of alleged correspondences
    Yes, absolutely.
    simply accepting any pair of words that seems similar in sound and meaning will produce far more false positives than true ones.
    Yes. This is one reason why assembling resemblant forms (potential cognates) according to their meanings (eg “tongue”, “horse”), rather than according to their forms (eg words beginning in specific consonants, etc), is unreliable. Listing words corresponding to a meaning often leads the unwary to accept word-pairs which may be similar but do not quite follow the sound correspondences attested in other word-pairs. Finding the regular correspondences results from detailed comparisons of forms, more than from similar meanings. Sounds within words tend to change across the vocabulary, as long as they are in the same position or next to the same other sounds in all the words where they occur, regardless of meaning. For instance, as part of the set of changes called Grimm’s Law, all the initial p‘s of PIE changed into f‘s in the Germanic languages (hence English father, fish, foot, versus Latin pater, pisc-is, Greek pod-os, among many others). On the other hand, meaning may change in individual words, but not identically across a whole slew of words.

  81. But this attitude can also be carried too far!
    Sure (as can anything), but it seems pretty clear to me that the danger is in the other direction. The natural human instinct on noticing similarities is to create a story that joins the similar items, and one of the first things you have to learn to do as a scientist is to squelch that instinct pretty firmly.

  82. marie-lucie says

    LH, I agree about needing to “squelch the instinct”, but that does not mean that scientists should just stop there, especially when proper training in the discipline gives them tools to determine where the truth may lie, or at least to eliminate the most egregious errors, and then to build on the positive results. If something could be wrong (because of many possible factors), it could also be right, and the scientist’s job is to determine which is which.

  83. Marie-Lucie: since you’re interested…[dramatic build-up of tension with orchestral music]: JUCQUOIS, GUY. 1973. “La reconstruction linguistique: application à l’indo-européen”. Louvain, Institut de linguistique (Cours et documents de l’Institut de linguistique: 2)
    In a nutshell, the author argues that, either Indo-European had a much richer phonology than is reconstructed, or homophony was rampant in the language.
    I entirely agree with both you and Hat, and I believe I see why you each emphasize different things. Marie-Lucie works in a field whose scholars are arch-conservative stick-in-the-mud-don’t-shake-the-orthodox-status-quo-of-which-we-are-the-guardians kind of people, for whom odd facts, anomalies and the like, are to be explained away, not examined more closely.
    Our cyber-host, on the other hand, is much more aware of how much pseudo-scholarship is out there (on the web, among other places) proving that [insert language here] is the oldest/purest/mother of all/ languages. For him to wish for more rigourous standards is very understandable.
    While I basically agree with Marie-Lucie that we need to find regular correspondences on the basis of multiple word pairings between languages, I wish to add that it should be remembered that the correspondences themselves can often not be obvious. A brighter linguist than I, Alexis Manaster Ramer, gave some nice examples: thus, some Pama-Nyungan languages of Australia systematically lost their initial syllable, meaning that no sound correspondence involving their sister languages’ initial consonants could be found; Vietnamese tone corresponds to final segments in Mon-Khmer languages; and, to add an example of my own, French deletion or devoicing of a final consonant corresponds to the presence of a final vowel other than /a/ in some other Romance languages. Compare:
    French /vif/, /viv/, /drwa/, /drwat/ Portuguese /vivu/, /viva/, /direitu/, /direita/
    It may well be that proving the existence of some new family will involve something less obvious than a mere segmental phoneme-to-segmental phoneme matching.

  84. Marie-Lucie: The German ich/ach contrast is actually palatal/velar rather than velar/uvular. There may be varieties of German that have the uvular rather than velar fricative. In Dutch the situation is a tangled mess: formerly (and still in Belgian Dutch) ch and g were voiceless and voiced palatal fricatives, but in standard Dutch the former is now /x/ and the latter varies from /x/ to /X/.
    I had been meaning to mention to you that PIE *kwel- ‘revolve, move about’ is widely believed to be a Wanderwort (at least among people who are sane enough not to believe it is a Proto-World form), especially in the derived form *kw(e)-kwl-o- ‘wheel’. Similar forms appear as far east as China, and may well have passed into the (wheel-less) New World as well in similar meanings. The AHD4 entry (which just shows the IE forms) is I think worth reprinting:
    I. Basic form *kwel-: colony, cult, cultivate, culture, Kultur; incult, inquiline, silvicolous, from Latin colere, to till, cultivate, inhabit (< *kwel-o-).
    II. Suffixed form *kwel-es-: telic, telium, telo-, telos; entelechy, talisman, teleology, teleost, teleutospore, from Greek telos, “completion of a cycle,” consummation, perfection, end, result.
    III. Suffixed reduplicated form *kw(e)-kwl-o-, circle. 1. wheel, from Old English hwol, hweogol, wheel, from Germanic *hwewlaz. 2. cycle, cyclo-, cycloid, cyclone, cyclosis; bicycle, encyclical, epicycle, from Greek kuklos, circle, wheel. 3. chakra, chukker, from Sanskrit cakram, circle, wheel. 4. Metathesized form *kwe-lkw-o-. charkha, from Old Persian *carka-.
    IV. O-grade form *kwol-:
    1. Suffixed form *kwol-so-, “that on which the head turns,” neck. a. (i) hawse, from Old Norse hals, neck, ship’s bow; (ii) ringhals, from Middle Dutch hals, neck; (iii) habergeon, hauberk, from Old French hauberc, hauberk, from Germanic compound *h(w)als-berg-, “neck-protector,” gorget (*bergan, to protect). (i)–(iii) all from Germanic *h(w)alsaz; b. col, collar, collet, cullet; accolade, decollate1, décolleté, machicolate, machicolation, torticollis, from Latin collum, neck.
    2. Suffixed form *kwol-a:-: –colous; pratincole, from Latin -cola and incola, inhabitant.
    3. Suffixed form *kwol-o-: a. ancillary, from Latin anculus, “he who bustles about,” servant; b. pole, pulley, from Greek polos, axis of a sphere; c. bucolic, from Greek boukolos, cowherd.
    4. Suffixed form *kwol-es- (probably a blend of o-grade *kwol-o- and expected e-grade *kwel-es-): calash, kolacky, from Slavic kolo, koles-, wheel.
    5. Suffixed o-grade form *kwol-eno- in Old Iranian compound *vah-carana-.
    6. Suffixed zero-grade variant form *kw-i: palimpsest, palindrome, palingenesis, palinode, from Greek palin, again (< “revolving”).
    (Pokorny 1. kuel- 639.)

  85. marie-lucie says

    in a field whose scholars are arch-conservative stick-in-the-mud-don’t-shake-the-orthodox-status-quo-of-which-we-are-the-guardians kind of people
    You said it! I think that some of these people have had (unbeknownst to them) only limited training in historical linguistics and are therefore insecure when it comes to trying to go beyond the obvious.
    something less obvious than a mere segmental phoneme-to-segmental phoneme matching
    Oh, absolutely! that’s where you start (along with a careful examination of morphology), but then you have to go beyond it, to say “what if …?” (eg “what if language X had lost initial consonants”? I think Terry Crowley found this somewhere in the Pacific too) and explore where the hypothesis leads you – sometimes to a dead end, sometimes to a link with something else you first thought was unrelated, etc. What I object to is the attitude (common among Americanists) that a relationship between languages “is either obvious, or for ever unknowable” (tell that to the early Indo-Europeanists!), or “if you allow X, you open the door to … “. There is a big difference between carefully exploring the implications of a hypothesis and jumping to a premature conclusion.
    JC: You are right about velar/uvular – the main point is whether a language has two – front and back – consonants with closure somewhere in the palate area, or just one. There is usually some leeway in how exactly the difference is realized phonetically, especially according to the neighbouring vowels.
    Yes, I know in general about *kwel ‘curving, revolving, etc’, but thank you for the whole list. It looks like there must have been two homophonous roots in PIE since forms with meanings like ’till, inhabit, etc’ suggest a different root. In my own linguistic neck of the woods (roughly North America along the Pacific) there is a widespread root *qwel for ‘rotate, curve, etc’, and *kwel is found with these meanings in languages which do not have uvulars but only corresponding velars. I think that in Semitic there is also *qwel ‘revolve, etc’, and I am pretty sure it must have existed in Proto-Austronesian. The meaning of the derivatives is not usually associated with continuous rotation such as that of a wheel, but rather with curving (as with a bow, the thin moon, etc) or with possible rotation in situ such as with the neck, wrist or ankle (cf also Latin collum and others, ‘neck’). The PIE root probably did not imply continuous rotation: continuity in the motion of a wheel is indicated by the reduplication in the ancestor of “wheel”. Similarly, reduplicated forms for “circle” (“cycle”, etc) indicate a continuous curve. (I am surprised not to see in this list the word “whelk”, which surely must belong with the same root).
    I have been wondering (not just from this example) if pre-PIE might not have had uvulars, which fell together with velars. Alternately, PIE could have been in close contact with a language (eg a Semitic one) which had uvulars, and replaced the uvulars with its own velars when borrowing words from such a language. In either case, there could have been originally both **qwel ‘curve, revolve, etc’ and **kwel ’till, inhabit, etc’. After merger of velars and uvulars, or borrowing of uvulars as velars, the meanings of the now homophonous roots *kwel 1 and *kwel 2 could have been kept apart by the use (or survival) of different root-grades or different suffixes, thus avoiding homophony in the derivatives.

  86. SFReader says

    I’ll add again Altaic etymologies.
    Proto-Altaic: *kòĺbèk`V ( ~ -o-)
    Meaning: hub, wheel hub
    Russian meaning: втулка (колеса)
    Turkic: *Koĺ-luk
    Proto-Turkic: *Koĺ-luk
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 iron arrow-head 2 arrow with iron head
    Russian meaning: 1 железный наконечник стрелы 2 стрела с железным наконечником
    Khakassian: xosta 1, 2
    Yakut: kustuk 2
    Comments: VEWT 283. Turk. > Mansi kuɔšlɔx. A Siberian word; but deriving it from *Kuĺ ‘bird’ is hardly possible, despite Stachowski 162.
    Mongolian: *kolkibči
    Proto-Mongolian: *kolkibči
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 hub, bearing 2 cross-bow
    Russian meaning: 1 втулка 2 самострел
    Written Mongolian: qolkibči (L 960: qolqubči, qolqubči numu)
    Khalkha: xolxiwč, xolxowč 1; xolxovč-num 2
    Tungus-Manchu: *kulbuka
    Proto-Tungus-Manchu: *kulbuka
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: hub
    Russian meaning: втулка
    Evenki: kulbukā (dial.)
    Comments: ТМС 1, 428.
    Japanese: *kǝ̀sìki
    Proto-Japanese: *kǝ̀sìki
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: hub
    Russian meaning: ступица колеса
    Old Japanese: kosikji
    Middle Japanese: kòsìki
    Tokyo: kóshiki
    Comments: JLTT 458.
    Comments: An interesting common Altaic cultural term.

  87. marie-lucie says

    Exactly the type of word likely to be borrowed from one language to another along with the knoaledge and/or adoption of the object it names.
    (Since “Altaic” is not commonly accepted as a genetic group (as discussed earlier), it is impossible to reconstruct a Proto-Altaic ancestor language with any degree of confidence).

  88. it’s interesting to hear here all the time that this or other grouping is not accepted, rejected, altaic, uralic or nostratic whatever
    by me, whatever, could be languagehattic as well and the more we are different from others and not grouped into some indistinguishable bunch, the better imo! just it’s strange that we had to invent all the wheels ourselves, i mean words, but that’s all good, good, i am cool with that
    and here it seems it doesn’t matter how similar the words seem sounding, the proposed etymologies will be rejected anyway, but when it comes to prove something coming from an entirely different language family such as from Chinese to our language, then it’s all like the stone hard truth or something, seems a biased and rigid science, the historical linguistics
    so SFR, you better to give up i guess, though your postings are interesting, to me, at least
    axe-sax-sukh, who knew it could be so similar words, hopefully we didn’t borrowed axes from elsewhere, let’s say if we borrowed them, then must be from Sanksrit

  89. “didn’t borrow”

  90. Whelk isn’t in that list because the spelling is un-etymological: in OE it was weoloc, not *hweoloc. Instead, it is derived from PIE *wel- (Pokorny 7. 1140), which (surprise, surprise) also means ‘turn, roll, revolve’. Other English words from this root include waltz, welter, well, wallet, wallow, willow and all the varied derivatives of L volvere, possibly along with valve < L valva and even valley < L vallis ‘what is surrounded by hills’. The most bizarre is undoubtedly elecampane (Inula helenium), the herb that grows in the fields (or possibly ‘in Campania’) where Helen’s tears dropped: in Greek Helen originally began with a digamma (as did Greek helix, another contributor to English words from this root). The older English names, probably from its medicinal use, were horse-heal and elfwort. But I wander.
    There is already another *kwel- (Pokorny 2. 640) meaning ‘far off’ (in time or space), giving anglophones our Greek words in tele- and palaeo- respectively. What is more, there is the other *wel- ‘wish, will’ (Pokorny 2. 1137), the ancestor of will, well, wallop/gallop (another Norman/Central French pair of Frankish origin), gallant, and lots of Latin derivatives in vell- and vol-.
    And then there is wel-h2- (Pokorny 8. 11) ‘strike, wound’ giving us Valhalla and valkyrie < ON, and (in another prizewinning bizarrerie) berdache, ultimately < Old Iranian *varta- ‘prisoner’ > Modern Persian bardah > Arabic bardaj ‘slave’ > It. dial. bardascia ‘catamite’ > European Fr bardache > North American Fr berdache ‘”two-spirit” person, someone considered in various Native cultures to be both male and female’ > Eng.
    From which we can see that indeed PIE must have made many phonological distinctions no longer visible in its descendants, or else have had rampant homonymy of a kind matched only in the Mandarin pronunciation of Classical Chinese (which is totally unintelligible when spoken).

  91. read: French, Portuguese, and Romanian are hardly an “indistinguishable bunch” just because they have an obvious common origin. Nor are Chinese and Tibetan indistinguishable because their common origin is also beyond doubt, though not at all obvious.
    As has been repeated many times here, similarity is not evidence for common origin. It is often evidence against common origin.

  92. m-l: I forgot to mention that I think ’till’ comes under ‘revolve, curve’ because traditional tilling follows the contours of the land, which will typically be gently curved. When the Romans founded a city, they pulled a plow around the city limits three times in a ceremony called recirculatio. Hence the reference in the first sentence (or rather sentence fragment) of Finnegans Wake: “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s [recte Adam and Eve’s, a church], from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs”, describing the curving flow of the Liffey through Dublin. From ’till’ to ‘dwell’ is of course an easy semantic step.

  93. read: I meant to say “similarity of words”.

  94. i don’t say french, portuguese and romanian are indistinguishable, they are what, from the highly civilized, respectable PIE family, it’s us “bez rodu bez plemeni” nomads who are indistinguishable from each other for you and nobody wants to be related like attitude in your science seems like is prevailing from what i read just the threads, surely what i do know about linguistics, just, it seems not amateurs but linguists specialists propose those classes and families too and seem the old conservative school is rejecting those without much consideration, just,you know, squeeze /squelch the instinct of finding the patterns etc
    to my unbiased unlearned eyes just the other arguments of what is well accepted etymologies seem not that different from what is being rejected
    wouldn’t the science become something like that, phrenology,for example, oudated, without testing and acknowledging some new theories too, but surely, that should be the least “my” concern, and “sudi sapojnik (me) ne dalee sapoga” and i am doing perhaps a bad job defending SFR here, just he seems too outpowered here

  95. Trond Engen says

    Etienne: entirely agree with both you and Hat, and I believe I see why you each emphasize different things.

    It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.

    Carl Sagan (read today on Neurobonkers, following a link from Ed Yong)

  96. Trond Engen says
  97. marie-lucie says

    the highly civilized, respectable PIE family
    Of course you are being ironic. The Into-European family includes dozens of languages, some well-known and prestigious (now or in earlier times), many others little-known and spoken in remote areas. “Indo-European” languages are traditionally spoken not only in most of Europe and North India but also in countries in between, including Iran and Afghanistan and some areas of Central Asia. More were spoken in Asia and Turkey in past centuries, some of them by nomads. Western European linguists have certainly not denied the relationship of all these languages, or sought to exclude any because of the culture that spoke them.
    The great American linguist Edward Sapir studied a number of little-known languages, especially in North America, and did everything he could to show that there is no room for bias in linguistics for or against a language spoken by any type of culture. Here is what he wrote in 1921:

    When it comes to linguistic form, Plato walks with the Macedonian swineherd, Confucius with the head-hunting savage of Assam.

    Plato and Confucius were great philosophers, still influential nowadays, but they could not have exchanged ideas because of their difference of language. Instead, the languages they each spoke were identical or closely related to the speech of people whose daily life and preoccupations had little to do with those of the philosophers.
    The development of historical linguistics as a discipline (starting around 1800) put an end (at least among scholars) to ideas such as that of Christians who argued that the original language was Hebrew since the Bible, which told the story of creation, was written in Hebrew, or that of a Dutch scholar who was convinced that Dutch was the original language of humanity. As a science, historical linguistics is not written in stone, there are disagreements among scholars as there are in any other discipline, but there are also fundamental principles and results which have been worked out and continue to be worked out. I should add that the principles that were originally worked out for Indo-European languages have been found to be applicable to other language families. Hungarian and Finnish linguists did a lot of work connecting their languages to those of some Siberian peoples, for instance.
    Historical linguistics is an evolutionary discipline, and can be compared (up to a point) to evolutionary biology. For instance, a few centuries ago most people thought that a whale was a huge fish: to the average person it looks like a fish more than it looks like a cow, for instance. It does not mean that it is actually a fish: when you look at the skeleton, the internal organs, the fact that it breathes air, that it does not lay eggs but gives birth to live young, etc, it cannot be a fish but has to be a mammal. However, this cannot be determined just by the average person looking at a whale from the shore or even from a boat.
    You have to go quite far on the evolutionary tree to find a common ancestor to whales and fishes, but not as far as to find a common ancestor with insects, for instance. Historical linguistics does not deal with such enormous time-depths, but it works on similar principles. So just as the shape of a whale suggests it must be a fish, but its internal structure and physiology show it is a mammal (although an unusual-looking one), superficial resemblances of words are not necessarily indicative of genetic relationship, but to find the actual relationships one has to dig much deeper into the details of languages, individually and in comparison with others. We are not necessarily aware of such details in our own language, which we have spoken since we were so little that we can’t remember learning it.

  98. marie-lucie says

    Trond: this is a great quote:

    It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.

    In current historical linguistics, many people only exercise the first mode and totally discourage the second mode. As a result, some people who are more inclined towards the second mode do not get their ideas properly evaluated by the first set and go off on their own without restraint. A healthy balance should have room for both types of people, each contributing according to their own talents and personalities, instead of the two extremes that currently exist.

  99. Marie-Lucie:
    The first rule of Fish Club is that whales are not fish, as you have so admirably explicated.
    The second rule of Fish Club is that lungfish are not fish either, and sharks may or may not be, depending on what you think fish means. In the evolutionary tree consisting of trout, lungfish, and cows, the lungfish and cows are on one side of the top-level split and trout on the other. Indeed, the swim bladder (the homologous organ in most fish to the lung) did not evolve into the lung; the lung evolved into the swim bladder. Sharks and rays have neither (it is literally sink or swim with them), and so they stand on one side of a higher-level split with both trout and cows/lungfish on the other!
    By similar reasoning, humans stand within the evolutionary tree of the great apes, and Dungan (a Sinitic language spoken in the former Soviet Union and written in the Cyrillic alphabet) stands within the family tree of Mandarin varieties, though sociolinguistically it is a separate language from any kind of Chinese.
    This “second rule” stuff, applied to languages, is what Ringe and Tarnow have been practicing, and David M. and I have been discussing here.

  100. marie-lucie says

    JC, thank you for the additional information. I guess whelk must have been reformed because of the resemblance with other whVl- words having to do with circular motion, here referring to the spiral development of the shell.
    I see that you quote exclusively from Pokorny. I remember reading somewhere that Pokorny was not always reliable, but that was a long time ago and I can’t find a source for the statement. I notice that there are references to two more PIE dictionaries of more recent date. “Till” and “dwell” seem a little far-fetched: would they go back to *t-*(K)wel ? But I am not an Indo-Europeanist, or even a Germanist.

  101. marie-lucie says

    JC, of course my “whale/fish” comparison was extremely simplified in order to make a point. I trust you on the biological details.
    I did not quite catch what you meant by “second rule” at first. I guess you mean that there are intermediate nodes in classification, where once again the more obvious features are not the most relevant? or where it depends what features are selcted as decisive for placement in one category or another? If so, that’s why some linguists are leery of using binary branching in linguistic “genealogical trees”. I don’t have a problem with that, one should choose the model that best first the data, which is not always the one that’s easiest to represent on the flat page.

  102. m-l: I am not quoting Pokorny, but rather paraphrasing the American Heritage Dictionary PIE roots. I am citing Pokorny only in order to make clear which of the two *kwel- roots and three *wel- roots I am talking about in each case. It seems from the OED that the spelling whelk came first, probably for the reason you give, and the spelling pronunciation with /hw/ (now lost in most of the Anglosphere) came after.
    You wrote: “It looks like there must have been two homophonous roots in PIE since forms with meanings like ’till, inhabit, etc’ [e.g. Latin colere] suggest a different root.” I was suggesting that ‘revolve, curve’ > ’till’ > ‘dwell’ is in fact a plausible semantic development. I was not speaking of the actual words till and dwell at all. Till is unknown outside Germanic, and dwell < PIE *dheu- ‘dust, smoke’ with sense-development ‘lead astray’ > ‘delay’ > ‘linger’ (as in dwell on) > ‘live, occupy’.
    What I meant by “second rule” is that it is necessary to consider all known distinctive features simultaneously in order to arrive at a proper classification — rather than just sticking to the obvious or the convenient. Biologists took this step beginning in the 1960s and universally by the 1990s; historical linguists need to do the same, as we are still in the stage of traditional Linnaean taxonomy (“first rule”). The WP article on cladistics is quite good (David M. will be able to confirm or refute this), though it suffers from the cacophonous jargon that cladists have chosen to use instead of simpler terms.

  103. SFReader says

    There are plenty of Chinese borrowings in Mongolian (and Altaic languages in general). But they are rather obvious, being quite recent (2000-2500 years at most).
    Though I must mention that there are some rather bold attempts to find common ancestor of Chinese and Mongolian (and thousands more languages).
    Please bear in mind that the following looks really speculative even to me…
    Borean (approx.) : CVNV
    Meaning : new
    Eurasiatic : *žVjŋV
    Sino-Caucasian : *c̣ä̆ŋʔV́
    Proto-Sino-Caucasian: *c̣ä̆ŋʔV́
    Meaning: new
    Borean etymology: Borean etymology
    North Caucasian: *c̣ä̆nʔV
    Sino-Tibetan: *sĭn / *sĭŋ
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *sĭn / *sĭŋ
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Proto-Sino-Caucasian: *c̣ä̆ŋʔV́
    Meaning: new
    Borean etymology: Borean etymology
    North Caucasian: *c̣ä̆nʔV
    Proto-North Caucasian: *c̣ä̆nʔV
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Proto-Nakh: *c̣in-
    Proto-Nakh: *c̣in-
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Chechen: c̣ina
    Ingush: c̣ena
    Batsbi: c̣inĭ
    Comments: For the pure stem cf. Chech. c̣in-dan “to renew”. The full form in PN shows vacillation between *c̣in-a(n) (Ing. c̣ena) and *c̣in-e(n) (Bacb. c̣inĭ); Chech. c̣ina may go back to either.
    Proto-Avaro-Andian: *c̣inhV-
    Protoform: *c̣inhV-
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Avar: c̣íja-b
    Chadakolob: č̣ija-b
    Andian language: c̣iw
    Akhvakh: č̣ĩ-da
    Chamalal: c̣ĩw
    Tindi: c̣ĩhu-b
    Karata: c̣ijo-m
    Botlikh: c̣ĩu
    Bagvalal: c̣inu-b
    Godoberi: c̣ĩju
    Comments: Cf. also Kar. Arch., Anch. c̣ino-b, Tok. c̣inu-b.
    Proto-Tsezian: *-ɨc̣Vn- A
    Proto-Tsezian: *-ɨc̣Vn- A
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Tsezi: ec̣no
    Ginukh: ec̣endiju
    Khvarshi: ec̣nu
    Inkhokvari: ɨc̣nu
    Bezhta: ic̣ijo
    Gunzib: ɨ̃c̣c̣u
    Comments: PTsKh *ʔɨc̣(ɨ)n-, PGB *-ɨ̃c̣- (*-ɨc̣n-).
    Proto-Lak: c̣u-
    Lak root: c̣u-
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Lak form: c̣u-s:a
    Proto-Dargwa: *c̣i-
    Proto-Dargwa: *c̣i-
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Chiragh: c̣ize
    Comments: Cf. also Kharb. c̣i-s:e ‘new’.
    Proto-Lezghian: *c̣enjä- / *c̣enwä-
    Proto-Lezghian: *c̣enjä- / *c̣enwä-
    North Caucasian etymology: North Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Lezghian: c̣iji
    Tabasaran: c̣iji
    Agul: c̣ajif
    Rutul: c̣indɨ
    Tsakhur: c̣edɨn
    Kryz: c̣ijä
    Archi: mac̣at:ut
    Udi: ini
    Comment: -j- and -w- are probably class suffixes (-w- postulated on basis of the Arch. form: *c̣enwä- > *c̣emä- > mac̣a-). The Udi form goes back to *c̣enjä- quite regularly, thus the assonance with Az. jeni is coincidental. See Бокарев 1961, 70; Гигинейшвили 1977, 100; Талибов 1980, 296.
    Proto-West Caucasian: *ć̣A
    Notes: One of the most widely spread common NC roots. It is adjectival, but usually does not have class prefixes (the situation in some Tsez. languages must therefore be considered as a secondary innovation). In Khin. the root is preserved within the compound c̣ɨ-nas ‘bride’ (see *nŭsA).
    Cf. Urart. š(V)-uɣǝ ‘new’ (see Diakonoff-Starostin 1986, 34-35).
    See Trubetzkoy 1930, 275; Абдоков 1983, 142.
    Sino-Tibetan: *sĭn / *sĭŋ
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *sĭn / *sĭŋ
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: new
    Chinese: 新 *sin new, renew.
    Character: 新
    Modern (Beijing) reading: xīn
    Preclassic Old Chinese: sin
    Classic Old Chinese: sin
    Western Han Chinese: sjǝn
    Eastern Han Chinese: sjǝn
    Early Postclassic Chinese: sjin
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: sjin
    Late Postclassic Chinese: sjin
    Middle Chinese: sjin
    English meaning : be new
    Russian meaning[s]: 1) обновлять; новый, свежий; только что; заново; современный; новорожденный; 2) новобрачный
    Comments: In Viet. cf. also a more archaic loan: tin, tín ‘news’.
    Sino-Tibetan etymology: Sino-Tibetan etymology
    Dialectal data: Dialectal data
    Radical: 69
    Four-angle index: 2004
    Karlgren code: 0382 k-m
    Vietnamese reading: tân
    Jianchuan Bai: śĩ4
    Dali Bai: śi5
    Bijiang Bai: sẽ4
    Shijing occurrences: 35.2, 35.3, 35.6, 43.1, 43.2
    Tibetan: gśin good, fine (cf. also gsiŋ-ma ‘a place overgrown with young grass’)
    Burmese: sać new, LB *[ś]ikx.
    Yenisseian: *-saŋ ( ~ -ä-)
    Proto-Yenisseian: *-saŋ
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: to begin
    Ket: bɛ́-śaŋ ‘es beginnt’, praet. bínśaŋ
    Yug: bɛ́-saŋ, praet. bínsaŋ
    Comments: Werner 1, 117 (w.r.)
    Amerind (misc.) : ? *ti (rather *cV(n)) ‘new’ (R 504) [+ K], *c̣u(m) ‘new; good’ (R 505) [+ A]
    African (misc.) : Cf. Macro-Khoisan *zV[nV] “new”.
    Altaic: *zèjńa
    Proto-Altaic: *zèjńa
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: new
    Russian meaning: новый
    Turkic: *jaŋɨ / *jeŋi
    Proto-Turkic: *jaŋɨ / *jeŋi
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: new
    Russian meaning: новый
    Old Turkic: jaŋɨ (Orkh., OUygh.)
    Karakhanid: jaŋɨ (MK)
    Turkish: jeni
    Tatar: jaŋa
    Middle Turkic: jaŋɨ (MA, Abush.)
    Uzbek: jangụ
    Uighur: jeŋi
    Sary-Yughur: jaŋɨ
    Azerbaidzhan: jeni
    Turkmen: jaŋɨ ‘just, recently’
    Khakassian: nā
    Shor: na (Верб.)
    Oyrat: d́aŋɨ
    Halaj: jäŋgi
    Chuvash: śǝnǝ
    Yakut: saŋa
    Dolgan: haŋa; hiŋil ‘young’
    Tuva: čā
    Tofalar: ńā̃
    Kirghiz: ǯaŋɨ
    Kazakh: žaŋa
    Noghai: jaŋɨ
    Bashkir: jaŋɨ
    Balkar: žanɣɨ
    Gagauz: jeni
    Karaim: jɨŋgɨ
    Karakalpak: žaŋa
    Salar: jaŋɨ
    Kumyk: jaŋɨ
    Comments: VEWT 185 (Räsänen is deriving this word from *jān ‘side’ which is quite improbable), EDT 943-4, ЭСТЯ 4, 124-125, Лексика 85, Stachowski 96, 104. Turk. > MMo, WMong. ǯaŋgi, Kalm. zäŋǵǝ ‘news’ (KW 470; doubts about this borrowing in TMN 1, 281, based on the early attestation of the meaning “discussion” in Mong., are hardly founded).
    Mongolian: *sine
    Proto-Mongolian: *sine
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: new
    Russian meaning: новый
    Written Mongolian: sine (L 711)
    Middle Mongolian: šini (HY 6, SH), sīni (IM), šinä̆, šini (MA)
    Khalkha: šine
    Buriat: šene
    Kalmuck: šinǝ
    Ordos: šine
    Dongxian: šǝni, šɨni
    Baoan: šine
    Dagur: šinken (Тод. Даг. 184, MD 217)
    Shary-Yoghur: šǝnǝ
    Monguor: šǝni (SM 375), śinǝ
    Comments: KW 358, MGCD 717. Cf. also WMong. sene-r, Kalm. senr ‘new, fresh’ (KW 324).
    Tungus-Manchu: *seńe-
    Korean: *sái
    Comments: АПиПЯЯ 58-59, 283, Лексика 85. Cf. also WMong. saja, Kalm. sā ‘newly’ (KW 316), EAS 72, probably a variant of the same root with different vocalization. Turkic reflects an attributive form (*jeŋi Nostratic: > Nostratic
    English meaning: good, healthy
    German meaning: gut, gesund; ? gerade
    Finnish: hyvä ‘gut’ ( > Saam. N hivve ‘good fellow’), hyvin ‘gut, wohl; sehr, ganz, recht’
    Estonian: hea, hüva (Urfinn. *šüvä > Saam. K T šuvva ‘gut; vortrefflich’ [?])
    Saam (Lapp): sâvve- -v- (N) ‘heal (of wound, sore)’, savvō-, savvu- (L) ‘heilen, vernarben’ ?
    Mordovian: čiv (E) ‘gut, tüchtig, brav’, čiva, -ań (M) ‘gastfreundlich’
    Mari (Cheremis): šu (KB) ‘gesund, frisch’, (MRS) ‘здоровье’ ?
    Udmurt (Votyak): šońer (S K G) ‘gerade, recht, wahr’ ?
    Komi (Zyrian): šań (S V) ‘gut, tüchtig; schön’ ?
    Hungarian: igen (dial. égen, ügön) ‘ja; sehr’ ?

  104. SFReader says

    Another one, even more extensive.
    Borean (approx.) : LVMNV
    Meaning : name
    Eurasiatic : *ĺVm(ŋ)V
    Afroasiatic : *nab- (nam- and lam- in some Omot.)
    Proto-Afro-Asiatic: *nab-
    Meaning: call by name
    Borean etymology: Borean etymology
    Semitic: *nVbVʔ- ‘call’ 1, ‘speak’ 2, ‘nominate’ 3
    Number: 603
    Proto-Semitic: *nVbVʔ-
    Afroasiatic etymology: Afroasiatic etymology
    Meaning: ‘call’ 1, ‘speak’ 2, ‘nominate’ 3
    Akkadian: nabû 1
    Hebrew: nbʔ 2
    Epigraphic South Arabian: nbʔ 2
    Geʕez (Ethiopian): nbb 2
    Jibbali: enbe 3
    Soqotri: nbʔ 3
    Western Chadic: *nab- ‘read, count’
    Proto-WChadic: *nab-
    Afroasiatic etymology: Afroasiatic etymology
    Meaning: read, count
    Tangale: nabị [JgT]
    Omotic: *nab- ‘name’
    Sino-Caucasian : ST *(r)miǝ̆ŋ
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *miǝ̆ŋ
    Meaning: name
    Chinese: 名 *mheŋ name.
    Character: 名
    Modern (Beijing) reading: míng
    Preclassic Old Chinese: mheŋ
    Classic Old Chinese: mheŋ
    Western Han Chinese: mheŋ
    Eastern Han Chinese: mhjeŋ
    Early Postclassic Chinese: mhjeŋ
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: mhjeŋ
    Late Postclassic Chinese: mhjeŋ
    Middle Chinese: mjeŋ
    English meaning : to name; name; inscription
    Russian meaning[s]: 1) название; называть; номенклатура; номинальный; имя; именоваться; 2) слава, известность; известный, знаменитый; репутация, доброе имя; почетный; 3) имя существительное; 4) счетный суффикс для людей
    Comments: Voiceless *mh- is indicated by Shaowu miaŋ7.
    Sino-Tibetan etymology: Sino-Tibetan etymology
    Dialectal data: Dialectal data
    Radical: 30
    Four-angle index: 1340
    Karlgren code: 0826 a-c
    Vietnamese reading: danh
    Jianchuan Bai: miɛ4
    Dali Bai: mer5
    Bijiang Bai: ńo4
    Tibetan: miŋ, mjiŋ name.
    Burmese: mań name, to be called, hmań́ to name, call, LB *(s)miŋ.
    Kachin: mjiŋ1 a name, šǝmjiŋ3 to name.
    Lushai: hmiŋ name, reputation, KC *r-hmiŋ.
    Lepcha: miŋ, a-miŋ a word
    Kiranti: *mìŋ // *nìŋ
    Comments: PG *min; BG: Garo miŋ, Dimasa mu, Bodo muŋ; Moshang miŋ; Namsangia min; Kham mìN; Mantshati min; Thebor min; Dhimal miŋ. Simon 16; Sh. 38, 124, 134, 407, 430; Ben. 31.
    Austric : ? Tai *lān name
    Indo-European: *(e)nomen-,
    Proto-IE: *(e)nomen-,
    Nostratic etymology: Nostratic etymology
    Meaning: name
    Hittite: laman- n. ‘Name’, lamnija- (I) ‘nennen’ (Friedrich 126, 127); h.l. at(a)man-, (?) Lyk. adâma(n)
    Tokharian: A ñom, B ñem (PT *ñēm) ‘name’ (Adams 270)
    Old Indian: nā́man- n. `name’
    Avestan: nąman- ‘Name’
    Other Iranian: OPers nāma
    Armenian: anun `Name’
    Old Greek: ónoma, -atos n., aeol., dor. ónüma `Name’
    Slavic: *jь̄́mę̄
    Word: и́мя
    Near etymology: I., род. п. и́мени, укр. iм᾽я́, íмени, блр. iмя́, др.-русск. имя, ст.-слав. имѩ, болг. и́ме, сербохорв. и̏мē, род. п. и̏мена, словен. imȇ, род. п. imȇna, др.-чеш. jmě, чеш. jméno, слвц. mеnо, польск. imię, род. п. imienia, miano (из *jьměn-), в.-луж. mjeno, н.-луж. ḿě, род. п. ḿеńа, полаб. jeimą. Праслав. *jьmę, *jьmene из *ьnmen-. Родственно др.-прусск. emmens, род. п. еmnеs “имя”, ирл. ainm, алб. гег. еmёn, тоск. еmёr, греч. ὄνομα, арм. anun, др.-инд. nā́ma, ср. р., авест., др.-перс. nāman-, лат. nōmen, гот. namō, ср.-в.-н. be-nuomen “назвать”, тохар. А ñоm “имя”, В ñеm — то же, хетт. lāman; см. Бернекер 1, 426; Траутман, Арr. Sprd. 326; ВSW 70; Бартоломэ, ВВ 17, 132; Хюбшман 420; Миккола, ВВ 22, 253; Вальде–Гофм. 2, 173 и сл.; Френкель, ВSрr. 43; Педерсен, Kelt. Gr. 1, 46.
    Trubachev’s comments: [Попытку объяснить из термина родового строя *jьm-men “принятый знак” от *jęti см. Исаченко, Studiе а рráсе Наvr., стр. 129; ср. еще Пизани, “Раidеiа”, 12, No 5, 1957, стр. 271. — Т.]
    Pages: 2,129-130
    Baltic: *emnen- m.
    Proto-Baltic: *emnen- m.
    Meaning: name
    Indo-European etymology: Indo-European etymology
    Old Prussian: emnes K III 33, 32, emmens K I 7:5; K II 13:3, acc. emnen `Name’ K I 5:5
    Comments: Jatv. nom(in)s name.
    Germanic: *naman- n., m., *namn-a- n.; *nōm-ia- vb.
    Proto-Germanic: *naman, *namna-n; *nōmian- vb.
    Meaning: name
    IE etymology: IE etymology
    Gothic: namō n. (n) `Name’
    Old Norse: nafn n.
    Swedish: namn
    Old English: nama, -an m. `name; noun’
    English: name
    Old Frisian: noma
    Old Saxon: namo
    Middle Dutch: nāme m.; noemen
    Dutch: naam m.; noemen, dial. nȫmen, nǖmen, naĕmn
    Old Franconian: namo
    Middle Low German: nāme; nōmen
    Old High German: namo, gen. namen `Name’ (8.Jh.), be-nuomen `nennen’
    Middle High German: nam(e) wk./st. m. ‘name, benennung; geschlecht; rang, würde, stand’; benuomen wk. ‘mit namen nennen, anreden; namhaft machen; urkundlich verheissen’
    German: Name m.
    Latin: nōmen, -inis n. `Name, Benennung; Wesen; Begriff (von Einzelwesen und Völkern)
    Other Italic: Umbr nome, numem, gen. nomner `Name’
    Celtic: OIr ainm n-, pl. anmann `Name’; MCymr, Corn hanow `Name’, MBret hanff, hanu, NBret hano `Name’
    Albanian: geg. emǝr, tosk. ǝmǝn Name
    Russ. meaning: имя
    References: WP I 132
    Altaic: *ĺi̯ŏ́mo(ŋa)
    Proto-Altaic: *ĺi̯ŏ́mo(ŋa)
    Nostratic: Nostratic
    Meaning: name; spell, divination
    Russian meaning: имя; заклинание, гадание
    Turkic: *jom, *jom(ŋ)ak
    Proto-Turkic: *jom, *jom(ŋ)ak
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 tale, legend 2 luck, omen 3 word 4 riddle
    Russian meaning: 1 рассказ, притча 2 счастье, доброе предзнаменование 3 слово 4 загадка
    Turkish: jom 2 (dial.)
    Tatar: ǯomaq 4
    Middle Turkic: jumaq 1 (Ettuhf.), jom 2 (AH)
    Uzbek: ǯumbɔq 4
    Sary-Yughur: lomaq 1
    Turkmen: jomaq ‘joke’
    Khakassian: nɨmax 1, čōx 3
    Shor: nɨbaq 1
    Yakut: nomoq 1 (possibly Nostratic: > Nostratic
    English meaning: name
    German meaning: Name
    Finnish: nimi (gen. nimen) ‘Name’
    Estonian: nimi (gen. nime) ‘Name, Benennung, Titel’
    Saam (Lapp): nâmmâ -m- (N) ‘name, reputation’, namma (L), namm (T), nømm (Kld. Not.), nøm, ni̊m (A) ‘name’
    Mordovian: ĺem, ĺäm (E), ĺem (M)
    Mari (Cheremis): lǝm (KB), lüm (U B)
    Udmurt (Votyak): ńim (S G), ńem (K)
    Komi (Zyrian): ńim (S P PO) ‘Name; Benennung’
    Khanty (Ostyak): nem (V DN O) ‘Name’
    Mansi (Vogul): näm (TJ KU), nǟm (P), nam (So.)
    Hungarian: név (acc. nevet) ‘Name; Ruhm; (altung.) Wort’
    Nenets (Yurak): ńumʔ (O), ńim (Nj.)
    Enets (Yen): ńiʔ (Ch.)
    Nganasan (Tawgi): ńim
    Selkup: nim (Ta. Ke.), nep, nĕp (N)
    Kamass: nim, nǝm
    Janhunen’s version: (58) *nimi
    Sammalahti’s version: *nimi
    K. Redei’s notes: *nim
    Addenda: Koib. nim; Mot. nummede
    Yukaghir parallels: niu, nim ‘Name’
    Chukchee-Kamchatkan: *jъmŋъl ‘fairy-tale’ (if not

  105. John Cowan: just a minor nitpick: “surface similarity of words” is often an argument against a common origin for the particular set of words in question, but it is certainly not an argument against a common origin for the languages, as there is no reason why two genetically related languages cannot borrow from one another.
    Read: historical linguistics is a SCIENCE, whose results often fly in the face of what people would like to believe about their language. I can understand why you dislike the idea that Chinese influenced Mongolian centuries ago.
    You’d be surprised by how many people dislike what historical linguists have discovered. I have personally met and spoken with:
    -A native speaker of Ojibwe, a language which, along with Cree, belongs to a family known as Algonquian. This Ojibwe speaker refused to believe in this “white nonsense” and claimed that if Cree looks like Ojibwe, well, this is because Cree speakers borrowed from Ojibwe, which after all is the more beautiful language.
    -A native speaker of a Bantu language who was convinced that “the Bantu language family” was part of an evil European plot to divide and conquer all of Africa: when I asked him why several hundred mutually unintelligible languages covering half of Africa were placed together in one family (doesn’t seem very divisive, does it?), he looked confused and never spoke to me again.
    -A native speaker of Romanian who denied that there were any words of Slavic origin in Romanian: claims that there were was merely Soviet propaganda from Cold War days.
    -A native speaker of Hindi who denied Hindi and its Sanskrit ancestor had ever been spoken outside the Indian subcontinent (also part of a European plot, of course, to de-legitimize the Indian nation. When I pointed out that the consensus view had Sanskrit/Hindi in India for much longer than French had been in France or English in England, she got angry and never spoke to me again).
    -A native speaker of Black English for whom denial of a creole (and thus, pidgin) past for Black English was a form of racism.
    -A native speaker of a creole language for whom claims that creoles derive from pidgins was a form of racism.
    (I never got the above two together. Pity, it might have proven entertaining)
    -A Jew who refused to believe Hebrew and Arabic had a common origin. I forget who plotted what with whom for what purpose, assuming I ever knew.
    Anyway. Read, you have a choice. You can choose to believe that historical linguists are a mysterious and secretive cabal who rent out their services to the powerful (“Marie-Lucie? Etienne here. Listen, this oil company wants to dig some wells in Northern Canada, on tribal land, and they want us to claim that their language is related to their neighbors’, so that the oil company can claim that the treaty signed with the neighboring tribe applies across the board to all tribes speaking “related” (wink, wink!) languages : they’ll save a fortune in lawyers’ fees and will have some nice cheques for us!
    [pan out camera: reveal a Dr No/Berg Katse-like figure on the phone]
    And no, this time Bond/Gachaman can’t stop us! BWA HA HA HA!”)
    Or, if the above scene doesn’t seem realistic…you can choose to believe that historical linguists are like most scholars: groping after the truth, making hypotheses on the basis of the data, arguing a lot with one another, arguing more loudly when new data come in, all mixed in with the personal conflicts that inevitably spring under such circumstances. That some of the data is ambiguous is true. That as human beings we cannot claim to be entirely objective is also true.
    But as I once told a right-wing American who did not want to believe that English and Russian had once been the same language: there is no law that says that present-day understanding of historical reality must conform to present-day preferences and prejudice.

  106. SFReader says

    There are hundreds of Chinese borrowings in Mongolian and possibly thousands more Tibetan borrowings (which have cognates in Chinese, since Chinese and Tibetan are related languages).
    To add insult to the injury, many Mongolians have Tibetan names with Chinese cognates, so it’s theoretically possible to write them in Chinese characters.
    For example, a rather common Mongolian name Ням ‘Nyam’ (and dozens of derivatives, Nyamtseren, Nyamosor, Nyamdorj, etc.)
    It’s of course a direct borrowing from Tibetan ཉི་མ་ nyi-ma which means “sun” (and in fact, Mongolian word for “sunday” also happens to be “nyam”, so it’s a name often given to people born on Sundays)
    Let’s look at etymology of word ཉི་མ་ nyi-ma. It consists of ཉི ‘nyi’ – day, sun and particle/word མ’ma’- mother, main one.
    Both have rather obvious and non-controversial cognates in Chinese.
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *nĭj
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: sun, day
    Chinese: 日 *nit sun; day.
    Character: 日
    Modern (Beijing) reading: rì
    Preclassic Old Chinese: nit
    Classic Old Chinese: nit
    Western Han Chinese: njǝt
    Eastern Han Chinese: ńǝt
    Early Postclassic Chinese: ńit
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: ńit
    Late Postclassic Chinese: ńit
    Middle Chinese: ńit
    Fanqie: 質
    Rhyme class: 仁逸
    English meaning : sun; day
    Russian meaning[s]: 1) солнце; днем, засветло; 2) день; сутки; число, дата; ежедневно; с каждым днем; 3) в другой день, на днях; 4) сокр. Япония; 5) сокр. стар. Испания
    Shuowen gloss: 實也. 太陽之精不虧. 從口一. 象形. 凡日之屬皆從日.
    Comments: Min forms: Xiamen ʒit8, lit8, Chaozhou zik8, Fuzhou nik8, Jianou ni8.
    Sino-Tibetan etymology: Sino-Tibetan etymology
    Dialectal data: Dialectal data
    Radical: 72
    Four-angle index: 1470
    Karlgren code: 0404 a-d
    Go-on: niti
    Kan-on: zitu
    Japanese reading: nichi+;jitsu+;hi+;ka+
    Vietnamese reading: nhật
    Jianchuan Bai: jĩ6
    Dali Bai: ńe6, ńi6
    Bijiang Bai: ńi6
    Shijing occurrences: 26.5, 29.1, 29.2, 29.3, 29.4, 30.3, 33.3, 34.3, 37.1_, 38.1, 39.1, 50.1_
    Tibetan: ńi sun, day, ńin day.
    Burmese: nijʔ day, nij sun, LB *[n]ij(ʔ) day, sun.
    Kachin: šani3 day.
    Lushai: ni sun, day, KC *k?-ni
    Lepcha: njí the sun; the day
    Kiranti: *nǝ̀-lV
    Comments: Mikir árni; Dimasa di-ni today; Moshang -ni; Namsangia ŋyi; Kanauri yone; Trung ni1. Simon 20; Sh. 37, 429; Ben. 31.
    Second word is also quite straightforward.
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *mǝ̄H
    Sino-Caucasian etymology: Sino-Caucasian etymology
    Meaning: mother; woman
    Chinese: 母 *mǝ̄ʔ mother.
    Character: 母
    Modern (Beijing) reading: mǔ
    Preclassic Old Chinese: mǝ̄ʔ
    Classic Old Chinese: mǝ̄́
    Western Han Chinese: mǝ̄́
    Eastern Han Chinese: mǝ̄́
    Early Postclassic Chinese: mṓw
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: mǝ̄́w
    Late Postclassic Chinese: mǝ̄́w
    Middle Chinese: mʌ́w
    English meaning : mother
    Russian meaning[s]: 1) мать, матушка, мамаша; пожилая женщина; самка; единоутробный, от одной матери; материнское (производящее) начало; 2) основная часть; капитал; 3) общее (в противоположность частному); 4) знаменатель (дроби); 5) фонетик (иероглифа); 6) Му (фамилия)
    Shuowen gloss: 牧也.從女.象懷子形.一曰象乳子也.
    Comments: For initial *m- cf. Min forms: Xiamen bo3, Chaozhou bo3, Fuzhou, Jianou mu3.
    Sino-Tibetan etymology: Sino-Tibetan etymology
    Dialectal data: Dialectal data
    Radical: 80
    Four-angle index: 4758
    Karlgren code: 0947 a-e
    Vietnamese reading: mẫu
    Jianchuan Bai: -mo1
    Dali Bai: -mo1
    Bijiang Bai: -mo1
    Shijing occurrences: 2.3_, 29.4, 32.1, 32.2, 32.3, 32.4, 39.2, 45.1, 45.2, 51.1, 51.2_
    Tibetan: ma mother (cf. also rmo grandmother).
    Burmese: (?) maj mother, LB *ma (Ben.) (cf. Burm. -ma female suffix), ǝ-maʔ female, woman.
    Lepcha: mo, a-mo mother
    Kiranti: *mä́
    Comments: PG *ama mother; BG: Garo ama, Bodo má mother, bi-ma female; Kham -ma the female of a species; Kanauri ama; Lepcha amo; Bahing ǝmo (but wǝma my mother), Vayu umu; Digaro na-ma, Dhimal ama; Chepang ma. Ben. 148.
    So we can safely write name Ням “Nyam” in Chinese characters as 日母 ;-)))

  107. Bathrobe says

    So Нямдорж should be written in Chinese characters not as 尼玛道尔基 but as 日母道尔基?
    Of course 日母 would be a very unfortunate combination because it would literally mean ‘to fuck (one’s, someone’s) mother’ in Chinese slang.

  108. Bathrobe says

    The etymology also means that the ня of ням, the 日 nichi of 日曜日 nichiyōbi and the 일 il of 일요일 il-yoil (both 일 ils, actually), are all etymologically related.

  109. SFReader says

    дорж in Нямдорж is another Tibetan borrowing (རྡོ་རྗེ། dorje) which in turn is a borrowing from Sanskrit (वज्र vájra) and related to Mongolian Очир “Ochir” which is another borrowing (directly from Sanskrit)
    I am afraid we can’t write it in Chinese characters without resorting to translation (金剛 jīngāng) or transliteration 道尔基

  110. Etienne: you’re quite right, and I worded what I said badly.
    You’d be surprised by how many people dislike what historical linguists have discovered.
    Yet another reason to stand shoulder to shoulder with the biologists!
    Of course, all science is a unity, and an attack on any part of it is an attack on every part (how tribal!), but at least nobody is saying any more that Galileo was the Antichrist for proclaiming heliocentrism.
    And my favorite example of chilling ethnocentricism, a 1980s Usenet comment by a Serb. “There is no such language as Croatian. There are people calling themselves Croats, who speak Serbian badly. But soon that will no longer matter.

  111. all is good and fine and if the historical linguistics are doing objective research and the findings are what they are, what to do, one should just accept that
    just it seems to me, one has to be very careful to not be biased and to not serve only the powerful, though that’s of course how it goes i think where money is there is research therefore the results, so hopefully your science shows links and connections between languages objectively and can’t be used as some helpful tool in justifying injustice in some sensitive cases, that example of writing in kanjis Mongolian names is a pretty good example, for you perhaps that is just an innocent practice of your science, for Inner Mongolians that’s a human rights issue and i read this week they won their right to sign in Mongolian in their passports, so it’s somebody else’s life, not only your hypotheses proven or unproven
    here is a blogpost on ethnocentrism with which i agree, anti-semitism vs criticism-of-israel/
    hopefully people would find it helpful in this argument, cz linguistics is not that far removed from life and politics as you would want to believe

  112. marie-lucie says

    JC: PA is as well established as PIE
    Having looked at some of it, I would not quite say that. If you mean that the group of languages must have had a common ancestor, definitely yes. If you mean the reconstruction is solid, I would say “not quite yet”.
    Etienne: be careful with those phone conversations! you never know when someone might take them seriously.
    E + JC: You’d be surprised by how many people dislike what historical linguists have discovered.
    – Yet another reason to stand shoulder to shoulder with the biologists!

    Lots of people also dislike what “historical biologists” (Darwin, etc, now called “evolutionists”) have discovered: the genetic relationship between apes and humans was hardly welcomed when it was first proposed, and it is still vigorously opposed in many quarters (not by qualified biologists).
    Darwin was actually inspired in part by the work of historical linguists, which was already well advanced at the time, and he found biological evolution “curiously parallel” to linguistic evolution. Linguistics is not taught in public schools, else there might be a movement to teach the story of the Tower of Babel as an “alternative theory” to the postulation of PIE and other proto-languages.
    A thought: the prototype of the Tower of Babel (which must have had some basis in fact) is supposed to have been a ziggurat. Like a pyramid, a very large ziggurat would have required a huge workforce, at that time comprised mostly of slaves from many different areas. There would then have been a number of languages spoken on the worksite, causing frequent misunderstandings. If a large ziggurat had collapsed during construction, “confusion of tongues” might have been held responsible, and in the legends of another people the confusion would have become an effect of the collapse, rather than perhaps a contributing factor.

  113. I feel sorry for the people who are so patiently and kindly trying to explain things to read, because as far as I can tell she doesn’t even bother reading the explanations, just shrugs her shoulders and says (in effect) “You can try to fool me with all that fancy talk if you like, but I don’t care: the only important thing is money and power and injustice, and Mongolians are poor and powerless and people are unjust to them, therefore science is wrong.”

  114. marie-lucie says

    read, the question of writing Mongolian or any other language in Chinese characters may have something to do with history, but nothing to do with historical linguistics.
    As for “working for the powerful”, historical linguistics is certainly NOT a well-funded discipline.

  115. yes, “the only important thing is money and power and injustice” and that is true for you too, you can’t take history from the historical anything,
    then you’ll say something about different time scales than historical history, anyway surely you all work according to the best of your conscience and if the findings are what they are, good, i congratulate you with them
    the discipline could be underfunded, still the funds could go to fund the research which could be biased, if not biased, then again, congratulations
    just seems you don’t like to consider anything whatever alternative and so sound much of the time pretty, like that, dogmatic, and your science going together with the evolutionary biology is not what you should say as an argument, because that is what it should be, as an objective science
    when it comes to the minute arguments in favor of this or other proof of word etymology whatever, my impression reading discussions just here, in the threads, seems not that convincing and as if everything could be interpreted this or other way, depending
    but Mr. LH seems consider me as of not worth of one’s time and explanations, that is a pity
    if it won’t be used as phrenology in its time to justify injustice, all is good, is all i am saying

  116. Marie-Lucie: concerning your hunch about Ziggurats and their multilingual workforce as a source for the tale of the tower of Babel: I like it. Actually, it is even more plausible if we remember that several Mesopotamian Empires (the Assyrians, for example) routinely deported/displaced entire ethnic groups, so that the confusion of tongues was a daily reality for a great many inhabitants of Mesopotamia (over the longer term, of course, this forced mixture of peoples favored language spread: Akkadian [+Babylonian and Assyrian] at first, and later Aramaic).
    Read: you are quite correct, whether a field is well-funded or not does not matter, it is how the funding is used which matters. But taken as a whole, historical linguistics has exhibited a strong tendency to OPPOSE the powerful (which may explain why it is underfunded today, as opposed to a certain anglocentric branch of American East Coast “linguistics” which attracted massive amounts of cold war military funding because of its perceived usefulness to machine translation).
    This isn’t because historical linguists are better people: it’s because the core principles of historical linguistics completely contradict the self-serving justifications of the powerful.
    Thus, various forms of inequality were and are justified through recourse to the claim that nation-states with written languages are “civilized”, and therefore have a right/duty to bring “civilization” to the “savages” with unwritten languages. Related to this, within various societies, rigid social stratification was and is justified through claims that the lower classes’ speech (and therefore thinking patterns) was/is purely “oral” and therefore defective. Finally, claims that certain racial/ethnic groups were/are somehow mentally and verbally defective and could not/cannot govern themselves were and remain popular with the powerful.
    Now, how does this compare to historical linguistics? Well, historical linguistics takes it as axiomatic, *because of a close engagement with the data*, that there is no fundamental divide between a written and an unwritten language, or between the prestigious (written/upper class) and non-prestigious (unwritten/lower class) varieties of any given language. Likewise, different ethnic and racial groups certainly speak different languages/dialects, but without it being in any way possible to find some kind of natural hierarchy between prestigious and non-prestigious
    speech varieties.
    Doesn’t sound like a good match, now does it?
    It should come as no surprise that many historical linguists were radically ahead of their time: take Hugo Schuchardt, one of the fathers of Romance philology who also pioneered the study of Creole languages, using the methodology of the former to study the latter. The notion that non-whites’ (i.e. most speakers of Creole languages) mental processes somehow differed from whites’ (i.e. most speakers of Latin and Medieval Romance languages) is wholly alien to his work. For a man of the late nineteenth century, he was a member of a truly tiny minority: it was pointed out once that his work is less eurocentric than much of the work on creole languages published in the second half of the twentieth century.
    Or take Leonard Bloomfield, an Indo-Europeanist by training who apart from doing field work with Tagalog, Menominee, Ojibwe and Plains Cree, also reconstructed Proto-Algonquian, using the same techniques first used by Indo-Europeanists. He clearly saw the anti-Indian prejudice of his time for the nonsense it was, and denounced it in print, in the twenties. He also denounced racial segregation at the same time.
    Now tell me: do either of these pioneers of the field sound like the sort of people whose ideas and findings the powerful could use?

  117. but Mr. LH seems consider me as of not worth of one’s time and explanations, that is a pity
    Not true; you seem like a smart and interesting person, and you’re definitely worth people’s time. But you don’t respond to people’s efforts to explain things to you with appreciation, let alone any hint that your mind has been changed about anything. It is ludicrous to suggest that historical linguistics is a tool of the powerful or is somehow biased against “little” languages; as a matter of fact, historical linguists are intensely interested in such languages, because they often reveal important features that other, better-known languages don’t. You also seem to think there’s some sort of prejudice in terms of whether languages are considered to be related to others or not (though I can’t recall which way you think the prejudice goes, because it’s such a silly idea); I assure you languages are considered just as interesting and important whether they’re isolates, unrelated to any known language (like Sumerian), or part of huge language families. But it doesn’t matter what I, or marie-lucie, or Etienne tells you, because you think you already know the answers and we’re all just pulling the wool over your eyes. And that is a pity. You could be learning a tremendous amount here if you wanted to.

  118. marie-lucie says

    Franz Boas was another pioneer who recognized the importance of unwritten languages and the common humanity of all people. Boas was born in Germany and studied physics there. Somehow he came to the Arctic to study the physics of “the colour of water”. He knew there were people there, known as Eskimos, and he had been led to believe that these people were “primitive”. When he actually met Eskimos, he realized that these people were just like him, and at least as smart as he was, if not more (indeed, you have to be very smart to survive in very difficult environments without modern equipment). He gave up physics, totally changed his field and became a pioneering anthropologist and linguist, dedicating the rest of his life to the study of Native North American cultures and languages, and writing also against any form of racial discrimination. Like Sapir (who started as his student), he realized that every language is interesting, every language has its own structure, its own way of meeting all of its speakers’ communication needs. No language is more or less valuable or worthy of study than another.

  119. What’s up to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this web site, and your views are nice in favor of new people.

  120. Knowledge has been and will continue to be misused in the service of oppression: nobody denies that. Darwinism itself was used in the U.S. to justify both race-based and class-based oppression on a far bigger scale and with more intensity than before. But it’s still worthwhile knowing what the truth is, even if it can be twisted to serve evil interests. Even paranoids have enemies, and just because the world’s biggest fool says it’s raining, it doesn’t follow that the sun is shining.

  121. Etienne, Marie-Lucie, Hat:
    I can certainly imagine situations in which the discoveries of historical linguistics are used to justify imperialism. “As is well known to scientists, the X and the Y speak languages of the Z family. Since we, the X, are obviously more progressive than the Y, it is only right that we, as the more advanced members of the Z family, should bring our culturally retarded brethren up to snuff. Therefore, we will impose our wise and benevolent imperial rule on the Y.”
    Such an argument might be used in China (I have no actual knowledge here) to justify the subjection of Tibet on the grounds of Sino-Tibetan being a well-established language family.
    That’s why I say that the search for truth has to be justified directly, and not by whether it seems or doesn’t seem likely to serve the forces of darkness.

  122. marie-lucie says

    I think it was not Darwinism per se, but a distorted interpretation of Darwin’s theory. Sure, knowledge can be miused, the truth can be twisted to serve evil interests, but we can’t stop looking for the truth, otherwise others will 9mistake the twisted truth for the real truth.
    Even if we consider the person who says it’s raining “the world’s biggest fool”, we should still look out the window or open the door, not assume a priori that what he says mut be wrong.

  123. marie-lucie says

    When oppressive regimes or parties need a justification for their opinions and policies, they will grab at every possible straw, so we can’t stop searching for knowledge and truth unless we know that doing so would present a clear and present danger to others, as well as to oneself. Sometimes the time is not right for a truth to come out, but it does not mean that the truth should remain hidden for ever.

  124. Bathrobe says

    I was the one who mentioned the writing of Mongolian names in Chinese characters. read’s comment about the Inner Mongolians is apt and I also find the attitude that a Mongolian name isn’t somehow a “real” name until it is written in Chinese characters extremely distasteful. The requirement that all Inner Mongolians’ names should be written in Chinese characters and shown as such in passports and other official documents is even more distasteful. This is laughable for a country that prides itself on being a “multi-ethnic state”. The reasoning is, of course, that putonghua is the common language of all Chinese, so everyone has to use putonghua, but in this case it just ends up as another flavour of Han-centrism.
    I was told by an Inner Mongolian acquaintance that when computers were introduced, a technical requirement was adopted that names could only have four characters (because, of course, Han names generally have a maximum of four characters). But since Inner Mongolians had much longer names when written in characters, anything after four characters was truncated, resulting in some cases in ridiculous or insulting names. It seems that consciousness of ethnic minorities does not go much beyond ritual recognition that they have colourful song and dance. So I do agree that Chinese policies in this area are oppressive.
    But there are other reasons for writing Mongolian names in Chinese, not merely to oppress Inner Mongolians. All foreign names must be transformed into Chinese characters because that is, unfortunately, the practice. Mainland Chinese don’t have a system like katakana (they don’t use bopomofo, and even the Taiwanese don’t write foreign names in bopomofo), and they don’t have a custom of writing foreign names in Roman letters. So if there is a news report about president Elbegdorj, Chinese newspapers call him 额勒贝格道尔吉. This has nothing to do with oppressing Inner Mongolians, and I’m afraid read’s instant reaction that writing Mongolian names in Chinese characters is oppression is misplaced.

  125. Bathrobe says

    I should also mention that I know an Inner Mongolian who has become totally accustomed to writing his name in Chinese characters — so much so that in having a business card made, he adopted pinyin as the transliteration of his Mongolian name into English. That meant that instead of having his name Дорж printed on an English-language business card as Dorj, he adopted Dao Erji instead. What is worse is that he decided to put the Chinese name in English order as Erji Dao (surname last). I asked him why he did this, and his reply was something to the effect that he didn’t want foreigners taking Erji as his family name! So “oppression” can have some weird results. (His actual name was not Дорж, but the principle was the same).

  126. SFReader says

    I see nothing inherently wrong with writing Mongolian in Chinese characters.
    “The Secret History of Mongols” was found written in Chinese characters transliteration, so apparently the script fits Mongolian just fine.
    While pinyin transliteration of course distorts pronunciation of Mongolian names/words for Chinese/foreigners, there is no reason why Mongolians can’t read them in Mongolian pronunciation.
    Write Dao Erjie, read Dorj. No problem. English spelling is much worse, you know…

  127. SFReader says

    I was told an interesting anecdote about an Inner Mongolian student in Ulaanbaatar.
    He of course understood Mongolian (in which the lectures were given), but could not write Cyrillic and apparently could not write in Mongol script fast enough to catch up with lecturer.
    So he wrote lectures in Chinese characters (in transliteration, I assume, since no one can translate that fast…)

  128. SFReader says

    I regard this preoccupation about “correct” scripts as nationalist nonsense.
    Mongolian was written in a half dozen scripts, Chinese being one of them. Cyrillic Mongolian is just seven decades old. Uighur script was borrowed from, well, Uighurs, so this can’t be regarded as national script either (and Western Mongols wrote in Tod Bichig Oirat script).
    And speaking of national traditions, there are some reasons to believe that if the Mongolian before 12 century was written, it was in Khitan small script….

  129. Bathrobe says

    Write Dao Erjie, read Dorj. No problem.
    Except that’s not how it works. 道尔吉 is read Dào’ěrjí, not Dorj.
    Nationalist or not, the choice of script has major implications for any language, and brushing this aside as if it were a mere detail is being a mite cavalier.

  130. Bathrobe says

    Tod Bichig Oirat script is a slight modification (improvement, actually) of Uighur script, not a new script.

  131. Bathrobe says

    What is most interesting about your Inner Mongolian in UB is that he couldn’t write Monggol bichig. That would suggest he went through the Chinese-language stream at school in China instead of the Mongolian-language stream. It would be interesting to know more about this, but I suspect that the writing system would not have been his only problem. Knowing only the spoken language of his immediate friends and family would surely be a handicap in following lectures on more academic subjects. (Of course, the literate vocabulary used in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia is often quite different, on the level of hood/bonnet, railroad/railway, eggplant/aubergine, but considerably more severe, so knowing the correct Inner Mongolian vocabulary is no guarantee of understanding the equivalent Mongolian terminology, but not to have any such written terminology at all would seem on the face of it to be a bit of a problem.)

  132. Bathrobe says

    “The Secret History of Mongols” was found written in Chinese characters transliteration, so apparently the script fits Mongolian just fine.
    Have you actually seen what the Secret History of the Mongols looks like in Chinese characters?

  133. surely everybody here agrees on that that the science shouldn’t be used for oppression and it’s great to know there were honorable historical linguists who seem were still in minority in their times though, the times are surely changed now, hopefully
    i wrote as an explanation of my point that for me it was not a very nice surprise to find comments on how better to write Mongolian Tibetan names in kanjis by the most knowledgeable people on the matter here, you i know are truly interested in my language and other languages, and of course, you didn’t mean any harm, it was just a scientific discourse
    when just this week i’ve read in the news that Inner Mongolians at last can sign their names in Mongolian
    it must be very important to not use mistaken kanjis for that purpose, even though both Tibetan and Mongolian have their own scripts and why would that question arise even here in the thread, out of the pure scientific interest based on the word etymologies!
    but for the real people out there it is an issue of regaining a part of their identity which is a sign in the passport
    you may think i’m too fussy and oversensitive about such a minor thing, and i am sorry to repeat all this again and again, but it’s not out of just my stupid stubborness, we say duslug xuraaval dalai – drop by drop a sea, you allow this or other minor thing, then one by one the whole picture would start looking pretty strange, start with accepting the banning of the signs, end with the zombies not knowing self-identities and having to write lectures in own language in transliterated kanjis! how history so like repeats itself, and it’s not okay for us to have the Secret history being discovered in transliterated kanjis, that is just a scientific curiosity for you, for us its our history
    i think an analogy could be made with the extreme left decimating their own, back from a few days ago thread, the ideals for what they fought for were too great and beautiful, betterment of humankind, a just society for all! so that individual people would look in comparison full of faults and a human life would seem like too small and cheap in comparison to the grand cause, so one by one, gulags were built as if like naturally, and it perhaps didn’t matter much who the despot was, stalin or could have been trotsky as well
    the same is with the science maybe, not everything is okay and justified for the sake of that, pure scientific interests, pure scientific truth separate from anything else, i am not talking about experiments on humans, too obvious example, though we can start talking about clinical trials testing new drugs in the developing countries, everything is legal and okay of course procedurally there but still it’s human experiments and citing just cheaper costs seem to me as if like unethical

  134. Bathrobe says

    An article about the issue of Inner Mongolians signing their names in Mongolian can be found here (although this is a reproduction of the original article):

  135. Bathrobe says

    even though both Tibetan and Mongolian have their own scripts and why would that question arise even here in the thread, out of the pure scientific interest based on the word etymologies
    Why is this such a major affront to you, read? Why is anything that anyone does or says become a major affront to your nationalist sensitivities? Because that is the real problem here.
    If I remember rightly, you originally took leave of LH because you were upset at the possibility that Mongolian may have borrowed vocabulary from Chinese. So Etienne, you can add an example to your list of people upset by the (possible) findings of historical linguistics:
    – There was a Mongolian woman who left a blog in a huff because someone suggested that her remote ancestors may have borrowed a word from Chinese.

  136. You could probably write English with selected kanji, one or two per syllable, but hardly well. If you want to write English in characters, go for Mark Rosenfelder’s yingzi.

  137. Bathrobe says

    The blog entry that read linked to was not only muddled, it was also offensive.
    1. Criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitism because “in Israel, the Jews are the powerful ones”.
    2. Racism on the part of the powerful is not the same as racism on the part of the oppressed. (The author makes the point that letting racism devolve into the question of “personal prejudices” that are “just as bad” no matter who’s harbouring them against whom is “analytically useless”.)
    I’m afraid I find these musings disgusting and highly racist. This is precisely the kind of thinking that leads to gulags and all the rest since obviously vicious action against the oppressors (and vicious action against those who refuse to agree to vicious action against the oppressors) is excusable while vicious action against the oppressed is not. That is the kind of logic that excuses read’s bitterness against anything Chinese.

  138. Bathrobe says

    And by knowing or making mention of Chinese in relation to Mongolian we are “oppressing” read.

  139. SFReader says

    —Except that’s not how it works. 道尔吉 is read Dào’ěrjí, not Dorj.
    For people accustomed to writing “Ulaagan Bagatur” and reading it as “Ulaanbaatar”, this sure won’t be any problem!
    —Have you actually seen what the Secret History of the Mongols looks like in Chinese characters?
    Yes, here it is.
    I would actually argue that it’s even more accurate than Uighur script in reflecting pronunciation….

  140. SFReader says

    Mongolians and Asians in general are very racist by Western standards. In fact, read appears to be a rather soft sort of nationalist compared to, say, absurd levels of hostility that even educated Koreans display towards the Japanese.

  141. SFReader says

    Regarding the future of Mongol script in Inner Mongolia, I think Cyrillic Mongolian script will win eventually in China, because of sheer numbers of available literature.
    Though a Latin transliteration of Mongolian might provide some competition. (it looks pretty ugly though)

  142. Bathrobe says

    Since read has persistently identified an interest in the transliteration of Mongolian into Chinese characters as some kind of oppression, I would like to point out that it is actually a topic of some linguistic interest. There are conventions but no fixed rules about how to transliterate. Thus, Болд can be either 宝力道 bǎolìdào or 包勒德 bāolèdé (other alternatives may exist). Some transliterations go back to an earlier tradition, probably Qing dynasty, of transliterating the Uighur script directly (e.g., 尼玛 Nímǎ for ням is based on the spelling of ням in the Uighur script). In some cases there is a choice between modern Cyrillic-based rendering and the old Uighur-based rendering (sorry, no examples spring to mind). That is why I found SFReader’s suggestion of an etymologically-based 日母 amusing.
    But read is not interested in this kind of thing because it oppresses her nationalist feelings. One can therefore only raise such linguistic issues on LH on pain of provoking an extended complaint from read.

  143. SFReader says

    In early 20th century, Chinese government undertook a massive program of colonization in Mongolia. Over 100 thousand Chinese peasants settled in Mongolia and they represented about 16% of country’s population (and even larger share of adult male population, since they were mostly adult men)
    After independence, most of them left, but many stayed and married Mongolian women. Their descendants may now account for 5-10% of Mongolia’s population (similar to share of assimilated Chinese in Thailand’s population.)
    They are hated and despised by the rest of Mongolians, but it’s very difficult to identify them due to racial closeness of Mongolians and northern Chinese.
    Perhaps to some extent peculiar nature of Mongolian anti-Chinese racism can be explained by these tensions within Mongolian society.

  144. SFReader says

    I apologize if this will prove offensive to read, but the ethnic subgroup to which she belongs – Mongolian Buryats, also suffers from very similar kind of prejudice.
    They are often believed to be somehow not real Mongolians, perhaps too Russified and their ultimate loyalty to Mongolian state is suspect. (Older generations of Mongolian Buryats all held Russian and Soviet citizenship, many of them were mobilized in the Red Army and fought Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War)
    Of course, similar things can be and are said about Inner Mongolians, Oirat Mongols and for that matter about Khalkha Mongolians themselves…

  145. Bathrobe says

    SFReader, I’m highly aware of this extremely strong prejudice against the Chinese, and I’ve also met some of these people who call themselves 华侨.
    I think the real basis of Mongolian hatred of the Chinese is simply a deep-seated fear of being swallowed up by China and the Chinese. This feeling was no doubt fanned and exploited by the Russians when they were in charge, because it was a good tool to keep the Mongols divided and ensure that there was no Chinese influence. But the basic feeling, no matter how it was manipulated, arose from a strong desire to keep their independence from the Chinese.
    I wasn’t aware of the sentiment about the Buryats. I know that sentiment towards the Inner Mongolians is complex and at times hostile (they are regarded as Mongols but not Mongols), and Elbegdorj’s call for Mongolians to be open to all Mongols around the world recently was ahead of popular sentiment. Among non-Khalkha Mongols (mainly in China) you will also find a strain of resentment against what they see as Khalkha arrogance and high-handedness. It is a complex issue and full of passion and prejudice. The root reason is the fact that Russia and China have taken over large parts of traditional Mongolia, leaving the current nation of Mongolia as a beleaguered rump state, which is on the defensive against the encroachments of others and is hunkering down as a purely Khalkha state.
    We know the causes, but it would be nice if discussions about language (this is, after all, Language Hat) did not lead to such complaints and accusations of oppression.

  146. Bathrobe says

    华侨 huáqiáo basically means ‘Overseas Chinese’.

  147. Bathrobe says

    I regard this preoccupation about “correct” scripts as nationalist nonsense.
    I move that Russian should henceforth be written in Chinese characters. I don’t see why there would be any problem.

  148. I borrowed a word from Chinese. But I gave it back.

  149. i don’t know, B, what you are saying, either you are defending us or beriding my ” nationalism”, make up your mind!
    and yes, i’m afraid this kind of linguistic discussions on my language perhaps will provoke the same reaction from me, if English or Hebrew ot Russian would have been forced to be written in kanjis, i don’t know what reaction will be yours, exactly the same as mine I guess
    the post i linked to is offensive? i find the blog to be a highly moral place, where most of the time i agree with the reaction of people there on current political news and philosophical debates there are informative and interesting for me, even though it’s mostly from the christian theological point of view,
    not the marxist-leninist or buddhist views to which i am more accustomed too, and the post itself explains the kind of “apolitical” reaction you have which is highly political and dividing though, it’s easy to defend the powerful, but when the power shift occurs don’t you think the former powerful
    now powerless will be again under the protection of the same logic if the things reverse? how that logic would lead to gulags if it objects to general oppression and gulags?
    i object to the Chinese state policy towards their national minorities, but again i object against racism against Asian Americans, among them Chinese too, what is important there is not just who, but who has power and oppressing

  150. it seems i invented a new word, deride, i meant or could be riding on too

  151. Bathrobe says

    either you are defending us or beriding my ” nationalism”, make up your mind
    Why should I take sides?
    1. I totally agree that Chinese policies in Inner Mongolia are oppressive, including forcing people to use Chinese characters in their names. I’ve known about it for some time and find it repulsive.
    2. I don’t agree that discussing the way of representing Mongolian names in Chinese characters is an issue (any more than writing Angela Merkel’s name in Cyrillic should be an issue). I also don’t think that find finding Chinese etymologies for Mongolian words is an issue. These are not things to get offended about.
    3. Of course, it’s possible to find fault with the Chinese system of transliteration using Chinese characters itself, in which case I would agree with you — I don’t think it is a good system — but it’s not something I can do much about.
    4. I understand the dilemma of the oppressed, but I don’t think that righteous racial hatred is the answer. The problem is that the oppressed very easily become the oppressor, and racial hatred doesn’t just disappear when that happens. No race or group or country is immune from oppressing others when it gets the chance. (Even in Mongolia, forcing the Buryat minority to adopt the narrow Khalkha standard is a kind of oppression.)

  152. Bathrobe says

    Actually, the issue of signing your name in banks is a strange one. Back in the 90s I opened bank accounts in my Chinese name. Around 2003 or 2004 the Chinese government decided that foreigners could only use their actual name (as shown in their passports) in opening bank accounts. I had to close my old accounts and open new ones. For all the new accounts an English-language signature was required.
    For Inner Mongolians, on the other hand, the signature must be in Chinese characters! I suspect the reason is ID. Foreigners use passports, where ID is in English. ID cards in Inner Mongolia, like the rest of China, are in Chinese characters, so the name and signature must match the ID card. The stance of the banks is logical, if Procrustean. (Although I believe that Japanese people are required to open accounts using their romanised name — characters not allowed.)
    The refusal to deliver letters addressed in Mongolian is another matter (which I may have mentioned here before), and can only be described as arrogant and high-handed.

  153. SFReader says

    —Thus, Болд can be either 宝力道 bǎolìdào or 包勒德 bāolèdé (other alternatives may exist).
    This common Mongolian name is astonishingly widespread and believed to be a very old borrowing from Vedic Sanskrit (or more likely Avestan)

    In Central Asia the term pulad is always used to denote crucible steel. The word pulad can be traced back to the Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians (Allan and Gilmour, 2000, 7) However, in the 6th century AD Sogdian became the language of the Manichean church in the east (Gignoux and Litvinsky, 1996, 417), therefore we can assume that the text was written before this time, making this text the earliest literary evidence for the term pulad. Variations of the word pulad can be found in New Persian (polad or pulad), Mongol (bolat), Russian (bulat), as well as in Tibetan, Armenian (p’otovat’), Ossetic, Grusinian (poladi), Ukranian (bulat), Chechnian (bolat), Turkish, and Modern Arabic (fūlād) (Toussaint, pers. com.; Abaev, 1985, 265). Additionally, “in Urdu the word is farlād for steel. But in Hindi itself the word exists as phaulad meaning steel ” (Toussaint, pers. Com)
    Abaev (1985, 265), during his search for the history of the Russian word bulat, proposed that the word may have come from Sanskrit. It can now be argued that the word does indeed come from Sanskrit or one of the many Sanskrit related languages. The word pulad can be viewed as the conjunction of two words pu (also transliterated as fu, phu) and lad (or ladh). In Sanskrit pu means cleaning or purifying (Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, 2001). There is no direct translation of lad or ladh, however, there are over a hundred words for iron in the various Indo-Aryan branch dialects that use variations of the word lōhā, including lauha (see Grierson, 1928, 77). The similarity between pu-lauha meaning purified iron, and pulad, meaning refined or purified steel should not be overlooked and strongly suggests a possible etymological origin for the word pulad. It should not be assumed that the word originated in Sanskrit proper. The Avestan language of Central Asia was very similar to Sanskrit and the possible forerunner of the word may equally be found there or in one of the languages which has a similar root.
    There are many words in the different Indian languages for the word iron including lauha and loha. According to the Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon (2001) there are also scores of words for steel including the following transliterated as piNDA7yasa, abhraka-sattva, cIna-ja, and tIkSNa4-loha. A variation of pulad also appears in Sanskrit as po1la1wade1n, and po1la1wad (Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon, 2001).

  154. SFReader says

    Another very common Mongolian name and name component Ган ‘Gan’ (encountered in such common names as Ganaa, Ganbold, Gantumur, Gansukh, Gantulga, Ganbat, etc) means steel and is a direct (and apparently quite recent) borrowing from Chinese 鋼 gāng
    Proto-Sino-Tibetan: *kāŋ
    Meaning: hard, tense
    Chinese: 剛 *kāŋ hard, strong, 鋼 *kāŋ steel.
    Character: 鋼
    Modern (Beijing) reading: gāng
    Preclassic Old Chinese: kāŋ
    Classic Old Chinese: kāŋ
    Western Han Chinese: kāŋ
    Eastern Han Chinese: kāŋ
    Early Postclassic Chinese: kāŋ
    Middle Postclassic Chinese: kāŋ
    Late Postclassic Chinese: kāŋ
    Middle Chinese: kâŋ
    English meaning : steel, cast iron [L.Zhou]
    Russian meaning[s]: 1) сталь; стальной; 2) твердый
    Comments: Sino-Viet. is cu’o’ng.
    Sino-Tibetan etymology: Sino-Tibetan etymology
    Dialectal data: Dialectal data
    Radical: 167
    Four-angle index: 3731
    Karlgren code: 0697 h
    Vietnamese reading: gang
    Jianchuan Bai: kã4, kɛ̃1
    Dali Bai: ka5-, ker1
    Bijiang Bai: qõ1
    Kachin: kaŋ1 be stretched, tense, taut.
    Comments: Cf. *g(h)ăŋH, *qhăŋ.

  155. SFReader says

    Mongols are what Beckwith calls a Central Eurasian people. They always occupied a central position in Eurasian landmass and had intense contacts with every civilization in Eurasia – China and East Asia, India, Middle East-Iran, Europe-Russia.
    These contacts reflected in thousands and thousands of borrowings from their languages into Mongolian (and perhaps less numerous, but significant borrowings from Mongolian).
    Narrow ethnic nationalism just doesn’t fit historical reality of Mongolian people, who underwent true globalization back in the 13th century

  156. SFReader says

    According to the Wikileaks,

    Although Elbegdorj’s family did not play a visible role in most of his campaign, televised interviews with his wife and mother gave him a final boost during the 2009 presidential election. Both women publicly countered MPRP allegations that Elbegdorj’s paternal grandfather had immigrated to Monoglia from China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region. In an emotional segment, Elbegdorj asked his mother about his ancestry and she assured him that his ancestors were, indeed, Mongols from Khovd Aimag.

  157. SFReader says

    —sentiment towards the Inner Mongolians is complex and at times hostile (they are regarded as Mongols but not Mongols)
    Since the Han Chinese are a large majority in Inner Mongolia, there are even bigger rates of intermarriage between Mongols and Chinese, descendants of which tend to choose Mongol identity (possibly because one-child policy is not applied to Mongols).
    In addition, there are large groups of Mongols who are linguistically assimilated. Tumed Mongols, for example, are native Chinese speakers for seven generations now. But they do keep Mongol ethnic identity and Tibetan Buddhist religion.
    So, from narrow Khalkha Mongolian view, lots of Inner Mongolians are not regarded as true Mongols.

  158. SFReader says

    There is a large article by Uradyn Bulag about Tumed Mongols and their attempts to learn Mongolian language and on linguistic situation in Inner Mongolia in general

  159. SFReader says
  160. Bathrobe says

    There are Mongols in Xinjiang, so what is the problem? The problem is a very narrow idea of ethnic Mongolian nationalism that has got narrower over time. There was even talk at one time of getting rid of Sukhbaatar’s statue from Sukhbaatar Square because he may originally have come from China! This is narrow ethnic witch-hunting nationalism at its worst. What does it matter in political terms if he was an Inner Mongolian or a Khalkha Mongolian, as long as he was a Mongolian patriot (Mongol culture, fighting for Mongol independence)?
    What makes the Mongolians think there aren’t mixed-blood people in Mongolia (and not just Chinese mixed blood)? One of the most virulently and viciously anti-Chinese people I knew in Mongolia quite obviously had an admixture of Russian or some other ethnicity.
    The cancer lies in the blood-purity fallacy. From what I read in the Secret History of the Mongols, the Mongols did not start out from such a narrow conception of Mongolian blood ethnicity (although obviously blood was important in matters of marriage and paternity). Genghis Khan did not exclude Naimans or varous other groups from his army merely because they weren’t ‘pure Mongols’ (whatever that was). I think the problem comes about due to an overzealous reaction to the encroachment of other people on Mongolian lands. That is when the wagons are circled and the witch hunt begins.
    Pardon my digression. I think that self-definitions can be instrumental in deciding the future of polities. China is an expansive polity that could absorb the entirety of Mongolia without a hiccup, as long as Mongolians learnt to speak Chinese. The Mongolians are unable to even accept Mongolian speakers who have been left outside the Mongolian state for fear of ‘contamination’. These seem to be the defining narratives for the two nations. The results are all too obvious.

  161. Bathrobe says

    The author of that article wrote an entire book on the subject, one I eventually did not receive due to the incompetence or interference of the US or Chinese postal service.

  162. SFReader says

    —There are Mongols in Xinjiang, so what is the problem?
    His enemies apparently claimed that Elbegdorj’s patronimic Tsakhia is actually an Han Chinese name 才厚 Cáihòu

  163. SFReader says

    —if he was an Inner Mongolian or a Khalkha Mongolian
    Actually, there are some Khalkha Mongolians in Inner Mongolia as well (5 out of 12 historical Khalkha otogs lived in what is now Inner Mongolia, near Khingan mountains).
    Even today, Mongols, in, say, Xilin Gol League of Inner Mongolia speak what is essentially a Khalkha Mongolian dialect little different from one spoken in Ulaanbaatar.

  164. SFReader says

    —One of the most virulently and viciously anti-Chinese people I knew in Mongolia quite obviously had an admixture of Russian or some other ethnicity.
    History of Russian settlement in Mongolia is a fascinating topic. The Russian Old Believer peasants fleeing religious persecution in czarist Russia began settling in Mongolia in 19th century. There were also Russian merchants living almost constantly in Mongolian steppes, collecting livestock and other products for export to Russia.
    By early 20th century, Russians probably accounted for about 1 per cent of Mongolia’s population. During the Russian Civil War many more Russians came and settled in Mongolia.
    Their ultimate fate was similar to Buryats (who also were Russian citizens).
    Local Russians became Soviet citizens, were treated with suspicion by Mongolian authorities (suspected of being anti-Communist and possibly pro-Japanese), were mobilized in the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War, decimated on Eastern front and never recovered.
    The remnants of Russian minority have since then been assimilated into Mongolian society and now probably are close to disappearing.
    * Large groups of Soviet military and civilian personnel stationed in Mongolia during 1960-1980s never settled permanently in the country and all left in 1990.

  165. SFReader says

    There is apparently a missionary effort underway by Russian Orthodox Church in Mongolia. While chances of Mongolians choosing Russian variety of Christianity are slim, perhaps this could re-galvanize disappearing Russian and Christian Buryat minorities in Mongolia.
    * Some Buryats, especially western Buryats have converted to Orthodox Christianity in 18 century. Transbaikal Cossack ethnic group, closely related to Buryats was also mainly Orthodox Christian.
    It’s difficult to determine how many of Buryats who settled in Mongolia in the 20th century were Christians. But apparently many Mongolian Buryats continue to give Russian names to their children (some actually have both Russian and Mongolian names), so this might be an indication of former adherence to Christianity.

  166. In Central Asia the term pulad is always used to denote crucible steel. The word pulad can be traced back to the Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians (Allan and Gilmour, 2000, 7) However, in the 6th century AD Sogdian became the language of the Manichean church in the east (Gignoux and Litvinsky, 1996, 417), therefore we can assume that the text was written before this time, making this text the earliest literary evidence for the term pulad.
    Klein writes:
    פלדה (Plada): steel (a hapax legomenon in the Bible, occurring Nahum 2:4, probably meaning ‘steel’). [Together with Syriac pulad, Arabic fuladh, faludh, bulad, probably borrowed from Persian pulad ( = steel).]
    (There are sometimes minor differences in verse numbering between the Hebrew Bible and other versions of the text. The verse Klein refers to seems to be Nahum 2:3 in KJV.)
    Wiki says that the Old Testament Book of Nahum was probably written in the seventh century BC.

  167. read, the basic problem is that you constantly react as though you’re surrounded by enemies when in fact you’re in friendly territory. Nobody here dislikes Mongolians or wishes them ill, and nobody here despises the Mongolian language. If you would stop assuming the worst about us, you’d have a better time (and so would I).

  168. do i say anything about Inner Mongolians? yes, there are worst kind of nationalists in Mongolia and I fight with them too saying Chinese are also people like people and those who came to Mongolia might be not the worst kind of them, but the people who are braving many fears and should be treated as any other guests
    throughout history thogh southern Mongols tended to abandon us and join the Chinese, not once but pretty many times, so no wonder there is distrust of them
    “In addition, there are large groups of Mongols who are linguistically assimilated. Tumed Mongols, for example, are native Chinese speakers for seven generations now. But they do keep Mongol ethnic identity and Tibetan Buddhist religion.”
    that is not of course a positive example for us, must be if we turned all into such people that could satisfy your internationalism and pure linguistic interests, sorry, we prefer as we say khar gertee khaan bor gertee bogd, be ourselves in our home, so i am afraid i will continue to object to your reasoning, it’s easy for you to be above it all, that is different for us for the time being

  169. SFReader says

    Currently there is a whole new generation of young Mongolians growing up as native English speakers in the US and other English-speaking countries (possibly numbering in tens of thousands).
    Would you exclude them from Mongolian nation?
    * And you are probably aware that younger generation of Buryats (and Kalmyks as well) in Russia are mainly native Russian speakers.
    One would get very lonely quickly if you start rejecting relatives so carelessly…

  170. why are you so positive about people forgetting one’s native language? you are the linguists and should be pro preserving languages, no? what is good for the young Mongolians abroad becoming English speakers? I also think they should learn their native language if not at school if it impossible, then at home, the parents should be working more with the kids to gave them their own language

  171. SFReader says

    Regarding future of Mongolian language in Mongolia. There are no threats to it whatsoever, its dominant position is well assured (being spoken as a native language by 97 percent of population).
    In fact, there is actually something resembling linguistic expansion of standard Mongolian into neighbouring countries (primarily into Inner Mongolia, but to some extent to Buryatia as well)
    Pull of popular Mongolian culture and largely open borders mean that Inner Mongolians are increasingly adopting Mongolian based on Khalkha dialect as their standard common language.
    Fate of Mongolian language in Inner Mongolia is much more complex. I think Mongolian language will not recover in parts of Inner Mongolia where the Mongolians are greatly outnumbered, but there are huge areas where the opposite is true (particularly given greater fertility rates among Mongols compared to Chinese).
    Eventually I think Mongolian language, increasingly similar and identical to one spoken in Mongolia proper, will dominate one part of Inner Mongolia and the rest will remain linguistically Chinese area (though with large Chinese-speaking Mongol minority)
    The situation which develops by then will be somewhat similar to split between Gaelic speaking and English speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland.

  172. SFReader says

    For Buryatia, I am not that optimistic. I think Russian Buryats are well on the way to becoming essentially a Russian-speaking ethnic group with only backward rural dwellers and tiny nationalistic minded intelligentsia speaking Buryat (again, increasingly similar to Khalkha Mongolan)

  173. SFReader says

    –why are you so positive about people forgetting one’s native language?
    I am stating facts. You are just inferring my positive attitudes to these facts without any evidence.
    –you are the linguists and should be pro preserving languages, no? what is good for the young Mongolians abroad becoming English speakers? I also think they should learn their native language if not at school if it impossible, then at home, the parents should be working more with the kids to gave them their own language
    I am afraid it’s an impossible task. Every Asian American ethnic group loses its native language in second generation. Mongolians, if anything, are more inclined to switch to English than most Asian Americans.

  174. you are right about my objection of writing Mongolian in kanjis, maybe it’s absurd, we write in cyrillic anyway, but there is that self-determination and willingness factor what to adopt, we adopted Uigurjin, Cyrillic, and Tibetan and Sanksrit etymologies, so what is different in there, historical memory i guess, so really one can’t expect us to be willing to adopt Chinese script, for some reason the Chinese were never forced to abandon kanjis when Mongols ruled, if one is willing all is good, if things are forced on people there always will be objections whether you want it or not
    so Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese feel affinity to the Chinese culture, good for them, we don’t feel the same, then why just not to leave us alone then
    and young Mongolians forgetting native language and becoming just monolingual English speakers, too bad, that robs them of their roots, of their own world, maybe they don’t realize that now eager to assimilate into something perceived more advanced

  175. SFReader says

    Don’t worry too much. Judging by what these assimilated young Mongolian-Americans write on Internet forums, they are probably much more fiery and touchy Mongolian nationalists than you and lack of ability to speak Mongolia is apparently no hindrance….

  176. Bathrobe says

    Just for the record, I am not in favour of Mongolians using Chinese characters.

  177. SFReader says

    –so Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese feel affinity to the Chinese culture, good for them, we don’t feel the same
    That’s a rather sweeping over-generalization. There are probably many Mongolians who do not share your distaste for Chinese culture (particularly, I guess, in Inner Mongolia with its large Chinese speaking Mongolian population and mixed Mongol-Chinese marriages).
    On other thread we recently discussed Injinash, classical 19th Mongolian novelist who wrote novels in Chinese literary tradition. He apparently was quite comfortable with Chinese culture.
    And even in Mongolia, there are tens of thousands of schoolchildren and students enrolled in Chinese-language schools and universities, thousands of Mongolian students go every year to study in China or Taiwan, all of them paying quite large sums of money to study this despised language and culture…

  178. SFReader says

    Regarding Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese attitudes to China, it is interesting to note that they like classical Chinese culture(and often regard it as their own), but intensely dislike Chinese people and Chinese state.
    I’ve seen somewhat similar attitude in Mongolians who like Russian language and culture, but at the same time really dislike ethnic Russians and despise Russia.
    * This attitude appears somewhat common throughout the former Soviet bloc though it, of course, competes with more vulgar forms of Russophobia denying any value of Russian culture as well.

  179. SFReader says

    —Just for the record, I am not in favour of Mongolians using Chinese characters.
    Given that large numbers of Mongolians in China are in fact native Mandarin Chinese speakers (many are native speakers of Jin Chinese, which apparently sometimes classified as a separate Chinese language from Mandarin), I am afraid some Mongolians will be using Chinese characters regardless of our wishes

  180. Injinashi, i recall from the literature class, invented how to name China as Dundad uls in Mongolian,that was later adopted into the kanjis and how it came to write modern China in kanjis now, is that true? Before that the naming went just by the dynasties names, according to the literature instructor, i remember doubting that fact but if it was true, perhaps that could be an illustration of our subtle contributions to the great Chinese culture too
    yes, there are many people studying Chinese now in Mongolia, but their purpose i think is not switching to Chinese and i agree there is the similar attitude about Russians in my country, admiration of culture, language, literature, but not much liking of the people, again i would say the scale matters what to compare, Pushkin with a rude Russian tetka who is trying to cheat you on something, what to do human nature is not ideal and can’t be, but in general we have an image of Russians being friendly, open, less prejudiced than Chinese and once friends capable of being friends, when the popular image of Chinese is someone stacking a knife into one’s back, but the Chinese people abroad i’ve met all are the friendliest people i’ve met, that’s perhaps because they are the same outsiders in the culture we find ourselves together, my contacts with the Chinese in China were mostly in the airports or taxi drivers, they seem all helpful and polite

  181. SFReader says

    Characters 中國 (Zhong guo – Middle Kingdom) are found in the Western Zhou era bronze vessel dating from about 700 BC (2700 years ago)

  182. SFReader says

    —our subtle contributions to the great Chinese culture too
    Greatest Mongolian contribution to the great Chinese culture is of course, the Great Wall of China.
    It was designed to keep Mongols out, after all…

  183. so that was not true, i knew it, yeah, keep building the walls than expect us to learn the language, what to do, as Russians say chto poseyal to i pojnesh’
    what you seed you will grow, and that applies of course to the both sides

  184. than then, hm, i’ll never learn to choose the right ones and the articles, strange how it works inattention

  185. SFReader says

    Speaking more seriously, the problem is that Mongolian nation in current form is relatively recent, it’s history dates from 12 century AD while Chinese civilization is known from 15th century BC.
    Of course, the Mongols did not appear out of nowhere, but figuring out history and prehistory of ancestors of Mongols is very difficult, especially their connections with various Turkic peoples who inhabited present territory of Mongolia before Mongols.
    Anyway, if you read Beckwith and a number of other similarly inclined scholars, early Chinese culture and civilization itself were apparently largely influenced from the west by nomadic Indo-European peoples who also inhabited Mongolia. Ancestors of Mongols and Turkic peoples adopted their steppe culture from these Indo-Europeans (to such extent, that even word for horse in Mongolian is an Indo-European borrowing.)
    In fact, the Mongols are partially their descendants as well (about 10 percent of Mongolian males carry R1A Haplogroup genes, which are believed to be related to Indo-Europeans)

  186. “even word for horse in Mongolian is an Indo-European borrowing ”
    now, why it should become instantly a borrowing, why we are not the physical continuation of the people who inhabited Mongolia at different times back to the 15th century BC, surely we didn’t come out of nowhere, so our history claims descendancy from Hunnu’s and we built 5-6 empires throughout history and we perhaps wouldn’t engage in counting how long back unless the Chinese would start it, fine, you have your long history and traditions good for you, now keep that to yourselves and don’t try to impose any of that on us is our attutude, well, the discussion of that common etymologies, nostratic languages and else was that’s why a bit interesting to me, but if it’s rejected so what to do, science
    now i shut up, i said it all and will be repeating just what i said before

  187. SFReader says

    In many ways, Mongols and Chinese are actually underwent through same external influences in addition to influencing each other.
    For example, from 7th century AD, under the Tang dynasy China had a period of Buddhist influence and undertook a massive program of translation from Sanskrit. This was simultaneous with Tibetan adoption of Buddhism from India and very similar in scope and cultural consequences with Mongolian adoption of Buddhism in 16-17 centuries.
    In 20th century, of course both Mongolia and China experienced Western and Russian influences and both had a Communist form of government closely modeled on Soviet Russia.

  188. SFReader says

    –now, why it should become instantly a borrowing
    Because Mongolian has two words for horse and second one actually appears to be a native Mongolian word for horse with close cognates in other Altaic languages.
    Proto-Altaic: *ătV
    Meaning: horse
    Russian meaning: лошадь
    Turkic: *ăt
    Proto-Turkic: *ăt
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: horse
    Russian meaning: лошадь
    Old Turkic: at (Orkh., Yen., OUygh.)
    Karakhanid: at (MK, KB)
    Turkish: at
    Tatar: at
    Middle Turkic: at
    Uzbek: ɔt
    Uighur: at
    Sary-Yughur: a’t
    Azerbaidzhan: at
    Turkmen: at
    Khakassian: at
    Shor: at
    Oyrat: at
    Halaj: hat
    Chuvash: ut
    Yakut: at
    Dolgan: at
    Tuva: a’t
    Kirghiz: at
    Kazakh: at
    Noghai: at
    Bashkir: at
    Balkar: at
    Gagauz: at
    Karaim: at
    Karakalpak: at
    Salar: at, ac
    Kumyk: at
    Comments: EDT 23, VEWT 30, ЭСТЯ 1, 197-198, TMN 2, 4-5, Лексика 441, Ашм. III, 316-320, Stachowski 38.
    Mongolian: *aduɣu-
    Proto-Mongolian: *aduɣu-
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 horse(s), cattle 2 drove, herd 3 to herd
    Russian meaning: 1 лошадь, домашнее животное 2 табун лошадей 3 пасти
    Written Mongolian: aduɣusu 1, aduɣu 2, aduɣula- 3
    Middle Mongolian: adusun 1, adu’u(n) 2 (SH), adu’uči ‘herdsman’ (HY 30), adu(w)sun, adasun 1 (MA 95, 96), adon, adoson 1 (IM 432)
    Khalkha: adūs 1, adūn 1, 2, adūla- 3
    Buriat: adūha(n), adaha(n), adūn 1, 2, adūl- 3
    Kalmuck: adūsṇ 1, adūn 2
    Ordos: adaGus(u) 1, adū 2
    Dongxian: asun 1, adula- 3 (Тод. Дн. 110)
    Baoan: asoŋ 1, adal- 3 (Тод. Бн. 133), adǝlǝ- 3 (MGCD)
    Dagur: adōsa 1, adō 2 (Тод. Даг. 118, MGCD, MD 111), adōse ‘animal’ (MD 111)
    Monguor: āsǝ (SM 15) 1, dulā- (SM 64) 3
    Comments: KW 2, MGCD 94. Mong. > Chag. adun, see TMN 119; > Evk. aduɣun etc., see Poppe 1966, 189, 195, Doerfer MT 98-99, Rozycki 11.
    Tungus-Manchu: *abdu-
    Proto-Tungus-Manchu: *abdu-
    Altaic etymology: Altaic etymology
    Meaning: 1 cattle, herd 2 household, property 3 cloth, fabric
    Russian meaning: 1 скот, стадо 2 домашнее хозяйство, имущество 3 ткань
    Evenki: abdu 1, 2
    Even: abdụ 2, 3
    Negidal: abdụn 1
    Spoken Manchu: adun ‘herd, flock’ (2319)
    Literary Manchu: adu 3
    Jurchen: ad-hu (551) 3
    Orok: abdụ 2
    Comments: ТМС 1, 5-6. Man. adun ‘herd’ is probably

  189. aduu is herd of horses, while mor’ is a horse
    two different words, we have different words for every horse age etc. being a horse culture, why these words can’t be both originated just as proto mongolic words, not borrowings from elsewhere or others can’t borrow the words
    even steppe life style becomes an adoption from elsewhere, the nature itself is suitable for this lifestyle why would others introduce that to my ancestors
    actually the Chinese building the wall was perhaps one positive proof of history that would guarantee us we’ll never get annexed like Tibet on the slim claims of common ancestors, languages and whatnot
    but nowadays seems anybody can occupy anywhere claiming their national interests after Iraq’s occupation
    so what if our mineral wealth would induce their greed enough that one day we’d wake up in a Chinese state, too asymmetrical are the powers, so i hope people understand our fears and wouldn’t build any scientific proofs aiding in any way to that possible cause

  190. SFReader says

    —why we are not the physical continuation of the people who inhabited Mongolia at different times back to the 15th century BC
    Partially yes, as I indicated above.
    The problem is that these ancient inhabitants of Mongolia belonged to completely different race from modern Mongolians.
    Being essentially Europeans, with blond hair and all….

  191. “Being essentially Europeans, with blond hair and all….”
    aha, you claim pure scientific interest and all, but underneath what is that if it’s not again eurocentrist expansion or something, see, nothing can be unbiased, pure, scientific
    it’s a different situation with the US colonists, so they started their history 200 years ago, a new country with some great bloodshed, slavery and all accompanying too, but we were where we were all the time and that’s our history and noone can deny us that

  192. SFReader says

    It was not difficult to foresaw such response, but I prepared this quote for you, from authentic Mongolian source.
    “Краниологический материал эпохи неолита говорит о двух расовых типах населения страны того времени, соответствующих ее этно-культурным областям. В восточных областях страны проживали монголоиды байкальского типа, имевшие представление о зачаточном земледелии, а в западных областях – европеоиды, близкие к афанасьевскому типу Южной Сибири.
    В эпоху бронзы и раннего железа западную территорию Монголии населяли племена европеоидного типа с примесью монголоидных черт, характеризовавшиеся культурой каменных курганов и чанд-мальской культурой, В рассматриваемую эпоху на данной территории происходило смешение европеоидных и монголоидных по типу населения.
    Смешение европеоидного и монголоидного населения этой области продолжалось, возможно, вплоть до нашей эры, т.е. до хуннского периода, и шло в направлении усиления монголоидных черт в антропологическом типе населения Западной Монголии.”
    {for the readers who don’t read Russian, it’s a quote from work of Mongolian antropologist who states citing craniological material that western Mongolia in neolithic times and Bronze and early Iron ages was populated by racially European peoples while eastern and central Mongolia had Mongoloid populations. }

  193. i don’t have nothing against europeoid people’s living there, when it says the mongolic people were there too, so why always everything should be borrowed from the other side by us, not the other way around is my question, the odds should be the same i guess

  194. SFReader says

    —our history claims descendancy from Hunnu’s
    Hunnu (also known as Xiongnu)were a rather late arrival (their state dates from 3rd century BC)
    It is interesting that their predecessors, the so called DongHu (or eastern barbarians) known in Chinese chronicles since 7th century BC might actually have spoken proto-Mongolic languages (Hunnu are thought to be Turkic speakers)
    In fact, the Xianbei people, descendants of DongHu (and again, probably proto-Mongolic speakers as well) have destroyed Hunnu empire in 2nd century AD.
    So claiming descendancy from Hunnu and not from their enemies who might have actually been ancestors of Mongols, appears rather unwise decision…

  195. SFReader says

    Another interesting thing about DongHu (archaeologically identified with ) is that they apparently were originally a settled agricultural society of Bronze Age similar to their neighbours of Western Zhou dynasty China, but which then moved toward a more pastoral, nomadic lifestyle.

  196. again our concern is not with the time table, but with that, that we were there in some or other way all the way to the 15 BC too and further down to the stone age, what is there to argue
    just shoving on us this or other not proven adoption seems like, we can claim that pizza or ice-cream were originated in Mongolia, i would like to see a happy Italian after that, the claims regarding the word etymologies or lifestyle adoptions sound not much different from our such claims then

  197. SFReader says

    —we were there in some or other way all the way to the 15 BC too and further down to the stone age, what is there to argue
    I am not sure what you want from history. That Mongols always were nomadic pastoralists living in Mongolia and speaking Mongolian language?
    I am afraid this is impossible, since there was no nomadic pastoralism in Mongolia before 8-7th centuries BC. People living in Mongolia were originally engaged in primitive agriculture and adopted pastoralism later.
    This is an archaeological fact.
    I’ll grant you that at least for eastern and central Mongolia, these populations were Mongoloid and possibly ancestral to Mongols (and perhaps to Turkic peoples as well)
    Invention of nomadic pastoralism is credited to Iranian peoples (Scythians and Cymmerians) who are actually quite well documented to inhabit the steppes from Black Sea to western Mongolia in this period.
    Adoption of nomadic pastoralism by people of eastern and central Mongolia came after that and it’s quite logical to suppose that it was under Scythian influence.

  198. the odds should be the same i guess
    There are no odds. There are only facts, which you are apparently not interested in.
    I am not sure what you want from history. That Mongols always were nomadic pastoralists living in Mongolia and speaking Mongolian language?
    What she wants seems to be that Mongolians should be universally acknowledged as the greatest people in the world with the greatest language, which other people borrow from (because Mongolians are the greatest) but which never borrows from any other language.

  199. who say the greatest, i want to say that we existed authentic ourselves under different names perhaps, nomads after all, and were not just this or other savages whom everybody else’s mission was to enlighten some or other way, thanks a lot of course

  200. when i ask direct questions asking your facts, i never get conclusive answers, and the facts you present as the answers seem can be interpreted this or other way and could be even misused, so i say so
    about archeological facts, must be that’s why Hunnu’s are claimed to be our ancestors, and, okay, it could be that the pastoralism was adopted later, but the language was proto-mongolic you say, so it was an important distinction back than too
    what my reaction would make you happy then, to accept we are not that different from Chinese and shouldn’t mind becoming their colony or better to get assimilated the faster better, how many times i should repeat that the danger is real for us, when for you it’s just some pure scientific interest

  201. jamessal says

    There was a Mongolian woman who left a blog in a huff because someone suggested that her remote ancestors may have borrowed a word from Chinese
    I’m just reposting this in case it gets lost amidst all the tedious paranoia and nationalism. I laughed out loud, Bathrobe!

  202. tedious paranoia and nationalism how it sounds for you, for me it’s my one and only life and identity
    if you want me to leave because you can’t change my mind, just say so i will leave
    that’s very as if like illustrative of the western intellectuals, what, one of the “aborigines” dares to talk you, you perhaps would prefer them dead and silent and they should be of course thoroughly studied

  203. jamessal says

    Wow, “read” must be short for “mind reader,” because whereas I thought you were just boring, and Bathrobe funny, you’ve detected race hatred and murder deep in my unconscious. I’m not sure I can be comfortable around anyone so incisive. In fact, cowardly though this may be, I think I would prefer you leave. You’ll doubtless grasp the reasons better than I ever will.

  204. if my words can be interpreted this way
    “What she wants seems to be that Mongolians should be universally acknowledged as the greatest people in the world with the greatest language, which other people borrow from (because Mongolians are the greatest) but which never borrows from any other language.”
    i can interpret your reactions the way i interpreted, and i haven’t argued with you until now, and don’t know who you are so please stay out if this argument

  205. marie-lucie says

    jamessal, we are all Mr Hat’s guests here. It is not up to any of us to decide who should stay or leave.
    I feel we have been getting very far away from the initial topic of this thread – nothing wrong with that in principle of course, we do it all the time, but things are getting a little too hot for my tastes. Time to cool down, I think. Just take a break.

  206. I agree with marie-lucie, this thread has degenerated and it is time to close it up. Everybody cool down and try to be reasonable interlocutors.

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