Vovin on Proto-Korean and Japonic.

A reader sent me a number of links, the first of which is From Koguryǒ to T’amna: Slowly riding to the South with speakers of Proto-Korean, by Alexander Vovin (whom we’ve discussed before, e.g. here and here); the abstract:

This article recapitulates some old evidence for the Japonic linguistic substratum in Silla and Paekche in and for the lack of thereof in Koguryǒ. It also introduces some new evidence for the same linguistic distribution. The new evidence for Koguryǒ comes mainly from words recorded in Chinese dynastic histories and from additional Korean loanwords identified in Manchu, the new evidence for Paekche from Liang shu, while the new evidence for Silla is based on the analysis of Silla placenames recorded in the Samguk sagi, which are traditionally considered to be opaque. The present article identifies a number of them as Japonic. Finally, I present the Japonic etymology for the former name of Chejudo island, T’amna.

Accompanying it were some Google Books links (1, 2, 3) and an article in Japanese. It’s all way out of my area of knowledge, but I know there are Hatters who revel in this stuff, so have at it. (Thanks, Ike!)


  1. OT of Korean/Japonic, but on topic of Vovin, wrt Pumpokol.

    Progress of a sort at wikipedia: its spurious article on Pumpokol has been much pruned. David M pointed out it was nonsense after I drew attention to it on the Log. (Comments now closed there.)

    The edit comment is “rv blatant and silly OR” = remove b and s Original Research? OR is wikispeak for just making stuff up?

  2. David Marjanović says

    its spurious article on Pumpokol has been much pruned

    Oh, good! I never got around to doing it myself.

    OR is Original Research; Wikipedia is meant to report published reseach, not to be a publication venue for new research or indeed new crackpottery. I think rv means “reversing”.

  3. John Cowan says

    Reverting, technically, though of course from the same Latin verb. We reverse course, but revert documents.

  4. Here‘s the much-pruned article, which indeed has been pruned to within an inch of its life — compare the Russian version!

  5. This is outside my field of expertise, but mainstream scholarship in Korea seems to be in agreement with at least some broad strokes of Vovin’s ideas. The exact relationship between Koreanic and Japonic remains unresolved, of course.

    Beckwith seems to have some following on the internet, but his ideas about the language of Goguryeo (Koguryŏ) being originally Japonic seem untenable to me in the face of the evidence, such as the fact that the Goguryeo place names that seem to be Japonic are found around the Han basin in the south, not in their original power centres to the north. Vovin’s picture of Koreanic arriving from the north and taking over the peninsula in a southward march seems the simplest explanation of the evidence.

  6. Odd how not even the Russian Wikipedia article on Pumpokol mentions Heinrich Werner’s (undoubtedly the world’s foremost Yeniseiologist) ‘Die Jenissej-Sprachen des 18. Jahrhunderts’ (2005), which has 19 pages on Pumpokol.

  7. Christopher Culver says

    Fred, I think that is because Die Jenissej-Sprachen des 18. Jahrhunderts was published by Harrassowitz, that pricey Western European publisher. I suppose that few Russians have access to it because whatever libraries they use cannot afford it. In reading the work of even Russians working in academia – let alone armchair enthusiasts on the internet – I often encounter an unawareness of research published outside Russia, even when the publisher feels like a very big name and a must-have purchase to us in Europe. I am sure that you have encountered a similar thing, but as we once discussed, we in Europe are just as unaware of many Russian publications.

    However, Werner’s book has been scanned and uploaded to LibGen, so awareness of it among Russian amateurs may spread.

  8. pruned to within an inch of its life

    It contains as much sense now as it did before; and far less nonsense.

    Perhaps someone could volunteer to translate from the Russian? At least the intro. (Google Translate talks about “primordially pumpkin vocabulary”.)

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    I’m feeling a bit left out in never having encountered the article in its unpruned state now.
    Is it possible to summarise the lunacy for enquiring minds?

  10. January First-of-May says

    One of the wonders of Wikipedia is that, aside from some (rare) exceptional circumstances, all previous versions of (non-deleted) articles are available for enquiring readers with sufficient search skills.
    In this particular case, this is the version immediately prior to the pruning.

    For those who just want a summary and/or don’t want to check the link: it was basically an extensive list of Pumpokol words and their sound-alikes in assorted IE languages (plus a bunch of Pumpokol words that were presumably supposed to sound IE-like but didn’t have anything in the “comparison” column).

  11. David Marjanović says

    Not just IE, but Germanic!

    Perhaps someone could volunteer to translate from the Russian?

    I won’t have time for weeks, if not months 🙁

  12. Pumpokol borrowed Romance term for wine, while related Arin language uses Arabic borrowing.

    Perhaps South Siberia was not as isolated place as some people think

  13. Sound-alikes? Some of them are alleged sound-alikes, e.g. “Greek φίκος, Latin figa, ‘fig'”. Latin for “fig” is ficus, and neither φίκος nor figa is listed in the very full Logeion dictionary site, though the former looks like a properly-formed Greek word.

  14. David M’s critique of the Germanic allegations. (Read down a bit; it was a busy thread. I would have posted the link earlier, but for WordPress’s habit of impounding comments with multiple links.)

    Yes the fig/ivy nonsense was called out. In general if someone’s claiming borrowings from Germanic but then starts calling on Greek/Latin/Italian, it’s a reasonable sign they’re just making stuff up. (Which was a critique of the original topic of that Language Log thread.)

  15. Pumpokol word ‘bino’ for wine clearly comes from Romance word (probably via Russian ‘vino’).

    Similarly, Arin word for wine “araga” can’t be anything else than Arabic ʿaraq ﻋﺮﻕ

    Cultural words like that are easily borrowed.

    But I really doubt Pumpokol borrowed word for “forest” from Germanic.

    Of all the words Siberians needed to borrow, this probably would be the last thing to come to mind…

  16. David Eddyshaw says

    Not just IE, but Germanic

    So Pumpokol was related to Chinese!

    Of all the words Siberians needed to borrow, this [forest] probably would be the last thing to come to mind…

    I don’t know. My forebears borrowed their word for “children” from Latin. Archaeologists have established that they probably did have children before the Romans came, and genetic studies (though susceptible of various interpretations) tend to be broadly supportive of this conclusion.

    Moreover, I imagine that living in the taiga you’d get so very bored with forest that trying to make it a bit less dull by referring to it with a fancy foreign name might have some appeal.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Or you might not see the forest for the trees, and so have no word for it until somebody comes in and blows your mind…

  18. Trond Engen says

    60 words for different types of snow but none for snow.

  19. SFReader says

    Well, Germanic languages did borrow Siberian word for a forest (“taiga”), so….

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