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Loanwords, Post-Qín, Premodern

(1,971 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
Chinese civilization has been in contact with foreign peoples since the beginning, but the identification of loanwords from non-Chinese languages in the earliest forms of Chinese (Loanwords, Pre-Qín) is troublesome. However, the picture of borrowing becomes much clearer from the Hàn dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) onward. Stages of premodern Chinese beginning with late Old Chinese (roughly 1st to 5th centuries CE; Old Chinese Phonology) can be reconstructed with much more confidence than earlier Old Ch…
Date: 2017-03-02

Loanwords, Pre-Qín

(2,143 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
Early Chinese civilization is regarded by the general public as if it were self-contained, and its language, Old Chinese (Old Chinese Phonology), at first glance appears to be a closed system unlike, say, Latin which is full of obvious Greek loanwords. However, a "pure" language without loanwords is an anomaly. For decades, specialists have attempted to identify loanwords in Old Chinese. Such words have potentially tremendous consequences for our understanding of the cultural situation of early …
Date: 2017-03-02

Minority Languages: Traditional and Modern Writing Systems

(3,817 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
Chinese characters (hereafter “sinographs”) are of course the writing system of China and are ancestral to many minority writing systems in China (Zhōu 2011). However, many other kinds of characters have been used in what is now Chinese territory for centuries, and some are still in use. Five different writing systems are shown on rénmínbì 人民幣 banknotes, Chinese characters and four alphabets: Mongolian, Uyghur, Tibetan, and Roman for Mandarin and Zhuàng 僮 (simplified: 壯). These five are but the tips of an orthographic iceberg whose origins go far back in time. 1. Extended Sinography Ther…
Date: 2017-04-11

Khitan Language

(2,254 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
1. General The Khitan (Qìdān 契丹) language was spoken by the Khitan, an extinct ethnic group who resided in two empires: the Liáo (907–1125) in what is now Mongolia, northeastern China, and eastern Russia, and its successor, the Western Liáo (Qara Khitai, Hélà Qǐdá 和剌乞答; 1124–1218), between the Oxus River and the Altai Mountains to the west of the Tangut Empire. Khitan was an official language of the Liáo state and continued to be used as an official language by the conquering, Jurchen-speaking Jīn…
Date: 2017-03-02

Tangut Language

(3,583 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
1. General The Tangut language (also known as Xīxià 西夏; Tangut 1mi4 1ngwu’1) was spoken by the Tangut, an extinct ethnic group who resided in the Tangut Empire (Tangut 1phon2 2be4 2lheq4 2leq4 ‘Great State of the White and High’) in what is now northwestern China (Níngxià and parts of Gānsù, Qīnghǎi, Shǎnxī, and Inner Mongolia). Tangut was the de facto official language of the Tangut state and may have been used as a lingua franca among the ethnic groups of the Tangut Empire: the Tangut, the Chinese, Tibetans, and Uighurs. The Tangut language continued t…
Date: 2017-03-02

Jurchen Language

(1,309 words)

Author(s): Marc MIYAKE
1. General The Jurchen (Nǚzhēn 女真) language was spoken by the Jurchen, an ethnic group whose name was officially changed in 1635 to Manchu by Hóng Tàijí 洪太極 (1592–1643), second emperor of the Qīng dynasty (1644–1911). (Hóng Tàijí predates the official reign dates of the Qīng which did not complete its conquest of China until after his death.) The Qīng was originally called Hòu Jīn 後金 ‘Later Jīn’, a reference to the original Jīn dynasty (1115–1234) founded by the Jurchen who had conquered the Liáo dynasty (907–1125) of their Khitan rulers. It is customary to speak of Jīn Jurchen, the …
Date: 2017-03-02