IE Cognates in Ancient Chinese

It seems fairly obvious to me that much basic Chinese vocabulary shares common origins with comparable European terms. Linguistic evidence is complemented by legends about China’s legendary nation-founding Xuanyuan Huangdi contained in the Book of Rites (Lĭjì / 禮記). If the 禮記 is to be believed, blond god Huangdi “gave hundreds of things their right names, in order to illuminate the people” (“黄帝正名百物以明民共财“).

Some of the most glaring examples include common domestic animals such as 犬 (something like *kün or *khü(ĕ)n in ancient Chinese) for “hound /Hund /canis / κυνός”, 馬 (ma, *mog) for “mare / marc (ir.) / Mähre / *mork (PIE)”, 豕 (sĕg) for “sow / Sau / sus (lt.)/ *suk (PIE)” (pig) and 牛 (*gou) for cow / Kuh.

Credit for this particular aha moment goes to the scholar Zhang Congdong (张聪东 / Chang Tsung-tung), who, though he apparently never finished his magnum opus, did leave us with a priceless collection of cognate studies entitled “Indo-European Vocabulary in Old Chinese”. The pdf file is available from the impressive Sino-Platonic papers collection, located here: Since their current pdf version seems to be corrupt, I will upload my copy here for anyone who wants to take a look: Zhang Congdong – Indoeuropean Vocabulary in Old Chinese.

It’s also available from scribd at:

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2 Responses to IE Cognates in Ancient Chinese

  1. Pingback: Etymology of the Chinese word “ming” | Aha moments

  2. Pingback: The mysterious Sino-German connection | Aha Moments

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