Category Archives: Language

Proper Names

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names” Intriguing quote often attributed to Confucius, where “proper name” is the translation used for 正名. It brings to mind the convolutions of meaning we find in Newspeak, reminding … Continue reading

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The mysterious Sino-German connection

As discussed in a previous post, to anyone reviewing the evidence in detail, it is difficult to deny the obvious long list of cognates between Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Chinese. These cognates include numerous  elements of core vocabulary: verbs, nouns and … Continue reading

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Memorable Etymologies

These days it is becoming increasingly simple to find etymologies online. I’ll list some memorable word collections here (and add to it later). Those that strike me tend to be those which reveal cognates which I had not previously thought of. Continue reading

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Expressing Possession

To take / to receive / to give / to have / to own…. when we look back in time these ideas seem to have all been jumbled up. To see how, let’s take the roots of ‘receive’ – from re + cipere, and of ‘give’, allegedly from *kap- and *ghabh-, respectively, according to Pokorny. Besides the above, what words can we find that use these roots? Continue reading

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Thinking about… inflammations and infections

In school I was told that there are two basic types of acute disease – one caused by “bacteria” or “germs” and the other caused by “viruses”. Against the first sort, antibiotics are supposed to be the tool of choice. Against the second there seemed to be no clear answers. In retrospect, I have had to conclude that my secondary school biology knowledge has turned out to be pretty spotty. At this point, with respect to the microscopic world, all I feel confident declaring is that I feel sure I don’t know what’s going on.

Nonetheless, my real-life experience has tended to lend some support to the idea that there could well be two distinct categories of acute disease – whatever those are. For lack of any better words I’ll call them infections and inflammations. Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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Etymology of αγαθός & good

Official received wisdom seems to be that neither “αγαθός” (good in classic Greek) nor “good/gut/goed” have cognates outside their particular language families. 是吗? Like so many other parallels between Germanic, Chinese and Greek words, today they sure look similar to me.

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