Different Appellations for China

Outsider

Senior Member
Portuguese (Portugal)
Moderation Note:
This thread has been split from an OL thread. The topic of the current thread is the etymology of different names for China, the country.


English and many other languages use various forms of the name "China" and the prefix "Sino-" or "Sin-". These forms are thought to be probably derived from the name of the Qin Dynasty that first unified the country (221-206 BCE).

Wikipedia
I have read similar explanations in other sources.
 
  • john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    As I am aware, the source of all the /khi/ words is from the Khitai tribe (or Qidan), that ruled northern China as the Liao Dynasty, between the Northern Song and the Mongolian (Yuan) period. This spread into Ugyhur, to Turkish, to Russia, to Medieval Latin, to the Romance and Germanic languages, including English. It survives in English as "Cathay".

    Sanskrit is the source of the /c(h)in/ words; the phoneme is derived from the name of Qin Dynasty regime. From Sanskrit, it spread into Italian by Marco Polo, then into other European languages from there. The phoneme (I'll render it in pinyin) /qin/ does not generally exist in the Indo-European languages which leads into quite a variety of words when it has to be adopted into IE languages. However, I think the relatively close Sanskrit word (I'm guessing) used an approximation that split into /chi/ and /si/ when it arrived in Europe.
     

    john_riemann_soong

    Senior Member
    English, Singlish, Chinese; Singapore
    It's curious when you look up two sources at opposite ends of the transmission. The old fashioned name for China, "Cathay", almost definitely came from "Khitai" (Liao Dynasty), the peoples being termed "Qidan" in Mandarin.

    But you must remember, the modern Mandarin pronunciation has substantial diffeences from what it would have been called in Middle Chinese and proto-Mandarin. According to my Chinese reconstruction sources, the Middle Chinese for the name of the Qin Dynasty would have been "ʒjin" (a pronunciation which can be rendered in French as jyine).

    Also, according to etymonline:

    "porcelain imported from China," 1579, from the country name (1555), probably ult. from Skt. Cina-s "the Chinese" (earliest European usage is in It., by Marco Polo), perhaps from Qin dynasty, which ruled 3c. B.C.E. Latinized as Sina, hence sinologist. The Chinese word for the country is Chung-kuo, lit. "the Middle Kingdom." Chinatown first attested 1857 in California.
    There are some inconsistencies in "China" only coming ultimately from "Qin" (or at least all the names). Note the word "perhaps".

    First, the /q/ phoneme in pinyin is generally only found in Mandarin, so "Qin" would not have been pronounced in the 13th century the same way it is today. Latin has a "Sin-" root (hence, Sina), which is funny because it seems to have been palatalised (a funny thing for non-Vulgar Latin) while Italian keeps the hard /k/ sound.

    French uses "Chine" (which is counterintuitive when you compare it with Latin; if you were to reconstruct the Latin from French using knowledge of sound changes, you would expect L. "Caena"). On the other hand, "jyine" sounds rather close to "Chine" (if you read them the French way) doesn't it?
     

    aleo_china

    New Member
    China-Mandarin
    It is said the words of china in the European languages with the pronounciation nearly the same are the transforms of the word "Qin" in Chinese, which is also the name of a dynasty round 2000 years ago when Qin was a great power in the world with teritory broad.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Latin has a "Sin-" root (hence, Sina), which is funny because it seems to have been palatalised (a funny thing for non-Vulgar Latin) while Italian keeps the hard /k/ sound.

    French uses "Chine" (which is counterintuitive when you compare it with Latin; if you were to reconstruct the Latin from French using knowledge of sound changes, you would expect L. "Caena"). On the other hand, "jyine" sounds rather close to "Chine" (if you read them the French way) doesn't it?
    The Latin root "Sin-" may have a different origin from "China". The latter and its cognates are medieval, or perhaps postmedieval words. Classical authors usually called China "Serica" -- though names varied, and it's often difficult to be sure about which country they were talking about.

    Although Europe had heard about China on and off since Antiquity, it only became really aware of it from Marco Polo's time on. And of course Marco called it Cathay...

    I don't know where exactly the word "China" comes from, but it's an interesting question. It may even have been the Portuguese who first brought the word to Europe!
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    The word China comes (in various languages) from 清 [qing] (see post #2), giving China, Chine etc.
    In Slavic languages the origin comes from Catay (with different variations), a name given to China allegedly by Marco Polo .
    The Arabic (and the Hebrew as well) word Sin (see post #1) is not related to qing. Some scholars have linked it to the word Assuan (where the famous dam is).
    The word Sin is mentioned in the Bible, which has given (unfounded) speculations that there where Jews in China in biblical times. The Jesuits discussed this lengthly (and rather pointlessly) in the 16-17th century.
     
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