Victor Mair explains the linguistic origins of Archaic Chinese weapon terms


Ming arrows

Ming dynasty “divine” arrows. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Seshat expert contributor and University of Pennsylvania professor Victor Mair recently published his fifth post in a series on reconstructing Old Sinitic (Archaic Chinese) terms for weapons. The posts are available on UPenn’s Language Log linguistics blog. Mair explores various themes in the series, including the Chinese translation of the term “Excalibur” and the origin of the term for axe. These interesting posts show how a close scrutiny of how a language develops a terminology and sign systems for different artifacts over time– such as the important military technologies Mair talks about here – reflects the artifacts’ origins and various uses over time.The most recent post, on the Tocharian roots of the ancient Chinese word for arrow (箭), is available here: Of precious swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions part 5.

Previous posts in the series:

Of previous swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions

Of previous swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions part 2

Of previous swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions part 3

Of previous swords and Old Sinitic reconstructions part 4

 

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