Khitan language

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Khitan
Native to China
Region northern
Extinct c. 1243 (Yelü Chucai, last person known who could speak and write Khitan)
Mongolic[1]
  • Khitan
Khitan large script and Khitan small script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 zkt
Linguist list
zkt
Glottolog kita1247[2]

The Khitan language (also known as Liao and Kitan (ISO 639-3); Chinese: 契丹語) is a now-extinct language once spoken by the Khitan people (AD 388 – 1243). Khitan is generally deemed to be genetically linked to the Mongolic languages.[3] It was written using two mutually exclusive writing systems known as the Khitan large script and the Khitan small script. The language was the official language of the Liao Dynasty (907–1125) and Kara-Khitan Khanate (1124–1218). Janhunen states "A better term for Khitan than Mongolic would be Para-Mongolic, implying that it was probably a language collateral to the ancestor of all the Mongolic languages."[4] Presently the theory of the Mongolic, rather than Tungusic, affiliation of Khitan is more and more commonly accepted by both eastern and western scholars.[5] The Khitans had two scripts of their own and many Mongolic words are found in their half-deciphered writings that are usually found with a parallel Chinese text (for example, nair = sun, sair = moon, tau = five, jau = hundred, m.r = horse, im.a = goat, n.q = dog, m.ng = silver, ju.un = summer, n.am.ur = autumn, u.ul = winter, heu.ur = spring, tau.l.a = rabbit, t.q.a = hen and m.g.o = snake).[6] There is no doubt regarding the Khitan being proto-Mongolic.[7]

Vocabulary[edit]

There are several closed systems of Khitan lexical items for which systematic information is available.[8] The following is a list of words in these closed systems that are similar to Mongolic. Mongolian equivalents are given after the English translation:

Seasons[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
heu.ur spring qabur
ju.un summer jun
n.am.ur autumn namur
u.ul winter ebül

Numerals[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
dz.ur.er second *jir 'two'
hu.ur.er third gurba 'three'
durer/duren fourth dörben
tau five tabun
t.ad.o.ho fifth tabu-daki
da.lo.er seventh dololga 'seven'
is nine yesü
jau hundred jagun
ming thousand minggan

Compared with Khitan, The Tungusic numerals of the Jurchen language differ significantly: three=ilan, five=shunja, seven=nadan, nine=uyun, hundred=tangu.

Animals[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
te.qo.a chicken taqiya
ni.qo dog noqai
s.au.a falcon sibuga
em.a goat imaga
tau.li.a rabbit taulai; in Tungusic rabbit=gulmahun
mo.ri horse mori
uni cow üniye
mu.ho.o snake mogoi

Directions[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
ud.ur east doruna
dzi.ge.n left jegün
bo.ra.ian right baragun
dau.ur.un middle dumda
xe.du.un horizontal köndelen
ja.cen.i border jaqa

Time[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
suni night söni
un.n/un.e now,present önö

Personal relations[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
c.i.is blood cisu
mo ku female eme
deu younger brother degü
n.ai.ci friend nayija
na.ha.an uncle nagaca
s.ia/s.en good sayin
g.en.un sadness, regret "genü-" means 'to regret' in the letter of Arghun Khan)
ku person kümün

Tribal administration[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
cau.ur war cagur, as in "tsa'urgalan dairakh"
nai/nai.d heads, officials "-d" is a plural suffix=noyan, noyad for plural
t.em- to bestow a title temdeg 'sign'
k.em decree kem kemjiye 'law/norm'
us.gi letter üseg
ui matter üile
qudug blessed qutug
xe.se.ge part, section, province keseg
ming.an military unit of thousand minggan

Basic verbs[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
p.o become bol-
p.o.ju raise(intr.) bos-
on.a.an fall una-
x.ui.ri.ge.ei transfer kür-ge-
u- give ög-
sa- to reside sagu-
a- be a- 'live', as in "aj ahui"

Natural objects[edit]

Khitan Translation Mongolian script
eu.ul cloud egüle
s.eu.ka dew sigüderi
sair moon sara, in Tungusic moon="biya"
nair sun nara
m.em/m.ng silver mönggö

The Liaoshi records in Chapter 53:

國語謂是日為「討賽咿兒」。「討」五;「賽咿兒」,月也。

In the national (Khitan) language this day (5th day of the 5th lunar month) is called 'Tao Saiyier'. 'Tao' means five; 'Saiyier' means moon.

'Tao Saiyier' corresponds to Mongolian 'tavan sar' (fifth moon/month). The Turkic equivalent would be 'beshinchi ay' while the Tungusic equivalent would be 'sunja biya'.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Linguist List entry for Kitan
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kitan". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Janhunen, Juha (2003): Para-Mongolic. In: Juha Janhunen (ed.): The Mongolic languages. London: Routledge: 391-402.
  4. ^ Janhunen 1996, pp. 145-146
  5. ^ Cf. Franke. In Sinor ed., 1990, p. 407, and note. 6; Liu, Fengzhu 1992, p. 1; Janhunen 1996, p. 143.
  6. ^ Frederick W. Mote, Imperial China 900–1800, p.405
  7. ^ Herbert Franke, John King Fairbank, Denis Crispin Twitchett, Roderick MacFarquhar, Denis Twitchett, Albert Feuerwerker. The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 3: Sui and T'ang China, 589–906. Part 1, p.364
  8. ^ Kane, Daniel The Kitan language and script 2009, Leiden, The Netherlands

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]