“Last Quarter of the Moon”: Evenki Place Names behind the Hànzì

I grew up in places with names like “Winnetka” and “Sewickley,” spellings no doubt based on mangled transliterations of old, even ancient Native American words. I vaguely recall that Sewickley meant “sweet water,” but no one seemed sure. How many cities, mountains and rivers in China, I wondered, hide their non-Han origins? Evenki Mountain Name … Continue reading “Last Quarter of the Moon”: Evenki Place Names behind the Hànzì

Tungusic Languages Under Threat: Statistics, Research Projects, Strategies for Protection

Following a conference on the dire straits of Tungusic languages in China — virtually all of which are under threat — four very informative articles have just appeared on the Institute of Ethnic Literature site.  Since they are in Chinese, I hope to summarize the best parts later, but for now, I site some basic … Continue reading Tungusic Languages Under Threat: Statistics, Research Projects, Strategies for Protection

By the Numbers: Endangered Tongues in the People’s Republic

In <四成少数民族语言临危,> Wang Bo at Chinanews.com reports that up to four of ten languages native to minorities in China are threatened with extinction. Here are a few numbers that appear in the report: Non-han languages: 55 officially designated “peoples” (民族) speak an estimated 130 languages Scripts in use: 40, including Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, … Continue reading By the Numbers: Endangered Tongues in the People’s Republic