When I noticed that it was fifteen minutes before sundown tonight, I thought about Jurchen

tobohon 'fifteen'

which looks like a combination of Chinese or Khitan large script


'ten' + 'five'

but not the combination of the corresponding Jurchen characters


juwa 'ten' + šunja 'five'

The character for tobohon lacks the additional ノ stroke that distinguishes Jurchen 'ten' from Chinese and Khitan large script (KLS) 十 'ten', and its bottom is identical to Chn/KLS 五 'five'.

If the Jurchen script were derived from the Khitan large script as is commonly assumed, why was 'five' altered while KLS 'ten' and 'five' were retained in 'fifteen'?



Why not create a Jurchen character for 'fifteen' that was consistent with the Jurchen characters for 'ten' and 'five'?


(NB: I made up that last character. My first attempt at pseudo-Jurchen!)

It would be easier to learn

than the actual trio of Jurchen characters

But I doubt learnability was a priority of the creator(s) of the Jurchen script. Was the goal simply to create characters that were non-KLS? Although

appears to consist of known KLS components, it is not a known KLS character, though the possibilty of such a ligature having existed cannot be ruled out.

(Has anyone studied the attested KLS ligatures? Could the ligatures have been a partial inspiration for the Khitan small script that was invented only five years later? Unfortunately, no KLS texts prior to the invention of the small script in 925 have been found; in fact, I know of no Khitan texts that can be dated before 986. Of course it is possible that some of the undated texts are from 920 to 985.)

Like Juha Janhunen (1994), I still don't think the Jurchen script is derived from the Khitan large script. I see the two scripts as daughters of the barely attested Parhae (Bohai) script. My guess is that the Parhae script had variants of 'five' ranging from a Chinese-like

to un-Chinese

(the first variant is the earliest attested form in Jurchen and the second is the most common)

(7.8.1:23: I have wondered if these latter variants could be derived from 正 'correct', a five-stroke character used in tallying. Did that practice exist in the 11th century when the Jurchen script was 'created'?)

and the Khitan and Jurchen picked different variants for their respective scripts. (Some Parhae variants may have not been incorporated into either script.) Here and elsewhere, the Khitan seem to have leaned more toward Chinese in their choice of variants, though in the case of 'nine', the Jurchen chose more Chinese-like variants

Jurchen uyun

(cf. Chinese 九 'nine')

than the Khitan:

But then why didn't they choose a less Chinese-like variant for 'fifteen'? Did 'fifteen' exist before the 'invention' (expansion? standardization?) of the Jurchen script c. 1120? Could 'fifteen' have been created by the Jurchen, and if it was, why couldn't it have been derived from the Jurchen characters for 'five' and 'ten'?

The Khitan word for 'fifteen' is unknown, though its KLS and KSS spellings are known:

'ten' + 'five' (多蘿里本郎君 memorial line 15)

'ten' + 'five' (as separate characters, not fused into a block; 耶律迪烈 memorial line 14)

These spellings suggest that the Khitan word for 'fifteen' was a compound of 'ten' and 'five' that might have been cognate to Classical Mongolian arban tabun 'fifteen' (lit. 'ten five'). However, 'ten' + 'five' could (also?) have been read as a word that was not a compound of the Khitan words for 'ten' and 'five': cf. Japanese 二十歳 hatachi 'twenty years old' which cannot be derived from 二 ni/futa- 'two', 十 juu/too 'ten', or 歳 sai 'years old'. But if that were the case, why weren't the KSS characters for 'ten' and 'five' combined?

(00:50: Is this my first hypothetical KSS block intended for a native Khitan word as opposed to a foreign name?)

Could Khitan 'fifteen' have been something like Jurchen tobohon 'fifteen' which is not from Jurchen juwa 'ten' and šunja 'five'? tobohon looks like tobo- 'five' (cf. Khitan tau 'id.' and Classical Mongolian tabun 'id.') plus a -hon that might be 'ten' (a monosyllabic compression of an earlier *harban?; cf. Janhunen 2003's* Proto-Mongolic *xarba-n and Classical Mongolian arban 'id.').

*harban > *harβan > *harwan > *hawan > *hɔn > hon?

It is tempting to view J tobohon 'fifteen' as a loan from Khitan, but I would expect a Khitan word for 'fifteen' to begin with tau, the known Khitan word for 'five', rather than tobo-. Did pre-Khitan *tabu 'five' become tobo- in the compound tobohon 'fifteen' but tau (tao?) in isolation due to conditioning factors that remain to be discovered? Or is J tobohon a loan from a non-Khitan para-Mongolic language: i.e., a sister of Khitan? How much of the Mongolic-looking lexicon of Tungusic is from such a language as opposed to Khitan?

7.8.00:25: A possible family tree for 'Greater Mongolic'?

Proto-Mongolic Khitan
(one source of loans into Tungusic)
other sister languages of Khitan and Proto-Mongolic
(other source(s) of loans into Tungusic)
Mongolic languages (no descendants)

*7.8.00:38: Janhunen (2003: 399) reconstructed Pre-Proto-Mongolic *tabuku-n 'fifteen'. *-ku-n '-teen' coulld not be cognate to his Proto-Mongolic *xarba-n.

The lenition of *k to h occurred in pre-Jurchen. It is not clear whether the -h- (phonetically probably uvular [χ]) of Jurchen tobohon is from a lenited *k or an *h or *x.

Janhunen reconstructed *-xUn as another possible PPM suffix for the teens. (Capital *U represents *u and *ü; the latter occurred after front-vowel roots: e.g., PPM *dör 'four' in *dör-kün 'fourteen'.)

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