1990 1chhwan3 'river', the Tangut character I used to transcribe Chinese chuan 'river' in the name of the Tangut font I use, was analyzed in Tangraphic Sea as a combination of


1. the left side of 3058 2zyr'4 'water'

2. the center of 2474 2rar1 'to flow'

3. the right of 2107 1tsir1 'earth'

The left side of 'water' is no surprise.


Unicode Tangut component 036 / Nishida radical 181 / Boxenhorn code cir

is the left-hand form of the Tangut radical for 'water' - one of the few elements in the script that has an indisputable single meaning - and its presence in 'river' is similar to that of the presence of the Chinese radical 氵 'water' in 江 jiang 'river' (as in 江泽民 Jiang Zemin) but not 川 chuan which is a drawing of a river). Grinstead (1972) regarded the Tangut radical as a derivative of the Chinese radical.

The right side of 江 jiang 'river' is phonetic - in Old Chinese, 江 was *kroŋ and its phonetic 工 was *koŋ - but the remaining two components of Tangut 1chhwan3 are not phonetic: they sound nothing like 1chhwan3. And unlike the water radical,


Unicode Tangut components 101, 053 / Nishida radicals 104, - / Boxenhorn codes dai, cok

have no obvious fixed meanings.

Nishida (1966) attempted to assign meanings to as many components as possible but could not find one for his radical 104. It seems to be phonetic in twelve characters pronounced rar, but of course 1chhwan3 'river' is phonetically completely different, and sixty other characters containg it are also not pronounced rar. It could not mean 'flow' in, say:


0205 1jan3

which is a meaningless transcription character.

And no one seems to have found any function for the small, closed set of exclusively right-hand components such as Unicode 053 - could they be phonetic symbols for Tangut B final consonants akin to 音 in Old Korean pam 'night', written 夜音 <NIGHT.m> or 乙 in the made-in-Korea character 乭 tol 'stone', a ligature of the Chinese characters 石 'stone' and 乙 ŭl? If the intent was to represent 'river' as 'water flowing through land', why not pick the 'earth' radical


Unicode Tangut component 263 / Nishida radical 210 / Boxenhorn code ges

instead of a right-hand component also found in non-'earth' characters such as


1906 1non'2 'and, also, again' and 1918 1mi4 'not'

which didn't even sound like 2107 1tsir1 'earth' (or each other)?

2.4.0:36: Ironically, the 'earth' radical isn't in


2107 1tsir1 'earth'

whose simlar-looking left-hand component (Unicode Tangut component 267 / Nishida radical 211 / Boxenhorn code gii) looks like


3087 1dzew4 'waist'!

Andrew West looked at every single character containing a element resembling 3087:

This component is Nishida Tatsuo's Radical No. 211, which he calls the "sun radical" 日部 (see Seikago no kenkyū 西夏語の研究 [A Study of the Hsi-Hsia Language] page 244). However, very few characters with this component are in any way related to the sun, and so Nishida's radical name is a misnomer (by far the largest semantic group of characters with this component is the "Bird-related" group, but Nishida already has a "bird" radical). As we shall see below, unlike most Chinese radicals, Tangut radicals do not have a single fixed meaning, and so giving names to them (as Nishida and others have done) is at best not very useful, and at worst misleading.

I am one of those 'others', and I confess I give names partly out of convenience - it's easier for me to remember names than numbers. However, those names are only truly justified whenever there is a nearly one-to-one correspondence between a component and a function: e.g., 'water' usually is in water-related characters, though there are still puzzling exceptions I cannot explain like


2019 1tha4 'third person pronoun' and 2590 2vy3 'outward motion; perfective prefix'

which have no obvious aquatic connection (unless 2vy3 once meant 'out of a river'?). More on those characters in my entry on line 25 of the Golden Guide, a series I have yet to finish. RETURN TO THE SILVER RIVER (PART 1)

I haven't posted anything in over a year. In fact this is the first time I'm using KompoZer since the end of last February when I started a post I never finished. I have lots of those. It might be interesting to complete them knowing what I know now. But in the meantime, I thought I'd start a new wave of posts with the name of Prof. 景永时 Jing Yongshi's font that freed me from the need to make a GIF every time I wanted to display a Tangut character: Tangut Yinchuan. Which in Tangut might be


3752 3296 1478 1990 2my4 2na'3 1gin4 1chhwan3

if I phonetically transcribe how Yinchuan 'Silver River' was pronounced in the Chinese dialect known to the Tangut a millennium ago. (1990 isn't just a transcription; it is a borrowing of that dialect's word for 'river'.) Otherwise I could render the name as


3752 3296 3572 1530 2my4 2na'3 2ngwo1 1ma4

with the native words for 'silver' and 'river'.

I've written about the Tangut autonym 3752 3296 before, so I'm going to look at the four characters I've added to it above. In order to not be too ambitious, I'll focus on just one character per post.

The first is the transcription character 1478 analyzed in Tangraphic Sea as


1478 1gin4 = left of 0830 1kin4 + right of 0405 1dzwyq4 'wall'

1478 1gin4 and 0830 1kin4 are nearly homophonous, so obviously


Unicode Tangut component 224 / Nishida radical 123 'together' / Boxenhorn code fol

is supposed to tell us that 1478 sounds like 0830, though it is not obvious how a Tangut reader would know that 0830 was the source instead of any of the 96 other characters with 224/fol is a problem:


It is also not obvious is why 1478 is said to have its right side taken from the left side of 0405 1dzwyq4 'wall' which sounds nothing like 1gin4. 1gin4 does not mean 'wall'. The Tangraphic Sea defines it as a tribal and place name, giving


1478 0707 1gin4 1chew3 (a transcription of Tangut period Chinese 銀州 *1gin4 1chiw 'Silver Prefecture')

as an example. Was the Gin tribe or the Silver Prefecture associated with walls?

Some Tangut transcription characters are combinations of components of two characters: one character for the initial consonant and another for the rhyme. The last of those characters in Li Fanwen's 2008 dictionary is 6072:


6072 2pu3 = 5970 1pi2 + 3057 2zhu3

In theory, 1gin4 could have been written as a combination of a component from a g-character and a component from a 1-in4 character (the initial 1- indicates the tone which belongs to the rhyme, though I write it first following Arakawa Shintarō's convention). And in fact, such a character exists:


5622 1gin4 = 1638 1gi4 + 0494 1in4

5622 even appeared in another transcription of Tangut period Chinese 銀州 1gin3 1chiw 'Silver Prefecture':


5622 0707 1gin4 1chew3

So why were two characters


1478 and 5622

created to write the syllable 1gin4? 5622 doesn't have an entry in Tangraphic Sea, but Homophones lists 5622 and 1478 as ... nonhomophones.

Ah, I see what happened now. My readings are based on those of Gong Hwang-cherng who thought 5622 and 1478 were homophones. But Homophones is right - the Tangraphic Sea fanqie for 1478 indicates that 1478 is Grade III, not Grade IV:


1478 1gin4 = 3590 1gi'4 + 1661 1lin3

Hence from now on I will read 1478 as 1gin3 with a final -3 for Grade III.

I think I understand what happened. Normally Tangut only permits three grades in a syllable with g-: I, II, and IV. But the Chinese word for 'silver' was 1gin3 with Grade III. So the Tangut had two options: they could either write the Chinese word as 1478 1gin3 with an un-Tangut combination of g- and Grade III, or they could write it as 5622 1gin4 with a slightly Tangutized pronunciation. I wouldn't be surprised if most Tangut called the Silver Prefecture 1gin4 1chew3 and if the literate among them often 'misread' 1478 as 1gin4 with Grade IV to avoid the un-Tangut combination of g- and Grade III.

What were the Grades, exactly? I still don't know, but for now I believe III was nonpalatal and IV was palatal. Tangut was like Russian which normally favors 'Grade IV' [i] over 'Grade III' [ɨ] afer velars: e.g., the plural of pirog is pirogi [pʲirɐˈɡʲi] rather than *[pʲirɐˈɡɨ] with the regular plural ending [ɨ]. "Normally" but not always, because the great late Prof. Kychanov's name contained a velar [k] followed by 'Grade III' [ɨ]. And because the Tangut could pronounce velars with Grade III if they really wanted to closely imitate Chinese which had no restrictions on velars and Grade III.

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