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The Word for 'Tiger' in Chinese and Other Asian Languages

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Join Prof. Nathan W. Hill as he discusses the history of the word ‘tiger’ in Chinese (虎) and other languages, such as Japanese and Tibetan.

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This talk will explore the history of the Chinese word 虎 hú 'tiger'. I will first explain the reasoning that leads some scholars to reconstruct *qʰˤraʔ as the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC - 256 BC) pronunciation of this word. I will then consider evidence that the word started with a t- and possible connections to the Tibetan word stag 'tiger' and the Japanese word tora 'tiger'.

Prof. Nathan W. Hill

Nathan W. Hill is Sam Lam Professor in Chinese Studies and as the new Director of the Trinity Centre for Asian Studies. His research focusses on Tibeto-Burman/Sino-Tibetan historical linguistics. His books include The Historical Phonology of Tibetan, Burmese, and Chinese (2019, Cambridge), A Lexicon of Tibetan Verb Stems as Reported by the Grammatical Tradition (2010, Bavarian Academy of Sciences), and Old Tibetan Inscriptions, co-authored with Kazushi Iwao (2009, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies).

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