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The Word for ‘Honey’ in Chinese, Tocharian and Sino-Vietnamese

Pages 7 - 22


According to a widely accepted etymology, Chinese 蜜 ‘honey’ (MChin. mjit, OChin. *mit) is a borrowing from the Tocharian etymon represented by Toch. B mit ‘honey’. Recently, Jacques (2014) has argued on the basis of evidence from Sino-Vietnamese and Lakkja that the Chinese word should rather be reconstructed as MChin. mit, OChin. *mrit. He suggests that this word was borrowed from another Indo-European word for ‘honey’ (related to Greek μέλι etc.) that is not so far attested in Tocharian, but might have had a form close to OChin. *mrit. In our view, Jacques' arguments do not stand close scrutiny: the Old Chinese word cannot have been *mrit and the traditional Tocharian etymology still provides by far the best explanation for the Chinese etymon.



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