QUESTIONS ARISING FROM 96th MEETING – 6/12/18 (the record of earlier meetings can be downloaded from the main Circulus page as can the version of Ciceronis Filius with illustrations added. The illustrated text of Genesis is available on the Genesis page and of Kepler's Somnium on the Somnium page.)
Food ordered include carō concīsa cum pīsīs (keema matar, mincemeat with peas), gallīnācea cum spīnāchiā (sagwala chicken), spīnāchia cum caseō (sag paneer, spinach with cheese), cicera arōmatica (chana masala, chickpeas with spices), melongēna contūsa (baigan bharta, mashed aubergine/eggplant), iūs lentium butyrātum (dal makhani, lentil soup with butter), tubulī vernālēs (春卷, spring rolls), pānis tenuis (papadom), pānis Persicus (nan), orӯza (rice) and, of course, vīnum rubrum/sanguineum
John got temporarily confused over the difference between korma and keema. The former is a dish cooked by braising (i.e. frying and then stewing) meat or vegetables glazed with yoghurt, cream or stockand the name derives from the Urdu word qormā (قورمہ ), `braise’ (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korma ). Because the dish as served in an Indian restaurant tends to be prepared with yogurt, we have in the past use the adjective oxygalactīna (from an Ancient Greek word meaning `made with yogurt’). Keema, on the other hand, simply means `mincemeat’ for which we have regularly used the phrase carō concīsa However, this really just means `chopped-up meat’ and the classical Latin seems to have been carō minūt(āt)im concīsa, with the adverb deriving from minūtus (very small), the ultimate origin also of English `mince.’ In addition, Juvenal has the phrase minūtal hesternum, with the second word meaning `yesterday’s’ but this probably refers to a mish-mash of the previous day’s dinner, including vegetables as well as meat, Apicius appears to have used i(n)sicium or i(n)sicia to mean `mince meat,’ or perhaps a specific dish made from it.
Another food issue that cropped up was the Romans’ use of ice. Without modern, electrical methods of heat extraction they were dependent on `harvesting’ natural ice and preserving it as long as possible. Ice might be obtained from high mountains (Alps or Apennines) and transported in a block large enough for some to survive the journey. Another method involved taking advantage of the extreme temperature drop at night and low humidity in desert locations. Water was apparently placed in the bottom of pits lined with straw as insulation and would then freeze over night ready for collection at 3 or 4 p.m. Ice thus obtained might be used at once or kept in a well-insulted `ice-house.’ See the account at: https://everything2.com/title/Making+Ice+In+Ancient+Rome
We had a brief Latin discussion on our own accommodation and furniture, using the dialogue given below as a guide. Eugene, who has been working hard on vocabularies, had produced a long list of relevnt terms and this, like the other lists, can be downloaded from just above the maps at https://linguae.weebly.com/circulus-latinus-honcongensis.html. The word both Eugene and John’s document’s recommend for flat is diaeta, a Greek word which originally meant `mode of living’, `diet’, but came to be used for a `dwelling-place’, `dwelling-room’ or `summer-house’ (Lewis & Short). However, other words for a sub-division within a larger building include cēnāculum (originally an upper-storey diing-room, then an attic which might be let out to a poor tenent), conclāve (or plural conclāvia) or even aedēs, which we had thought could only mean `house’! The question in aedibus habitās an in diaetā? (`Do you live in a house or a flat?’) is therefore not well-formed but it is uncertain what the correct formulation would be. We were also unsure of the word for dishwasher but later discovered it Traupman uses māchina ēlūtōria for this, as opposed to māchina lāvātōria
To make full use of those resources, familiarity with French and Italian are required. Similar aids in English are Walter Ripman's `Classified Vocabulary' and Carl Meissner's `Latin Phrase Book', both topically organized, are downloadable free of charge as searchable PDF files from http://hiberna-cr.wikidot.com/downloads. Also available from this page is Diederich's list of the commonest 1500 Latin words, which account for over 80% of words occurring in a typical classical or medieval text. This site, managed by Carolus Raeticus's site, contains in addition links to a number of simple Latin readers also available free on the Internet.
This led John to mention the Indian scheme to unqualified, quack medical practioners 100 hours training to enable them to act as doctors and also Mao’s earlier bare-foot doctors scheme. Malcolm in-turn brought up the Ping An (Putonghua mis-pronunciation of Ping On /平安-) Insurance Company which has been successfully reducing over-crowding in hospitals by getting people with less serious complaints to use clinics run by paramedical staff. The company’s 100-storey main building in Guangzhou is the largest corporate headquarters in world and they are best known for the efficiency of their motor insurance, with claims sometimes being processed within 4 minutes. Clients send photos of the dmage to them and they are then directed to a suitable garage to have the repairs done. They acquired a base of 30 million clients within 4 months.
We briefly mentioned again Nostratic, the hypothetical linguistic super-family. As explained last month, `Nostraticists’ differ among themselves on which languages should be included but they all accept as members Indo-European, Uralic (the Finno-Ugric languages shown on the map below, plus the Samoyedic languages in Siberia) and `Altaic’, a grouping of Turkish and Mongolian, which, like Nostratic itself, is not accepted by most comparative linguists.
Zhang Wei was curious about the Persians (an Indo-European people) and Zoroaster, the founder of their ancient religion which is still practiced by the Parsis (a word related to `Persian’), most of whom now live in India. The Parsi merchant Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody, who emigrated as a young man to Hong Kong, is commemorated by Mody Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and his bust in the main building of Hong Kong University, to whose establishment he had been the principal contributor. More recently, Freddie Mercury, whose Parsi family emigrated to Britain via Zanzibar, won fame as a rock musician. There is still a small Parsi community in Hong Kong and its Zoroastrian priest is a friend of Pat’s and said Grace in Avestan, the Old Iranian language in which Zoroastrian scriptures were written, at his 70th birthday party.
Zhang Wei though that the Persians had been instrumental in bringing Buddhism into China but the major role in this seems to have been played by the Kushans (貴霜), according to Chinese sources originally one of the five tribes in the Yuezhi (大月氏) confederacy, which suposedly migrated west from Gansu in north-west China in the 2nd. century B.C. under pressure from the Xiongnu (匈奴). Scholars disagree on their ethnic origins but they could have been an Indo-European people. They established themselves in what is now northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, displacing Graeco-Bactrian rulers and eventually establishing an empire which included much of northern India and the Tarim Basin in western China.
We also disussed the script the Persians used before they adopted the Arabic one. John thought this was cuneiform but in fact this was only in use from around 500 to 300 B.C., after which their language was written in a number of scripts but particularly in the Pahlavi alphabet adapted from that of Aramaic. This Semitic language became a lingua franca across much of the Middle East and was the mother tongue of Jesus Christ. The Zoroastrian scriptures have been preserved in Pahlavi script, which remained in general use until its replacement by the Persi-Arabic script some three hundred years after the 7th centry Arab conquest.
The Kushan Empire, c.130 A.D. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2110032 Persian cuneiform took the general principle of using patterns of wedge shapes from Mesopotamia but individual signs may have been separately invented rather than evolved from individual Mesoptamian ones. The principal Persian signs make up a syllabary but (as in many modern South Asian writing systems) most of them could also stand for a consonant on its own. There were also a handful of logograms representing complete words:
The decipherment of this script in the 19th century was made with the aid of the Behistun Inscription, carved on a mountainside in western Iran and recording the victories of King Darius the Great (reigned c. 550-486 B.C)., remembered in European history mainly for the defeat at Marathon in 490 B.C. of the army he sent against Athens but otherwise a successful ruler. Persian cuneiform may actually have been devised during his reign. There is an English translation of the inscription at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_translation_of_the_Behistun_Inscription
Darius’s inscription included not only the Old Persian text but also versions in Akkadian, the Semitic language of Mesopotamia where cuneiform writing was first devised, and Elamite, a language once spoken in south-western Iran which most linguists think is related to no other known language but a few link with the Dravidian language of South India. The Akkadian cuneiform system is considerably more complex than that of Old Persian, so the decipherment of the latter came first and was a major help in deciphering the former.
Old Persian, once spoken in western Iran, is the ancestor of the modern Perisan language and is also quite similar to Sanskrit, the classical Indian language, though it had lost much more of the old Indo-European system of inflections. A very brief introduction to the language, with all the texts in romanisation, is T. Hudson-William A Short Grammar of Old Persian with a Reader . This is not in any Hong Kong library but is available on the internet from several sellers (e.g. https://www.calibanbooks.com/pages/books/s00011372/t-hudson-williams/a-short-grammar-of-old-persian-with-a-reader-accompanied-by-a-word-for-word-translation-notes-and ) and John has a copy which he will be happy to lend to anyone interested. A more thorough course, including exercises in reading the cuneiform script, can be downloaded from https://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~iranian/OldPersian/index.html Avestan, the language of the Zorasterian scriptures was spoken further east, including in Afghanistan and some areas to the north and is closer than Old Persian to Sanskrit. The illiustration below shows Avestan in Pahlavi script with the modern Persi-Arabic one on the facing page.
The Akkadian language had two major dialects, Assyrian and Babylonian, the latter being used in the Behistun inscription. Probably the best place to get an idea of what the language was like is the Complete Babylonian volume in the Teach Yourself series and you can hear roughly what it sounded like in the video embedded at https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/12/14/babylonian-movie/ In the 19th century the word `Assyrian’ was often used for Akkadian as a whole and this usage is retained in the title of the mammoth Chicago Assyrian Dictionary completed a few years ago.
Before Akkadian became dominant in Mesopotamia, cuneiform script, probably the world’s earliest writing system, had been used to write down Sumerian, an even more ancient language which, as far as we know, has no present-day relatives. Sumerian went out of use as a spoken language around about 2000 B.C. but it was retained as a written code for cultural purposes, with a similar kind of role in the educational system to that traditionally played by Latin in Europe. There is more detail at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_language
Whilst reading lines 601-631 of Book II of the Aeneid (see below), we discussed alternative translations of spissīs in the clause [Venus] spissīs noctis sē condidit umbrīs in line 621. The word normally means `thick’, `dense’ or `frequent’ but perhaps `hid hersef in the impenetrable shadows of the night’ might be best in contexrt. We also noted that Robert Sonkowsky’s recording of the opening lines of Book I, available at https://www.rhapsodes.fll.vt.edu/aeneid1.htm, iss till probably the best for getting a feel for Virgil’s language,
We noted that Alan Smith, a judge who Malcolm knows,was interested in Latin and might be a possible recruit, and also that the district name Sai Ying Pun (西營盤) literally means `western (military-) camp’ and commemorates the area's early use by the British army. A possible latinization would therefore be Castra Occidentalia
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