Thursday, 26 June 2008

zen and semantic

The Proto-Indo-European *dheih₂- "to see, look" in the metathesized form *dhyeh₂- became Pali jhāna, related to Sanskrit ध्यान dhyāna "meditation". With the spread of Buddhism eastwards, the Pali word was borrowed into Mandarin as chán "quiet; silent meditation; Zen". This was borrowed into Japanese as zen (禅).

*dhyeh₂-mn̥- became Greek σῆμα sēma "sign, mark, token", then σημαντικός sēmantikós "significant". English semantic was borrowed from French sémantique, which first appeared in 1897 in Essai de sémantique by Michel Bréal.

Pokorny suggests that *dheih₂- also became Greek θαυμάζω thaumázō "to wonder, marvel", the source of thaumaturge, and θέᾱ théā "viewing, play", the source of theatre.

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