Monday, May 30, 2011

Biloxi 'moon' and Chinese 'star'

It sometimes happens when you study different languages of the world that what seems to be a strange coincidence pops up, which then leads me to wonder if it REALLY is coincidence or due to some ancient connection. The Biloxi word for 'moon' and the Chinese written character for 'star' is a case in point.

I have analyzed the Biloxi word for 'moon,' nahinte, into its component parts as (i)na 'sun' + (h)iNte 'egg,' thus 'sun-egg.' (The Biloxi word for 'star' is iNtka, which I analyze as iNte 'egg' + ka 'like' (attributive), or 'egg-like.') The association of moon or star with egg seemed odd at first until I began learning Chinese writing and found that the (Simplified) Chinese character for 'star' 星 (xing1) incorporates the character for 'sun' (top) and 'seed/seedling' (bottom) (Lee 2003: 133). There is not much difference semantically between egg and seed, since they both convey the idea of a container for offspring or dissemination (and thus creation).

What does this mean? I'm not sure, except that I can't help but think that this may be more than mere coincidence. Creation narratives (often called 'mythologies' in our Western world, minimizing the validity of anything not originally written down) often show similar themes across Eurasia and the Americas. Could this link between moon, star, and egg/seed represent some ancient cultural belief that may have originated in Central Asia? Were stars considered the 'eggs' or 'seeds' of creation of the Universe?

Lee, Philip Yungkin. 2003. 250 essential Chinese characters for everyday use, Vol. 1. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.

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