Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the Cyrillic Ш/ш (sha) looks like the Chinese 山 (shān) and have similarity in pronunciation. Is there any actual relation between the two?

  • 5
    Highly unexpected question :) You can keep asking in the same manner: ф(fe) and 中(zhong) (though the sound components are not similar). Г(ge) and 广(厂)(guang,chang), Л(le) and 几(ji) – coobit May 13 '16 at 12:18

No. The Cyrillic script is based on the Greek script, and some other local scripts like Hebrew. The basis for sha is thought to be the Hebrew letter ש (shin).


It's unlikely that shin is based on the Chinese character, either. It seems taken from the Phoenician alphabet, where the corresponding letter looks like a Latin W.
It's worth keeping in mind that at the time Cyrillic characters were invented, Russia did not yet control Siberia. So it was very far from China, and contact between China and the west was limited.

But maybe the Chinese character was influenced by these scripts?
It's not impossible, but the earliest versions of the Character look more like a triangle, so the simpler explanation is that it's just a picture of a mountain:

Seal script 山

Considering the evidence, it seems unlikely that these characters are related.

| improve this answer | |
  • 5
    Paleo-Hebrew was first in use in 1000 BCE, its predecessor in the Phoenician alphabet came in existence around 1200 BCE. On the other hand, pictographs in 甲骨文 were used in 1300 BCE, and its precursors in various stone age cultures have been recorded from 8000 BCE. 山, 月 and similar pictographs are among the most basic and first used. I wouldn't use the term "unlikely" here, but rather "out of the question". Phoenician W (Arameic/Hebrew ש) is also derived from "tooth", and is "s" in the Roman alphabet. – user4452 May 13 '16 at 17:09
  • In fact, even as a Chinese speaker, the first association I had when I saw that letter was with Hebrew. (Naturally it helped though that I know some very very basic Hebrew.) – user5714 May 13 '16 at 18:28
  • info provided above has been readily available at an obvious single site: google "Cyrillic Sha Ш": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sha_%28Cyrillic%29 (see "History",also mostly well known to most students of Russian, excluding fantastic connection to Chinese) – user6065 May 14 '16 at 3:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.