I am learning Chinese and met few characters, which are looking like western characters with similar pronunciation.

Examples are

which pronounced like zi and visually similar to Z and

which pronounced like pi and visually similar to Greek π.

Is this just by coincidence, or this is some real language borrowing phenomenon?

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    Because you are (quite frankly) incorrect. It's a pure coincidence, the two alphabets are developed completely independently from each other. – Registered User Oct 24 '16 at 1:23
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    just coincidence for example , 兀 日 匚 口 卅 廿 山 长上 义 – chsword Oct 24 '16 at 4:24

Chinese characters and English alphabets developed independently. There's nothing in common between the two systems.

子 and Z or 匹 and π don't even look similar.

Human beings can only produce limited number of sound tones. It is inevitable that some pronunciations would be similar between different languages.


This is a subject very close to my heart as I am an amateur etymologist. Since I have been learning Chinese, I have also been collecting words whose sound and meaning are similar to other languages. I have quite a few.

Etymologists propose a language called Proto-Indo-European as the origin of the Indo-Germanic languages. One needs to look for words with similar sounds and meanings when comparing languages.

It is I think unreasonable to assume that the tribes that spoke this language only drifted westwards, none going east. However, as the West had only very limited access to China in the last 2000 years, they had neither the opportunity nor the desire nor the means or ability to include Chinese in their studies, which is their loss, as I see it.

Particularly 子, meaning son, child, seed may be related to German zeugen, which means, among other things, beget a child.

German uses -zeug as a suffix with a meaning like '-thing' in words like Spielzeug, Werkzeug, Bettzeug. Chinese has 子 in many combinations with a similar useage, such as 牌子, 量子, 脑子 .

May all just be coincidence, but the belief that the Proto-Indo-Europeans only walked westwards seems very egocentric of western scholars.

  • Chinese is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which is distinct from the Indo-European language family. No one is claiming that Indo-Europeans only went west. Indeed, there are speakers of Tajik Persian, an Indo-European language, native to Western China. – Colin Oct 25 '16 at 0:15
  • Families are ordered in family trees, trees which branch. Where the branches meet, there, at least, are commonalities. Also, these categories were not invented by the infallible God of Language, but by fallible, mortal men. I would not presume that these categories are absolute or unshakeable, nor that they neither had nor have commonalities. Humans and mice are very different, but somewhere around 99% of our genetic material is identical. If you look at Julius Pokorny's Dictionary of the PIE language, you will find a lot of guesswork. Do you see any similarity between willow and 柳? – Gangosa Oct 25 '16 at 9:02
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    We have to rely on the judgements of experts in the field of historical linguistics. They do not believe there is any reason for linking indo-european and sino-tibetan – Colin Oct 25 '16 at 18:00
  • Haha! "Experts" locked Galileo up and told us the world is the centre of everything and flat! We also have to rely on our own judgement. Current theory says, mankind began in Africa and migrated. Which language did they speak? PIE or Sino-Tibetean? – Gangosa Oct 25 '16 at 22:43

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