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How Foreign Names Became Common Country Names

  In recent years, many countries such as the Netherlands and Turkey have changed or determined their common country names (mainly English names). In September 2023, India plans to abandon the common country name “India” and only use the Hindi country name “Bhārat” (Bharat). The reason why India does not use “India” is simple. “India” is a loanword from English and is not the inherent name of the country. Looking around the world, there are many examples in foreign languages ​​(especially English) of referring to other countries without their existing country names (or official country names).
Foreign names become country names

  In the Atlantic Ocean, starting from the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula in the United States in the north and the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico in the west, there is a series of island groups called the West Indies. Today’s Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and other countries are all within this archipelago. Historically, this archipelago had no connection with India in Asia. On October 12, 1492, the navigator Columbus, who was supported by the Spanish royal family, landed in the Bahamas Islands in the Americas. He mistakenly thought that this place was India and called the indigenous people here “Indians” (Spanish: Indios).
  Although later Europeans discovered Columbus’s mistake, the incorrect name “Indian” has become popular. Therefore, for the sake of distinction, in European languages, real Indians can only be called “East Indians”, and those in America are “West Indians”. Our country came into contact with “West Indians” through the English “Indian”, so it was directly transliterated as “Indian” or “Indian” to avoid the trouble of confusion with real Indians.
  Since the West Indies historically belonged to different European countries, a unified country was not established. In Asia, a country called the “Indies” emerged in the last century, namely Indonesia. Southeast Asia was called “East India” by Europeans because it was located east of India. The Dutch East India Company, established in 1602, developed trade and expanded colonies in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. After arriving in Indonesia, it gradually annexed the original small countries and established a unified colony. In 1799, the Dutch East India Company was dissolved, and the Dutch government took over these areas, which were historically known as the Dutch East Indies (Indonesian: Hindia Belanda).
  In 1949, the Dutch East Indies became independent. The new independent regime named the region “Indonesia”. The word “Indonesia” is derived from the Greek words “India” (Indus) and “island” (nèsos), and its original meaning is “India’s island”. Indonesia was deeply influenced by Indian culture in ancient times, which actually makes sense.
  In English, Türkiye has long been known as “Turkey”. This English word has meanings such as “turkey” and “fool”. In 2022, the country sent a letter to the United Nations and other international organizations to change the international official name to Turkish “Türkiye”.
  There are also many countries whose English names have no connection at all with the original nouns. Finland is “Finland” in English, but “Suomi” in Finnish. The translated name of Croatia also comes from the English “Crotia”, but the Croatian name is “Hrvatska”. The English name of Georgia is “Georgia”, which is translated into English as “Georgia” in Taiwan, which is confused with the American state of Georgia. In Georgian, this country is called “Sakartvelo”, and the transliteration of “Sakartvelo” is its original appearance. The English name of Greece is “Greece”. The Chinese name does not use this English word, but is a transliteration of the name from the owner, based on the classical Greek word “Hellas”.
  ”Japan” is also a typical example. Japan first appeared in European literature in the famous “The Travels of Marco Polo”. Regardless of whether Marco Polo had been to China or not, it is certain that he had not been to Japan. He called Japan “Cipangu” in his travel notes. “Cipangu” was transliterated into English and became “Japan”. In fact, Japan, like India, also wants to change its English name to “Nippon”, the Japanese pronunciation of “Japan”. “India” is at least somewhat close to the original name of India, “Sindhu/Hindhu”, and “Cipangu” was just a casual mention by Marco Polo.
The name of the region becomes the name of the country

  Not only Chinese people, but also many foreigners will mistakenly think that “England” is the name of the United Kingdom. The official name of the United Kingdom is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (English: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), referred to as the United Kingdom (abbreviated as UK) or Britain (English: Britain). England was only part of the kingdom. The reason why “England” is used to refer to the entire country is the result of the country’s historical development and evolution.
  In 927 AD, Æthelstan conquered the Vikings, became the first ruler of England, and established the Kingdom of England. Wales is located in the southwest of England and has long been part of England. In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I of the Tudor dynasty died. She remained unmarried and was succeeded to the throne of England by her great-nephew, King James VI of Scotland (called James I in England). After that, the two kingdoms of England and Scotland still maintained a common confederacy. It was not until 1707 that the two countries officially merged into one country called the Kingdom of Great Britain.
  Since 1542, Ireland has been in a co-ownership relationship with England. In 1800, the Irish Parliament decided to abolish the Kingdom of Ireland. The following year, the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain officially merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It can be seen that England has always occupied a core position in the British Kingdom, making it a customary name for Britain at home and abroad.
  Typical examples of regional names being used as country names. In addition to the United Kingdom, another well-known one is the Netherlands (Dutch: Holland). Looking up the official name of the Netherlands, you can only find “Netherland” (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). “Holland” means a land rich in wood. It first referred to the area around Haarlem and later became the name of the Netherlands. This area corresponds to the present-day provinces of North Holland and South Holland in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During the era of the United Republic of the Seven Provinces of the Netherlands, the Netherlands was already the province with the largest land area, the most populous population, and the richest economy in the country. Like England, the Netherlands is therefore referred to both at home and abroad as the Netherlands as a whole. At that time, the United Provinces Republic already had the nickname of the Dutch Republic.
  Starting from January 2020, the Dutch government decided that the informal word “Holland” will no longer be used in sports events and promotional occasions, and only the official name “Nederland” will be used. However, in terms of Chinese translation, the Dutch tourism department announced on Weibo that it will still use the name “Holland”.
The name of the dynasty becomes the name of the country

  In addition to the above two phenomena, there is another phenomenon that refers to the country’s ancient influential dynasty names as the official country name. This is how Westerners call China and the countries on the Korean Peninsula.
  Whether it is “China” in English, “Chine” in French, or even “Sinae” in ancient Greek, they all originated from the Western transmission of the ancient Sanskrit “Cina”. Xuanzang, a famous eminent monk in the Tang Dynasty, clearly stated in “Records of the Western Regions of the Tang Dynasty” that “Cina” was the name of the previous dynasty. According to records, King Harsha asked Xuanzang: “Where is the Tang Dynasty?” Xuanzang replied: “More than tens of thousands of miles northeast of here, there is the so-called Mahachinasthana Kingdom (Sanskrit: Mahachinasthana) in India.” “Maha” It means greatness, “cina” means wisdom, and “sthana” means kingdom. It can be seen that this word contained the meaning of “civilized and wise country” in ancient India. In “Records of the Western Regions of the Tang Dynasty”, Xuanzang also said to King Jiari: “The one who comes there is the name of the previous king’s country; the one who comes to the Tang Dynasty is the name of my king’s country.” Therefore, it is wrong to say that “China” means porcelain. , “china” is a recent usage to refer to porcelain.
  According to the most widely circulated theory, “Cina” is the transliteration of the Qin Empire, my country’s first centralized dynasty. This statement originally came from Martino Martini, an Italian sinologist and geographer who came to China in the late Ming Dynasty. He said in “New Atlas of China” that the name of the Qin Dynasty changed to the Sanskrit “Thin, Chin”. However, there is a big flaw in this statement. First of all, “Qin” has always been pronounced as voiced in ancient Chinese, and it was not until modern Chinese that it became unvoiced. When the word “Qin” is translated like this, why are all the words pronounced as voiceless and none as voiced? Secondly, Cina appeared in Indian literature as early as 3000 years ago. At that time, Qin had not yet become a vassal state. In 770 BC, Qin Xianggong escorted King Ping of Zhou to move east, and he was granted the title of a prince and established the Qin Kingdom. How could Qin be so famous before this?
  For this reason, the famous linguist Zheng Zhang Shangfang believes that “Cina” is the transliteration of Jin (ancient pronunciation: sin). India learned about China through the Central Asians from the Di people and the Huns in the northern grasslands. The first place that the grassland peoples encountered when they went south should be the Jin Kingdom that was enfeoffed to the north during the reign of King Zhou Cheng. The Jin State has always been a powerful princely state until the three families were divided into Jin.
  The Liao Dynasty, which was established in northern my country, was also called the Great Khitan Kingdom in Khitan literature because it was founded by the Khitan people. “Khitan” therefore became the synonym for China in later generations. The ancient Mongols first generally called northern China “Khitan”, and this term was later brought to Eastern Europe with the Golden Horde established by the Mongols. So far, Slavic-speaking countries such as Russia and Bulgaria still call China according to the transliteration of “Khitan”, that is, “Kitay”.

  Countries in the Chinese character cultural circle such as North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have always used Chinese characters in history, so they use the local pronunciation of the word “China” to refer to China. Although Indonesia does not belong to the cultural circle of Chinese characters, it now uses “Tiongkok” to refer to China according to the Hokkien pronunciation of “China”.
  In addition to China, Western countries also refer to the Korean Peninsula by ancient dynasty names. The Wang Dynasty of Korea was the first unified nation-state on the Korean Peninsula and had a huge impact on later generations. Today, “Korea” or “Corea” in English is the transliteration of “Korea”.
  Not only are the ancient dynasty names of East Asian countries used as contemporary country names in English, there are also real examples in Europe, the typical one being the word “Germany”. In European history, there was the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation (German: HeiligesR?misches Reich deutscher Nation; Latin: Sacrum Romanorum Imperium nationisGermanicae). In medieval Europe, Latin was the common written language. Before the establishment of the nation-state, the Holy Roman Empire often called itself Latin. However, after the establishment of the modern nation-state Germany, the dialect word “Deutschland” was used instead. English uses a variant of Latin, and Italian, the “direct descendant” of Latin, directly uses “Germania” to refer to Germany. When dealing with foreign nouns, Europe often does not pay attention to the principle of following the owner’s name. On the contrary, the customary names of countries in the Chinese cultural circle such as China, Korea, and Japan are translated based on “Deutschland”.

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