Kizi: An Amuric Hydronym
(64th Meeting Budapest, 2022)
Lake Kizi, located on the right bank of the Lower Amur, acted as the historic crossroads of various Tungusic and non-Tungusic peoples. It was an important stop on the Santan trade network, which linked the Qing empire through Sakhalin Island with Japan. From the nineteenth century onward, it has been reported that Ulcha, a Tungusic language, was the language predominantly spoken around the lake. It has been suggested, however, that it was preceded by a language belonging to the Amuric language family, the extant members of which are currently spoken by the Nivkh people. The etymology of the hydronym Kizi plays an important role in this hypothesis. This paper assesses the validity of the proposed analyses and also puts forward a novel one, based on the root *kʰe– ‘upriver’, that may explain the available data better. Considered are the correspondents of Kizi in the languages of the Lower Amur as well as transcriptions produced by outside visitors from the eighteenth century onward. If an Amuric origin is accepted for this hydronym, it suggests presence of Amuric languages outside of their current territory. This has implications for the reconstruction of prehistoric language interaction and migration on the Lower Amur.