What's so great about a list of bird names? After all, the names that men give are just a pale reflection of the birds themselves.
Well, bird-lovers may rejoice in biodiversity, but in matters linguistic they tend to use common or garden English as a lowest common denominator. So, in the interest of 'lingua-diversity', this site offers the official names (or, less accurately, the 'common names') of bird species found in a number of major Asian nations, currently encompassing Mongolia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and West Malaysia and Singapore. Regrettably the author lacks knowledge of and information about Korean, and as a result Korea is the only major Asian nation with an official list of bird species that is not included in this site.
The site is based on an earlier site about Bird Names in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese begun in about October of 2000, later renamed the Birds of East and Southeast Asia. The Bird Names subsite was principally concerned with recording and comparing bird names in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese -- languages of the 'Sinosphere'. It focussed on the places in East Asia where those languages are spoken, namely, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam.
This site takes the information of cjvlang and repackages it in the following ways:
- The language coverage is expanded to include other major East and Central Asian birding languages, namely, Mongolian, Korean, Thai, Kazakh, Turkish, and Malay/Indonesian.
- Apart from Chinese and Japanese, East Asian languages only have names for birds in their own territories, leading to large blanks when the whole of East Asia is covered. In Sibagu, the focus will be on a specific region, country, or province, giving prominence to the language or languages spoken in that region/country/province, as well as languages of neighbouring countries or countries with a particular connection to that country. Lists are thus more focussed and hopefully more relevant.
The site is far more than a collection of bird lists, although hopefully it will also be useful for this purpose. But more than that, bird names offer an amazing linguistic cross-section of the cultures and histories of the countries covered. They touch on hidden aspects of history, including past international interchange, patterns in the folk naming of birds, the adaptation and evolution of international scientific terminology, and the interaction between folk names and ornithological names. While there are many puzzles, at almost every turn new facts and interpretations come to light that show unsuspected currents, influences, commonalities, and differences in linguistic and terminological development.
A few of the themes that emerge include the huge impact of Western science on all the countries of Asia and ways in which this impact made itself felt in the creation of terminology; the early cultural impact of China on Japan, and more interestingly Japan's early leading role in importing Western knowledge, which exerted a huge influence on both China and Korea; areal commonalities in bird names in Southeast Asia despite the existence of different language groups and scripts; the shared roots of some naming systems and the way in which later political developments led to increasing divergence (e.g., Japan and China, China and Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, Mongolia and Inner Mongolia); and the way in which ornithological terminology is becoming increasingly 'regularised' in order to reflect the scientific taxonomy.