Linguistics Seminar: Gwen Hyslop
Reconstructing buckwheat in the Bhutanese context
Gwen Hyslop| Linguistics | Sydney
This talk examines linguistic evidence to bear on puzzles of the history of buckwheat: Where was it domesticated? Two types of buckwheat are cultivated today: bitter buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum) and common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum). Each has wild progenitors, distributed in the southwestern Hengduan mountain chain, and a broader area to the East, respectively. This raises the possibility of two centres of buckwheat domestication: one in SW China, the other in the Himalayas. Buckwheat has historically been and continues to be an important crop in Bhutan. Both sweet and bitter varieties are cultivated for making noodles, pancakes, bread, and for other uses. The Chökhor Valley in central Bhutan also cultivates a local mixture of bitter and sweet (locally referred to as ser-ngoi ‘gold-silver’). In this talk, using historical-comparative linguistics, I show that a native East Bodish (<Tibeto-Burman) term *brasma can be reconstructed to refer to ‘bitter buckwheat’, with a derived term *kya-brasma referring to sweet buckwheat. These findings lend support to the hypothesis that bitter buckwheat was domesticated in (modern day) Bhutan.
Gwen Hyslop is a senior lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Sydney and a specialist of Himalayan languages. She combines documentary and
historical methodologies with other fields, such as archaeology
Western Tower Boardroom (Upstairs above the western gate of the Quadrangle)