Today we are looking at the giraffe, the long necked animal native to Africa.
Photo:Luca Galuzzi - www.galuzzi.it
In Thai, the word is ยีราฟ yii.ráap (spelled yii.raaf), Lao ກວາງຄໍຍາວ (กวางคอยาว) kwàaŋ.kʰɔ́ɔ.ɲáaw "long necked deer" or ມ້າລາຍຄໍຍາວ (ม้าลายคอยาว) mâa.láai.kʰɔ́ɔ.ɲáaw "long necked zebra", and Shan
Apparently, the Thai word is a direct loanword possibly from English, whereas Lao and Shan use a compound. Lao and Shan seem to have translated "giraffe" as a "long necked" animal that is either a deer, a zebra, or a camel". Interestingly, the Chinese word for giraffe is 长颈鹿 chángjǐnglù which literally means "long-necked deer". So, it seems like the Laos and the Shans may have got the idea from the Chinese. (Cf. Vietnamese hươu cao cổ "long necked deer".)
What is interesting to me is the fact that the Shans use "camel" instead of "deer". The Latin word for giraffe is camelopardalis which literally means "camel leopard". The Burmese word is သစ်ကုလားအုတ် thi' kalaou' "leopard camel". Apparently, the Burmese seem to have calqued the word from Latin. So the question that I have now is: Did the Shans get "camel" from Latin, or did they get it from Burmese? What we seem to know from analyzing these words is that apparently the Shans were both influenced by Chinese and/or Lao and Burmese. In particular, they seem to have got "camel" from Latin possibly via Burmese, and the construction "long necked + (animal)" from either Chinese or Lao (who themselves may have got it from the Chinese).