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Tea

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The Chinese character for tea is 茶, originally written with an extra stroke as 荼 (pronounced tú, used as a word for a bitter herb), and acquired its current form during the Tang Dynasty. The word is pronounced differently in the different varieties of Chinese, such as chá in Mandarin, zo and dzo in Wu Chinese, and ta and te in Min Chinese. One suggestion is that the different pronunciations may have arisen from the different words for tea in ancient China, for example tú (荼) may have given rise to tê; historical phonologists however argued that the cha, te and dzo all arose from the same root with a reconstructed pronunciation dra, which changed due to sound shift through the centuries. There were other ancient words for tea, though ming (茗) is the only other one still in common use. It has been proposed that the Chinese words for tea, tu, cha and ming, may have been borrowed from the Austro-Asiatic languages of people who inhabited southwest China; cha for example may have been derived from an archaic Austro-Asiatic root *la, meaning "leaf".

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