Recent research on the linguistic contacts between Tocharian and Khotanese has uncovered a new corpus of Khotanese loanwords in Tocharian. The majority of the loanwords can be dated before the diffusion of Buddhism in the Tarim Basin. Another group of loanwords, however, can be traced back to the historical period of attestation of Tocharian and Khotanese manuscripts (5th–10th c.). In this group, several Buddhist technical terms of Khotanese origin are to be found. The overall aim of this talk is to sketch possible scenarios of transfer between the North and the South of the Tarim Basin: why were these words borrowed into Tocharian and under what historical circumstances? Can they tell us something on the transfer of religious practices from Khotan into Tocharian speaking territories? To answer these questions, I will first test the hypothesis that these linguistic traces of religious exchange may be connected with the alleged presence of a Khotanese religious mission in Šorčuq around the 5th c. Successively, I will examine several Khotanese manuscript fragments of religious content that were found in Šorčuq itself and in the Kuča area.
Federico Dragoni holds a PhD in Linguistics from Leiden University and an MA in Iranian Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin. He is currently employed at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics as a Postdoc researcher and specialises in Khotanese, Tocharian and historical contact linguistics. His recent publications include: Federico Dragoni, “Materia medica Tocharo-Hvatanica," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 84.2 (2021): 295–319; Federico Dragoni, “The Tumshuqese Year of the Goat and the Fremdzeichen x6," Journal Asiatique 308.2 (2020): 215–223.