Now, we know the difference between a 形 聲 (phonetic loan) and a 會 意 (sense determinators) word. If you are a native Chinese, you should know most of the words below. Yet, do you know which one is which, 形 聲 or 會 意? If you are new to the Chinese language, can you find some rules from the words below just by comparing their forms?
史, 吏, 使
里, 重, 動, 慟,
垚, 堯, 燒,
中, 串, 患,
乃, 秀, 莠, 盈,
可, 哥, 歌, 河,
工, 左, 佐, 差, 嗟 , 江,
豆, 鼓, 鼙, 豎, 戲.
If you are unable to tell which is which, I will show you a shortcut. Indeed, it is hard to know which is which by looking at any single word if it has an explicit sound tag. However, because of the DNA inheritance nature, we can tell which is which easily by looking at its family. This forms law 2 and law 3.
i. A word is a 形 聲 word if the “shared” radical in its family is “silent”, such as, the shared radical 魚 is silent in the group (鰱, 鮭, 鱔).
ii. A world is a 會 意 word if the “shared” radical in its family is “not silent” but is the sound tag, such as, the shared radical 君 is not silent in the group (君, 群, 郡, 裙).
i. A 形 聲 word should pronounce identical to its sound tag.
ii. For a 會 意 word, its sound tag has a span of sounds. That is, it might not be pronounced with the original sound of its sound tag.
With this and the previous discussions, we can, now, examine the canonic statement about 形 聲 from the book 說 文 (So-Wen).
形 聲 (phonetic loan)， 以 事 為 名 ， 取 譬 相 成 。 江 、 河 是 也 。
形 (concrete object) 聲 (sound or phonetic), 形 聲 can mean using sound to identify a concrete object.
事 (man-made object or event), 名 (name of something), 以 事 為 名 means using 事 to name an object or an event.
取 (take) 譬 (metaphor) 相 (together) 成 (complete), 取 譬 相 成 means using metaphor to point out the meaning.
That is, the explanation for 形 聲 (以 事 為 名 ， 取 譬 相 成) does not mention anything about the phonetics, very strange, indeed. Furthermore, its examples are wrong.
河 (river) is 水 (water) + 可 (able, no longer unable). So, 河 is a river while its chi (energy flow) is not blocked (such as by mountains). For example, the Yellow River (黃 河).
江 (river) is 水 (water) + 工 (engineering). So, 江 is a river while its chi (energy flow) was opened up with engineering works. For example, the Long River (長 江) which was blocked at three gorges and was opened up by the 夏 Emperor.
Furthermore, 河 does not pronounce 可, and 江 does not pronounce 工. Thus, 江 、 河 cannot be 形 聲 words.
Although the 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) was recorded in the book 說 文 (So-Wen) first, its author was, seemingly, having no understanding of it.
Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong