Thursday, May 5, 2011

Summary 3 (three), the new Chinese etymology

This blog has two objectives.
1. To show that the Chinese character set is a root-based axiomatic system.
2. To show that the Chinese character set can be mastered in 90 days for a student who knows not a single Chinese character at the beginning.

I have shown the six canonic sentences of 六  (six ways of constructing Chinese words) which were documented in the book of 說  (So-Wen). Then, I reinvented a detailed content for 六  and showed that that reinvention does fit the old descriptions.

The concept of 六  (even in its status of no content) has pointed out that Chinese character set is a composite set, made of 文 (pictographs or ideographs) and 字 (composite of ). Thus, if you are still in the camp of those Chinese philologists (such as,   , , , , etc.) or still in the camp of those Western sinologists (such as, Matteo Ricci, Herrlee Glessner Creel, F.S.C. Northrop,  ... or, Peter S. DuPonceau, John DeFrancis, J. Marshall Unger, etc. ), then I will not try to convince you any further.  Otherwise, welcome to this blog and please read on.

While 六  did show that Chinese character set is an axiomatic system, it is still significantly different from this new etymology.  showed six ways of constructing Chinese words, that is, Chinese words are classified into six groups. Except for the group of 形  (phonetic loan) or of 假   (borrowing) explicitly talked about the phonetics of words, no phonological discussion was given to any other groups.  Yet, all (each and every) Chinese words do have, at least, one phonetic value.  In the book of 說  (So-Wen), the phonetic value of every word was pointed out. Yet, that phonetic value did not play a major part in 說  for the word meaning inferring process.

In this new Chinese etymology, the axiomatic system is structured differently.
1. There is a root set, 220 members.

2. There is a sound module set, about 500 members. The sound modules are made of from roots. However, their phonetic values are assigned, not arising from the composing roots.

3. Every character has 4 dimensions,
i. the word form, composed of from roots and/or sound modules,
ii. the word sound, arose from its sound module or from a special rule,
iii. the word meaning, arose from an inferring process among its composing parts (roots and/or sound module),
iv. the word usage, depending on the interactions among other words.
The dimension i and ii are base (or variable) dimensions (as domain), which construct the word. The dimension iii and iv are result (dependent variable) dimensions (as a range).

4. Some rules,
a. Roots are silent in their composing words. Note: when a root is a standalone word, it does have a phonetic value of its own. However, it becomes silent when it is a part of another word.

b. The sound module plays two roles in the word meaning inferring process.
i. If its phonetic value plays a major role, it produces a word similar to a  (phonetic loan) word.

ii. If its semantic value plays a major role, it produces a word similar to a    (sense determinators) word. In this case, the sound module has a span of phonetic values. The way of the span is determined by its 聲  (consonant) or 韻  (vowel).
Note: some words do not have an explicit sound module. They follow a special rule which will be discussed later.

c. Ways of inferring the meaning of any word, the six-step procedure,
1. Step A --- the word

2. Step B --- the dissection of the word. The word should be dissected to its semantic parts (roots, compound roots, radicals, etc.), not all the way to root level.

3. Step C --- read out a static scene. Those semantic parts form a static scene.

4. Step D --- decoding. Read out a meaning from this static scene. This is the original meaning for the word. There is a set of reading procedure for this.

5. Step E --- the usage or the current meaning. The usage of a word can be quite different from its original meaning. The current meaning of a word can be looked up in an (any) dictionary.

6. Step F --- the inferring pathway from D to E. There are many pathways on this. The followings are the major ones.
a. Direct --- D ~ E. There is not much difference between D and E.
b. One step consequence --- D to E. This step is intuitive or easily understood.
c. Many step consequence --- D to and to E. These steps might involve culture (philosophy, history, etc.) knowledge.
d. Phonetic loan --- the meaning of the word is anchored by a sound tag.
e. Pointing or assignment --- the meaning of the word is pointed out by …. There are more details on this.
f. Borrowing --- a word is borrowed to represent a different word. This is the most difficult issue.
g. Compound step --- it consists of more than one pathway.

The above is the major outline of this axiomatic system (the new etymology), and it is quite different from the (six ways of constructing Chinese words) which did not explicitly point out the concept of sound module.

Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

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