Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: How to minimize "words" (was "Re: isolating conlangs")

From:Eugene Oh <un.doing@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 27, 2007, 15:50
2007/2/26, <MorphemeAddict@...>:
> > Individual characters do have their own meanings. > You're right that there are some characters that only occur in specific > words, acting like bound morphemes, but they may have had wider use in the past. > > stevo >
It is rather unlikely. Most of the characters in Chinese writing are what are known as Xingsheng Zi 形��字, i.e. part of the character reflects its phonetic quality and part hints at its meaning. Historical records indicate that most characters that are homophonous today and differ only in their radical (by which meaning is distinguished) were in fact nonstandard and the product of a fad sometime before the Ming dynasty (I can't rememeber exactly when) among scholars to distinguish homophonous words. As an example, 棉 mián "cotton" and 绵 mián "wool" were once written with the same character, but subsequently differentiated by radical: the first with the "wood" radical for cotton, and the second with the "silk" radical indicating cloth for wool. I wonder if we could thus conclude that the Chinese made clothes from wool long before cotton, since the general cloth radical refers to wool. FWIW, the radicalless character, 帛, is more or less unrelated: pronounced bó, it means "anything woven from silk", including knitting bases, room dividers etc. Eugene