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@wmconnect.com <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.
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.