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Chinese Language Forums - Chinese Etymology Institute • View topic - Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its face

Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its face

Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its face

Postby taiwan » Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:03 pm

Can the meaning of every Chinese character be read out from its face? This was an issue discussed at Yahoo!Answer.

Question:
In logic, to prove a premise takes three steps,
1. Existential introduction --- the premise is true in one case.

2. Existential generalization --- the premise is true more than one case.

3. The universal proof --- for an arbitrary selected case, the premise is true.

bryan_q said, "… Traditional Chinese writing you can trace the composition … to see the original meaning. Example: … 輭 = 車[vehicle; coach, cart]+而[originally, the picture of a man's beard: a man's beard in ancient China was very long: therefore the meaning of long could be used for 而]+大[a person lying flat on the ground, with arms and legs spread out: relaxing. So, 大, not just mean "big; great", but also "relaxed person"]. 輭 , then means 'a vehicle or coach for which a person can relax in, with enough room inside for a lot of things'."

I can provide a few examples below as the existential generalization for bryan_q.
a. 歪 (not straight) is 不 (not) 正 (straight) .
b. 甭 (not be used) is 不 (not) 用 (using, used).
c. 掌 (palm) is 尚 (top, upper) 手 (hand), top side of the hand.

However, if we can get one negative example, the question will be negated. Can we negate the question?



Answer from Edward,
How about this?
青 (blue/green) is 生 (a plant) 丹 (red).


Note: the url of this issue at Yahoo!Answer is
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index ... 057AA4Wl9d
taiwan
 
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby Ling » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:44 pm

The premise is presumably a statement, not a question."If one example can be shown where the meaning of the character cannot be read from its face, then the premise is disproved".
If one takes 人 as an example and ths student does not know its meaning ..... ?
On the other hand, if the student knows the meaning of every root, and their natural extensions in common usage, there would never be an eligible character, because the language would otherwise be using unintelligible characters.
So, as so often happens, it appears the question is not useful and therefore the premise is meaningless.
Ling
 
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby yijing » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:25 pm

taiwan wrote: Can the meaning of every Chinese character be read out from its face?

This is a genuine and good question.

"The meaning of every Chinese character can be read out from its face" is a good premise.

taiwan wrote:However, if we can get one negative example, the question will be negated. Can we negate the question?

This is a loaded question, that is, a trap. It is, in fact, not all accurate. One negative example will not negate the entire premise, but the domain of the premise must be adjusted accordingly.

Ling wrote:If one takes 人 as an example and ths student does not know its meaning ..... ?
On the other hand, if the student knows the meaning of every root, and their natural extensions in common usage, there would never be an eligible character, because the language would otherwise be using unintelligible characters.
So, as so often happens, it appears the question is not useful and therefore the premise is meaningless.


Excellent point. Until the terms (meaning of the words, read out, face of words, etc.) are clearly defined, the premise cannot be dealt logically. If they are defined clearly, then that premise can be analyzed.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby hantze » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:56 am

yijing wrote:
ling wrote:If one takes 人 as an example and ths student does not know its meaning ..... ?
On the other hand, if the student knows the meaning of every root, and their natural extensions in common usage, there would never be an eligible character, because the language would otherwise be using unintelligible characters.
So, as so often happens, it appears the question is not useful and therefore the premise is meaningless.


Excellent point. Until the terms (meaning of the words, read out, face of words, etc.) are clearly defined, the premise cannot be dealt logically. If they are defined clearly, then that premise can be analyzed.


Indeed.

But, the validity of the premise depends upon the root set. The Kangxi leading radicals (康 熙 部 首) is known for about 2,000 years as it is refined from (Sowen) 說 文. However, no one came up this premise with either the 214 康 熙 部 首 or the 540 說 文 部 首.

For this premise to be valid, the root set must be different from those two above.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby votusa » Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:35 pm

hantze wrote:
yijing wrote:
ling wrote:Excellent point. Until the terms (meaning of the words, read out, face of words, etc.) are clearly defined, the premise cannot be dealt logically. If they are defined clearly, then that premise can be analyzed.


Indeed.

But, the validity of the premise depends upon the root set. The Kangxi leading radicals (康 熙 部 首) is known for about 2,000 years as it is refined from (Sowen) 說 文. However, no one came up this premise with either the 214 康 熙 部 首 or the 540 說 文 部 首.

For this premise to be valid, the root set must be different from those two above.


I am studying the Gong’s etymology. I follow the following steps.
1. To learn the 220 roots and their meanings. This root set is significantly different from the Kangxi set.
2. To learn the structure of 1,000 generation one (G1) words by dissecting them with those 220 roots.
3. To learn the way of reading out the meanings of those words from their composing roots.

Only the etymological meaning (the original meaning) can be read out with the above process. The current meaning (or the usage of the word) is often different from its etymological meaning. For example, the word 最 (point out the superlative case) which is 曰 (intelligent saying) over 取 (take or taking). So, the etymological meaning for 最 is taking with intelligent persuasion. In both Kangxi dictionary (康 熙 字 典) and sowen (說 文), 最 means “taking”.

Yet, the current meaning for 最 is pointing out the superlative case. This meaning could be extended from the fact that “taking” by wisdom is the “best” way.

Anyway, there is often a big difference between the etymological meaning of a word and its current meaning or usage. Learning the skill of bridging this gap is the most important lesson in Gong’s system.

For this premise, the meaning of a word should mean its etymological meaning, not the current usage. This is my understanding.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby Ling » Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:18 pm

Etymology doesn't save the premise.
If the character is, "Point out the superlative case" and the student doesn't recognize the, "intelligent saying" (and therefore cannot name the whole character), no matter who else does, the student has made the one example which disproves the premise, according to its own rules.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby votusa » Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:19 am

Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.


I am not a logician, no comment on this.

My learning experience is that most (about 70%) of G1 words can be dissected with the root set easily after learning the system. With the correct dissection, the decoding of the word to get its etymological meaning becomes very easy and direct. However, the etymological meaning of 50% of those words is different from its current meaning or usage. The skill of bridging this gap takes a bit effort to acquire. I am improving a lot after three weeks of practice.


If a word is dissected wrong, then there is no chance to decode it correctly. For example, if someone dissects 最 as 日 (Sun) over 取 (take or taking), it will be very difficult to make a sense for the word.

With this system, I learned over 1000 words with ease in three weeks.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby mariaC » Sat Jun 18, 2011 7:43 pm

Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.
If the character is, "Point out the superlative case" and the student doesn't recognize the, "intelligent saying" (and therefore cannot name the whole character), no matter who else does, the student has made the one example which disproves the premise, according to its own rules.


I tried but failed to get Ling's point. Can anyone clarify it?
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby yijing » Wed Jun 22, 2011 2:46 pm

mariaC wrote:
Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.
If the character is, "Point out the superlative case" and the student doesn't recognize the, "intelligent saying" (and therefore cannot name the whole character), no matter who else does, the student has made the one example which disproves the premise, according to its own rules.


I tried but failed to get Ling's point. Can anyone clarify it?


You are not alone. I asked a few American friends, and they cannot get Ling’s logic either. Ling is obviously against Gong’s premise. If Ling allows me to make a guess, his logic should run like this.

1. The premise states that “the meaning of every Chinese character can be read out from its face.”
2. I, Ling, am a Chinese (my guess) and know at least 3000 Chinese characters, but I cannot read out the meaning from any of their faces.
3. votusa can read out the meaning of the word 最 by knowing its etymology.
4. Etymology is a deep subject. Most of people does not know the Chinese etymology. So, the premise is wrong for most of people.

Thus,
Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.


For Ling, only if the unlearned (uninitiated, such as himself) can read the meaning out from the word faces, then the premise can be right. If Gong's system requires some learning, the premise is wrong.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby votusa » Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:43 am

yijing wrote:If Ling allows me to make a guess, his logic should run like this.

1. ...
2. I, Ling, am a Chinese (my guess) and know at least 3000 Chinese characters, but I cannot read out the meaning from any of their faces.
3. ...
4. Etymology is a deep subject. Most of people does not know the Chinese etymology. So, the premise is wrong for most of people.

Thus,
Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.


For Ling, only if the unlearned (uninitiated, such as himself) can read the meaning out from the word faces, then the premise can be right. If Gong's system requires some learning, the premise is wrong.


Gong’s Chinese etymology is very easy and can be learned by the first graders.

It takes me one week to learn 220 roots, three weeks for 300 sound modules. Then, I learned over 1000 generation one words in four weeks. I learned about 1500 words in 8 weeks. For the grade school students, they should take their time. But, this new system is 100 times easier than the old school ways. I am learning Chinese words with logic, not as blobs. The brute memorization is no longer required.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby hantze » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:58 pm

votusa wrote:Gong’s Chinese etymology is very easy and can be learned by the first graders.

It takes me one week to learn 220 roots, three weeks for 300 sound modules. Then, I learned over 1000 generation one words in four weeks. I learned about 1500 words in 8 weeks. For the grade school students, they should take their time. But, this new system is 100 times easier than the old school ways. I am learning Chinese words with logic, not as blobs. The brute memorization is no longer required.


I am a Taiwanese, teaching Chinese language in Taiwan for over 30 years.

In Taiwan, students learn Chinese words by learning sentences. The word meaning, the word sound and the word usage are learned in the context of those sentences. The etymological meaning of a word was never taught and learned. Every word itself was learned as a blob while I did teach them the Kangxi radicals (康 熙 部 首) as a way of using dictionary.

I have never learned or taught Chinese in the way of Gong’s system. I was in awe after reading Gong’s system. votusa is lucky.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby kenny » Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:49 am

yijing wrote:
Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.


For Ling, only if the unlearned (uninitiated, such as himself) can read the meaning out from the word faces, then the premise can be right. If Gong's system requires some learning, the premise is wrong.


After read Gong’s blog ( http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspot.com/ ), I begin seeing the internal structure from Chinese words on the street signs which were blobs before and am able to see some relations among words. Of course, I cannot dissect and decode every word I see, but my intuition tells me that Gong’s premise is valid from my limited experience.

If the Chinese language is Ling’s mother tongue, why can Ling not get the same experience as mine?
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby hantze » Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:08 pm

kenny wrote:After read Gong’s blog ( http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspot.com/ ), I begin seeing the internal structure from Chinese words on the street signs which were blobs before and am able to see some relations among words. Of course, I cannot dissect and decode every word I see, but my intuition tells me that Gong’s premise is valid from my limited experience.

If the Chinese language is Ling’s mother tongue, why can Ling not get the same experience as mine?


For over 2000 years, no one in China knew about Gong’s premise. For over 500 years, no one in the West (among Western Sinologists) knew about Gong’s premise. I have never learned or taught in the way of Gong’s system during my 30 years of teaching Chinese language in Taiwan.

For me, I was in awe while reading every example from Gong’s book. But, I was unable to do the dissection and decoding correctly by myself.

All words in newspaper, I know them. There is no need for me to see their internal structures in order to know them. Dissection and decoding are chores and challenges, requiring concentrated efforts. My progress of learning Gong’s system was much slower than some young kids who knew no Chinese at the beginning. For them, when they see an unknown word, they can use Gong’s system to get its etymological meaning right the way without much difficulty.

For me, it was very difficult at the beginning. Often, there is a big gap between the etymological meaning and the current usage of a word. My knowledge of the current meaning and usage of the word has prevented me to get its etymological meaning. Obviously, there is no such an obstacle for the young kids who have no knowledge on that word at all. It took me long time to gain the ability to drop my previous knowledge on a word when I dissect and decode a word with Gong’s system. It took me another long time to learn the skill of bridging the gap between the etymological meaning and the current usage of a word.

However, I also discovered that my difficulty of learning Gong’s system is not shared with the young kids who have no such a baggage as I have. Without a baggage, they soak Gong’s system with lightning speed.

If Chinese language is Ling’s mother tongue, he will have tremendous difficulty to master Gong’s system. It will take a great effort to switch the brain pathways, from a dirt road to a super highway. No, Ling has no chance to share your experience without putting in a great effort.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby votusa » Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:28 pm

hantze wrote:
My progress of learning Gong’s system was much slower than some young kids who knew no Chinese at the beginning. For them, when they see an unknown word, they can use Gong’s system to get its etymological meaning right the way without much difficulty.

My knowledge of the current meaning and usage of the word has prevented me to get its etymological meaning. Obviously, there is no such an obstacle for the young kids who have no knowledge on that word at all.

However, I also discovered that my difficult of learning Gong’s system is not shared with the young kids who have no such a baggage as I have. Without a baggage, they soak Gong’s system with lightning speed.


Thanks for this great story.

Baggage and obstacle are the keys. If I already know the usage of a word, I do have difficulty to get its etymological meaning if there is a big gap between it and its usage.

I can decode an unknown word easily as there is no baggage as an obstacle to prevent me to do the direct decoding according to Gong’s system.

Knowing the word already, decoding becomes quite difficult if its usage is different from its etymological meaning.

For a complete unknown word, decoding is straight forward if I can dissect it correctly. The secret is to learn the way of dissecting words correctly.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby kenny » Sat Jun 25, 2011 8:07 am

yijing wrote:
Ling wrote:Etymology doesn't save the premise.


For Ling, only if the unlearned (uninitiated, such as himself) can read the meaning out from the word faces, then the premise can be right. If Gong's system requires some learning, the premise is wrong.


I am a logician.

Gong has proved his premises with inductive proof.
( http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... acter.html )

I will accept his deductive proof too.
(http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... s-new.html )

Gong’s proofs on his premises are very strong logic proofs.

Ling’s objection has no merit.
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Re: Read the meaning of every Chinese character from its fac

Postby paperjake » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:29 am

This is all very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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