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Chinese Language Forums - Chinese Etymology Institute • View topic - 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology
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沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:52 am
by Tienzen
Chapter 20 ---- The background history before this new Chinese etymology


The Chinese Written language was and still is viewed as one of the most difficult languages in the world. Yet, in the Spring 2008 (from April 3 to June 17), Jason Tyler Gong openly showed the world (under public eyes, 5 Chinese newspapers and 6 Chinese TV stations) that Chinese written language can be mastered in 89 days from an initial state of knowing not a single Chinese character to a state of being able to read Chinese newspapers and passed the examinations from a dozen Chinese news reporters. This case study is available at http://www.chineseetymology.com/ . This claim was also reviewed by Taiwan government (http://www.chineseetymology.com/2009/12 ... government ) and many great American universities (http://www.chineseetymology.com/2009/12 ... iversities ).


Yet, many still say that radicals are known for thousands years, and this new etymology is not new at all. They said, “It is widely known that characters are composed of parts and that parts of characters carry meanings and that other parts carry phonetic information.” Well, let’s review what the facts are --- the views of the Chinese philologists and of the Western sinologists on Chinese character system in the past 100 years were.


A. Views of the Chinese philologists:
The Chinese written language was always viewed as the most difficult language to learn, even for the Chinese people themselves. In 1920s, its illogical character structure was viewed as the culprit for China’s demise at the time. The slogan at the time was "without abandoning the Chinese characters, the China as a nation will surely vanish." Finally, in 1958, a major effort to simplify the Chinese word system was launched. That is, at that time, no one in China knew that Chinese written language is a 100% root word system which is the most logic and the easiest language to learn in the world.

1. Qian_Xuantong (錢 玄 同 , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qian_Xuantong), one of the greatest Chinese philologist in 1930s, even promoted the replacement of Chinese with Esperanto.

2. 魯 迅 (lǔ xùn, the greatest Chinese linguist, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lu_Xun) wrote, 漢 字 不 廢, 中 國 必 亡 (without abandoning Chinese character system, China will surely vanish) . See “ 鲁迅欲消灭汉字 --- (http://www.kanzhongguo.com/news/12/04/1 ... 5%9B%BE%29) .

3. 近现代文化名人对汉字的诅咒 --- The cursing of Chinese character system by Chinese scholars in the 1930s (http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/conten ... 8259.shtml) .

4. 郭沫若、蔡元培 等人的 "消滅漢字宣言" --- the manifesto of abandoning and destroying the Chinese character system, signed by 600 Chinese scholars in the 1930s (http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/phorum ... hp?4,73347) .

5. The ignorance of Chinese Scholars in 1958 is not an incidental case. During the past two thousand years, not a single Chinese scholar truly understands the structure of Chinese word system as an axiomatic system. During the 唐 、 宋 period (Tong and Song dynasties, from 650 a.d. to 1,150 a.d.), there were eight great Chinese scholars ( 唐 宋 八 大 家 ). 王 安 石 (Wang) and 蘇 東 坡 (Shu) are two of those eight. Wang was also the Prime Minister of Song dynasty for decades, and he was Shu's boss. As the leader of intelligentsia and of political hierarchy, Wang set out to decode Chinese word system. He wrote a book 字 說 (Discussions on Chinese words, http://baike.baidu.com/view/420769.htm). That book soon became a laughing stock, and Wang burnt it. That book is no longer in existence today; only the name of the book and a few lines survived as quotations in other person's writing. The most important critic was Shu. Wang wrote, " 波 (wave) 者 , 水 之 皮 " (Wave is the skin of water), 皮 as skin. Then, Shu asked, " 滑 (slippery) 者 , 水 之 骨 乎 ? " (Is slippery the bone of water?) 骨 as bone. Unable to answer one laughing question, Wang burnt his book.

6. Around 1660s, the Emperor Kangsi ( 康 熙 ) and his grandson ( 乾 隆 ) launched a major effort of organizing the Chinese books with two major publications.
a. Kangsi dictionary ( 康 熙 字 典 ) -- it lists about 48,000 words. It becomes the Bible of Chinese characters. It classifies all Chinese words with 214 部 首 (leading radicals), the most scientific way of analyzing Chinese words at the time. Yet, each word is still treated as a blob which cannot give out its meaning from its face.
b. 四 庫 全 書 (Four College of Encyclopedia) -- it consists of over 30,000 volumes of books. Over 1,000 books are dealing with Chinese characters. Yet, not a single book hinted that Chinese character set is an axiomatic set.

7. In 2005, I searched the Library of Beijing University. It had over 3,000 books on Chinese written characters. Not a single book describes Chinese characters as a root word set, let alone an axiomatic set.

8. 胡 適 (Hu Shih, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hu_Shih) and 林 語 堂 (Lin Yu Tang, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Yu_Tang) agreed with Dr. Northrop that Chinese words are denotative and solitary -- no logical ordering or connection the one with the other.


All these above led to the 1920s movement of despising Chinese written language, especially accusing that the character set was the culprit for China's demise at the time. Those known radicals did not prevent those great Chinese philologists to despise Chinese character system. In addition to a despising feeling, they took action to abandon it, and it was the reason for the launching of the simplified system in 1960s.


B. Views of the Western sinologists:
I. School one --- Chinese characters are ideographs. The key members of this school are,
1. Portuguese Dominican Friar Gaspar da Cruz (in 1560s) --- The first Western account of the fascinatingly different Chinese writing was the comment made by the Portuguese Dominican Friar Gaspar da Cruz in 1569: “The Chinas [Chinese] have no fixed letters in their writing, for all that they write is by characters, and they compose words of these, whereby they have a great multitude of characters, signifying each thing by a character in such sort that one only character signifies "Heaven," another "earth," and another "man," and so forth with everything else.” [Boxer 1953:161-162]

2. Father J. J. M. Amiot (in 1700s) --- Father J. J. M. Amiot in a longer article in which he described characters as “images and symbols which speak to the mind through the eyes -- images for palpable things, symbols for mental ones. Images and symbols which are not tied to any sound and can be read in all languages. ... I would be quite inclined to define Chinese characters as the pictorial algebra of the sciences and the arts. In truth, a well-turned sentence is as much stripped of all intermediaries as is the most rigorously bare algebraic demonstration.” [Mémoires 1776:282-285]
Thus, ideograph has the following attributes.
a. It is symbol or image.
b. It is not tied to any sound and can be read in all languages.
c. It is an ideal algebra, which conveys thoughts by analogy, by relation, by convention, and so on.
This view was accepted by Dr. Northrop, 胡 適 (Hu Shih) and 林 語 堂 (Lin Yu Tang) with the conclusion that Chinese written language (Chinese words) is denotative and solitary -- no logical ordering or connection the one with the other. And, the consequence of such a language is that there is no chance of any kind to formulate scientific, philosophical and theological objects.

3. Juan Gonzales de Mendoza (in 1600s)
4. Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610)
5. Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignani (in 1600s)
6. Herrlee Glessner Creel [(January 19, 1905-June 1, 1994)
7. Paul Mulligan Thompson (10 February 1931 – 12 June 2007)
8. Joseph Needham ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Needham)


II. School two --- Chinese characters are mainly phonological (or morphosyllabic) in nature. And, the “ideographic idea is a Myth”. The key members of this school are,
1. Peter Alexis Boodberg (April 8, 1903 - June 29, 1972)
2. Peter S. DuPonceau [(in 1930s), http://www.jstor.org/pss/2718025]
3. French sinologist J. M. Callery (in 1880)
4. John DeFrancis (August 31, 1911 – January 2, 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_DeFrancis) was an American linguist, sinologist, author of Chinese language textbooks, lexicographer of Chinese dictionaries, and Professor Emeritus of Chinese Studies at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
Dr. John DeFrancis wrote, “Ideographic writing, however, requires mastery of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of symbols that would be needed for ideographic representation of words or concepts without regard to sound. A bit of common sense should suggest that unless we supplement our brains with computer implants, ordinary mortals are incapable of such memory feats. … We need to go further and throw out the term itself. … Chinese characters represent words (or better, morphemes), not ideas, and they represent them phonetically, for the most part, as do all real writing systems despite their diverse techniques and differing effectiveness in accomplishing the task. … One reason for the pervasiveness and tenacity of the myth, I am now convinced, stems from the use of the word "ideographic." The term itself is responsible for a good deal of the misunderstanding and should be replaced, since its repetitious use, as in the big lie technique and in subliminal advertising, insidiously influences our thinking. … Only the adoption of some such term as "morphosyllabic," which calls attention to the phonetic aspect, can contribute to dispelling the widespread misunderstanding of the nature of Chinese writing.”
Dr. DeFrancis’ conclusion, "The concept of ideographic writing is a most seductive notion. There is great appeal in the concept of written symbols conveying their message directly to our minds, ... Surely ideas immediately pop into our minds when we see a road sign, a death's head label on a bottle of medicine, a number on a clock. Aren't Chinese characters a sophisticated system of symbols that similarly convey meaning without regard to sound? Aren't they an ideographic system of writing?
The answer to these questions is no. ... Here I would go further: There never has been, and never can be, such a thing as an ideographic system of writing."

In Dr. DeFrancis’ writing, he did not mention about 康 熙 字 典 (Kangsi dictionary) which is, indeed, centered in phonetic aspect of Chinese characters. Thus, his idea of morphosyllabic is correct but nothing new. In fact, there is a premise 3 for the Chinese characters, as follow,
Premise 3 --- all (each and every) Chinese characters carry a sound tag, either explicitly or implicitly.
This premise 3 plays a major part in this new Chinese etymology. However, Dr. DeFrancis’ strong opposition on the concept of ideograph is wrong, as the three attributes of the ideograph are, indeed, correct for Chinese characters. These seemingly contradictory attributes are, in fact, the essence of this new Chinese etymology.
While Dr. DeFrancis was not all wrong, some of his followers have made a partial truth into a ridicules teaching material which is wasting many young people’s life.


5. J. Marshall Unger (linguistics professor of Ohio State University) goes one step further with the following statement.
“Try this ‘thought experiment’: suppose a couple really smart little green guys from outer space showed up one night in a suburb of Tokyo, just like in a Japanese science-fiction movie. Would they instantly understand all those store-front Chinese characters as soon as they saw them?

It's pretty obvious that cousins of E.T. would be as clueless about Chinese characters as you would be staring at street signs in Baghdad (unless, of course, you happen to be literate in Arabic). But that hasn't stopped generations of writers who really ought to know better from insisting that Chinese characters somehow convey meaning to brains through some mysterious process completely detached from language. Think about it: every normal human being naturally acquires a language just by going through infancy in the presence of normal, talking adults. It took hundreds of thousands of years for even one species with this extraordinary ability to evolve. Yet somehow, within the span of just a few rather recent centuries, the Chinese came up with a completely artificial writing system that can denote every thought you could ever express in any of the world's languages without any reference to human speech whatsoever! Something is obviously wrong with this story, and Ideogram explains what.” The “Ideogram” is Dr. Unger’s book on this ideograph issue, and more info on it is available at http://people.cohums.ohio-state.edu/ung ... eogram.htm .

Seemingly, Dr. Unger has redefined the term “ideograph” which must be readily understood by the uninstructed, that is, intuitively without any knowledge, such as a new born infant. In the American Heritage Dictionary, @, #, $, %, &, *, {, ] are ideograms. Can any of those ET green guys instantly understand all those ideograms as soon as they saw them? Those American Heritage ideographs can be known only with certain culture or knowledge stimuli. With enough such erroneous textbooks around, there is no chance for any student of Chinese language to avoid the suffering of humility and agony. We call this in Chinese “誤 人 子 弟 (wrong to students)”.
誤 (wrong or wrong to someone) is 言 (speech or words) + 吳 (leaning the head on one side). So, 誤 is words not centered, being not upright or being wrong.

6. Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania, http://www.ceas.sas.upenn.edu/bios-Mair.shtml) wrote, “There is probably no subject on earth concerning which more misinformation is purveyed and more misunderstandings circulated than Chinese characters (Chinese hanzi, Japanese kanji, Korean hanja) or sinograms.”


III. Dr. F.S.C. Northrop was one of the greatest Sinologist in the recent time. In his book, The Meeting of East and West -- an Inquiry Concerning World Understanding (The Macmillan Company, 1968 by Dr. F.S.C. Northrop), Dr. Northrop wrote, "The Easterner, on the other hand, uses bits of linguistic symbolism, largely denotative, and often purely ideographic in character, to point toward a component in the nature of things which only immediate experience and continued contemplation can convey. This shows itself especially in the symbols of the Chinese language, where each solitary, immediately experienced local particular tends to have its own symbol, this symbol also often having a directly observed form like that of the immediately seen item of direct experience which it denotes. For example , the symbol for man in Chinese is 人 , and the early symbol for house is 介 . As a consequence, there was no alphabet. This automatically eliminates the logical whole-part relation between one symbol and another that occurs in the linguistic symbolism of the West in which all words are produced by merely putting together in different permutations the small number of symbols constituting the alphabet. (Page 316).
"In many cases, however, the content of the sign itself, that is, the actual shape of the written symbol, is identical with the immediately sensed character of the factor in experience for which it stands. These traits make the ideas which these symbols convey particulars rather than logical universals, and largely denotative rather than connotative in character.
Certain consequences follow. Not only are the advantages of an alphabet lost, but also there tend to be as many symbols as there are simple and complex impressions. Consequently, the type of knowledge which a philosophy constructed by means of such a language can convey tends necessarily to be one given by a succession of concrete, immediately apprehendable examples and illustrations, the succession of these illustrations having no logical ordering or connection the one with the other. ...
... Moreover, even the common-sense examples are conveyed with aesthetic imagery, the emphasis being upon the immediately apprehended, sensuous impression itself more than upon the external common-sense object of which the aesthetic impression is the sign. Nowhere is there even the suggestion by the aesthetic imagery of a postulated scientific or a doctrinally formulated, theological object. All the indigenously Chinese philosophies, Taoism as well as Confucianism, support this verdict." (page 322, ibid).

Dr. Northrop was not simply discussing Chinese culture but was giving a verdict. His verdict has the following two points.
1. About the Chinese written language (Chinese words): Denotative and solitary -- no logical ordering or connection the one with the other.
2. The consequence of such a language: No chance of any kind to formulate scientific, philosophical and theological objects.

Dr. Northrop's view was not his personal opinion. 胡 適 (Hu Shih) and 林 語 堂 (Lin Yu Tang) who were the two greatest Chinese philologists at the time were Dr. Northrop's colleagues. And he quoted both of them many times in this book.
• Hu Shih -- page 340, 364, 384, 426, 434, 506, 508
• Lin Yu Tang -- page 318, 319, 323, 325, 327, 330, 339, 356, 391, 423, 424, 505, 507, 508
And, this book of Dr. Northrop was read by both of them.


IV. On the web page (Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 2, History of Scientific Thought, ISBN 9780521058001 at http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/i ... cale=en_GB), it wrote, "The second volume of Dr Joseph Needham's great work Science and Civilisation in China is devoted to the history of scientific thought. Beginning with ancient times, it describes the Confucian milieu in which arose the organic naturalism of the great Taoist school, the scientific philosophy of the Mohists and Logicians, and the quantitative materialism of the Legalists. Thus we are brought on to the fundamental ideas which dominated scientific thinking in the Chinese middle ages. The author opens his discussion by considering the remote and pictographic origins of words fundamental in scientific discourse, and then sets forth the influential doctrines of the Two Forces and the Five Elements. Subsequently he writes of the important sceptical tradition, the effects of Buddhist thought, and the Neo-Confucian climax of Chinese naturalism. Last comes a discussion of the conception of Laws of Nature in China and the West."

That is, Dr. Needham wanted to know:
a. Externally, did Chinese language have the capability to describe the logic of science?
b. Internally, could the internal logic of Chinese language lead the Chinese people entering into the domain of science?

Thus, he analyzed 82 Chinese words in that book, and 77 of them are from two sources:
甲 骨 文 -- the words inscribed on bones after oracle sessions.
金 文 -- the words inscribed on bronze vessels.

Both of these items were made before 2,000 b.c.. Here, I will show only a few his analyses and compare them to mine.
1. 不 (no, do not)
a. Needham: pictograph of a fading flower.
b. Tienzen: 不 is the word 下 (below, lower) touches or hangs on 一 (heaven) side way. It means "will not go lower from heaven."

2. 易 (change, simple, easy)
a. Needham: pictograph of a lizard, as its skin can easily change colors.
b. Tienzen: 易 is 勿 (pictograph of a flying flag) under 日 (Sun). A flag under Sun is flying with ease and is changing directions.
Note: 昜 (open or opening) is 旦 (morning) over 勿 (pictograph of a flying flag), opening the day by putting up the flag in the morning. Thus, with the DNA inheritance,
湯 (soup) is 水 (water) + 昜 (open or opening). Boiling (opening) water is soup.

3. 元 (at the beginning)
a. Needham: pictograph of side-view of a human head.
b. Tienzen: 元 is 一 (heaven) over 兀 (stillness or nothingness). Heaven over the stillness is the creation, the beginning.

4. 因 (the seed of cause)
a. Needham: pictograph of something on a bed sheet.
b. Tienzen: 因 is 大 (something great) inside 囗 (an enclosed boundary). Something great which is boxed up ( 囗 ) is 因 , the cause.

There are 82 examples and they are available at http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/cwr018.htm. However friendly to Chinese culture that Dr. Needham was, he was wrong about the Chinese word system, as he believed that most of Chinese words are pictographs. The truth is that there are only 70 pictographic words in the entire Chinese word universe which has about 50,000 words.


V. On page 112, “The Columbia History of the World, ISBN 0-88029-004-8”, it states, "Structurally, the Chinese writing system passed through four distinct stages. No alphabetic or syllabic scripts were developed, but each word came to be denoted by a different character. The earliest characters were pictographs for concrete words. A drawing of a woman meant a woman, or of a broom a broom. Such characters were in turn combined to form ideographs. A woman and a broom became a wife, three women together treachery or villainy. The third stage was reached with the phonetic loans, in which existing characters were borrowed for other words with the same pronunciation. The fourth stage was a refinement of the third: sense determinators or radicals, were added to the phonetic loans in order to avoid confusion. Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic method. Unfortunately, the phonetics were often borrowed for other than exact homophones. In such cases, the gaps have widened through the evolution of the language, until today characters may have utterly different pronunciations even though they share the same phonetic. The written language, despite its difficulties, has been an important unifying cultural and political link in China. Although many Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, the characters are comprehended though the eye, whatever their local pronunciation. One Chinese may not understand the other's speech, yet reads with ease his writing."

This passage does give a better description on Chinese characters than those previously discussed sinologists’ works. However, there are still some big errors.
1. The second stage --- “A drawing of a woman meant a woman, or of a broom a broom. Such characters were in turn combined to form ideographs. A woman and a broom became a wife, three women together treachery or villainy.”
a. A drawing of a woman meant a woman --- 女
b. Of a broom a broom --- 帚
c. A woman and a broom became a wife --- 婦
This process is, in fact, a composite inferring procedure (the sense determinators, 會 意). Thus, the sense determinator is the second stage, not the fourth.
Furthermore, with this “read out” (composite inferring) procedure, 婦 is 女 (woman) + 帚 (broom). Thus, 婦 means a working woman, not a wife.
The word wife is 妻 which is composed of three radicals (roots). The top one is root 1 (一, [can mean heaven, earth, man , as one or a union]). At here, it means a union in accord with heavenly virtue. The second radical is root 46 (the shared radical of 聿, 事, 肅 which means crafty hand). The bottom root is 女 (girl or woman). Thus, 妻 is a crafty hand girl united with me under heavenly virtue.
The authors of “The Columbia History of the World” were almost having the idea of that the Chinese word set is a root based axiomatic system, but no cigar.

2. “Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic method,” and this statement is wrong. “Unfortunately, the phonetics was often borrowed for other than exact homophones. In such cases, the gaps have widened through the evolution of the language, until today characters may have utterly different pronunciations even though they share the same phonetic,” and this is also wrong. These two issues are very complicated, and I will discuss them soon.

Obviously those known radicals did not allow those great Western sinologists to know that the Chinese word set is an axiomatic system.


C. The canons on Chinese character system:
a. 說 文 (So-Wen) was written around 140 a.d., about 1,900 years ago. It consists of three parts.
1. It listed about 9,000 Chinese words under 540 radicals (部 首, leading radicals).
2. It discussed 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) --- that is, Chinese words were “constructed” with six ways. And, these six ways are as follow:

指 事 者 (pointing or assigning), 視 而 可 識 , 察 而 見 意 。 上 、 下 是 也 。
象 形 者 (pictographic), 畫 成 其 物 , 隨 體 詰 出 。 日 、 月 是 也 。
形 聲 者 (phonetic loan), 以 事 為 名 , 取 譬 相 成 。 江 、 河 是 也 。
會 意 者 (sense determinators), 比 類 合 誼 , 以 見 指 偽 。 誠 、 信 是 也。
轉 註 者 (synonymize), 建 類 一 首 , 同 意 相 受 。 考 、 老 是 也 。
假 借 者 (borrowing), 本 無 其 字 , 依 聲 托 事 。 令 、 長 是 也 。

However, in 說 文 (So-Wen), there is no further description and discussion on these six ways beyond these six sentences above. And, it did not use or apply these ways (except the pictograph and pointing) in its explanations of the words in the book. In the next 1,900 years, no one made any advancement beyond these six sentences. In 2005, I searched the Library of Beijing university. It had over 3,000 books on Chinese written characters. Not a single book used 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) as a part of a book title.
Furthermore, the description of these six ways are not exactly correct, and I will discuss this soon. The key point here is that the author of 說 文 (So-Wen) did not truly understand these six ways although they must be developed before him.

3. Among 9,000 words in the book 說 文 (So-Wen), 90% of them were classified as pictographic words, that is, the meaning of those words are mainly arising from their pictographic images. For the past 1,900 years, “all” Chinese believe that Chinese words are pictographic symbols. Of course, this is not true. Again, obviously, the author of 說 文 (So-Wen) did not truly understand the 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) which is almost a precise description that Chinese words are root based axiomatic system, but again no cigar.


b. 韻 書(the rhyme book)
i. The oldest 韻 書 currently known is the book 切 韻 (check rhyme) which was published during the 隋 朝 [Sui Dynasty (around 580 a.d.)]. While the original book of 切 韻 is no longer exist, its contents are available as quotes from many other books.
ii. The next 韻 書 (the rhyme book) is the book of 唐 韻 which was published during the 唐 朝 [Tang Dynasty, from 618 to 907 a.d.].
iii. The 韻 書 of today is 廣 韻 which was published during the 宋 朝 [Song Dynasty, around 960 a.d.].


c. 康 熙 字 典 (Kangsi dictionary)
康 熙 字 典 was published around 1680s. It consists of two parts.
1. It reduced the 540 部 首 (leading radicals) of 說 文 (So-Wen) into only 214 and placed about 48,000 words under those 214 leading radicals.
2. While it did not dispute the claim of 說 文 that most of Chinese words are pictographic symbols, it did not use that concept as a part to provide meaning for those 48,000 words. The meanings of words in the 康 熙 字 典 are almost solely provided from the phonetic values of the words. In fact, almost all Chinese characters have more than one phonetic value, and the different value of that word points out the different meaning for that word. Again, the 康 熙 字 典 did not apply the 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) in its editorial process. That is, 六 書 did not play any part for providing the meaning for the words listed in the dictionary.
The 康 熙 (Emperor Kangsi) leading radicals (部 首 ) were known for two thousand years. The 康 熙 dictionary was published in 1680s, that is, 330 years ago. Was anyone able to read out the meaning of Chinese characters by using the 康 熙 radicals? The answer is, of course, a big No.


In 1920s (during the May 4th movement), the slogan in China was 漢 字 不 廢 、 中 國 必 亡 (if not abandon Chinese character system, China as a nation will disappear from the Earth). Chinese character system was deemed as the culprit for China's backwardness and high illiteracy rate at that time. This was why Chinese characters were simplified in 1958. If 康 熙 radicals showed that the Chinese character set is an axiomatic system, then it had no reason to do the simplification. In 1958, a major effort to simplify the Chinese word system was launched. That is, at that time, no one in China knew that Chinese written language is a 100% root word system. This is a historical fact. With 康 熙 radicals, Chinese words can never be dissected correctly, and there is no chance to decode them correctly. Furthermore, 王 安 石 Studied 說 文 all his life, but his book 字 說 turned out to be a joke. 錢 玄 同 taught 說 文 all his life, yet he wanted to replace Chinese system with Esperanto.


If this someone knew this new etymology by knowing those known radicals, he knew something beyond the scope of these three canonic books, which did not provide an understanding of this new etymology to either those great Chinese philologists or those great Western sinologists.


Even with the above facts, one might still not get a sense of difference between this new etymology and the old schools. Someone might say that all those great Chinese philologists are now dead (DeFrancis passed away in 2009), and the movement of despising Chinese character system was in 1960s. So, all the above are history and valid no more. But, Dr. David Moser (University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies) wrote a widely read article “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard?” in 2005. He made the following points about the defects of Chinese system.

1. Because the writing system is ridiculous.
2. Because the language doesn't have the common sense to use an alphabet.
3. Because the writing system just ain't very phonetic.
4. Because you can't cheat by using cognates.
5. Because even looking up a word in the dictionary is complicated.
6. Then there's classical Chinese (文 言 文, wenyanwen).
7. Because there are too many romanization methods and they all suck.
8. Because tonal languages are weird.
9. Because east is east and west is west, and the twain have only recently met.

Although all his points are results of ignorance, it is a very fun article to read. If you have not read it yet, it is available at (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html). Moser is now a highly respected Sinologist today both in the West and in China. Yet, his experience is universal for anyone (the Westerner or the native Chinese) who learned Chinese via the old school way. That is, by the year of 2005, all Moser’s colleagues (in the West or in China) and his readers did not know about this new Chinese etymology used by Jason Gong.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:56 am
by Tienzen
Chapter 21 ---- The claims of this new Chinese etymology


This new Chinese Etymology (CE) claims that the Chinese character system can be mastered in 90 days for anyone (10 year old or older) who knows not a single Chinese character at the beginning. This new CE was presented at an Annual Conference of CollegeBoard ( http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/cw8.htm) . And, this claim is supported by a system which consists of four premises.

1. Premise one --- All (each and every) Chinese words (characters) are composed of from a set of word roots.
2. Premise two --- The meaning of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.
3. Premise three --- The pronunciation of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.
4. Premise four --- etymology memory algebra, with only 220 root words (R), it generates 300 commonly used compound roots (also as sound modules, M). Thus, R + M = 220 + 300 = 520. With these 520, all 60,000 Chinese written words are generated. That is,
Etymology memory algebra is R + M = R x M

The premise 4 is the direct consequence of the first three premises. As long as the first three premises are valid, the premise 4 will be valid.


This claim can be physically tested, and some actual case study data were provided and were reviewed by the world. However, the four premises can also be proved logically. The first three premises can be inductively proved, which consists of the following steps.
a. Existential introduction (it is true for, at least, one case), the same as the deduction proof.
b. Existential generalization (it is true for “n” cases, n > 1), more precise than the deduction proof.
c. Inductively proved if n + 1 (the next coming up case, not an arbitrary selected) is true.


Of course, I will provide the logic proofs for the above four premises. However, if a reader did not read Dr. Moser’s article “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard?”, he might take this new claim for granted. Moser wrote, “Someone once said that learning Chinese is ‘a five-year lesson in humility’. I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.”


It takes about 7 to 10 “school” years for native Chinese person to become semi-literate, being able to read the “current” Chinese newspaper. In fact, 99.9% of Chinese college graduate is still unable to read the Chinese classic writing (文 言 文). For the past 3,000 years, it will take a lifetime (40 to 50 years) for a Chinese scholar to truly master the art of 文 言 文.

Thus, taking 10 to 20 years to learn Chinese written language to a state of being able to read the “current” Chinese newspaper for a Westerner becomes all reasonable. If one cannot endure the minimum of 10 years of humility and agony, he is not worthy to become a sinologist. In fact, both native Chinese and the Western sinologists are so proud of successfully passed the challenge of those humility and agony, and they view themselves as a special species, much more superior than the common folk. Thus, if one tells them that their 10 to 20 years of humility and agony are simply wasting of their life as that task which they were so proudly accomplished can be done in three to six months instead, they will be extremely outraged regardless of whether that claim is true or not. If it is not true, they will be outraged for that funny joke. If it is true, they will kill it with all their might in order to preserve their proud accomplishment.

For native Chinese, the Chinese language (verbal and written) is simply their living habit, and most of them do not know and not care about its linguistic structure. For Western linguists, the “difficulty” of Chinese written language becomes an important subject of research, and the conclusion from those researches of two competing schools is that Chinese words (characters) are ad hoc and chaotic. Their difference is centered on a term “ideograph.” I have discussed the views of two old schools in the previous chapter. I am reiterating it below for emphasis.

1. School one (Friar Gaspar da Cruz, Creel, etc.) – Chinese characters are ideographs which are composed of symbols and images, and that these symbols and images, not having any sound, can be read in all languages, and form a sort of intellectual painting, a metaphysical and ideal algebra, which conveys thoughts by analogy, by relation, by convention, and so on. Creel wrote, “The Chinese have specialized on making their writing so suggestive to the eye that it immediately calls up ideas and vivid pictures, without any interposition of sounds.”
However, Creel did not see Chinese as an axiomatic system, that is, the Creel’s ideographs are still ad hoc and chaotic, and each ideograph must be learned independently.


2. School two (DuPonceau, DeFrancis, J. Marshall Unger, etc.) – Chinese characters are logographs which are symbols with phonetic value.
DeFrancis wrote, “a. For alphabetic writing, it requires mastery of several dozen symbols that are needed for phonemic representation.
b. For syllabic writing, it requires mastery of what may be several hundred or several thousand symbols that are needed for syllabic representation.
c. For ideographic writing, however, it requires mastery of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of symbols that would be needed for ideographic representation of words or concepts without regard to sound. A bit of common sense should suggest that unless we supplement our brains with computer implants, ordinary mortals are incapable of such memory feats. … I believe it to be completely untenable because there is no evidence that people have the capacity to master the enormous number of symbols that would be needed in a written system that attempts to convey thought without regard to sound, which means divorced from spoken language.”


However great the difference between the two schools is, they both view the Chinese word system is ad hoc and chaotic, and the Chinese written language is the most difficult language to learn in the world. Of course, this is simply wrong.


With this new etymology, all “problems” of Dr. Moser disappear. This new etymology claims that Chinese written language can be mastered in 90 days from an initial state of knowing not a single Chinese word (both verbal and written) to a point of being able to read the current Chinese newspapers, because of two newly discovered facts.
Fact 1. All (each and every) Chinese words (characters) are composited of from only 220 word roots.
Fact 2. The meaning of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.

In Moser’s article, he made a point related to this fact 1. He wrote, “Now consider the American undergraduate who decides to study Chinese. What does it take for this person to master the Chinese writing system? There is nothing that corresponds to an alphabet, though there are recurring components that make up the characters. How many such components are there? Don't ask. As with all such questions about Chinese, the answer is very messy and unsatisfying. It depends on how you define "component" (strokes? radicals?), plus a lot of other tedious details. Suffice it to say, the number is quite large, vastly more than the 26 letters of the Roman alphabet. And how are these components combined to form characters? Well, you name it -- components to the left of other components, to the right of other components, on top of other components, surrounding other components, inside of other components -- almost anything is possible. And in the process of making these spatial accommodations, these components get flattened, stretched, squashed, shortened, and distorted in order to fit in the uniform square space that all characters are supposed to fit into. In other words, the components of Chinese characters are arrayed in two dimensions, rather than in the neat one-dimensional rows of alphabetic writing.”

Of course, this is not his idea. It is shared by all Chinese philologists and all Western sinologists, as I have shown in the previous chapter. His article becomes so popular and is carried by hundreds websites. This again shows that this new Chinese etymology is not understood ever before by anyone.


Many of my American students commented, “I think that David Moser's experience is the universal experience of people whose mother tongue Indo-European when they try to learn Chinese and I think he has identified the main reasons why Chinese feels so discouragingly difficult.”

It takes over 20 years for Moser to become a respected Sinologist on the Chinese written language. It will take 10 to 20 years for anyone who follows Moser’s footstep. That is, 10 years of life pluses a lot of tuition, in tens or hundreds thousand dollars.

Moser wrote, “For most people, the first title to acquire is probably ‘The Chinese Language: Fact and fantasy,’ by John DeFrancis. This book has done more than any other to dispel misunderstandings about Chinese, especially those concerning Chinese characters, including the Ideographic Myth,... . I very much hope many of this site's visitors will seek out and read this work.”

John DeFrancis , in the 1960s, wrote a 12-volume series of Mandarin Chinese textbooks and readers published by Yale University Press (popularly known as the "DeFrancis series"), which were widely used in Chinese as a foreign language classes for decades, and his textbooks are said to have had a "tremendous impact" on Chinese teaching in the West. He served Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Oriental Society from 1950 to 1955 and the Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association from 1966 to 1978.

One sample chapter of DeFrancis’ book is available at http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/ideographic_myth.html . His key point is that Chinese words (characters) are ad hoc, that is, without any connection among words, and “each word has its own hieroglyphic character, that there are no fewer symbols than words, and that the great number of characters is in accord with the great number of things, though thanks to combining them the characters which do not exceed seventy to eighty thousand."

Thus, for learning Chinese written language, one must memorize all those ad hoc words with brutal effort. Then, taking 10 to 20 years becomes reasonable. As DeFrancis was the most respected Sinologist in the West, thousands of his students have wasted their youthful life and thousands more are still learning via his way.


Now, I will show a few examples that the meanings of Chinese words can be read out from their faces. That is, there is no reason to memorize those words as they are not ad hoc symbols but are composed of roots and radicals.
1. 盲 (blind) is 亡 (lost or dead) 目 (eyes)
2. 瞎 (blind) is 目 (eyes) + 害 (harmful or harmed)
3. 見 (see or seeing) is 目 (eyes) over 儿 (child), Child sees without intention.
4. 看 (looking) is 手 (hand) over 目 (eyes), putting a hand over eye is seeing with intention.
5. 孬 (useless, no good) = 不 (no, not) over 好 (good).
6. 睡 (sleep or sleepy) = 目 (eyes) + 垂 (droop or droopy).
7. 貨 (products, produces) = 化 (transform) + 貝 (treasure), money can be transformed into products.
8. 間 (gap) = 門 (door) over 日 (Sun), there is a gap when seeing Sunlight through the door.
9. 歪 (not straight) is 不 (not) 正 (straight).
10. 甭 (not be used) is 不 (not) 用 (using, used).
11. 掌 (palm) is 尚 (top, upper) 手 (hand), top side of the hand.
13. 我 (I, self) is 手 (hand) + 戈 (spear), with spear on hand; one can be a self, not a slave.
14. 成 (completion, success) is 戌 (complete) + 丁 (rooted).

With these examples, they proved that Dr. DeFrancis was completely wrong and completely ignorant about Chinese word system. In the discussion thread “Chinese character set is pseudoscience, 汉 字 是 伪 科 学!” (at general-discussion/chinese-character-set-is-pseudoscience-t15.html), I have showed the details of how wrong that DeFrancis’ group is. The above examples have showed the “Existential Introduction” for the first two premises.

Of course, the logic is more complicated than the examples above. There are many rules for the compositions. In "Lesson three" of the book "Chinese Etymology" (US copyright # TX6-917-909, issued on January 16, 2008) on the phonology and morphology of Chinese characters, it showed 4-dimensional growth paths for the Chinese characters.
Vertical growth,
Horizontal growth.
Silent growth
Phonetic growth

The details of this is available at,
http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/prl030.htm

Here, I will only show a few simple examples below.
i. They grow horizontally, such as in words (孕, 秀), (悉, 釋).
ii. They grow vertically, with the example of (夕, 多, 夠).
iii. With fusion (雨 or 永)

孕 (pregnant) = 乃 (still going or not yet finish) over 子 (child), the child is not born yet.
秀 (youthful) = 禾 (grain) over 乃 (not yet ready), the grain is not yet ready to be harvest.

悉 (knowing) = 釆 (animal’s footprint) over 心 (heart), with the animal’s footprint, the tracker knows in his heart.
釋 (explanation) = 釆 (animal’s footprint) + 睪 (watchful or surveillance), knowing the animal’s footprint, something can be explained.

多 (many, unlimited) = 夕 (night) over 夕 (night), there are unlimited many “night after night”.
夠 (enough) = 多 (unlimited many) + 句 (a completed sentence or to end), to end the unlimited many means enough.

雨 (rain) is the fusion of 天 (sky or heaven) 水 (water). In this case, both the shape of 天 and 水 have changed slightly. However, it becomes all clear when it is pointed out.

永 (long lasting or forever) is the fusion of root 97 (heaven or heavenly) with 水 (water). Only the heavenly water is forever. Root 97 is the shared radical of (亢, 六, 玄, 文, 亡, 亦), and it means “heavenly.”
Again, I will show the law of DNA inheritance of this Chinese etymology.
a. 泳 (swim) is 水 (water) with 永 (long lasting or forever). In order to avoid sinking in water, only 泳 (swim) can stay floating.
b. 詠 (singing or reading poem) is 言 (speaking or words) with 永 (long lasting or forever). Before the invention of writing and printing, only the singing poem can last generation after generation.


If the Chinese language is your mother tongue, you have learned these words above without knowing the simple facts that the meanings of those words can be read out from their faces. By giving you those examples, you might be able to dissect and to decode the following words.

貨, 貸, 撒, 秋, …
湯, 場, 暢, 煬, 碭, 傷, 腸, …
因, 困, 圍, 國, 囷, 回, 囿, …
聿, 筆, 律, 津, 書, 畫, 妻, 事

But there is no chance for you to dissect and to decode the words of 用, 尚, 散, 睪, 乃, 垂, 子 etc.. For those words, you must learn them from this new Chinese etymology. The following words are teasers for the reader to contemplate about this new Chinese etymology. Can you get some ideas from this list? These few words encompass the entire points of this new Chinese etymology. Do spend some time to contemplate them.

1. 乎, 呼
2. 姊, 弟, 第
3. 前, 慈, 首
4. 叔, 椒
5. 卬, 迎 、 仰 、 抑 、 昂
6. 攸 , 絛 、 條 、 修 、 倏 、 悠 、 焂 、 筱 、 脩
7. 最
8. 鏡

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:02 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 22 ---- The only axiomatic human language


The dream of linguistics is having a human language to be 100% axiomatic system. That is, the entire lexicon of the language has the following three attributes.
a. All words are composed of from only a finite number of symbols.
b. The pronunciation of each word can be read out from its face.
c. The key meaning of each word can be read out from its face.


For every axiom (formal) system, it consists of the following parts.
1. Some members (in finite number or in infinity) -- they can be called as "symbols."
2. Some undefined terms.
3. Some definitions (including operations, function, etc.).
4. Some axioms (including inference rules, derivation procedure, etc.)

All the above are arbitrarily given and do not have any true-false value. The undefined terms are understood in the context of the entire system although not by any clear cut definitions. In a sense, the undefined terms are also defined, by the entire system. This is the four part expression (or nutshell expression) for a formal system.

From the above, something can be produced.
1. String or sentence -- the composite of symbols via some operations (or functions).
2. Theorem or law -- a sentence which is derived from definitions and/or axioms.

By proving every statement (sentence, theorem or law) is true, that entire axiom system will be true. Although the truthfulness of a system can be tested with a 100% testing, however, it is not a science. In science, the truthfulness of a system must be proved with either induction or deduction (universal) proof. The induction proof requires a three step procedure.

a) Existential Introduction --- to show that a statement (premise, sentence, theorem or law) is true, at least, on one instance.
b) Existential generalization --- to show that a statement is true on “more than one” instances.
c) Universal proof --- for an “arbitrarily” chosen word, that statement is true.

By showing a) and b), that statement is already true in a sub-domain of the system. Now, I will show that Chinese written language is the only 100% axiomatic system among the human languages. Yet, I must remind readers about two facts.
i. Chinese character system was viewed by all great Chinese philologists as dog turd in the past 100 years.
ii. Chinese language was viewed by all great Western Sinologists as an illogic and ad hoc language and is the most difficult language in the world.

Under these backgrounds, I am going to show that Chinese language is the only axiomatic system among human languages. I have showed that Chinese system consists of 220 word roots and 300 sound modules, and they are available in the books “Chinese Etymology (US Copyright TX 6-917-909)” and “Chinese Word Roots and Grammar (US Copyright TX 6-514-465)”.


Thus, in every theorem or law of this new Chinese etymology, I will show at least two examples. After every theorem and law is proved for this system, we can then compare this axiomatic system to the actual Chinese written word universe. If the system encompasses the entire universe, then it is a complete theory. If it does not encompass the entire Chinese word universe, it is still a partial theory, but more work is needed to enlarge the system.

I have showed that the two premises below are true with both Existential Introduction and Existential generalization.
i. Premise one ---- All (each and every) Chinese words are composed of from 220 roots.
ii. Premise two ---- The meaning of every Chinese word can be read out from its face.

Now, I will show more details about these two premises. From these two premises, the meaning of every Chinese word can be read out with the following four pathways.
a. Forward method --- from roots to modules to G1 (generation one word), ..., Gn. And, there are many ways of reading it in this pathway. This pathway accounts about 85% of all words. The most difficult part of this path is the "assignment".
b. Mutation --- this will be discussed later.
c. Backward method --- the meaning of a module is not from the composing roots but from a word. It is going to be a hard one. If Chinese etymology logic without a backward logic, it will not be a complete logic. The following is one example.
When Root C + root D + root E produce a word W-X with meaning of X. Yet, word Z = (root C + root E + something) could have two pathways.
a. Word Z = Y (root C + root E) + something.
b. word Z = (X-) + something.
For example,
贏 means win or plenty.
羸 is, in fact, coming from 贏 by removing 貝 (treasure) and replacing it with 羊 (cheap livestock). Thus, 羸 means not-plenty. Thus, the meaning of 羸 is derived not from the composing roots but from a word preexisted before it. There are many words must be decoded in this way.

d. Then, the wild card --- the borrowing. There are some rules on this. This will be discussed later.


The forward pathway consists of 6 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. A set of reading procedures is needed 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 a (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 steps 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.


I will, now, show one example.
For the word 亥, it is composed of three roots.
Step B --- dissection
i. Root 97 (亠) is the shared radical of (亢, 六, 玄, 文, 亡, 亦), and it means "heavenly virtue or heavenly power." Note -- this root is not a standalone word.
ii. root 100 which is 女, woman or girl.
iii. root 96 which is 人, here means male man.

Please note that the top two roots are fused in the word 亥. The root fusion is an important issue in this Chinese etymology.
Step C --- static scene. A woman is on top of a man which is heavenly virtue. This scene is about woman/man copulation. (Note: a man over a woman can mean rape in the ancient time.)
Step D --- decoding. The woman/man copulation represents the essence of the heavenly virtue.
Step E --- the usage. It indicates the 12th of ... hour, day, month, year, etc..
Step F --- the inferring pathway. Pointing or assignment.

While the usage of a word can often quite different from its original meaning, its original meaning remains in the DNA inheritance. That is, in its descendant words, the original meaning remains. For example,
核 (the seed of a fruit) is 木 (tree) + 亥 (essence).
該 (should be or ought to) is 言 (speech or words) + 亥 (essence). The essential words are the words which should be obeyed.

With this one example, I have showed,
1. The dissection and decoding procedure.
2. The root fusion.
3. The DNA inheritance.
Now, you can try to dissect and decode the words of 刻, 孩, 駭.


While none of the Western sinologists knows that Chinese character set is a root-based axiomatic system, is any Chinese philologist who knows or knew that fact? The answer is Yes and No.

It is Yes because that the ancient Chinese knew that fact. In the chapter 15 of the book 說 文[(So-Wen), published around 140 a.d.], the author wrote, “the teacher Mr. 保 [during the 周 (zhōu) dynasty, before Confucius, recorded in the book 周禮] taught kids with 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words). … However, the 六 書 was no longer taught during the 戰 國 (the Warring States) period, as the written system was no longer unified.” For this reason, the author of 說 文 did not truly know the substance of 六 書 although he did wrote six sentences about them.
In fact, no one in the next 1,900 years made any advancement on the issues of 六 書 before the publication of “Chinese Word Roots and Grammar” in 2006 (US copyright TX 6-514-465). Thus, the answer is No for the above question for the period of 2,000 years.

However, in the book 說 文, it
1. listed 540 部 首 (leading radicals),
2. listed 9,353 characters (1,163 were repeated).
For those 9,000 characters, 90% of them were classified as 象 形 (pictographs), and we know, now, that it is wrong. The book also provided the phonetic value for each character by pointing out its sound tag. That is, 說 文 did show the three dimensions of Chinese characters;
a. the word form,
b. the word meaning,
c. the word sound.

Thus, I was greatly surprised by the fuss of those Western sinologists (such as, Dr. DeFrancis, Dr. Unger, etc.) on the phonetic dimension of Chinese characters. Seemingly, none of them read the book 說 文.


Today, 99% of Chinese college graduates will not have used 康 熙 字 典 (Kangsi dictionary) which was published around 1680 a.d., with 20 years of hard works of over 200 the best Chinese philologists at that time. In fact, most of those college graduates will not be able to comprehend the writing in the 康 熙 字 典, let alone to use it. However, the 康 熙 字 典 is the most comprehensive source for the Chinese etymology. It,
i. listed 214 部 首 (leading radicals),
ii. listed over 48,000 characters,
iii. listed the usages of each character (up to that point). This is the major difference between the 康 熙 字 典 and the 說 文. 說 文 describes each character with its word form to derive its word meaning. 康 熙 字 典 describes the meaning of each character from its sound(s) and usages.


In fact, the 康 熙 字 典 is a thesaurus, dealing two of the most difficult issues of 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words),
a. 轉 註 (synonymize) is 異 字 同 義 (different words with the same meaning),
b. 假 借 (borrowing) is 同 字 異 義 (one word with different meaning). In this case, it is similar to homonyms [similar-sounding words (often with the same spelling) with different meaning].


Yet, Chinese characters go beyond the above. When a Chinese character is used in a way different from its original meaning, it, often, acquires a “new sound,” and this goes beyond the 六 書. This is called 殊 聲 (different sound for the same word) or 破 音 (breaking the phonetic value). Thus, 康 熙 字 典 provides more information than the scope of 六 書 and is mainly based on the phonetic dimension of the Chinese characters.


However, 康 熙 字 典 does not give its reader an impression that Chinese character set is a root-based axiomatic system. In fact, with its huge data base, it would give an impression similar to Dr. DeFrancis’: “Ideographic writing, however, requires mastery of the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of symbols that would be needed for ideographic representation of words or concepts without regard to sound. A bit of common sense should suggest that unless we supplement our brains with computer implants, ordinary mortals are incapable of such memory feats.”


While the essence of 康 熙 字 典 is about the phonological aspect of Chinese characters (that word meaning arises phonologically), it lists all characters under 214 部 首 (leading radicals), not via the phonetic arrangement. The book that lists Chinese characters phonetically is the 韻 書 (the rhyme book). In an edition of the book 廣 韻 (the unified rhyme book), it lists over 50,000 characters. However, no word meaning is giving in any 韻 書. Again, the 韻 書 is a huge data base and does not give an impression that Chinese character set is a root-based axiomatic system.


There is a school using the phonological reconstruction, with the rhyme books to reconstruct the phonetic evolution and to rediscover the original meaning of a character. In the West, the Pulleyblank's "Middle Chinese: a study in historical phonology" and the Baxter's "A handbook of Old Chinese" represent the key works of this school. However, this school did not rediscover the essence of 六 書 that Chinese system is a root based axiomatic system.


With the above three books (說 文, 康 熙 字 典, 韻 書), the entire Chinese character set is wholly described. Yet, no one before the year 2006 rediscovered that Chinese word set is a root-based axiomatic system. In 1920s, a movement in China to abandon the Chinese word system was started. With their pushes, the simplified Chinese system was launched in 1960s. That is, no one in 1960s in China knew that the Chinese word set is a root-based axiomatic system which is the easiest language to learn in the world.


Let me reiterate, from the past 2,000 years ago to the present, no one (including me) in China learns Chinese characters as a root based axiomatic system. In 2005, I searched the Library of Beijing University. It had over 3,000 books on Chinese written characters. Not a single book describes Chinese characters as a root word set, let alone an axiomatic set.

What I am talking about here is new. Thus, it is better for me to talk about what the book “說文解字” did talk about exactly. It did talked about 六 書(the six ways of constructing Chinese words). In the ancient time (before Qing dynasty, 210 b.c.), the young students learned Chinese words by learning the 六 書 first. Seemingly, the details about 六 書 were lost. Thus, I must describe what it was first. And, I must show what it can mean today. Finally, I can show a new Chinese etymology which is in consistent with the 六 書, while goes way beyond it.


Although the concept of 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) was mentioned 1,900 years ago, there was no further elaboration at all beyond the six sentences in the book of 說 文 (So-Wen). The followings are the only six canonic sentences available today.
指 事 者 (pointing or assigning), 視 而 可 識 , 察 而 見 意 。 上 、 下 是 也 。
象 形 者 (pictographic), 畫 成 其 物 , 隨 體 詰 出 。 日 、 月 是 也 。
形 聲 者 (phonetic loan), 以 事 為 名 , 取 譬 相 成 。 江 、 河 是 也 。
會 意 者 (sense determinators), 比 類 合 誼 , 以 見 指 偽 。 誠 、 信 是 也 。
轉 註 者 (synonymize), 建 類 一 首 , 同 意 相 受 。 考 、 老 是 也 。
假 借 者 (borrowing), 本 無 其 字 , 依 聲 托 事 。 令 、 長 是 也 。

As there is no elaboration “at all” on 六 書 available beyond the six sentences mentioned above now, my description of them is, in fact, a reinvention from me. Of course, we should check my invention against those old canonic sentences.

These six are divided into three groups,
Group 1 --- 指 事 者 (pointing or assigning) and 象 形 者 (pictographic). This group creates 文 (a pattern of something). That is, 文 is a pictograph symbol.
文 (pattern of …) is Root 97 [亠, meaning heavenly or heavenly virtue, which is the shared radical of (亢, 六, 玄, 文, 亡, 亦)] over 乂 (the crisscross pattern). Thus, 文 is a heavenly sign, an image.

字 (word) is Root 121 [roof or a house, which is the shared radical of (室, 安, 宓, 家, etc.)] over 子 (child). Thus, the original meaning for 字 according to my new etymology is child under roof, the descendants. Here, 字 is the descendant of 文.

Yet, there are two types of 文.
1. 象 形 文 (pictographic) --- an image (pictograph) points out or to a concrete object, such as 日 (Sun), 月 (Moon), 山 (hill), 牛 (cow), etc.. In fact, there are a total of 70 象 形 文 in the entire Chinese word set, and no more.

2. 指 事文 (pointing or assigning) --- an image (pictograph) points out or to a concept (not object), such as 夕 (night), 白 (white color), 卜 (divination), etc.. There are a total of 87 指 事 文 in the entire Chinese word set, and no more.

These two 文 (70 + 87 = 157) account for 71.4% of the total of 220 Chinese word roots.


Group 2 --- 形 聲 者 (phonetic loan) and 會 意 者 (sense determinators). This group creates 字 (a word). 字 is composed of, at least, two 文.
In fact, this concept of 文 and 字 forms a composite model, 文 as the root while 字 is a composite word. That is, the ancient Chinese did know that Chinese character set is a 文 (root)-based composite system.


Group 3 --- 轉 註 者 (synonymize) and 假 借 者 (borrowing). This group does not truly create new word but create a new meaning or new usage for an existing word. This group causes the most troubles on decoding the words from their faces as the original meaning of those words were changed by these two operations.


If you are new to Chinese language, you will not have known the following words. Yet, can you still find some rules or relations among those words in their word group?

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.

While Dr. F.S.C. Northrop was one of the greatest Sinologists in the 20th century, can you (a new comer) make a judgment on his saying, “Chinese written language (Chinese words) is denotative and solitary -- no logical ordering or connection the one with the other.”? Of course, you can. Dr. Northrop was simply wrong regardless of his great academic stature and reputation. There are obvious logic connections between the words (史 and 使), also (里, 慟), (中, 患), etc..

Yet, the ignorance of Dr. Northrop was not an isolated case. All (each and every) great Sinologists are not better than him.

Dr. John DeFrancis (another great Sinologist of our time) wrote, “The concept of ideographic writing is a most seductive notion. There is great appeal in the concept of written symbols conveying their message directly to our minds, thus bypassing the restrictive intermediary of speech. And it seems so plausible. Surely ideas immediately pop into our minds when we see a road sign, a death's head label on a bottle of medicine, a number on a clock. Aren't Chinese characters a sophisticated system of symbols that similarly convey meaning without regard to sound? Aren't they an ideographic system of writing?

The answer to these questions is no. Chinese characters are a phonetic, not an ideographic, system of writing, as I have attempted to show in the preceding pages. Here I would go further: There never has been, and never can be, such a thing as an ideographic system of writing. How then did this concept originate, and why has it received such currency among specialists and the public at large?”


Dr. J. Marshall Unger (Professor of Linguistics, Ohio State University) wrote in his book (Ideogram: Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning), “Try this ‘thought experiment’: suppose a couple really smart little green guys from outer space showed up one night in a suburb of Tokyo, just like in a Japanese science-fiction movie. Would they instantly understand all those store-front Chinese characters as soon as they saw them?

It's pretty obvious that cousins of E.T. would be as clueless about Chinese characters as you would be staring at street signs in Baghdad (unless, of course, you happen to be literate in Arabic). But that hasn't stopped generations of writers who really ought to know better from insisting that Chinese characters somehow convey meaning to brains through some mysterious process completely detached from language.”



Can “a death's head label on a bottle of medicine and a number of a clock” be intuitively understood by Tarzan (an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani ‘great apes’)?


Can “cousins of E.T. instantly understand all those store-front Chinese characters as soon as they saw them”? In the American Heritage Dictionary, @, #, $, %, &, *, {, ] are ideograms. Can any of those ET green guys instantly understand all those ideograms as soon as they saw them?


If the term “ideograph” is defined as above, must be understood intuitively without any instruction, then, Chinese characters are, of course, not ideographs. However, I think that both Dr. DeFrancis and Dr. Unger are wrong. The meaning of @, #, $, % and & can be understood only by an agreement among a language community. And, that agreement must be learned.


”Aren't Chinese characters a sophisticated system of symbols that similarly convey meaning without regard to sound?” (John DeFrancis)

The answer is Yes. Every Chinese character similarly conveys meaning in all languages which use it, such as, in Japanese, Korea and in all different Chinese dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Northern Min, Southern Min, Hsiang, Kan, Wu, etc.). That character conveys similar meaning while pronounces differently in a different language.



“Chinese characters are a phonetic, not an ideographic, system of writing, as I have attempted to show in the preceding pages.” (John DeFrancis)

Chinese characters are, of course, phonetic, as I have said that all (each and every) Chinese characters have one sound tag either explicitly or implicitly. The only thing is that those sound tags can be pronounced differently in different languages, the same as the English alphabet A is pronounced as (Ar) and B as (Bei) in German.


Thus far, I have discussed 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words), and we can get the following conclusions.
1. 六 書 were known in the ancient time.

2. With 六 書, I have showed the validity of two premises below via both the existential introduction and the existential generalization.
i. Premise one ---- Chinese words are composed of roots.
ii. Premise two ---- The meaning of Chinese words can be read out from their faces.

3. No one in the past 2,000 years knows about the content and the substance of 六 書. Thus, many great Chinese philologists and Western Sinologists made all kinds of ignorant statements about Chinese characters.

4. Yet, 六 書 did not mention that every Chinese character has a sound tag either explicitly or implicitly. In fact, 六 書 discussed very little on the verbal part of the language.

5. 六 書 did not address the mutation process of Chinese word system at all.

6. The six canonic sentences of 六 書 are not exactly correct. And, I will discuss this later.

Thus, the point 4, 5 and 6 will be the center points of my future discussions.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:05 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 23 ---- About 形 聲(phonetic loan) and 會 意(sense determinators)


Indeed, the idea of Chinese characters being ideographs is wrong. Yet, none of the Sinologists and Chinese philologists knew what the Chinese character set actually is. They did not know that it is a root based axiomatic system, a composite system similar to the physical universe, starting from
1. elementary particles (mainly proton, neutron, electron, etc.) to atoms (elements), then
2. elements to chemical compound (inorganic, organic, bio-chemical, etc.) or matter, then
3. matter to objects or items (stars, life forms, etc.).


The Chinese written system is a composite system, starting from
a. word roots to modules (compound roots), radicals or words, then
b. words to word phrases, then
c. word phrases to sentences.

However, no one in the past 2,000 years history knew about this before the publication of the book “Chinese Word Roots and Grammar” (US copyright # TX 6-514-465) in 2006. One of the reason is that many roots are deeply buried under some evolution processes, the root-fusion, the root mutation, etc.. Now, I will show two more root-fusion examples.
1. 並 (side by side) is the fusion of 立 立 . 立 means “standing.”
2. 兼 (holding both) is the fusion of 秉 秉 . 秉 means “holding.”

Now, you should be convinced that Chinese character system is an axiomatic system, and those Chinese scholars and Western sinologists were wrong. You possibly could dissect and decode the following words, 蟀 , 摔, but you will not be able to decode 率 and 戌 without learning the basic of this new Chinese etymology.

By now, you must have convinced that most of those Sinologists are wrong, especially Dr. Northrop, the greatest Sinologist in the 20th century; otherwise, there is no point for you to read this book any further. Now, you can dissect and decode the following words with ease.

椒 is composed of 叔; (迎 、 仰 、 抑 、 昂 ) of 卬 ; (絛 、 條 、 修 、 倏 、 悠 、 焂 、 筱 、 脩) of 攸. But you are still unable to decode the words of 叔, 卬 and 攸 by your own study, without learning from this new Chinese etymology.

六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) was mentioned in the book “說文解字” which discussed only two issues.
a. Six sentences without further elaborations.
b. 六 書 was used as the teaching tools for learning Chinese words during the “Warring States” period (about 300 B.C.). But, it was abandoned since.

Thus, the “details” of 六 書 was not known by the author of 說文解字. The fact is that the author did not use 六 書 as a framework for his book. The 90% words in his book were classified as 象 形 (pictographic), and it is grossly mistaken. Furthermore, many of those six sentences are terribly wrong. I will show one example here for now.

The canonic statement about 形 聲 from the book 說 文 (So-Wen) is “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 (manmade 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 at all. 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.

The following words are 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words. They all have a 形 (such as, 鳥 or 魚) and a sound tag (such as, 合 or 連). That is, 形 is about a category and 聲 is a sound tag. This canonic 六 書 sentence on 形 聲 is simply wrong.
(鴿 、 鴨 、 鸚 、 鵡 、 鵬 …),
(鯉, 鯊 , 鯨 , 鯽 , 鰭 , 鰱 , 鱗 , 鱷 , 鱘 , 鱒 , 鱔 …)

The fact is that I cannot use 說 文’s definition of 形 聲 in this new Chinese etymology regardless of whether that definition is right or wrong. In fact, all discussions on 六 書 in this book are mine.


I have discussed two of the 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words), 指 事 (pointing or assigning) and 象 形 (pictographic), in the previous chapter. We can, now, discuss the 2nd group; 形 聲 (phonetic loan) and 會 意 (sense determinators).

From the face meaning of the phrase, 會 意 (sense determinators) is that the word meaning of this 會 意 procedure arises from an inferring process between two or more composed radicals. That is, at least, the word meaning of this group of words can be and should be read out from their faces, by definition. Thus, the ancient Chinese already knew the two premises,
i. Premise one ---- Chinese words are composed of roots.
ii. Premise two ---- The meaning of Chinese word can be read out from its face.


However, the book 說 文 (So-Wen) did not point out them, and no one truly understands the following statement in the past 1,900 years.

會 意 者 (sense determinators) , 比 類 合 誼 , 以 見 指 偽 。 誠 、 信 是 也 。
For the process of 會 意 (sense determinators), this sentence is all that was said for it in the past 2,000 years. 比 類 合 誼 means that inferring two parts to produce a result. 偽 is manmade item or concept. 以 見 指 偽 means that a manmade concept is pointed out. 誠 is 言 (speaking words) + 成 (completion), meaning “sincerity”. 信 is 人 (man) + 言, meaning “trust or believing”.

The above definition from 六 書 is grossly inadequate. 會 意 process is a general principle for “all” Chinese words. That is, even the ancient Chinese did not describe the system correctly, mistaken a general principle as a rule for a small group only. Thus, I will discuss this 會 意 process later.


Now, I will talk about the 形 聲 (phonetic loan) first. 形 聲 is a special group of 會 意 process.
1. For a 會 意 process word, it has 2 or more radicals. For 形 聲 word, it has two and only two radicals. One radical defines a category for some concrete objects, such as fishes, dog-like animals, cat-like animals, etc.. The sound tag acts as an identifier to distinguish one object from the others in the category.

2. While every Chinese word carries a sound tag explicitly or implicitly, the 形 聲 word carries a sound tag “explicitly.”

3. For a 會 意 process word, its sound tag, often, get involved in the meaning inferring process. For a 形 聲 word, it has no inferring process. The sound tag is acting as differentiator to distinguish one word from the others in the group, such as, 鰱 pronounces as 連 , 鱔 as 善 , 鯉 as 里 . They are all 魚 (fish), and their differences are pointed out with the sound tags.

4. For two 會 意 process words with identical sound tag, this sound tag can pronounce differently while keeping the same vowel (韻 母), that is, with different consonant (聲 母). Yet, for 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words, they pronounce exactly the same as their sound tag.


With the above understanding, we can revisit the two statements of “The Columbia History of the World, ISBN 0-88029-004-8 (On page 112), “
1. Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic method.
2. Unfortunately, the phonetics was often borrowed for other than exact homophones. In such cases, the gaps have widened through the evolution of the language, until today characters may have utterly different pronunciations even though they share the same phonetic.”


If the statement 1 is talking about the 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words, then it is completely wrong. Phonetic loan words account only a very small portion of all Chinese words. Furthermore, as all (each and every) Chinese words have phonetic values, the system is constructed with phonetic value 100%, not 90%.

The statement 2 is also wrong as the sound tag of 會 意 word can have different phonetic values. Thus, the gap is not caused mainly by the evolution but is an intrinsic part of the language although the evolution could make some contributions.


Li and Thompson (1982:77) wrote, “Who refer to Chinese writing as ‘semantically, rather than phonologically grounded’ and consider that a character ‘does not convey phonological information except in certain composite logographs where the pronunciation of the composite is similar to one of its component logographs.’”

Thompson’s statement is, again, terribly wrong. While 會 意 word is, indeed, a semantic word, it does carries a sound tag either explicitly or implicitly, that is, it does convey phonological information , and I will discuss this next. Furthermore, every phonetic loan word also carries semantic information.


With the understanding from above, these words [( 賽 、 塞) , (蠻 、 變)] are obviously not phonetic loan words for the reasons,
1. They do not have an explicit sound tag,
2. They have more than two parts (radicals or roots).
Thus, it will be an excellent and correct guess that they are “sense determinator” words.

How about the following two groups?
Group A: (鴿 、 鴨 、 鸚 、 鵡 、 鵬 …), (鯉, 鯊 , 鯨 , 鯽 , 鰭 , 鰱 , 鱗 , 鱷 , 鱘 , 鱒 , 鱔 …)

Group B:
1. (志 、 誌 、 痣 ), (悽 、 棲 、 淒 、 萋)
2. (貽 、 怡 、 詒 )
3. (撤 、 澈 、 徹 … )


Obviously, the group A words meet all conditions for being phonetic loan words.
a. Each one of them has only two radicals.
b. Each one of them has an explicit sound tag.
c. Each one of them pronounces identical to its sound tag’s phonetic value.
d. The sound tag acts as identifier instead of a logic inferring part.


How about the group B words?
For B1 and B2 words,
i. Each one of them also has only two radicals.
ii. Each one of them also has an explicit sound tag.

Yet, for the B1 words, each word in the group pronounces “identical” to the other words in the group. This is a condition which is not a part of the definition for the phonetic loan words, and, in fact, it cannot be a part of it.
For the B2 words, while they do have the same attribute as the B1 words, they have another quality. Their pronunciations are different from their sound tag’s.


For the B3 words, they obviously have more than two radicals although all three of them pronounce identically.
Thus, the group B words cannot be the 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words although some of them are almost 形 聲 – like words, with only two radicals and with an explicit sound tag. In fact, they are 會 意 (sense determinators) words.


By mistaken the group B words as the 形 聲 word, it caused the authors of “The Columbia History of the World, ISBN 0-88029-004-8 (On page 112)” making their mistaken statement, “Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic [loan] method.”


One 會 意 (sense determinators) word is 聖 (holy sage) which is made of three radicals, 耳 (ear), 口 (mouth) and 壬. In fact, there are two words written as 壬. In the word 任 (responsibility), the center line of 壬 is longer than the bottom line, and it means duty or works of duty. Another word (the bottom radical of 聖) has a center line shorter than the bottom line, such as the lower radical of 呈 (逞, 程, 郢 …), but it is not implemented in the computer fonts and cannot be printed out. This radical means the growth from earth as the bottom radical of it is 土 (earth) while the bottom radical of 壬 is 士 (scholar). So, 壬 means duty and responsibility, such as in the word 廷 (the courtyard). Therefore, 聖 depicts a scene of an ear (耳) and a mouth (口) and a nicely growing field. Thus, the decoding of 聖 is a person who is listening to Heaven and speaking (teaching) to commoners for getting a plentifully growing on earth (to feed the people). Therefore, a 聖 is a holy sage.


The difference between a 會 意 and a 形 聲 word is very fine. Now, I am going to introduce a few laws for distinguishing them.
Group A:
1. (鯉, 鯊 , 鯨 , 鯽 , 鰭 , 鰱 , 鱷 , 鱘 , 鱒 , 鱔 …)
2. (鴿 、 鴨 、 鸚 、 鵡 、 鵬 …),
There should be no question that group A words are 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words.
a. All A1 words have a radical 魚 (fish) which identifies the category, and the sound tag of each word is identifying the type of fish. It is the same case for all A2 words which has a radical 鳥 (bird).
b. Each sound tag has two attributes, its meaning and its phonetic value. In these cases, the meaning of the sound tag does not play a major role in making that word. The phonetic value of that sound tag makes a major contribution to separate that word from other words in the same group.

Group B: (志 、 誌 、 痣 ),
The meaning of the group B words is mainly coming from the “meaning” of the sound tag while its phonetic value contributes almost nothing. In fact, the phonetic value of the sound tag cannot make any contribution for distinguishing these three words as they are having identical pronunciation. The only way to distinguish them is by their different word forms which infer out different meanings for each word.
i. 志 (will, marked willingness) is 士 (scholar) over 心 (heart). Scholar’s heart carries a will.

ii. 誌 (journal) is 言 (speech or words) + 志 (will, marked willingness). Marking the will with words becomes a journal.

iii. 痣 (a birth mark) is root 180 (illness or biologic) + 志 (will, marked willingness), a biologic mark.

Thus, the meaning of the group B words is mainly arising from a logic inferring process, not from the phonetic value of the sound tag. So, the group B words are 會 意 words and cannot be phonetic loan words although they do have sound tags.


Thus, there are laws to distinguish the 會 意 and the 形 聲 words.
Law 1: If the meaning of a word arises from the phonetic value of its sound tag, it is a 形 聲 word. If the meaning of a word arises from the semantic value of its sound tag, it is a 會 意 word.

That is, the word type is determined by the way of how its meaning arises instead of its word form, as many 會 意 words do have an explicit sound tag. And, there is a very special sub-group of the 會 意 words which do have the word form identical to a 形 聲 word, such as, 傢, 俱.


In fact, the word 形 in 形 聲 means a concrete object, not a concept. So, 魚 (fish), 鳥 (bird), 犬 (dog), 木 (word or tree) and 玉 (jade) are all concrete objects. And, the following words are all 形 聲 words.
狗 (dog), 猈 (dog with short shinbone), 獀 (hunting dog), 狐 (fox), 獅 (lion), etc., with 犬 (dog) as the 形 radical.
木 (word or tree), 樹 (tree in general), 樁 (tree stump), etc., with 木 (word or tree) as the 形.
玟 (文 jade), 珂 (可 jade), 瑱 (真 jade), 碧 (bluish green jade), etc., with玉 (jade) as the 形.


On the contrary, although the 人 (person) word does represent a concrete subject, it, often, points out a conceptual space. Thus, the 人 radical in the words 傢, 俱 does not point to a concrete subject but to something ‘about’ 人 (human).
傢 (about home) is 人 (human) + 家 (home).

俱 (furniture, tools used by man) is 人 (human) + 具 (tool, gadget, device, equipment, instrument , utensil, etc.)

So, 傢 俱 is the gadget in the home. These two words have the word forms identical to the 形 聲 words, but their word meanings arise from the semantic value of their sound tag. Furthermore, their meanings arise from a very special inferring process, pointing (指 事). In fact, they are 指 事 字 (pointed word), not 指 事 文 (pointed ideograph).


指 事 文 is a single pictograph symbol, which is an ideograph. 指 事 字 is a composed word. Is there any 象 形 字 (pictographic word)? The answer is No. All 字 are composed symbols and are not ideographs anymore. There are only 象 形 文.


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 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.

Law 2:
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).


Law 3.
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.


Then, many characters have no explicit sound tag, such as, 祭 or 贏 . How can we read their sounds from their faces? Yet, it is easy to read their meanings from their faces.
祭 (an offering ceremony to gods or ancestors) is 又 (hand) holding 月 (meat) while asking the answers or signs (示 ) from above. So, 祭 is an offering ceremony to gods or ancestors with offered foods, that is, asking gods to get into the seats to enjoy the offering. The word 即 means "ready to be seated.” Would you be surprised if the pronunciation of 祭 is identical to 即?

贏 ( winning) is 亡 (disappear or death) over 口 (mouth or people) over 月 (meat), 貝 (treasure) and 丸 (an elixir pill). With so many treasures while no other (亡 口 ) can share it, it must mean winning. Yet, the word 盈 is a filled up or over flowed dish. In fact, the static scene of the word 贏 is the same as an overflow. Again, would you be surprised if the pronunciation of 贏 is identical to 盈?

With two examples, I have showed the existential generalization for a new law, the law 4.

Law4 --- Any character which does not carry an explicit sound tag will pronounce the same as its 轉 註 字 (synonymized word).


With these laws, it is clear now that Chinese word system is an axiomatic system.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:09 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 24 ---- Accommodating a verbal universe by the written system


What is the implication for a written system being an axiomatic system? It must be a constructed and a designed system. That is, it cannot be a direct derivative from a verbal system. Thus, how to accommodate a verbal system by that designed written system became a major engineering challenge. The merging of Chinese written and Chinese verbal systems is, indeed, a linguistics wonder. Now, we should look into what the Chinese verbal system is all about first.

Chinese verbal system has, at least, 8 major subsystems (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Northern Min, Southern Min, Hsiang, Kan, Wu, etc.) while each subsystem has a few more dialects. Yet, the Chinese written system must and did accommodate all those systems. This is a fact, and it becomes a major guideline for our analysis.

How can this be done? Yet, it becomes a non-issue if all those subsystems are completely isomorphic to one another although they are mutually unintelligible phonetically. And, this is, indeed, the case. I will provide proofs on this later. Yet, with this understanding, I will use the Mandarin as the representative for the Chinese verbal system in our analysis of how Chinese written system merges with the verbal seamlessly.

First, we should outline the Chinese verbal universe. How many phonemes are there in the Chinese verbal universe? The answer is 1,000 maximum. And, every phoneme is a member of a 4-tone family. That is, there are only a total of 250 (1000/4) 4-tones. For the issue of 4-tone, please visit the webpage http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/prl020.htm.

Note: another way of counting the phonemes results a number of 37, that is, 15 vowels and 22 consonants. Yet, the combination of these 37 results a total of 250 4-tones, that is, 1,000 distinguishable sounds.


Indeed, the entire Chinese verbal universe does not go beyond these 1,000 distinguishable sounds. As there are about 60,000 distinguishable written words, each sound must carry an average of 60 words (from 20 to 120). That is, every single Chinese word has, at least, 20 homophones or homonyms. How to resolve this tangled mess becomes a major engineering design challenge for the Chinese written system. And, this issue has three dimensions.
1. How to accommodate 60,000 written words with only 1,000 distinguishable sounds?
2. How to distinguish homophones or homonyms in the written forms?
3. How to distinguish homophones or homonyms in the verbal cases, without the helping of the written forms?


The solution for the first issue is to make the easily distinguishable words with an identical sound, such as,
(妻 、 悽 、 棲 、 淒 、 萋)
(志 、 誌 、 痣 ),
(貽 、 怡 、 詒 ),
And (撤 、 澈 、 徹 … ).

The words above in their group are having identical pronunciation. This way, indeed, provides a partial solution for the first issue. Again, these words with the same sound are composed of different radicals, and they can be easily distinguished with their written forms. Thus, the second issue is resolved at the same time. How about the issue three? Without the helping from the distinguishable written forms, how can homophones be distinguished in the verbal situation? This becomes a new engineering challenge, and the entire Chapter 3 of “Chinese Word Roots and Grammar” is devoted for this issue.


Instead of analyzing how Chinese written system merges with the verbal system, it will be fun for us to make such a design ourselves and to see who is smarter, us or the ancient Chinese. Of course, we must first outline our objective and list out what is available (including the limitations) for such an objective.

A. The objective --- merging Chinese written system with the Chinese verbal system (which encompasses, at least, 8 subsystems) seamlessly.

B. The initial and the boundary conditions
1. There are about 60,000 Chinese characters which are the result of a root based axiomatic system. The root set has n members, while the n is a finite number. In our case, I make n = 220.

2. There are only 1,000 distinguishable sounds in the entire Chinese verbal universe.

3. Every Chinese word (character) has four dimensions.
a. word form
b. word sound
c. word meaning
d. word usage
Note: the word usage is very much about the relations among words. Thus, I will exclude it from this analysis. That is, every Chinese word will be viewed as a three-dimensional particle (form, sound and meaning).

4. Two functions
i. Every distinguishable sound carries many written words.
ii. Every meaning can be expressed with many different written words.


C. The design criteria
1. The meaning of every word (character) must be read out from its face.
2. The pronunciation of every word (character) must be read out from its face.
3. All material available for these tasks is the root set (220 in this case), nothing else.
4. We can make up rules any which way we prefer, to our heart's content, as long as they are consistent among themselves.


With the above, can this objective be achieved? What are the best design strategies? While this is the topic of this chapter, the readers should also think about these yourselves. So, I am providing some hints below from the works of the ancient Chinese first.


Case one: words in the group have the identical pronunciation.
(妻 、 悽 、 棲 、 淒 、 萋)
(志 、 誌 、 痣 ),
(貽 、 怡 、 詒 ).


Case two: words in the group have “slightly” different (still related) pronunciation.
(遛 、 廇 、 瘤 、 餾 、 飀 、 塯 、 溜 、 榴)
(妴 、 怨 、 苑 、 駌 、 鴛)
(倦 、 惓 、 埢 、 犈 、 捲 、 睠 、 綣 、 棬 、 腃 、 圈)
(嘹 、 寮 、 繚 、 潦 、 僚 、 撩 、 嫽 、 橑 、 獠 、 療 、 遼)
(灌 、 罐 、 鸛 、 觀 、 歡 、 懽 、 權 、 勸)
(儉 、 簽 、 憸 、 噞 、 獫 、 殮 、 澰 、 撿 、 檢 、 嶮 、 臉 、 險 、 劍 、 歛 、 斂)
(佳 、 哇 、 詿 、 桂 、 鮭 、 閨 、 奎 、 崖 、 涯 、 洼 、 卦 、 封 、 硅 、 鞋)
(曉 、 膮 、 嘵 、 撓 、 嶢 、 僥 、 隢 、 獟 、 嬈 、 憢 、 燒 、 澆 、 譊 、 蹺)


Case three: words in the group have “completely” different pronunciations.
(鳳 、 鳩 、 鳶 、 鴆 、 鴻 、 鳽 、 鴿 、 鴨 、 鸚 、 鵡 、 鵬 、 鶯 、 鷗 、 鷙 、 鷲)


Even if you are new to Chinese language, you can still find some rules from the above list by looking up the pronunciations of each word from a dictionary. Then, we might be able to borrow those ideas for our own design.


While I have outlined the objective (merging Chinese written system with the Chinese verbal system seamlessly), the initial and the boundary conditions, etc., now, let me rephrase them in more understandable terms.

Our objective is similar to making 60,000 distinguishable cookies which carry unique sound and meaning; by using only a set of lego pieces (220 pieces in this case) while there are only 1,000 distinguishable sounds available.

I will call these lego pieces as roots, and each root has a unique shape and meaning. Thus, it is not too difficult to make 60,000 distinguishable cookies by the different combinations of those 220 roots. As every root has its own meaning, the meaning of every cookie can be read out from the meanings of its composing parts. Yet, how can we attach a sound to each cookie with these roots?

Seemingly, we can assign a sound (phonetic value) to each root, and we can sound out the sound of the cookie from its composing roots. However, there is a problem for this special case. We have only 220 roots while there are about 1,000 distinguishable sounds. That is, we must assign 4 to 5 different sound to every root, and this will cause a major confusion for the sounding out process. In fact, we must make a new set of sound tags in order to achieve our objective.


Thus, our first design strategy is “not” to assign any sound to the roots. In the making cookie process, the roots will always keep silent.

Our second design strategy is to construct 1,000 small cookies as sound tag, and each of them is assigned with one unique sound. Now, we have enough sound tags to cover the entire phonetic universe according to our design specification.

Our third design strategy is to make 60,000 distinguishable cookies with those roots any which way we prefer, to our heart’s content.

Our fourth design strategy is to attach a sound tag to each of those 60,000 cookies.


Now, our design is complete, a great success.
1. We can make as many cookies as we like, not just 60,000. And, they can be all unique.
2. The meaning of each cookie can be read out from its composing roots.
3. The sound of each cookie can be read out from its sound tag.

However, there is one problem in this system, that is, many cookies share an identical sound, the homophone or the homonym. Yet, this problem can be resolved easily, and I will discuss it next. Now, I have showed a 4-step design for constructing 60,000 distinguishable cookies. In fact, the current computer cookies are designed in a similar way. Yet, the Chinese character set has a finer design.


Instead of attaching a sound tag on a finished cookie, the sound tag is playing a part at the beginning of its construction. As every sound tag has both the semantic and the phonetic values, it can make contributions in many different ways.

1. Its phonetic value plays a major way while its semantic value makes a minimum contribution, such as,
(鴨 、 鸚 、 鵡 、 鵬 、 鶯 、 鷗) and (鰱 , 鮭 , 鱔). This makes the 形 聲 (phonetic loan) word group.

2. Its semantic value plays a major way while its phonetic value makes a secondary contribution. This group can be further divided into two subgroups. This makes the 會 意 (sense determinators) word group.
a. The sound tag keeps a single phonetic value, such as,
(妻 、 悽 、 棲 、 淒 、 萋) and (志 、 誌 、 痣 ).
The words in each group have the identical pronunciation, the same as the sound tag.

b. The sound tag has a span of phonetic values, such as,
(遛 、 廇 、 瘤 、 餾 、 飀 、 塯 、 溜 、 榴), (妴 、 怨 、 苑 、 駌 、 鴛) and (倦 、 惓 、 埢 、 犈 、 捲 、 睠 、 綣 、 棬 、 腃 、 圈)
The pronunciation of each word in its group is defined by its sound tag while it has a span of values. Please see the webpage (http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/prl020.htm) for more information.



It is a good time for revisiting the statements of “The Columbia History of the World, ISBN 0-88029-004-8 (On page 112). It states, "Structurally, the Chinese writing system passed through four distinct stages. No alphabetic or syllabic scripts were developed, but each word came to be denoted by a different character. The earliest characters were pictographs for concrete words. A drawing of a woman meant a woman, or of a broom a broom. Such characters were in turn combined to form ideographs. A woman and a broom became a wife, three women together treachery or villainy. The third stage was reached with the phonetic loans, in which existing characters were borrowed for other words with the same pronunciation. The fourth stage was a refinement of the third: sense determinators or radicals were added to the phonetic loans in order to avoid confusion. Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic method. Unfortunately, the phonetics were often borrowed for other than exact homophones. In such cases, the gaps have widened through the evolution of the language, until today characters may have utterly different pronunciations even though they share the same phonetic. The written language, despite its difficulties, has been an important unifying cultural and political link in China. Although many Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, the characters are comprehended though the eye, whatever their local pronunciation. One Chinese may not understand the other's speech, yet reads with ease his writing."


The two major statements made by the authors of “The Columbia History of the World” are,
1. Nine-tenths of the Chinese characters have been constructed by the phonetic [loan] method.

2. Unfortunately, the phonetics was often borrowed for other than exact homophones. In such cases, the gaps have widened through the evolution of the language, until today characters may have utterly different pronunciations even though they share the same phonetic.


Both statements are wrong. They have mistaken that all 會 意 (sense determinators) words which carry a sound tag as phonetic loan words. Again, they do not know that a sound tag has a span of phonetic values, especially, in the case of 會 意 (sense determinators) words.


I have talked about the sound tag which can often have a span of phonetic values. Now, I should summarize the attributes or dimensions of the entire Chinese verbal universe.

1. It has only a total of 1,000 or less distinguishable phonetic values.

2. Each phonetic point is a part of a 4-tone group. Thus, there are a total of 250 (1000/4) 4-tone at the most.

3. As the phonetic values are limited (1,000 or less) while the written characters are unlimited (currently having about 60,000), there must have many homophones or homonyms. Now, every phonetic point carries an average of 60 (20 to 120) characters.

4. Every Chinese character carries two or more phonetic values. The same character changes its meaning when it changes its phonetic value. This is a very special attribute in the Chinese verbal universe.


In order to make sense the above facts, we should first know how a Chinese phonetic point (distinguishable sound) is defined. Every Chinese phonetic point is defined with two variables, the 聲 母 (similar to consonant) and the 韻 母 (similar to vowel). With 聲 母 alone, it cannot define a phonetic point. On the other hand, 韻 母 alone can define a phonetic point.


Yet, how can “we” know the phonetic value of any phonetic point without already knowing them all? There is a way to resolve this issue. We can zero in the phonetic value (pv) of a phonetic point (pp) with two other points. Thus, by knowing only a few starting points, we can map out the entire set. This is called 反 切 (reverse checking or engineering).


So, the sound (phonetic value) of a Chinese word (character) is “checked” out by two other words, by using the 聲 母 of the first word + the 韻 母 of the second word to get its own 聲 韻 (the phonetic value). Now, the phonetic value of every word can be “recursively” defined which is an axiomatic operation. That is, by only knowing a very small starting group, the entire set can be mapped out.


In the entire Chinese verbal universe, there are about “206” 韻 which forms a 韻 母 spectrum. And, a 韻 can easily go one step to its left or to its right, and this we call 轉 (rotate or change) 韻.


By allowing the sound tag rotates or changes (轉 韻) one or more steps, it will increase the expressing power of the sound tag greatly. And, there is no need to have a sound tag for every phonetic point. Thus, the number of sound tags needed decreases, from 1,000 to 500 or less.

With the 韻 母 spectrum in place, a span of phonetic values for a sound tag will no longer cause any confusion. For the words [群 (qún), 郡 (jùn), 裙 (qún)] , 君 (jūn) is the sound tag while that sound tag has a span of phonetic values. This issue will be discussed later.


Without audio recording device in the ancient time, did the ancient Chinese keep any audio record of their tongue for us? The answer is Yes, via the 韻 書 (the rhyme book).


I have showed above that the entire Chinese verbal universe is demarcated by the three coordinates, the 聲 (consonant), the 韻 (vowel) and the 4-tones. By knowing two of the three coordinates, the third will be known. A 韻 書 (the rhyme book) lists all the 韻 and their 4-tones, and it encompasses the entire information of the Chinese verbal universe. Thus, the 韻 書 is the best audio record for recording the phonetic data of Chinese verbal universe.


The oldest 韻 書 currently known is the book 切 韻 (check rhyme) which was published during the 隋 朝 [Sui Dynasty (around 580 a.d.)]. While the original book of 切 韻 does no longer exist, its contents are available as quotes from many other books.


The next 韻 書 (the rhyme book) is the book of 唐 韻 which was published during the 唐 朝 [Tang Dynasty, from 618 to 907 a.d.].


The 韻 書 of today is 廣 韻 which was published during the 宋 朝 [Song Dynasty, around 960 a.d.].


During the past 1,400 years, the evolution of Chinese verbal universe is clearly documented with these three 韻 書 (rhyme books). As this period is wholly documented, it is called 今 音 (the modern phonetics), and the period before 580 a.d., it is called 古 音 (the ancient phonetics).


While there is no official 韻 書 (rhyme book) for the 古 音 (the ancient phonetics) period, the ancient verbal universe can still be analyzed, by looking into the rhymes used in the ancient writings. Many such analysis were available, such as, the book 音 學 五 書.


Now, we know that the Chinese verbal universe is marked solely with Chinese characters. So, the written and the verbal systems were merged with the following procedures.
1. There is a set of roots.

2. About five hundred sound modules are constructed from those roots to encompass the entire Chinese verbal universe, the 1,000 distinguishable phonetic points. Please visit http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/prl020.htm

3. A word (character) is composed of roots and one sound module to provide a unique meaning and a unique phonetic value. Unlimited number of words can be constructed with this procedure. That is, every character carries one sound module (sound tag) either explicitly or implicitly.

4. The phonetic value of a word is used as a coordinate to define the phonetic value of other words in the procedure of 反 切 (reverse checking or engineering).

5. As the phonetic value of every character is firmly anchored in the verbal universe via a sound module and its 聲 韻, it has the power and the freedom to acquire more phonetic values without losing itself in the sea of verbal universe. This is called 破 音 (breaking the phonetic value), and I will discuss this more in the future.


Dr. John DeFrancis wrote, “Apart from the error of thinking that Chinese characters are unique in evoking mental images, where Creel and others from Friar Gaspar da Cruz right on down go astray in their characterization of Chinese writing is to succumb to the hypnotic appeal of the relatively few characters that are demonstrably of pictographic origin and to extrapolate from these to the majority if not the entirety of the Chinese written lexicon. The error of exaggerating the pictographic and hence semantic aspect of Chinese characters and minimizing if not totally neglecting the phonetic aspect tends to fix itself very early in the minds of many people, both students of Chinese and the public at large, because their first impression of the characters is likely to be gained by being introduced to the Chinese writing system via some of the simplest and most interesting pictographs, such as those presented at the beginning of Chapter 5. Unless a determined effort is made to correct this initial impression, it is likely to remain as an article of faith not easily shaken by subsequent exposure to different kinds of graphs. This may also explain the oversight even of specialists who are aware of the phonetic aspect in Chinese characters, including such able scholars as Li and Thompson (1982:77), who refer to Chinese writing as ‘semantically, rather than phonologically grounded’ and consider that a character ‘does not convey phonological information except in certain composite logographs where the pronunciation of the composite is similar to one of its component logographs.’ It takes a profoundly mesmerized observer to overlook as exceptions the two-thirds of all characters that convey useful phonological information through their component phonetic.”


Dr. DeFrancis pointed out the ignorance of the mainstream sinologists,
1. The Chinese character set is not a pictograph or ideograph system.

2. Two-thirds of all characters that convey useful phonological information through their component phonetic.


Yet, Dr. DeFrancis did obviously not know that Chinese character set is a root-based axiomatic system. It is also a surprise to me that he did not mention about the 韻 書 (the rhyme book) to support his argument that Chinese character system is a phonological system. Furthermore, the Chinese characters are 100% phonological, not just two-thirds.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:13 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 25 ---- The evolution of Chinese etymology and the verifications of four premises


After the publication of this new Chinese etymology, there are two types of comments on it.
1. Comment one ---Your few examples of showing that the meaning of a Chinese character can be read out from its face are not enough to prove a premise which must be examined for all words.

Answer --- In the book “Chinese Etymology” (US copyright TX 6-917-909), it lists about 8,000 examples, and the book is available at http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/cw3.htm .

However, a premise must be proved with either deduction or induction for any theory. I have showed the premises of the new Chinese etymology with existential introduction and with existential generalization. The next step is to show the universal proof which will be discussed in this chapter.


2. Comment two --- Your theory is nothing new, as the radicals and 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) were known for over 2,000 years.

Answer --- In the previous chapters, I have showed,
a. The author of 說 文 (So-Wen) wrote, “the 六 書 was taught before the time of Confucius but was lost before that time.” The fact that Confucius did not ever discuss about 六 書 is a circumstantial evidence for the above statement. That is, no one in the past 2,000 years truly understood the substance of 六 書 before the publication of the book “Chinese Word Roots and Grammar” (US copyright TX 6-514-465).

b. The concept of radical in the book 說 文 and the 康 熙 字 典 (kangsi dictionary) did not lead to an understanding for Chinese character set to be a root-based axiomatic system for all those years since their publications. The facts that all those great Chinese philologists (魯 迅, 錢 玄 同, 胡 適, 林 語 堂, etc.) despised the Chinese character set and that the debates among all those great Western sinologists (Matteo Ricci, Herrlee Glessner Creel, F.S.C. Northrop, ... or, Peter S. DuPonceau, John DeFrancis, J. Marshall Unger, etc. ) did not emphasize the concept of radical are the direct evidences that the “old” concept of radical did not point out that Chinese word set is a root-based axiomatic system.

c. I have also showed that the scope of this new etymology is much bigger than 六 書 which is, in fact, a small subsystem of this new etymology.
i. 六 書 did not encompass a set of sound modules.
ii. 六 書 did not make sound module as an intrinsic part of constructing characters, except for the group of 形 聲 (phonetic loan) words.
iii. Many of the six canonic sentences of 六 書 are simply wrong.
iv. The 220 roots in this new etymology are significantly different from the 214 康 熙 部 首 (leading radicals).


Now, I have shown you that Chinese words are composites, and you might be getting some senses out from the following words while not being able to decode them.
快, 決, 缺, 玦, 訣, 抉, 夬, …
新, 親, …
湯, 場, 暢, 煬, 碭, 傷, 腸, …
因, 困, 圍, 國, 囷, 回, 囿, …
聿, 筆, 律, 津, 書, 畫, 妻, 事, ...


Without learning from this new Chinese etymology, there is no chance for you to decode the following words with your knowledge of 康 熙 部 首 and with the old understanding of 六 書. Thus, the comment two is simply nonsense.
亢, 六, 玄, 文, 亡, 亦
害, 服, 前, 夬, 假, 會
韋, 或, 有 …
肅, 淵, 帝 …

With these two comments being answered, we, now, can move on to make the universal proof of the four premises.

1. Premise one --- All (each and every) Chinese words (characters) are composited of from a set of word roots.
2. Premise two --- The meaning of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.
3. Premise three --- The pronunciation of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces.
4. Premise four --- etymology memory algebra, with only 220 root words (R), it generates 300 commonly used compound roots (also as sound modules, M). Thus, R + M = 220 + 300 = 520. With these 520, all 60,000 Chinese written words are generated. That is,
etymology memory algebra is R + M = R x M

Then, can these premises be universally proved, that is, an arbitrary selected character meets those premises? Can you (the reader) read the meaning of the following words out from their faces? The chance for you to do this is nil although you have learned about this axiom system.
明, 肌, 前
股, 几, 鳧
香, 音, 杳

For your convenience, I, however, will provide more examples for helping you to see an easier understandable picture on those premises. If you are new to Chinese language, please visit the page at http://www.chineseetymology.com/exhibite.php . If you are more comfortable on reading Chinese text, please visit the page at http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/cw1.htm .

Here, I will show one special word group which was not discussed before. Although they are not randomly chosen, they are also examples for proving the validity of the above premises. Furthermore, they show some special principles of the Chinese language.

The reincarnation group --- when a word is “over-used” (its original meaning is lost after it acquired many other meanings and usages), a new word was constructed to regain the original meaning, and this is a reincarnated word. This belongs to the 轉 註 (synonymize) group.
Example: 「 嘗 、 嚐 」
嘗 (cháng, to taste, already, to attempt, to try, formerly) is 尚 (prefer or fashion) + 旨 (sweet taste or imperial decree). Thus, the original meaning for 嘗 is to enjoy the sweetness (or to taste). Yet, the other acquired meanings (already, to attempt, to try, formerly), now, become the dominated and the fashion meanings. Thus, a new word 嚐 was constructed (reincarnation) to regain its original meaning.
Note: why does 旨 mean the imperial decree? A 旨 (a decree, however harsh or bitter) will eventually become sweet.

This type of reincarnated words is constructed by adding one appropriate root to the original word. The pronunciation of the new word will stay the same as the old word. The followings are more examples.

「 幸 、 倖 」 , 「 欲 、 慾 」 , 「 效 、 傚 」 「 伊 、 咿 」 , 「 睿 、 叡 」 ,「 蜋 、螂 」,「 付 、 附 」 , 「 贊 、 讚 」 , 「 志 、 誌 」 「 周 、 週 」 , 「 咨 、 諮 」 , 「 旨 、 恉 」 「 敝 、 弊 」 , 「 眇 、 渺 」 ,「 禁 、 噤 」…
The second word in the bracket is the reincarnated word (「 還 原 字 」), such as, 慾 、 讚 、 渺 、 弊 … 等。

The current simplified character system has two simplifications.
1. Reducing the number strokes of the traditional characters.
2. Eradicating all those reincarnated words.
Those who did the simplification did simply not know the reason of why many words have so many “not needed” synonyms, as they do not know the reason of their construction.


Now, I can reiterate the structure of this new Chinese etymology as below.
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 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 other 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 形 聲 (phonetic loan) word.
ii. If its semantic value plays a major role, it produces a word similar to a 會 意 (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 母 (consonant) or 韻 母 (vowel).
Note: some words do not have an explicit sound module. In general, it will have the same pronunciation as its synonym.

c. Ways of inferring the meaning of any word, the four pathways (see previous chapter).
a. Forward method --- from roots to modules to G1 (generation one word), ..., Gn. And, there are many ways of reading it in this pathway. This pathway accounts about 85% of all words. The most difficult part of this path is the "assignment".
b. Mutation --- this will be discussed later.
c. Backward method --- the meaning of a module is not from the composing roots but from a word. It is going to be a hard one.
d. Then, the wild card --- the borrowing. There are some rules on this. This will be discussed later.


The above is the major outline of this axiomatic system (the new etymology), and it is quite different from the 六 書 (six ways of constructing Chinese words) which did not explicitly point out the concept of sound module.


In addition to the axiomatic system above, the key point of Chinese system is the merging of the above system with a naturally evolved verbal system. From the previous chapter, we know that the 韻 書 (the rhyme book) describes and encompasses the entire Chinese verbal universe. With the 韻 書 (the rhyme book) of different periods, the evolution of the Chinese verbal universe is also understood.


However, there are, at least, 8 subsystems (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Northern Min, Southern Min, Hsiang, Kan, Wu, etc.) which are, in general, mutually unintelligible in the Chinese verbal universe. Then, which subsystem is the 韻 書 mentioned above describing? The answer is “All”, all subsystems.


The book of 切 韻 (check rhyme, published during the 隋 朝 [Sui Dynasty, around 580 a.d.]) was based on the Wu (Southern China) system. The book of 唐 韻 (published during the 唐 朝 [Tang Dynasty, from 618 to 907 a.d.]) was based on the “Northern Min” system. Yet, the difference between the two was minimal. Then, the book of 廣 韻 (published during the 宋 朝 [Song Dynasty, around 960 a.d.]) encompassed all 韻 書 before and including some of the ancient sounds.


Today, there is only one 韻 書(the rhyme book), the 廣 韻 (the unified rhyme book). All subsystems, however mutually unintelligible, describe their system with the same 韻 書. That is, these eight subsystems are eight clones, with different bodies while having the identical DNA.


Creel (1936:91-93) says: “That Chinese writing was pictographic in origin does not admit of question. On the other hand, Chinese is not, and was not three thousand years ago, a pictographic language in the sense that it consisted of writing by means of pictures all or most of which would be readily understood by the uninstructed. ... The Chinese early abandoned the method of writing by means of readily recognizable pictures and diagrams. ... It was in part because the Chinese gave up pictoral [sic] writing that they were able to develop a practicable pictographic and ideographic script, with comparatively little help from the phonetic principle. To draw elaborate pictures of whole animals, for instance (as is done on some of the Shang bones), is too slow a process. The course taken in many parts of the world was to conventionalize the picture, reduce it to a simple and easily executed form, and then use it to represent homophonous words or parts of words. The course the Chinese have chosen has also been to conventionalize and reduce, but they then use the evolved element for the most part not phonetically, but to stand for the original object or to enter with other such elements into combinations of ideographic rather than phonetic value. This parting of the ways is of the most profound importance.”


Creel’s insistence that the Chinese words have a pictographic origin is not entirely wrong. There are only 70 Pictographic symbols in the entire Chinese word system. But his insistence that “they [Chinese] then use the evolved element for the most part not phonetically, but to stand for the original object or to enter with other such elements into combinations of ideographic rather than phonetic value” is wrong. Chinese words are constructed with a root-based axiomatic system which consists of two dimensions.
1. Semantic dimension --- the meaning of each word arises from an inferring process of its composing radicals.
2. Phonetic dimension --- the phonetic value of each word arises from its sound tag.

(妻 、 悽 、 棲 、 淒 、 萋) have the sound tag 妻.
悽 (sorrowful or deeply heartfelt) is 心 (heart) + 妻 (wife, the beloved), the heart on the beloved.
棲 (perch, to stay or to inhabit) is 木 (tree or wood) + 妻 (wife, the beloved), with wood (or tree) and wife, one can make a habitat in the ancient time.
淒 (intense cold or mournful) is 水(water) + 妻 (wife, the beloved), wife with tears is mournful. Note: I have mentioned before that the “assignment” is an important way of giving meaning for a word.


The same for the words (遛 、 瘤 、 餾 、 飀 、 溜 、 榴), they have the sound tag 留 (to stay or to keep), and their meanings can be easily read out from their faces.
遛 (to linger / to stroll)
瘤 (tumor)
溜 (slip away / to skate)
榴 (pomegranate tree)
餾 (reheat by steaming)
飀 (soughing of wind)


Thus, Creel’s mistake is minimal in comparison to the entire old school (both Chinese philologists and Western Sinologists). They view the current Chinese system (the 隸 書) is the result of “evolution” from the Oracle Characters (甲骨文 , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_bone_script ). This is fatally wrong. They have ignored a very important event happened around 220 B.C. .


The evolution of the old school theory is correct before the year 220 B.C., as follow,
Oracle Characters
--> Bronze Characters
--> Large seal characters
--> Small seal characters
--> Standardized small seal characters (around 220 B.C.), implemented by the Prime Minister Li ( 李 斯, http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%9D%8E%E6%96%AF ) of the Qin Empire.

The above evolution is correct. Yet, around 220 to 210 B.C., there was a “revolution” on Chinese character system. The revolution moved drastically away from the normal evolution.

Yes, there was another event happening at the same time of PM Li's work. Mr. Wang ( 王 次 仲, http://baike.baidu.com/view/201945.htm ), a hermit, invented an "entirely different" system of written characters. Emperor Qin Shi Huang (秦 始 皇, http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%A7%A6% ... B%E7%9A%87) read about this and was greatly impressed. The Emperor asked Mr. Wang to come out from his hermitage and to serve the government many, many times, but Wang declined all those invitations. Although the Emperor was very angry, he was unable to change Wang's mind. Mr. Chang (程 邈, http://baike.baidu.com/view/97773.htm ) was an officer and a highly revered scholar in the Empire. Yet, Chang was in jail for some reasons at that moment. So, the Emperor gave Chang an assignment of refining and completing Wang's work. If Chang is successful, he will be pardoned and will return to his high office. With 10 long years (in jail), Chang worked day and night on Wang's system and finally "constructed" 3,000 new characters. The Emperor was extremely satisfied, and Chang was put back to a high position. Chang's system was, then, used as the written system for the governmental papers, and it spread very quickly to commoners. At that time, most of the servants who did the chores of copying governmental papers were drafted commoners or prisoners, and they were call Lii ( 隸 ). As Chang was also a prisoner once and as his system was used by Lii, this new system was named as Lii characters (隸 書). Very, very soon, the Small Seal characters were no longer used as a communication tool, and it became an art, not a living language any more.

Of course, nothing can be truly invented out of the blue. The Lii system, of course, used many Small seal characters or parts of those characters as roots. Yet, the two systems (old evolved system and Lii) are completely different. The old characters (from Oracle to Small Seal) are arbitrary vocabulary with every word as a standalone blob. The new system (Lii) is a root word based system.

Although these two events happened at exact the same time, around 220 B.C. to 210 B.C., there is, in fact, a break, a divide and a huge canyon between the two. Thus, anyone who describes the 隸 書 with Oracle characters is the same as describing the human evolution with the facts of Neanderthal, and this is exactly what the "old school" is all about. They are all wrong.

At the time of the First Emperor, there were three events happened about the same time, from 220 B.C. to 210 B.C..
Event 1: the standardization of the Small Seal set by the Prime Minister Li.
Event 2: the construction of the Lii character set (the Wang - Chang set).
Event 3: a few years after the debut of the Lii set, the Small Seal set went extinct, not a living language any more. It survives to today as an art, not as a living language.

The Emperor - Wang - Chang encounter was documented in detail in "History Record" ( 史 記 ) , written around 140 B.C., in the article "the First Emperor's Record" ( 秦 始 皇 正 紀 ).


After knowing the correct evolution of Chinese etymology, I can reiterate a final proof for this new Chinese etymology again. I have proved the first three premises with both existential introduction (that is, with one example) and existential generalization (with, at least, two or more examples) in the previous chapters. I also showed over 8,000 actual examples in the book “Chinese Etymology”. Of course, it is not too difficult to check out all (about 60,000) Chinese words. However, it is much better for providing a logic universal proof. That is, these premises are valid for an arbitrary selected word. If one negative example is found, there will not be a universal proof. Yet, I can arbitrary select thousands words while you (the world) would still not believe that I did arbitrarily. But, this randomness can be guaranteed if the selection is not done by me. Thus, I have asked you (the world) in the article “The final verdict on the Chinese character system (posted on May 14, 2011 at http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... chive.html)” to select an arbitrary word. Eighteen months since then, no negative case was reported. Thus, I can now openly claim that this new etymology is inductively proved while the above open challenge to the world continues.


In order to show a true universal proof, an issue of mutation must be addressed. The fact is that the Chinese character set, now, has two systems,
a. the original axiomatic system,
b. a mutated system.


After over 2,000 years of evolution after the revolution, the Chinese character set did acquire a huge mutated system. Without knowing this mutated system, the universal proof becomes impossible. I will list some major mutation pathways here.

a. By fusion: such as,
並 is the fusion of 立 立 .
兼 is the fusion of 秉 秉 .
雨 is the fusion of 天 水 .

b. Via diverging mutation, such as,
犬 --- the radical 犬 is in all these words (犯, 戾, 狀, 吠, 狁, 狂, 狄, 狎, 狐, 狗)
网 --- the radical 网 is in all these words (羅, 罪, 罩, 罰, 罔, 岡)
肉 --- the radical 肉 is in all these words (肚, 肛, 肝, 育, 肥, 腐, 臠, 昔)
火 --- the radical 火 is in all these words (煇, 炬, 煮, 篜, 煎, 烹, 無, 光)
水 --- the radical 水 is in all these words (永, 暴, 雨, 泉, 泰, 懷, 況, 流, 滾, 涼)
心 --- the radical 心 is in all these words (必, 忐, 忑, 志, 忘, 怕, 悄, 忖, 忙, 忡, 忝, 恭)
In these examples, we can see that one radical can mutate into a few different variants. This type of mutation is known to most of Chinese people. But, there are enough cases which are unknown to the common folk, such as 昔 has the radical of 肉, 恭 has the radical of 心 and 懷 has the radical of 水.

c. Via converging mutation, such as,
The look-like radical in (明, 肌, 前) are three different roots.
The look-like radical in (股, 几, 鳧) are three different roots.
The look-like radical in (香, 音, 杳) are three different roots.
This is the most difficult issue in the Chinese etymology. This is 100% knowledge-based. There is no chance of any kind that one can decode this type of mutation with computer analysis.

d. Via insertion, such as,
行 --- the radical 行 is in all these words (術, 衛, 衙, 銜, 衍, 衒, 衖, 衝, 街, 衡, 衢)
衣 --- the radical 衣 is in all these words (裔, 裝, 製, 裴, 襲, 裘, 哀, 衰, 衷, 裹, 褒, 襄)
While some insertions are very obvious, some are not.

e. Via multiple pathways, such as,
黃 is the insertion of 田 into 光. This takes more topological work to see the transformation.
漢 is 水 + 黃, meaning “Yellow water” which is, now, the name for Chinese race. Again, the topological transformation of 黃 takes some detailed analysis.


There are many more different mutation pathways, and I will discuss them in due time. Now, the universal (final) proof of this new etymology is complete.

Universal proof --- for an arbitrary selected Chinese character, the three premises above are true and valid.

Again, you (the reader) can arbitrarily select a Chinese character, and it will be encompassed by the three premises above. One negative case will destroy this universal proof. Yet, many words of which you are unable to decode are encompassed by the premises. The only problem is you, not the words. Thus, I will give you one more help before your selection.


Logic is kind of rigid. So, there is fuzzy logic which is still bounded. Chinese etymology gives rise to a new kind of logic, the “life” logic (or evolutionary logic) which starts out with the old-rigid-logic, with roots and inferring rules. Then,
1. Root A + Root B (R-AB) produce a ballpark (not a single result) which encompasses two or more different concepts (such as, forget and business). The choice of meaning for the first R-AB can be arbitrary assigned. But, the second choice is pushed by the squeezing effect. For examples,
忘 is 亡 (disappear) over 心 (heart), so, it means forgotten.
忙 is 心 + 亡, it has identical roots as 忘, also means disappearing of the heart. But, it means busy.
忘 and 忙 are composed with the same set of roots. In fact, assigning 忙 as “forget” is still logical with the rules. But, when a choice was made, the other in the group must accept it. The same set of roots can be "chosen" for different objects or concepts. Sometimes, the choice is arbitrary. Yet, the different ways of arrange the roots are not always making difference. This is another issue for the future.

足 is 口 (as a person) over 止 (stop or stepping), it denotes foot.
企 is 人 (man) over 止, it connotes "looking for someone to come", on the tiptoe looking. Now, it also means business.

暉 is 日 (Sun) + 軍 (army), it denotes as Sun-light. Sun light was important for the army operation.
暈 is 日 over 軍, it denotes the halos of the Sun. Now, it means dizzy.

愈 is 俞 (notification sound) over 心, it connotes “past a set target”.
愉 is 心 + 俞, it means happiness.


2. When root C + root E produces a word W-y with meaning of Y,
When Root C + root D + root E produce a word W-X with meaning of X. Yet, word Z = (root C + root E + something) could have two pathways.
a. Word Z = Y + something.
b. word Z = (X-) + something.
For example,
贏 means win or plenty.
羸 is, in fact, coming from 贏 by removing 貝 (treasure) and replacing it with 羊 (cheap livestock). Thus, 羸 means not-plenty. Thus, the meaning of 羸 is derived not from the composing roots but from a word in its group. There are many words must be decoded in this way.


Thus, this “life” logic has the following attributes.
a. old traditional logic (starting roots and rules)
b. arbitrariness (initial condition)
c. squeeze effect
d. evolutionary liveliness

The above logic is, in fact, a life. The newly created word will become a part (substance and rule) of this logic universe. This life-logic will be the foundation for a true artificial intelligence. With this new logic, you can decode a lot of more words before your selection of a negative example.


Now, the true picture of Chinese system is very clear as below.
A. The scope of the Chinese verbal universe:
i. The Chinese verbal universe consists of, at least, 8 subsystems (Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Northern Min, Southern Min, Hsiang, Kan, Wu, etc.) while each of them has a few more dialects.

ii. While these subsystems are, often, mutually unintelligible phonologically among one another, the scope of each system is wholly defined and demarcated by the same 韻 書(the rhyme book). That is, the scope of these systems is completely isomorphic to one another.

iii. In each subsystem, it encompasses only, maximally, 250 four-tones, that is, 1,000 distinguishable sounds (phonemes). Of course, the issues of homonyms (similar-sounding words, often with the same spelling with different meaning) and homophones (having same sound but differs in spelling, origin and meaning) became major issues to be resolved in the language.


B. The accommodating the verbal by the written character system:
i. The written system begins with a set of roots, 220 of them.

ii. With these roots, 300 base sound modules are constructed.
a. When a root became a standalone character, it acquires a “sound” of its own.
b. When a root is a part of a composed character, it becomes silent, even though it might have a phonetic value while it is a standalone character.
c. The phonetic value of the sound modules is assigned (as sound roots). The assignment is not arbitrary, but it is an issue beyond the scope of this discussion now.

iii. The attaching the phonetic value to each character was not an afterthought. It was done at the beginning, that is, a sound module played a part at the beginning of the character construction. Thus, every character carries a sound tag either explicitly or implicitly. And, this is the premise 3, the pronunciation of all Chinese words can be read out from their faces. I have showed the “explicit” sound tag cases.
a. As a standalone word, that root has its own sound. In general, this sound will not become a sound tag.
b. As a sound module, it has its own sound.
c. The sound module becomes an explicit sound tag of a composed character.

Then, with the four premises being proved, my claim that the Chinese character system can be mastered in 90 days for anyone who knows not a single Chinese character at the beginning is proved valid.


In addition to being the only 100% axiomatic human language system in terms of linguistics, Chinese system encompasses one additional dimension, the morality. I am showing three examples below.

In the West, the self is I, me and ego. In China, "self" is a very complicated concept. For a commoner (without a title), there are three ways to say “self”, 自, 己, 我.

自 is the pictograph of the nose, but it does not depict the nose. It points to the person himself, an “object” without any philosophical or moral context.
我 is composed of 手(hand) + 戈 (spear). With a spear on hand, one can be of himself, not a slave.
己 is composed of 一 (Heavenly) over 亡 (vanish). When a person vanishes himself according to the Heavenly virtue, he is a “self.” Not being able to eradicate one’s ego, he cannot be a 己.

A worthy self must be able to defend for himself and must (must, …, must) vanish (his ego) himself according to Heavenly virtue.

The word for he (him or others) is 他 which is the composite of 人 (human, a neutral term) + 也 (the fusion of 九 九). The number 九 九 (99) is the highest number that the 人 (human or humanity) can have in Chinese philosophy. The number above 九 九 (100, perfection) belongs to the Almighty 天. Thus, the word 他 encompasses the entire humanity. The Chinese morality is 他 centered. One person who cannot be a 己 (vanishes himself) cannot be a part of 他. While not a single expert of China studies knows about this etymology, most Chinese people do know about the difference between 小 我 (the self) and 大 我 (the 他). The 小 我 only person has no morality.

Then, the last but not the least. The word of 錢 (money) which is 金 (gold) + 戔 (power). 戔 is the stacking of two 戈 (spear), and it means power. 貝 is treasure. Then, 賤 (貝 戔) should carry the similar meaning the same as 錢 (金 戔), but 賤 means being very lowly. In fact, many words with the radical 貝 are having negative meanings, such as, 敗, 貶, 狽, 損, 費, 貧, 貪, 賊, 賠, 賭, 賴. That is, in Chinese moral, the money (貝) and power (戔) are something of lowly.

This additional dimension further proves that the Chinese system is truly a linguistics wonder.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:16 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 26 ---- The Conceptual Language and Super Unified Linguistics paradigm


I have proved that the Chinese linguistics system is the only 100% axiomatic language system. Now, we should discuss the issue of language types.

At LinkedIn ESL International group, Hongbo WANG (Professeur d'anglais et de chinois), Kelly Parker (Learning and Development Consultant at Bleum Software Development), Rod Mitchell (Director of Studies at Cactus Language Training) and I discussed the issue of Language types and second language acquisition. The detailed discussion was posted at linguistics-f25/language-types-and-second-language-acquisition-t222.html . Here, I am summarizing that discussion below.


Roughly, I divided the nature languages into two types.
a. Perceptual language --- it identifies space-time info with tailed-vocabulary. The tail encompasses all types of endings, regardless of how and what they are called. The rules of the tail give a very tight control about the grammatical rules.

b. Conceptual language --- it discusses all events at the conceptual level. The space-time info is marked with markers, not carried by the individual vocabulary. Chinese language is an example of the conceptual language. Being without tails on the vocabulary, the Chinese language is “almost” without grammatical rule.


In linguistics, the term “grammar” is precisely defined. But, many people still use it in many different ways. Thus, I will use a new set of terms for this discussion. In general, people view the linguistics as languages. Yet, I will define the linguistics universe with three parts.
a. A meta-space --- it encompasses the events and objects in the physical universe.
b. Languages --- they try to describe the stories in that meta-space.
c. A meaning-space --- the meaning of the meta-space story is understood by people.

In general, a meta-space story could be understood differently by different people who have different world views. However, at this discussion, I will exclude the culture element and deal the issue strictly linguistically, that is, in terms of translation among languages only. Then, the meaning-space for all languages is identical.

Now, for all languages, they share two identical parts. In this view, different languages are only different translation machines. I can further reduce (simplify) the issue by viewing the language machine as only a “sentence” machine. That is, we only need to analyze how “one sentence” is produced by all those different machines. A sentence has only two parts, a field (such as many seats) and a set of particles (occupying those seats). For English, its particles (vocabulary) have “only” two types.
i. With tails --- (concept, conceptual, …), (dog, dogs), …
ii. With masks --- (I, me, my, mine), …

Of course, some with both, such as (go, goes, went, gone), … . In fact, the function for both tails and masks is the same as flags. Then, there are two more features.
A. Subject – predicate (SP) structure
B. Word order

So, English sentence is a “field” (having some seats) filled with flagged-particles. The particle’s flag and the seat’s flag color must match. Thus, the English grammar is very tightly controlled by the particle’s tails. With word order and SP, the English sentence has the “line-segment” structure.

For Chinese, its particles have no tails or masks. That is, it can go into the sentence “field” (seats) without restriction, no SP or word order. For example,
(I love you) and (you love me) are completely different sentences in English. But,
(I, love you), (Love you, I), (You, I love) are all identical sentences in Chinese. In fact, the Chinese sentence has ringed-structure.


In principle, Chinese sentence does not need word order or SP. But, Chinese sentence is able to encompass the word order and SP. After the May 4th movement of the 1930s in China, the most of Chinese writings are “now” using the word order and some sort of SP. So, for a young Chinese person, he might not read enough old style writings to know that the SP and word order are not important parts of Chinese grammar. I am showing two sentences below.

漢語文系統, 是最容易學的語言。
下點功夫, 三個月就可以, 認識 “所有” 的漢字了。

These two sentences can be rewritten as below while having the identical meanings, not one bit difference.
最容易學的語言, 是漢語文系統。
認識 “所有” 的漢字, 下點功夫, 三個月就可以了。

Even our American friends who know no Chinese can still tell that the rewritten sentences have the identical (number of) words.

For a flagless vocabulary system, every “seat” in the sentence “field” is identical. That is, the “meaning unit” of a sentence does not need to be logically or grammatically linked among them. If the “meaning” of a sentence is composed of from three sub-parts, the order of these three parts is not important. For a flagged system, the sub-parts are linked “logically” and “grammatically”, and that order must be maintained.

[讀 (逗, comma)] is the key part of Chinese sentence, the meaning unit, isolated with a comma (,). It needs no SP. And, the order of those [讀 (逗)] is often not important.

Of course, you can say that this 讀 is functionally equal to a Subject and that 讀 can be identified as Predicate. But, in principle, No. They are not. The SP concept was never, never discussed in the 3,000 years in Chinese history before the May 4th of 1937.


As we all know that the syntax is the foundation for a language to build up its higher structures, such as, grammar, programmatic, etc. . Thus, different types of syntax will definitely have different types of grammar. For the convenience, I will use only English and Chinese as examples in this discussion. Furthermore, their syntaxes are truly different in a big way. One carries flags and masks, the other flagless. Of course, there are tails and masks in Chinese language, but they are implemented at a different level, not on the character (lowest syntax) level. Most of Chinese natives do not know this. I will not go into too deep on this issue in this chapter.

As many of the readers of this book might not be well-versed in Chinese, I will discuss this issue in a general term without using a lot of Chinese examples. First, I would like to simply use one analogy. When a particle (syntax) carries a flag, it acts like a hook. Only the matching hooks can make a link. Thus, flagged-syntaxes can link up only via some allowed ways, such as, the SP structure or the word order etc. . For flagless syntaxes, they can go into the sentence “field” without the hindrance of hooks matching. This kind of difference is vividly demonstrated by the example of diamond and graphite.

Both diamond and graphite are pure carbon. Yet, the carbon atom must go into a lattice in a precise manner for diamonds. On the other hand, the graphite has an amorphous structure which is not precisely arranged. They both are great materials. The graphite can be made as the strongest material, often used in airplanes.

The fact that how a sentence can make sense while without SP structure and word order might be very difficult to be understood by Western linguists. And, the Chinese examples might not be any help for them either. Thus, I will discuss this issue in a general term, from the linguistics principles.


Noam Chomsky dreamed to construct a universal grammar from the assertion that some set of fundamental characteristics of all human languages must be the same. But, his generative linguistics was unable to encompass the Chinese language. In order to overcome that problem, I have introduced a new definition for sentence.

Sentence --- it has two and only two parts, a set of linguistic “particles” and a sentence “field”.

With this new definition, sentence is no longer bound to a particular set of syntaxes and grammar. A sentence field can be a highly ordered structure (such as, English sentence, a crystal lattice-like) or be an amorphous-like structure (Chinese sentence). The particles can be a fermion-like or a boson-like. With this new definition, we thus are able to distinguish the deep structure from the surface structure of sentences of different languages. This new definition is not a choice of technicalities but is based on two new linguistics principles.

The first new principle is ---
“The Martian Language Thesis -- Any human language can always establish a communication with the Martian or martian-like languages.”

This principle is based on the fact that all languages share two identical parts, the meta-space (our physical universe) and the meaning-sphere (the intelligence is universal).

When we meet a Martian, a translation table can be built in no time.
a. We point to Sun and say “Sun”. Martian will smile and say “Arar”.
b. We point to Moon and say “Moon”. Martian will understand and says “Yaya”.

Historically, the universal language was proclaimed with the economic and political supremacy, such as, Greek, Latin and English, etc.. They can, in fact, be the lingua franca for a short time period but will definitely fade into the history sooner or later. Universal language was never a linguistics reality. Yet, with this new Martian Language Thesis, it is not too difficult to prove that the universal language is, in fact, the foundation for all languages. That is, there must be a way to construct the universal language linguistically.

The second new principle will show the metaphysics of how all languages arose from a hidden universal language. Traditionally, the meaning of Pidgin and Creole is the dynamical forces in “one” language family. For me, it can also be the forces among families. Then, the language “structure” can actually move from one side (such as, flagged) to the other side (flagless), and Vice Versa. And, this forms a language spectrum.

Indeed, the Martian Language Thesis was subconsciously known in linguistics for long time. But, my description of it does have some metaphysical differences from that subconscious knowledge. In fact, it is only one side of a coin. The other side of the coin is the second principle, The Spider Web Principle.

The Martian Language Thesis is based on the fact that the linguistics universe has two continents, the meta-space (the physical or imagined universes) and the meaning-sphere (the intelligence). The great divide between them is the language universe as we know of traditionally. By definition, a (any, including Martian’s) language must be anchored to both continents. Thus, two different languages (however different they look) are, in fact, connected, via these two continents. Yet, how does a language arises from this “language universe, the divide between the two continents”?

The Spider Web Principle has two points.
a. The language universe is isotopic and homogeneous. That is, every “point” in this universe is identical (total symmetrical). This symmetry is the base for a universal language linguistically.

b. The "Spider Web Principle” --- The whereabouts to build a spider web is completely arbitrary (total freedom or total symmetry). However, as soon as the first spider thread is casted, that total symmetry is broken, total freedom no more. The location of the web is fixed. With the second thread, the center of the web is defined. With the third thread, the size of the web is determined.

Thus, as soon as the first morpheme or the first grammar rule of a language is casted, it enters into a Godel system; “consistency” becomes the norm, and total freedom is no more. That is, every language has its own internal framework regardless of the fact that the language universe (universal grammar) is about the total freedom. Thus, the universal grammar has two spheres.
i. Universal level -- total freedom. Every language can choose its grammar arbitrary with the total freedom.
ii. Language x level -- as soon as a selection is made, it becomes a "contract" (among its speaking community) with a set of internal framework.

Please note that I have made distinction between the linguistics universe and the language universe.


The Martian Language Thesis is a law of permanent confinement. No language of any kind can escape from the permanent confinement of the two continents. And, it is also a law of total entanglement. Every language is linked (entangled) with all other languages. It is the force of convergence.


The Spider Web Principle defines the language universe (the divide between the two continents) to be isotopic and homogeneous. If the space of language universe is anisotropic and heterogenetic, then some languages cannot be allowed, but this is not the case. This is, in fact, a force of divergence.


A converging force must have a target to converge to. A diverging force must diverge from somewhere. These two, in fact, guarantee an ontological entity which sits underneath these two forces. There is an ontological reality while it has not manifested as a practical human language. But, in principle, the construction of a universal language is possible, as it is, indeed, an ontological reality.

After knowing the forces of diversities and entanglements of different languages, we, now, are able to address the pedagogical issues of learning the mother tongue and the second language with theoretical analysis, instead of from the empirical trial and error methodology. Yet, I would like to discuss a bit more metaphysical issues first.
a. In Zen Buddhism, the utmost mystery of the meta-space is understandable with intelligence but is unable to be described with languages. Thus, Zen developed a very special pedagogy, by yelling and beating the students, as the explanation teaching is just wasting of the time.

b. In Christianity, the utmost mystery of the meta-space (such as, God) can never be comprehended by human intelligence. That special mystery (God) can only be reached by vesting one’s faith on a special person (Jesus).

Is faith a kind of intelligence? It is beside the point. The two views above claim that the three parts (meta-space, language space and intelligence) of linguistics universe are not equal in size. If they are right, the construction of a “Super Unified Linguistics Theory” will become very difficult, even impossible. Thus, we must first show that these three parts are exactly equal in size. This is the central point of my book "Linguistics Manifesto, ISBN 978-3-8383-9722-1". Thus, I will not repeat it here. But, the conclusion is that the three parts are exactly equal in size. With this conclusion, we can build a Unified Linguistics Framework. And, all issues (such as, the second language learning) can be discussed with theoretical analysis. With a clearly formalized theory, a test can then be carried out.


In the Introduction to The Common Sense, Paine wrote, "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." (page 3).

But, I think that reason can still prevail. I will discuss my view on the language acquisition to prove this point. The current paradigm of linguistics has three unstated premises:
Premise 1 -- The mother tongue is acquired naturally, as a living habit. Even those with mental handicaps can often acquire a mother tongue to some proficiency.

Premise 2 -- A second language is always more difficult to acquire than the first language.

Premise 3 -- The first language is kind of a learning obstacle for learning a second language. Thus, many classrooms of ESL have a sign "English Only."

With this paradigm, the immersion teaching (Language immersion) and the 5 C's (Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities) become the central pillar for the ways of second language acquisition.

But, the followings are two important facts.
a. It takes about 5 years for a person to acquire the verbal part of his mother tongue at home and another 5 years in school to master the written part of the language.

b. In general, it takes about 5 years or less for a 10 year old kid to acquire a second language.

On the surface, people learn the mother tongue with immersion. But, down deep, there is another important mechanism, the anchoring. One learned verbal as the anchor, and with that anchor to learn the written.

Thus, with the mother tongue as the anchor, learning the second language “should be” much easier than learning the mother tongue.

The memory of a person at any given day is a “finite” number. Using that finite asset to spread over the 5 C’s is a very inefficient way of using that limited resource. The best way is to identify some anchors for the second language and to master those anchors one at the time.

Chinese language was viewed as one of the most difficult language to learn. Yet, by using the anchor-methodology, it can be mastered in 90 days. The details of this anchor-methodology are available at http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/nparadi.htm .

Today, the new paradigm for second language acquisition is having two parts.
i. Finding the anchors of the second language.
ii. Memory management on learning those anchors.

With the immersion pedagogy, the second language is learned in the same way as the first language without using the mother tongue as an anchor or a bridge. In my view, it is a waste.

Today, the new second language acquisition methodology is based on two paths.
a. Axiom-ing every language as much as possible. That is, finding many anchors for each language.
b. Finding the best memory managing way for each language, the best way of learning those anchors.

The changing of Chinese language from the most difficult one to the easiest one is just a recent development. The issue of the mother tongue being a bridge or a hindrance for second language learning is not a central point of my work. My view has the following points.
a. The universal language is an ontological reality. Thus, every language is connected to all other languages. This is reflected as the Martian language thesis.

b. The manifestation of the point “a” is a language spectrum. Thus, two very distinct language types can be defined, and all languages are distributed between them.

c. With the two points above, every language (however chaotic superficially) can be organized wholly or partly as an axiom system.

d. Thus, we can learn any language as an axiom system, similar to learning high school geometry or chemistry. Of course, the mother tongue will be a different story, as the first 10 years of a person’s life has, in general, not developed a logic-based learning ability. So, even the mother tongue is the simplest axiom system, the kids will still learn it as a living habit, at least for the verbal part.


In addition to as a theory, I have made Chinese language as one example. With the immersion way of learning, Dr. David Moser wrote an article “Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard?” which documented the failure of the immersion pedagogy . Yet, by learning as an axiom system, Chinese can be learned by a 10 year old American kid in 90 days to the level of being able to read newspaper from a beginning of not knowing a single character. Furthermore, he can learn it all by himself without a need of a teacher. There are already many succeed stories. The article “The methodology on mastering Chinese written language in three months, http://www.chineseetymology.com/2009/12 ... ethodology” can provide some info on this.

Re: 沉冤大白(Part Three): The new Chinese Etymology

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:19 pm
by Tienzen
Chapter 27 ---- Wrong to the young students! (誤 人 子 弟)!


At Yahoo!Answers, there was a question “Is it wrong to the young students? (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index ... 025AA8jm9H)” as below.

For a few weeks, I have been looking into the issue of learning Chinese as the second language. I have investigated the following issues.
1. Chinese (especially the written) is so damn hard, and this is a universal consensus. There are thousands sites discussing this topic.

2. One young American claimed "Mastering Chinese Written Language in 90 days!"
I have searched the web. I found that site which provides good supporting info for his claim, such as,
a. It was done openly, in front of many newspaper and TV reporters.
b. It was reviewed by Taiwan government.
c. It was reviewed by many American universities.
d. I cannot find any negative report on it on web.
e. With the key word "Chinese etymology", it is on the first page on many search engines.

3. Trying to learn that methodology from universities, I cannot find any university teach that methodology.

Question --- if it is a proven methodology (not negated thus far), why is it not used by educators? Why let the young students keep doing the old way and face the lessons as the damn hard subject.


The above issue was then discussed at “Chinese Language Forums, general-discussion/is-it-wrong-to-the-young-students-t36.html”. One person commented, “This is a moral issue. Intentionally or knowingly denying students the new knowledge is immoral.” A newsletter on “Educators' karma and conscience! Wrong to the young students, http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=85f ... acb8425e20” was mailed out to many Presidents of American universities.


This issue has two parts.
a. Is Gong’s claim valid?
b. Is the old school way bad in comparison with Gong’s method?


I have discussed the issue of the difficulty of learning Chinese written language with the following facts.
1. It (the Chinese traditional character set) was viewed as the culprit for China’s demise and was despised by the entire Chinese people (the scholars and politicians) in the 20th century. And, it was viewed as the reason for the super high illiteracy in the country because of its difficulty for the native Chinese. Finally, it led the event of abandoning the traditional character set in 1958.

2. The humility and agony experience of one learned sinologist was discussed, and it turned out to be a universal experience for all people who learn Chinese as the second language.

3. The debate among Western sinologists was also discussed. Both schools view the Chinese character set which is ad hoc and chaotic, and it makes the Chinese written language very difficult theoretically as Chinese system of writing is similar to the hieroglyphic signs of the Egyptians and that they do not express their concepts by writing, like most of the world, with a few alphabetic signs, but they paint as many symbols as there are words. Thus, taking 10 to 20 years of agonizing study becomes the rite of passage for mastering Chinese written language.


However, even with the above facts, my new Chinese etymology is making a claim, “The Chinese written language can be mastered in “3” to “6” months to a point of being able to read the current Chinese newspaper by anyone who knows not a single Chinese word at the beginning, by learning it with my new Chinese etymology.”


How absurd this claim can be, from 20 years to 6 months? However, this claim can be tested or proved in two ways.

a. By testing – Can anyone do it (existential introduction)? And, can everyone do it (universal proof)? In fact, a major work on both cases was done, and those case studies are available at http://www.chineseetymology.com/ .

b. With theoretical proof – this was provided in previous Chapters. However, I will reiterate it again here. This claim is based on a theoretical framework that the Chinese characters are composed of from only 220 roots. And, the meaning of each and every word can be read out from its face. Thus, there is new etymology memory algebra.

With only 220 root words (R), it generates 300 commonly used compound roots (also as sound modules, M). Thus, R + M = 220 + 300 = 520. With these 520, all 60,000 Chinese written words are generated. That is,
etymology memory algebra is R + M = R x M

By learning only 520 and some rules, the entire Chinese word set can be mastered.


I have discussed the views of many great Western sinologists on the issue of Chinese characters. Yet, how are Western commoners learning Chinese written language in the old school? One of the popular way is by using some kind of mnemonic device, such as the book "Remembering the Hanzi", written by James Heisig and Timothy Richardson. A sample lesson of the book was available online before but is seemingly removed after my article “Mnemonic device, a joke in learning Chinese, http://chineselanguageetymology.blogspo ... rning.html) was published. I do have printed out copy of that sample lesson, and the following is based on that paper copy.


The difference between us is greater than the difference between Heaven and Earth. In the sample lesson, Heisig showed 102 examples. There is not a single example having the correct etymology. As I made this statement openly, I must be responsible to my saying. Thus, I must give a few more examples to support my statement.


Heisig's method is 100% a mnemonic device, having zero substance on etymology. I am showing some simple examples here.
1. 胡 ,
a. Heisig
i. key word -- recklessly
ii. Primitive elements -- ancient moon lit up at 100% wattage.
iii. story (imaginative memory) -- at full moon, people tend to get a little "loony" and start acting recklessly.

b. Tienzen's Chinese etymology
i. meaning -- the skin under the chin ( it droops at old age)
Note: the word 鬍 (beard) is the radical "hair" over 胡
ii. word in roots -- 古 (ancient or old) + 月 (meat, a variant of root 96)
iii. reading from the word face -- old or aged meat (skin)
iv. its usage -- 胡 人 (barbarian, who has long beard in comparing to Chinese)
v. derived meaning -- reckless


2. 頁 ,
a. For Heisig: the example 57 in the sample material
i. key word (meaning) -- page (of book)
ii. Primitive elements -- turning a shellfish, one
iii. imaginative story -- Pearl of Wisdom, radiant drop of wisdom with one and only page.
Note: In Kangsi dictionary, 頁 is a human head. There is no secret about this. Yet, Heisig discredited it.

b. Tienzen's Chinese Etymology
i. Original meaning -- human head. Kangsi dictionary is correct on this one.
ii. Word in roots -- root 47 (human's head) + 儿 (child, root 36)

The Chinese words are composed of roots (the PB set). The roots in a word give a static image. Then, this image is inferred to give meaning for its descendant words. I will show enough examples on this.


Heisig simply does not know that 頁 is child's head. It depicts the head as an item itself. So, every word containing it is about the "head".
頂 , top of the head
項 , back of the head
順 , following the head, obeying
須 , makeup on head, such as beard, hair, etc.
頑 , slow head, dumb or stubborn
頓 , lowing the head
頭 , another word for head
頒 , many heads, award to many heads
頗 , leaning head (not fair)
領 , back of the head (collar)
額 , the forehead
頜 , lower the chin
頸 , neck
顆 , the unit (or number) of head

There are another hundreds examples. Why does 頁 also mean "page" today? It is a long story.


In Heisig's lesson 4 (page 43, example 57, 頁 ) of his sample lesson, he wrote, "As a primitive, this character often takes the unrelated meaning of a head (preferably one detached from its body), derived from the character for head (Frame 1067)". This is the precise quote, word by word.

Heisig mistakes 頁 as 一 (one) over 貝 (sea shell). Not only is this a major mistake but is a great laughing matter. Every 5th grader in China will laugh his tooth off on this. This kind of mistake cannot be excused by claiming as it is only an imaginative mnemonic device. After all, the etymology of the word itself is already the best mnemonic device for the word.


3. 亡 ,
a. Heisig
i. Key word -- deceased
ii. Primitive elements -- top hat on a hook
iii. story (imaginative memory) -- the deceased gentleman left a top hat on a hook in the front hall.

b. Tienzen' Chinese etymology
i. meaning -- dead or disappear
ii. word in roots -- root 186 (Heaven or heavenly) + root 216 (disappearing)
iii. reading from the word face -- disappearing into Heaven (could be death or eternal life or just a flying away jet or a bird). The key is disappearing.
Let's look some descendant words.


忘 (forget) is 亡 over 心 (heart). The heart wonders away is "forget."
忙 (busy) is "a variant of heart" + 亡 . The heart disappears into ..., it has no time to consider others.
巟 (desolate or lacking of) is 亡 over 川 (flowing water). Flowing water disappears into ....
荒 (desolate field, not managed garden) is root 49 (grassy plant) over 巟
慌 (nervous) is "a variant of heart" + 荒 . The heart is facing a desolate situation, not knowing what to do.
謊 (lie or untrue words) is 言 (speech) + 荒 . When the words are as not managed garden (big mess) or desolate, it cannot be true words.

In all these words, 亡 does not give any hint of an image that "a man is hanging up' a hat while kicking the bucket".

By knowing the correct etymology, the meaning of the words can be read out from their "faces" after learned some basic and some practices. No mnemonic device is needed at all. In fact, not much memory is needed for them neither.


4. 頑 (example 58, lesson 4, page 43 of Heisig's book)
a. Heisig
i. key word -- stubborn
ii. primitive elements -- a blockhead, at the beginning
iii. imaginative story -- Abel and Cain seeking favors of heaven, with stubborn grimace on their faces.

b. Tienzen's etymology
i. word in roots (or radical) -- 元 (beginning) + 頁 (human head)
ii. direct reading -- as a newborn's head (not the physical head but is about its mental capability).
iii. usages
頑 皮 -- playful in a mischievous or nuisance sense.
頑 劣 -- as a rascal, cannot be educated
頑 固 -- stubborn. By selecting "stubborn" as the key word for 頑 , it shows that not only does Heisig not know its etymology, but he does not know the true meaning of the word.


5. 首 (example 67, page 46 of Heisig's book)
a. Heisig
i. key word -- heads
ii. primitive elements -- horns, nose (自 , see his example 32, on page 32)
iii. imaginative story -- the picture of a moose-head hanging on the den wall. with a note: ... frequent metaphorical use of term..., as head of state

b. Tienzen's etymology
i. word in roots -- 八 (root 176, dividing) + root 47 (human head)
ii. direct reading -- combing the head or dressing up the head
iii. usages -- the abstract head of anything, leader, etc..
iv. the descendant words -- 道 、 導


Obviously, Heisig does not know anything about the root 47 (human head) and mistakes it as a horn over nose (自 ). In fact, there are many words from root 47 without the horn, such as,

憂 (worry) -- root 47 (the human head) over root 205 (covering) over 心 (heart) over root 17 (pacing). Direct reading -- the heart is covered by the head while pacing to and fro. Higher generation words -- 優 、 擾 etc.

夏 (name for Chinese race, also means summer) -- root 47 (human head) over root 17 (pacing). Direct reading -- a cultured head pacing. Higher generation words -- 廈

Note: Heisig makes this type of serious error all over the places, such as,
胡 , the right radical 月 (meat) was mistaken as 月 (Moon). This is excusable as most of Chinese people do not know the difference on this one neither.
頁 (head) as 一 (one) over 貝 (shellfish), and this not only is a big error but is a laughing matter.
首 (head) as "animal horn" over 自 (nose). Again, a joke.


6. 丁 (example 86, page 54)
a. Heisig
i. key word -- fourth
ii. primitive elements -- fourth of enumeration ... an lunar calendar
iii. imaginative story -- someone waiting fourth in line , using a giant metal spike as a makeshift chair.
His note: When used as a primitive, the character changes its meaning to nail or spike.

b. Tienzen's etymology
i. word in roots -- 一 (root 1, heaven's chi) over root 5 (rooted chi)
ii. direct reading -- heaven's chi is rooted
iii. the usages
盯 (keep eye on ...) is 目 (eye) + 丁 (rooted)
釘 (nail) is 金 (metal) + 丁 (rooted)
打 (hitting with hand) is "a variant of hand" + 丁
叮 (repeated reminders or sting with mouth) is 口 (mouth) + 丁
訂 (place order or sign agreement) is 言 (speech) + 丁
亭 (a permanent hill top pavilion, as an ancient road site rest area) is root 208 (high ground) over root 205 (cover) over 丁 . Direct read -- a permanent (丁 ) covered place on the hill top.
停 (stop) is 人 (man) + 亭 . Direct read -- at 亭 , man stop for a break.
寧 (tranquility) is root 118 (roof) over 心 (heart) over 皿 (cook ware) over 丁 (rooted). Direct read -- cook ware is set (rooted) under roof (house), the heart is in peace.


Can Heisig's 丁 provide the meaning for those words? What is fourth eye? Fourth metal? Fourth hand? Fourth mouth? etc.. The etymology of above is already the best mnemonic device for those words. Heisig's error cannot be excused by claiming them as simply imaginative mnemonic devices.


Heisig's book could be a fun book for a beginner who knows not any Chinese word. If anyone benefited from Heisig's method, good for him. I, myself, do not see it as a good mnemonic device by arbitrary making up a story for a given Chinese character. In etymology, a true mnemonic device flows out from its logic naturally. Learning all those invented stories will definitely poison learner's mind for a true understanding of Chinese characters.


More information is available from the following discussion threads.
1. Is it wrong to the young students? (誤 人 子 弟)! general-discussion/is-it-wrong-to-the-young-students-t36.html
2. Chinese character set is pseudoscience, 汉 字 是 伪 科 学! general-discussion/chinese-character-set-is-pseudoscience-t15.html
3. How about the zhongwen.com? asking-questions/how-about-the-zhongwen-com-t40.html
4. T.K.Ann and Leon Wieger asking-questions/t-k-ann-and-leon-wieger-t124.html


With all the above, I have showed that Chinese philologists and Western Sinologists were wrong. The mnemonic device without knowing the correct etymology is very bad. Thus, any educator who is still teaching his students with those old ways is definitely wrong to his students and will definitely carry the karma of his immoral act.