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wangwen shengyi

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wangwen shengyi

Postby frank » Sat Aug 06, 2005 4:37 pm

Hi all,

I came across this interesting term: 望文生义, which got translated as "folk etymology". Is it something as attributing a kind of logical meaning between the 女 and 马 in a character as 妈? (once read that the woman 女 was associated with horses 马; or 休 being a person (人) sitting under a tree (木), hence 休. Both explanations strike me as rather fanciful).
Could somebody give an example of this 望文生义?

Thanks in advance,

Frank
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Aug 07, 2005 12:57 pm

悪 is a hole in the heart (心). So pedagogic!
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Postby anders » Tue Aug 09, 2005 2:27 pm

Some common ones are 好, woman plus child = good; 家, pig under roof = home (people and pigs, dogs, poultry lived together in the house); 安, woman under roof = peaceful (perhaps not very PC: it is peaceful as long as the man restrains his wife/wiwes to staying at home); 姦 three women = illicit sexual relations, by some interpreted as women being naturally licentious, but by others to say that a man who entertains relationships with three women at the same time is an adulterer, a deceitful person, crafty and evil, to choose some of the compound words using 姦.

Another standard example is two women, to mean strife or gossip. I don’t find it in current Chinese or Japanese dictionaries, probably being too non-PC. But considering family structures in China of old, there would probably be lots of disturbances between the number 1 wife and other wives/concubines.

The explanation for 妈 is not folk etymology, but simpler. A character for ’mother’ was needed. So, some clever fellow chose the horse character 马, which also was pronounced ’ma’ but in another tone. To distinguish, the mother character was made by using horse ’ma’ for sound and adding as the left part 女 nü ‘woman’ for meaning.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Sep 10, 2005 5:20 pm

Frank, if I have understood the term correctly, 望文生义 doesn’t so much refer to folk etymologies, i e, erroneous attempts to explain the provenance of individual graphs (汉字), but rather to flawed interpretations of phrases in a text (for which we must all pray to be forgiven, for such lapses happen to us all). For examples, see the entry in the 汉语大词典, 6-1285….

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Postby anders » Sun Sep 11, 2005 4:02 am

Or, according to one dictionary, "misinterpret words through taking them too literally".
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Postby Flaminius » Sun Sep 11, 2005 7:34 am

Could somebody care to provide the traditional form of the fourth kanji? Seeing a sentence, generates X....
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Postby anders » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:46 am

yì. 義. Spahn-Hadamitzky 2o11.3, "Old" Nelson 3668. Gi 'justice'.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:57 am

Now, this one I understand. Why did they have to change? :)

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Postby Flaminius » Sun Sep 11, 2005 12:02 pm

Thanks, anders. 義 is in this phrase used as meaning.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Sep 11, 2005 1:17 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:... Why did they have to change? :)

Why indeed ? Well, as you know, changes with respect to the use of 汉字 (漢字) were made just about everywhere in East Asia after the war, in Japan with the promulgation of the 当用漢字 in 1946 (modified slightly with the promulgation of the 常用漢字 in 1981), in Korea, both North and South of the 38th parallel with the former being replaced by slightly different versions of the native system known as the 한글 (Hangul) in the South and the 조선글 (Chosŏngŭl) in the North. On the mainland of China, simplified graphs were introduced in 1956 and 1964 (and again in 1977, but these latter were rescinded in 1986). In both China and Japan, the thought was that these orthographic reforms would lead to the abolition of the Chinese graphs, but this met so much opposition that the projects had to be (temporarily ?) abandoned. In Korea, however, knowledge of the graphs is no longer necessary for general literacy, something which must be an enormous relief to generations of Korean school children, who can use their time to more profitable ends than to study one of humanity's more complicated orthographies. On the other hand, access to historical documents requires knowledge of the graphs (in my experience, it matters little if one has learned 简体字 or 繁體字 or 当用(常用)漢字 - the similarities far outweigh the differences). But to argue that all school children must be burden with the immense task it is to obtain a mastery of the system introduced, according to legend, by the Yellow Emperor's principle historiographer 倉頡 after studying the patterns formed by the footprints of birds and (other) animals, would be like arguing that all school children in Europe or America must spend 40 % of their time in primary school learning Latin and (ancient) Greek. Languages evolve ; orthographies evolve. As Herakleitos is alleged to have said,
Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει


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曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sun Sep 11, 2005 2:11 pm

I didn't Herodotus to be so fond of squares. Did he have a Hebrew influence? :wink:

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Postby anders » Sun Sep 11, 2005 4:35 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:I didn't Herodotus to be so fond of squares. Did he have a Hebrew influence? :wink:

Brazilian dude

I think that Herakleitos wasn't and hadn't. Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει is what you get when copying from here. Strangely enough, it displays all right when copied to my WinWord. It's the accented letters that don't work, so, skipping accents, it is Παντα ρει και ουδεν μενει (Everything flows, nothing stands still).
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Sep 11, 2005 4:42 pm

BD, for Hebrew influences you'll have to turn to men of learning like Flam, Anders, and Garzo ; that sort of thing is far beyond me (I can however, manage a little Jiddisch, but nobody seemed to regard «A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un a flot» as worthy of a response)....

Henri
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Sep 11, 2005 4:55 pm

anders wrote:... Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει is what you get when copying from here. ....

Anders, back in the good old days several decades ago, another version of Herakleitos' dictum, «Τα πάντα ῥεῖ», was written on the wall of the lecture hall of the Anatomical Institution at Karolinska Institutet for the elucidation of students and (I hope) lecturers. If the hall has not been rebuilt or repainted, presumably it stands there still, but τα πάντα ῥεῖ !...

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby anders » Mon Sep 12, 2005 2:35 am

Another angle for a flot
M. Henri Day wrote:response

A CCCR citizen teased a Swiss guy, "How absurd for you to have a naval ministry!". Swiss guy: "Well, you have a ministry of justice, haven't you?"
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