mercredi 14 mai 2008

Ancient Chinese Texts

The earliest records of writings of the origins of the Chinese language are not from bone oracles (as many would believe it to be), they are actually from ancient tombs that contained potteries with inscriptions on them that resembled words on bone oracles. These potteries antedated oracle bones by about more than 1,000 years. They are called “pictographs” and showed resemblance to scripts. Hence, Chinese is not an alphabetic language, but a script of ideograms.

Over many thousand years of China’s history, the written Chinese language had changed tremendously; from pictographs that might vary to the standardized words that we see now. Especially with the rise of print capitalism, Chinese words are standardized and even simplified (see below).

However, it is through these gradual changes, many Chinese characters lost their visual meaning. Some words cannot be identified to be associated to what it means as a whole word through looking at its radicals or phonetic complexes.

Words that still contain meaning through visual means:
凹 ao1 (concave)
凸 tu1 (convex)
山 shan1 (mountain)
一 yi1 (one)
二 er4 (two)
三 san1 (three)

An example that has no visual links:
默 mo4 (silence), made up of 黑 hei1 and 犬 quan3 (black and dog)

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