mercredi 14 mai 2008

Chinese words and their components

Chinese words are often made up of several components and each of them sometimes has meanings on their own. Here is an example:

Sometimes, by recognizing each of the components, one might be able to get a hint of what the word mean. Especially by looking at the radicals, it is easy to classify the word and to determine what is it associated with.

For example: “你”,“他”,“们”
The radical of the two words shown above is “standing person”, hence we can recognize that the words are associated with humans.

Another example: “脑”,“脚”,“腿”
The word“月”when used as a radical, refers to “flesh”. Hence most words that refer to the human anatomies are often written with a “月”radical.

Can you figure out what these words are associated with (if you don't know them yet)?
地铁 (di4 tie3)
垃圾 (la1 ji1)

However, not all words are associated as such.

Some phrases did not exist in the Chinese dictionary until they were invented due to the need to create a Chinese name for a foreign item. An example would be the above picture that shows “Sprite” in Chinese (left can). In Chinese it is read as “xue3 bi4”.

The word “chocolate” did not exist in the Chinese dictionary until the introduction of chocolate to the Chinese people. (Just for fun: The first people known to make chocolate were from Mexico and Central America, it was later spreaded further through the Spanish conquistadors.) A sound-adaptation of the English word “chocolate” was created and hence, in Chinese, chocolate is 巧克力 (qiao3 ke1 li4). Such words are termed "loanwords". (外来词 wai4 lai2 ci2)

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