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Xiéshēng 諧聲 (Phonetic Series)
(1,949 words)

The earliest Chinese characters were derived from pictures. For example, the character 其 stems from the oracle bone form , which is a representation of a winnowing basket. But some words, such as the third person possessive pronoun, are difficult to represent pictorially. Because the pronunciation of this word was homophonous with the pronunciation of the word for "winnowing basket", the character writing the latter could be “borrowed” to represent the former (the words are still similar in modern Mandarin pronunciation: ‘third-person possessive pronoun, ‘winnowing basket…

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Wuyun PAN, “Xiéshēng 諧聲 (Phonetic Series)”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 26 May 2022 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000467>
First published online: 2015

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