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Etymology

(7,560 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
1. Definition The index to William Dwight Whitney’s (1827–1894) Life and Growth of Language includes an entry that identifies etymology as “[the] foundation of linguistic science”. “The whole process of linguistic research begins and depends upon etymology, the tracing out of the histories of individual words and elements. … [and] perfecting of the methods of etymologizing is what especially distinguishes the new linguistic science from the old.” (Whitney 1896 [1875]:323, 312–313; Malkiel 1975:104–105). Whitney’s use of the phrase “the new linguistic science” is a re…
Date: 2017-03-02

Ideographic Fallacy: Historical and Conceptual Issues

(3,272 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
1. Definition and Early History An “ideograph” (alternatively “ideogram”) is, insofar as we can take the term itself at face value, nothing other than a written mark, i.e., a ‘graph’ (γράφος), that stands directly for an ‘idea’ (ἰδέα), however this may be understood, with no intervening linguistic mediation. The word has no classical existence; it was, together with its adjectival form ‘ideographic’, a learned neologism introduced into French and English in the early 19th century in connection with t…
Date: 2017-03-02

Shuōwén jiězì 說文解字

(6,761 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
The Shuōwén jiězì 說文解字 [Explaining the unit characters and analyzing the compound characters], often referred to for convenience simply as the Shuōwén, is a 1st-century-CE character dictionary, the chief purpose of which is to explain the graphic structure of individual characters. The explanations that it presents are based on a first-level analytical classificatory scheme that accounts in principle for the structure of the Chinese writing system as it was understood at that time. The dictionary was compiled by the…
Date: 2017-03-02

Binomes

(3,440 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
The designation "binome", Chinese liánmiánzì 聯緜字 ~ 連綿字, more technically liánmiáncí 聯緜詞 (excluding references to unanalyzable three-syllable expressions that share some phonetic feature), is a cover term for two different types of two-syllable expressions (in written form: two-character expressions) in Classical Chinese. Type I are those in which the two syllables have some significant phonetic feature in common, so that the expression is riming, alliterative or reduplicated. Type II are those that do not…
Date: 2017-03-02

Dimidiation

(3,457 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
Dimidiation means literally ‘through the middle’ (Lat. di-midius), i.e., ‘split in half’ and linguistically refers to a kind of lexical development whereby a monosyllabic word becomes bisyllabic as a consequence of sound change. In a Chinese language history context it is sometimes called "word-splitting" (Packard 1997:10–11) and could also be called bisyllabification. The term was first used in connection with Chinese language history by P.A. Boodberg, at first only to refer to the fǎnqiè 反切 method of indicating the pronunciation of a single character by means of th…
Date: 2017-03-02

Origin of the Chinese Writing System

(7,992 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
1. Definition and Earliest Attestations In the most straightforward sense writing entails the association of the sounds of a language with graphs in a systematic and conventionally functional way, that is, in a way that all users of the graphs recognize and adhere to. To be writing, in other words, a graph must have an established, fixed and recognized sound-related value, a feature formally designated as {+P}; such writing is technically called glottographic (Sampson 1985:29; Hyman 2006). A graph may or may not also have a fixed semantic value, that is, a meaning (…
Date: 2017-03-02

Ergativity in Classical Chinese

(1,669 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
Ergativity is generally defined as “a grammatical pattern in which the subject of an intransitive clause is treated in the same way as the object of a transitive clause, and differently from a transitive subject” (Dixon 1994:1). In terms of the “three primitive relations” that Dixon identifies as S ‘intransitive subject’, A ‘transitive subject’ and O ‘transitive object’ (Dixon 1994:6), languages in which S and A are treated in the same way, distinct from O, are called nominative-accusative, and …
Date: 2017-03-02

Liù shū 六書 (Six Scripts)

(6,010 words)

Author(s): William G. BOLTZ
The term liù shū 六書 ‘six scripts’ usually refers to the six traditionally recognized types of Chinese character structures or usages. The term is first attested in the Zhōu lǐ 周禮 [Rites of Zhōu], section “Dì guǎn, Bǎo shì 地管保氏” [Terrestrial offices, administrator for fostering youth] ( Zhōu lǐ zhùshū 14/6b) as one of the subjects in which the royal heir-apparent was to be tutored, but what exactly the liù shū are is not in that text spelled out, and it cannot be assumed that the term there necessarily refers to the same thing that it means from Hàn times on (Zhāng…
Date: 2017-03-02