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會 -- kuài​



This reading always throws me, as in 會計 (accounting).

I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason why 會 has two entirely different meanings with two entirely different pronunciations. But for the life of me I have no idea what it could be.

I think it's time I get a Chinese etymology dictionary.


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Why is a etymology dictionary necessary? Can't you just learn them? Why is it necessary to know why? Is it because you find them difficult to remember? I mean Mandarin is not my mother tongue and I just learnt these different pronunciations by remembering them.

I have just found out that cullender is the same as colander. And there are other such words such as gaol = jail. I didn't question why. I just learnt them. Maybe there is something lacking on my part.

PS - I've thought more about the comments above and concluded that they were not fair. Not good at all. I am sorry.

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You have it easy! :P Consider the poor Hokkien (Taiwanese) speaker who needs to learn 5 different pronunciations (not just tones). I count four distinct (common) meanings... meeting, able to, to add, and let's not forget, 一会儿, a while.

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@skylee, all good questions.

I don't do very well learning things I don't understand. So the more about a language I know, the easier it is for me to remember it. Plus, knowing more about a language can make it more enjoyable to learn.

Plus, I'm curious. It seems weird to me. Different words with similar or the same meaning I can accept, they occur all the time. A single character with such different meaning and pronunciation, well, it just seems like there might be a good story behind it.

BTW, my daughter loves your new dancing avatar! She thinks it's really cute.

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If you think about it, huì and kuài aren't all that different. The 'h' and the 'k' are articulated in pretty much the same place ('h' is a velar fricative and 'k' is a velar plosive), there is a 'u' medial, and the finals differ a bit. They very well could have descended from the same reading in Middle Chinese or earlier, but diverged over time. The Chinese Text Project dictionary lists *huɑ̀i as the MC reconstruction, which seems to support that, though of course I can't say conclusively.

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But 會 was used to mean "to settle [a bill]" as early as the Spring and Autumn period in 管子, and there's a passage in 戰國策 that reads 「誰習計會」. In both cases, the reading is given as kuài on the Chinese Text Project dictionary. Also, 古汉语常用字字典 says

7. kuài(快)。算账。【会计、计会】算账的工作。

It then cites an example in 周禮 (岁终则会计其政), and the one I mentioned in 戰國策. So it may have been borrowed from Japanese, but it looks like the Japanese borrowed it from Chinese first.

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