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tooironic

醉 - drunk etymology

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tooironic

Here's a good trivia question for you all: why is 醉 (zuì - drunk) made up of 酉 (yǒu) 'wine' and 卒 zú ('soldier') phonetic? Sounds strange to me, but I like the imagery. :mrgreen:

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chrix

卒 doesn't only mean "soldier", it also means "finish, end". Let me now give the floor to Mr Xu Shen:

醉:卒也。卒其度量,不至於亂也。一曰潰也。从酉从卒。

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tooironic

@chrix I can't read classical Chinese.

@cantonese I was looking for an etymology, not a definition.

EDIT: Oh, you edited your reply chrix, thanks, that makes sense now.

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gougou

Isn't the first part of cantonese's reply what you were looking for?

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realmayo

Was 卒 not selected just because it sounded like "drunk"? ie a 形声字?

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Daan

Good point, realmayo. Starostin's reconstruction of Old Chinese phonology says 卒 would have been pronounced as cut 'to finish [v], soldier [n]' when the Chinese writing system was emerging, with 醉 being read as cuts 'to be drunk'. Now, Sinitic languages are thought to have derivational morphological features up until at least the time of Confucius, so what are now two words might back then have been simply one word cut to which a -s suffix was added to create cuts meaning 'to be finished by alcohol -> drunk'. We do not know a lot about those suffixes as yet, so I couldn't explain why this suffix would cause such a change in meaning (certainly not at the moment, as I don't have the relevant literature here). Later on, as the language changed, the words grew apart further and further, resulting in 卒 and zuì 醉.

I hope this is not too confusing. It's complicated stuff, hard to explain. Please do ask if anything's unclear :)

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chrix

realmayo, the "real" story behind these characters is more complicated. Xu Shen created his six principles long after the characters were in place. But as a learning technique, it's cool. If you're interested in more details, you should check out this book:

The Origin and Early Development of the Chinese Writing System, William G. Boltz, ISBN 0-940490-18-8.

Edited by chrix

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Hofmann

Some characters are thought to be related, such as 傳 (Baxter says dron) meaning "transmit" and 傳 (drons) "n. record" (Pulled from the Fuller book).

But I don't think 醉 and 卒 are thus related.

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chrix

are we talking about characters or words here? Because since characters were used according to the rebus principle going both ways, i.e. phonetic similarity and semantic metonymy, you could argue this would make them "related". As far as words go, this is an entirely different matter.

So I would also recommend these sources, one of which Hofmann mentions as well:

- William H. Baxter: A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and monographs No. 64 Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1992. ISBN 3-11-012324-X.

- Laurent Sagart: The roots of Old Chinese. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 184. Mouton de Gruyter, Amsterdam 1999. ISBN 90-272-3690-9/1-55619-961-9

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Daan

Well, I don't have Baxter's monograph with me here, nor do I have Schuessler's etymological dictionary, so I couldn't say much about that. Starostin's online database of Old Chinese phonology does suggest the words those characters referred to were related back in the Zhou dynasty, which does not seem unlikely to me. And the fact that they sounded similar then caused the characters to have the same phonetic component. Why don't you think they are thus related, Hofmann, if I may ask? :)

tooironic, sorry for hijacking your thread with a discussion on historical linguistics :wink:

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chrix

I do remember people being skeptical about Starostin's data, thought I'd just throw this out there as a word of warning...

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Daan

There's also plenty of people sceptical of Baxter's reconstructions, but you have a point, yes. I wish I could look it up in Schuessler's dictionary, but I don't have it over here. So if you really want to know, you should probably look it up in:

Schuessler 2007

Axel Schuessler. ABC etymological dictionary of Old Chinese. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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chrix

I think the degree of skepticism can't be compared between the two, I'd say 不能相提並論.

FWIW, this is what Schuessler says:

zuì1 醉 (tswiC) LH tsuis, OCM *tsuts [T] ONW tsui

'Drunk' [shi] .

- cuì1 啐 (tshuâiC) LH [email protected], OCM *tshuts

'To taste, drink' 啐 [Liji].

[E] ST: WB cut 'suck, imbibe, absorb'.

[C] This wf belongs perh. to the same root as cuì 淬 'dip into' because of the common

notion that one 'soaks' in vices, note yín3 淫; cuì 啐 and 淬 may be the same word.

Alternatively perh. connected with WT bzi 'intoxication'.

So etymologically no connection to 卒, looks like it's the good ol' rebus principle at work...

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Daan

Ah, interesting. Thanks for looking that up! I wasn't too happy with using that online database in the first place, but didn't really have access to any other sources. So, now, back to tooironic: how's that for an answer? ;)

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tooironic

Hehe, thanks a lot, those were very detailed answers! But I'm still a little lost in all the mumbo-jumbo. Can somebody just sum up the etymology for me in one sentence? It's for the Wiktionary entry.

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chrix

there's no easy one-sentence summary, I'm afraid. Tell us what of the above is unclear and we'll try to work it out...

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tooironic

Oh come on don't be like that :P Perhaps two sentences then? :D

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chrix

For instance, it would begin with the question what exactly you meant with "the etymology of the character". To different people, "etymology" may mean different things. Most people are happy with the descriptions provided by Xu Shen, which usually amount to no more than folk etymology. But that's usually also what you find in dictionaries, so this might be the way to go for you. On the other hand, from a scholarly perspective, this is just plain wrong, but to appreciate this one needs to understand how characters were created at a time when there were no "radicals"* (also quite a misnomer) around.

*) I also don't know if the character does appear in bronze or oracle bone inscriptions, and in what form.

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tooironic

I suppose for the purposes of Wiktionary, it's really just about explaining the components of the character and how to read meaning from them (if possible). The simpler the better. My main confusion was how to read 卒 (as "soldier", "end", just a phonetic or a combination of these?). To go into historical/philological considerations is probably overkill.

Edited by tooironic

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