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Pedroski

Etymology of 走

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Pedroski

[Admin note: Split from discussion here]

 

Learning the characters is part of the fun of learning Chinese. Pinyin is just a crutch for us 老外。

 

I think the most fundamental meaning of “走” is actually to run, with “行” being walk,

 

Out of etymological interest, how do you figure that?

 

走 originally shows (a one-legged (or footed person)??) 人 + 止,  a person on foot. How do you divine 'run' from that?

 

行 originally shows a crossroads.

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OneEye
走 originally shows (a one-legged (or footed person)??) 人 + 止,  a person on foot. How do you divine 'run' from that?

 

I'm not sure where you got that, but the oracle bone form of 走 depicts a person running. No foot (see here, note the arms which resemble a person running). The foot was added later (and it was 夭+止, not 人), during the Western Zhou period. Not to mention, it's quite well-known and widely accepted that 走 originally meant 'run,' and that 'walk' is a much later development.

 

You're right that 行 did depict a crossroads, but it's not much of a stretch from there to get to 'walk.'

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Pedroski

www.zdic.net/z/25/sw/8D70.htm

 

better here www.zdic.net/z/25/zy/8D70.htm

 

looks like the meaning is more 'jump over something'

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OneEye

What makes you think it means "jump over something?"

 

The 說文 isn't even close to being adequate here. It was written ~1500 years after the earliest known form (which I linked to) and is full of inaccuracies. You can read some about that here and here. My explanation above represents the scholarly consensus on this character. If you want to claim otherwise, you need to provide some really substantial evidence. You can't just make stuff up, and a few links to a website (links which don't support your claim in any way, by the way) won't suffice.

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Pedroski

Hey hey, calm down, I am not questioning your competence in these matters. What would I know of Oracle Inscriptions. I just said,'that's what it looks like to me'.

 

I would however just mention that scholars, because they  are human, can err. This is something which we should all bear in mind.

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OneEye

My point (which I think I'm making very calmly) is that you can't simply make things up, which is what you're doing. And your original statement was one of fact, not "that's what it looks like to me." But I think we've derailed this thread long enough, so I'll leave it at that.

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Pedroski

It is a fact that the old character, with legs wide and something underneath, reminds me of a ballet dancer leaping over something. Something in the proportions suggests 'leap' to me. I would not, nor did, claim that that is the meaning, having no inkling of how to interpret these old, or indeed, any newer characters. That is something I hope to learn.

 

Actually, the original old character, showing a stick-man with one arm up and one arm down is quite eloquent. Assuming they didn't have aircraft carriers then, running is a good bet. Today I've been asking myself, why did they start to put what purports to be a foot under it?? People are normally 'on foot'.

 

What extra meaning did that bring??

 

I like the way this little bird 隹 gets put in many characters. I can never figure out what it's doing there! (Except in 集。)

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Demonic_Duck

Pedroski, I seem to remember you mentioned somewhere you're not a native speaker, I think that may be where the confusion is coming from. If you start a sentence with "looks like [statement]", that normally implies that you think it's clear from the evidence you've seen that [statement] is the case. If you want to express that it's a subjective impression based on appearance alone, you should go with something like "it looks like [some particular object] to me".

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陳德聰

He didn't mention it, I did.

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Altair

 

Today I've been asking myself, why did they start to put what purports to be a foot under it?? People are normally 'on foot'.

 

What extra meaning did that bring??

A picture of a person with waving arms might indicate: "beckon," "excited," "pound," or many other meanings.  Perhaps only by adding "foot" do you get a clear understanding that the picture relates to waving your arms while doing something with your feet.

 

 

I like the way this little bird 隹 gets put in many characters. I can never figure out what it's doing there! (Except in 集。)

 I often wonder the same thing, but here are links to two example explanations:

 

进/進          and           难/難

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Pedroski

Haha, you're in trouble now! I have been assured that this old character, the stick man with one arm up and one down, originally meant 'run', and woe betide any who dare gainsay!  You are obviously not one of the 'scholars who agree', but what you say is at least 'imaginable'. Imaginings are allowed, one presumes.

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OneEye

I wonder if we shouldn't make a new thread for this? Could a mod move the etymological discussion? Then again, we haven't seen the OP in a while.

 


 I often wonder the same thing, but here are links to two example explanations:

 

进/進          and           难/難

 

I'd have to look into 進 a bit more to know if that explanation is right or not, but I know that 難 is wrong. 難 was simply the name of a bird, which later got borrowed phonetically (假借) for its current meaning. The left side is the sound component (same as the right side of 漢, but not 堇 as that site claims).

 

As for 走, there's a theory that says that 夭 was the original form and was used to write both 夭 and 走, with 止 being added later to distinguish the two from each other. They may have been pronounced the same or close to it, in which case 夭 is also the sound component. If not, then 止 is simply a distinguishing mark that happens to support the meaning "run."

 

A picture of a person with waving arms might indicate: "beckon," "excited," "pound," or many other meanings.

 

Keep in mind, you don't divine meaning from characters, even in the oracle bone script. A character is used to write a particular word or words. It's a fairly set system. A literate person in the Shang dynasty wouldn't get the character for "run" confused with "wave" any more than one would confuse 快跑 and 揮手 today. However, if a character was used to write two different senses (like 高 and 京), people might get confused as to which one was meant, which is why distinguishing marks were added (like 止 to 走, 口 to 高, or the more widely-known 夊 to 麥).

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imron
Could a mod move the etymological discussion?

Done.

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Pedroski

It is a curious fact in language, that, when we want or have a new meaning, we do not always invent a new word. We just 'bend' the use of a known word. Thus it is, that the OED needs something in the region of 60 000 words to explain the meanings of the little word 'set'. Old meanings may be lost, new meanings may be completely assimilated.

 

If archeologists ever unearth an old aircraft carrier from 4000 years ago in China, then I will assume here is a flight controller leading a VTOL onto the landing deck!

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淨土極樂

A curious thing I noticed.

 

Natives usually try to explain the etymology of a character by trying to make sense of all the components in the modern form, they don't seem to care if it's a 形声字 or 假借字. E.g. I recently heard somebody explaining 管 by saying that the meaning comes from an official (官) using bamboo sticks (竹) to control the people. But in actuality, 管 is just the name of an ancient instrument, which were usually made out of bamboo (竹), and 官 here is simply the phonetic part. So it's a 形声字 first, 假借字 second.

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li3wei1

I think of 管 primarily as pipe or tube, which would be made of bamboo and which controls the movement of water.

Are you sure he was explaining where the word came from, or was he talking about how he remembered it? Many of the stories I tell myself about characters have nothing to do with their true histories, but they help me. In fact, many of the official etymologies may be similar - someone's 'how do I remember this character' story got retold often enough that it became an accepted version, and the truth we may never know. The truth may in fact be hideously complicated, something to do with an ancient way of pronouncing a near-dead dialect, a scribe in a hurry, or slightly drunk, an object that no one today would recognise, or realise that it is often used in conjunction with something else, etc. Will that help you remember the character? Maybe, but it may also be a lot easier to just make something up that is relevant to you, and the way the character looks and sounds and is used today.

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OneEye
The truth may in fact be hideously complicated...Will that help you remember the character?

 

Well, sure it would. But it isn't necessary for most people to go that in-depth. An explanation of the modern form by way of functional components is all that's needed for most characters. If you know what each component is doing (or that it isn't doing anything, in the case of corrupted components), then you know what you need to know, without having to make something up. Functional components either express sound or meaning, and that's exactly what a character records: a word, which is a sound attached to a meaning. If you know sound and meaning components, you can use them to get back to the character you're trying to remember.

 

That's not to say that mnemonics aren't useful. But like I said before, they're much more useful when you attach them to something you understand.

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淨土極樂

BTW, OneEye, what would be your take on 器? I always had a feeling that it's utensils for eating (dog) meat. A dog meat dish in the center and four bowls surrounding it.

 

As I understand, dog meat was pretty common as food in ancient China and this is reflected in many characters, e..g. 然 (later 燃).

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OneEye

The Shuowen's explanation is that it's a dog guarding four vessels (maybe bowls), but according to 劉釗, 犬 might actually be the sound component in that character. That makes sense to me, although I have to admit the sound connection seems a bit tenuous to me (though I'm not a phonologist, so I'll defer to 劉釗 here).

 

Additionally, the graphs 哭 and 器 were often interchangeable in the Warring States period and earlier. Their pronunciations were similar, and it was common for with characters with four 口s to be abbreviated to only two. But they were later differentiated.

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Tomsima
On 2014/10/29 at 7:06 PM, OneEye said:

The Shuowen's explanation is that it's a dog guarding four vessels (maybe bowls), but according to 劉釗, 犬 might actually be the sound component in that character.

Just browsing through an old thread, and came across this. I happened to be reading the outlier entry for 器 earlier, which seems to answer this question. However i found the entry pretty confusing, as it both links 犬 to 桑, the sound component of 喪, then later states that the relationship of 器 and 喪 is "not of sound". Don't know what to make of that? interested to learn more.

 

On a note for others interested in etymology, outlier is proving to be a great gateway into old Chinese for me, so refreshing after years of "woman in house is peaceful"

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