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Christa

部 is an unusual measure word and can be used with a range of different words, from mobile phones to cars to novels to films.

 

Now I realise that obviously the measure word is the measure words is the measure word but I was just wondering if anyone could hazard a guess as to why 部 came to be used for this weird mixture of stuff. I mean, I can kind of see why it might be used for films, operas and plays. And why for novels and series of books. These things kinda fit in some sort of definable category. But can anyone hazard a guess how it went from them to electronic items such as cars and phones? I mean that must have been the later development but why?

 

Any guesses?

 

Christa

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ilande

Not really an explanation of where it comes from, but Japanese uses 部品 to mean (machine) parts. It's not really used for the finished product such as cars or phones, but rather the parts that make them up. I thought the usage might be somewhat related.

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Michaelyus

The pathway of grammaticalisation according to Xing (2012) is as follows:

 

Quote

'tribal army' > CL for organized group of people > CL for volume of written documents > CL for collectable books

 

From that, its extension to works of literature is clear.

 

According to the abstract of this 2016 paper (in Chinese), the extension to machines came from its use for organised systems. Hence it says:

Quote

"部"通过转喻,将由各部分组成为整体的这类名词进行范畴化,形成其搭配体系。

 

 

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Christa

Ooh, these are both interesting responses.

 

So the essence here is that it's for things that possess some type of organisation. The parts of a machine are organised to function together, written documents are organised in some systematic way and then I suppose the literary aspect of novels then allowed it to also be used for plays, operas and then ultimately films.

 

I must say, I wasn't optimistic before that such an interesting and comprehensive answer might actually be possible.

 

Thanks!

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