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etymological dictionary and etymology of 行李箱


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calculatrix

Hello Experts,
is there a web source or a book that explains in English (!) the etymology of Chinese words (not characters)?
The reason for asking: I stumbled over the word 行李箱.
How did the plum tree get into the suitcase? Does somebody know?

Thank You

 

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NinKenDo

Hey there, there is the 'ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese' just in case anyone interested stumbles into this topic. It's available for Wenlin and I believe Pleco. However it's of Old Chinese, so will not answer OP's question.

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NinKenDo

According to Wiktionary it's simply a phonetic borrowing of the character that's existed since Old Chinese. Old source cited though.

 

Duffus, William (1883) , “baggage”, in English-Chinese Vocabulary of the Vernacular or Spoken Language of Swatow, Swatow: English Presbyterian Mission Press, page 16

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mikelove

EDOC is licensed but not released, due to a combination of data processing issues + the fact that we still don't have a great system for appending notes / references / etc to dictionaries (and those are super important for that particular title).

 

We might take another stab at it after 4.0 is out but of course by that point modern Chinese will probably be considered Old Chinese 🙂

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abcdefg

 

Quote

@calculatrix -- "is there a web source or a book that explains in English (!) the etymology of Chinese words (not characters)?"

 

Would Outlier Linguistics be of help for your purpose? They got a lot of coverage here for a while, but seem to have somewhat dropped out of view. 

 

Here's an old link. At the bottom of it is a link to their website. 

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44854-resources-on-character-etymology/?tab=comments#comment-336265 

 

 

 
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mikelove

Outlier is specifically for characters, not words. (and they're still cheerfully producing updates - the project may be slow but it's very much alive)

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NinKenDo

Would definitely pay again to have EDOC in Pleco. I can understand why you might be struggling with it, even the guys at Wenlin had to throw up their hands on certain things and only half integrated it into their Zidian in the end.

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calculatrix

Thank you, everybody!
That is cool.
So, 通假字 means, that in ancient times there was a word 行理箱?
And in later but still ancient times by misspelling (or was it intentionally?) 理 was replaced by the phonetically but not semantically equivalent 李 which became standard.
Correct?
Are there more 通假字s?
Did this occur often?

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NinKenDo

I'm unsure whether 行李 was ever rendered as 行理, only info I found is that the two are etymologically related. Sorry if this is a confusing distinction. To say whether the word 行李 was ever written 行理, you would need to find an instance of the written form 行理 where the contemporary meaning of the word which 行李 represents had developed, but it wasn't rendered with the two characters 行李.

 

It may be the case that the word 行李 has never been written with the characters 行理, but only the original word 行理, which holds an etymologically related meaning.

 

Does that make any sense? It's quite hard to make clear what I'm trying to say, but it gets into issues of "what is a word" and "what is its relationship to written language", etc. You might also need to look at reconstructions of Older Chinese and regional varieties.

 

Basically no way I can say with any certainty unless someone finds a source by an expert who's done the work that very clearly lays out the etymologically development of the word.

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NinKenDo

FYI, I'm popping the EDOC entries for 李 and 理 down below.

 

As you can see, even when the suggested derivations, and contemporary meanings were different, these two characters were pronounced exactly the same (assuming the accuracy of the reconstruction). So that's one question answered.

 

Just FYI anecdotally, this is quite rare. I honestly expected a later merge, but these have been pronounced the same further back than our earliest reliable reconstructions.

 

EDIT: Sorry I should have explained the entry formats. Without going in to all the specialised notation, the part of interest is the line under the character.

MC        = Middle (or ancient) Chinese (ca. 600 AD)

LH         = I think means Early Middle / Later Old Chinese, but it is missing from the glossary

OCM      = Minimal Old Chinese

ONW(C) = Old Northwest Chinese ca. 400 AD (W. South Coblin. Old Northwest Chinese.)

 

2189
    lǐ₁ 李
     MC: ljɨᴮ  LH: liəᴮ  OCM: *rəʔ [T] ONW liə
    ‘Plum’ (Prunus salicina) [Shi], a fruit tree which originated in North China; the Northern Mǐn initial s- as in Jiàn’ōu sɛᶜ² may be due to loss of a pre-initial, PMin *ḷəiᴮ (Mei / Norman 1971: 101).

2192
    lǐ₄ 理里
     MC: ljɨᴮ  LH: liəᴮ  OCM: *rəʔ [T] MTang li ONW liə
    ‘Cut jade according to its veins’ [Guoce], ‘to divide fields into sections, boundaries’ 理
    [Shi]; ‘a mile’ 里 [Shi]. The basic meaning is ‘cut in a regular way, divide into equal sections’.
    [E] ST: This etymon is often considered to be related to PTB *riy ‘draw, paint, write, delimit’ etc. (STC no. 429; HST: 66) > Lushai riᴿ ‘boundary, frontier, limit, line of demarcation’, NNaga *rəy ‘thread, boundary’, and WT ’bri-ba, bris ‘to draw, write’ ⪤ ris ‘figure’, WB reᴮ ‘write, delineate, paint’, Mru pri ‘to scratch’ [Löffler 1966: 133]. However, OC *ə corresponds normally to PTB *a, only rarely, if ever, to *i (§11.2.2).

2194
    lǐ₅ 理
     MC: ljɨᴮ  LH: liəᴮ  OCM: *rəʔ
    ‘To regulate, reason’ [Yi]; ‘administer’ [Lüshi] is prob. related to lí₄ 釐 ‘regulate’, and possibly also to lǐ₆ 理 ‘envoy’. This item and lǐ₄ 理 are usually thought to be the same word, which is possible: ‘divide into sections > regulate’. Middle Viet. mlẽ, mnhẽ ‘reason’ [Maspero 1912: 78] could perh. be a CH loan. A possible cognate may be jì₈ 紀.

2195
    lǐ₆ 理
     MC: ljɨᴮ  LH: liəᴮ  OCM: *rəʔ
    ‘An envoy’ [Zuo], ‘jail official’ [Guanzi], ‘marriage go-between’ [Chuci].
    This is perh. the s. w. as lǐ₅ 理 ‘to administer’ [Lüshi].
    [E] AA: OKhmer (7th cent. AD) *re /rəə ~ ree/ ‘to move, change position …’ has the derivative OKhmer pre /prəə/ ‘to send’ (on an errand or commission), ‘to order, assign, appoint, delegate, use, make, employ’ ⪤ OKhmer paṃre ‘to serve; servant, delegate, representative, minister; service, duty’. Initial p- is the Khmer causative prefix, which OC has replaced with the ST / POC causative prefix *s-.
    Alternatively, Unger (Hao-ku 36, 1990: 56) and CVST 2: 77 derive shǐ 史使 from lǐ₄ 理里 (ljɨᴮ) ‘to mark, draw lines’, hence lit. ‘scribe’. However, though perh. cognate to WT ’bri-ba ‘to write’, lǐ never seems to mean ‘to write, record’ in OC. Matisoff (D. of Lahu: 498) relates shǐ 史使 to PLB *ʔ-dziy¹ > WB ce ‘send on business, employ’.
    This wf may belong to a larger group which includes shì₂ 士仕 (dẓɨᴮ). The issue is further complicated by the question of the position of shì₁ 士 (dẓɨᴮ) in the overall picture.

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