Chinese Kanji Etymology Definitions
– Free Online Kanji Etymology Dictionary –
Hikaru Morimoto and I collaborated on research into Chinese characters for nearly a dozen years, concluding with his death in 2004. At the time of his passing, we had prepared 4,000 etymologies organized largely along the lines of the word families in Chinese model developed by Tokyo University professor Akiyasu Todo (1915-1985). Distinguishing our etymologies from Todo's was the viewpoint that
apply to the
vowels O and U
in the ancient language of the Han.
In April 2005 I created the Kanji Networks dictionary site. The site began with 1,945 of the etymologies Morimoto and I had prepared. Later I added the remaining of the 4,000 original etymologies, followed by an additional 2,500 etymologies worked up on my own.
With 6,500 characters now available for cross-comparison, three additional points about the characters gradually and successively presented themselves to me.
Point One: Phonosemantics are at work in the ancient language not only in the initial and the medial vowel, but in the final consonant as well.
Point Two: Apparent anomalies in pronunciation and meaning are largely explained by consonant shifts, primarily in the initial but also in the final.
Point Three: The traditional division of compound characters into phonosemantic compounds and ideogrammic (aka logical aggregrate, or semantic) compounds is highly flawed, the reason being that ALL compound characters attested in the early oracle bone and bronzeware inscriptions are phonosemantic compounds. For characters such as 明, 好 or 森 where the phonetic component is not obvious, the explanation lies in 1) consonant shifts (Point Two above), 2) graphic change, 3) the employment of abbreviated or variant forms, or 4) (extremely rarely) borrowed pronunciations.
In March 2011 I uploaded the Chinese Characters Concept Maplink, which delineates the phonetic and semantic connections between over 4,000 of the most commonly used characters.
Credit for all that is good and useful in this dictionary belongs to Hikaru Morimoto. With me rests the blame for everything else.
Lawrence J. Howell, March 2011
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