Stage Linguistique wrote:
> > Also, the Egyptian determinatives play a grammatical
> > rôle, the Chinese radicals don't.
> [M] What grammatical role do the Egyptian
> determinatives play!!??
> Apparently when you and I refer to 'Egyptian
> determinatives', we are not referring to the same
> thing. I am referring to those unpronounced signs that
> are added at the end of words to indicate the
> grammatical category they belong to (nouns, verbs...).

I am afraid you should review your Egyptian.

Hieroglyphic determinatives do *not* indicate the grammatical category (in
that case, there would be less that ten determinatives): they indicate a
broad semantic class of the word.

E.g., the hieroglyph of two walking legs is the determinative for "walking"
and applies to such words as "travel", "road", etc.; the hieroglyph of a
liquid spilling out of the tip of a penis denotes "actions of the penis" and
applies to such words as "copulate", "urinate", "ejaculate"; the hieroglyph
of a writing tablet equipped with pens and ink denotes words such as "to
write", "to design", "scribe" (and, yes, "Seshat", the goddess of writing
and moderator of this mailing list).

All this is quite similar to Chinese "radicals", IMHO. The main differences
between the two scripts is in the way they encode *sound*, not in how they
encode meaning.

> [M] This idea that hanzis are the basic
> building
> blocks of Chinese writing has has little or no basis
> in reality.
> Your opinion.

Of course.

> If they were not, you could draw up new hanzi by
> haphazard combinations of basic strokes, which is
> simply not the case:

No, no, you are misunderstanding me. I am not talking about the brush
strokes: that is too deep an analysis to be meaningful; strokes are only
relevant for calligraphers. (Haven't we already gone on this some time ago?
Sorry if I am confusing you with someone else.)

What I consider to be the "building blocks" of Chinese writing (i.e., the
real "characters" in it) are the *components*, i.e. the so-called "radicals"
and the other primitive signs which compose characters.

E.g., in the hanzi "ma1" ('mama'), there are two basic components: the
radical "nü3" ('female') and the phonetic "ma3" ('horse').

> new hanzi (like the names of
> racing horses in Hong Kong) are created by 'squeezing'
> two characters into one square.


> [M] In fact, neither lexicographers nor common people
> ever considered Chinese
> "characters" as non-analyzable units
> _non-analysable_ is *not* synonymous with _building
> blocks_


Of couse it isn't!

"Being analy(s/z)able" (i.e., splittable in more elementary elements) and
"being a building block" (i.e., being *the* most elementary elements) are
antonyms to me.

> Hanzi *are* the building blocks of Chinese writing
> (you cannot write Chinese if you only learn the 8
> basic strokes). And they *are* analysable.


> [M] lexicographers organized their
> dictionary exactly by analyzing hanzi, and common
> people remember and
> explain (even on the phone!) the "spelling" of a
> certain hanzi by listing
> its components in order.
> This is *certainly not* the most common way of
> spelling. Usually people tell you what hanzi to use by
> rhyming: e.g., «Shang4hai3 de hai3» to spell hai3
> written with the water radical [a good example of a
> radical that is not stand-alone]

[Not that I said that *all* radicals can stand alone...]

Anyway, the "water" radical is certainly not a good example of this: the
three-drops form of the radical is considered a side-variant of the
stand-alone hanzi "shui", and this is well justified both synchronically
(that's how it is considered in modern lexicography) and diachronically (in
Small Seal style the two signs where identical).

> next to pie3 and
> heng1 above the 'mother' character. Way faster than
> describing the ten strokes and their relative
> positions!

See above: I never talked about strokes.

> > the Egyptian 'squares' can be further
> > broken into stand-alone signs. In this aspect,
> > Egyptian is more akin to Korean.
> [M] Sorry: you are first comparing apples with oranges
> (Egyptian and Chinese "squares") and then apples with
> melons (Egyptian and Korean)...
> O_O
> *you* started comparing apples with oranges....

Sorry but I didn't. I compared:

- Two types of apples: Egyptian determinatives with Chinese radicals;

- Two types of oranges: Egyptian "ideographs" (those hieroglyphs which have
a small vertical bar below them to suggest "interpret this semantically")
with Chinese xiangxing ("pictographic characters") and xiangshi
("diagrammatic characters").

It was you who introduced the comparison of "squares". In Chinese, each
logograph (whether atomic or compound) is enclosed in an ideal square: i.e.,
the subdivision in squares has a precise functional significance in Chinese:
delimiting a logogram. Incidentally, a similar function is carried out by
the squaring of Korean Hangul, although the units delimited by squares are
in this case, of course, syllabograms.

In Egyptian, any two adjacent signs (whether or not belonging to the same
word or morpheme) can be laid out in an ideal square to save space and to
make the composition more compact: i.e., the subdivision in squares is just
an esthetic feature in Egyptian, and it doesn't delimit anything.

_ Marco