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Chinese Language and Etymology
Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong
We all know that Chinese is not a phonetic alphabetical language. Many people classify its writing as pictographs. Today, many people believe that only phonetic language has root words, such as English which has many Latin and Greek root words. Yet, only a portion of English words has some sort of root. English has adopted many foreign words, such as Kowtow, Kungfu, Taoist, etc.. Recently, English has created many new words using acronym, such as, radar, sonar, laser.
On page 112, The Columbia History of the World, ISBN 0-88029-004-8, it states,
The above saying is the basic understanding of Chinese scholars for the past two thousand years. Yet, it fails to point out three important facts:
* All Chinese words are formed from a set of word roots (root words). A language formed with "word roots" must have the following characteristic:
Chinese words have no tense and no parts of speech. That is, Chinese words have no suffix. Chinese words do have prefixes and word roots. However, many word roots became part of prefixes, and the concept of word roots was lost and not known for the few thousand years in the past. In general, there are 540 Chinese prefixes and over thousands radicals. Yet, there are only 220 word roots. By definition, word root must have the following characteristic:
1. It cannot be reduced as a composite of lower units.
In China, the function of prefixes is to categorize words into prefix-group. Some prefixes are wood roots but many more are not. Radical is a word as a part of other words. Radical is always formed from word roots. The radical system is different from a root word system. Enzymes are the alphabets of a protein language. This is Enzymology or Biochemistry. The elements (atoms) are the alphabets of all chemical compounds, and it is called Chemistry. The elementary particles (proton, neutron, electron and quarks) are the alphabets for atoms, and this is Elementary particle physics. The radical system of Chinese language is as the enzyme to the science while the root word system of Chinese language is as the Elementary particle physics to the science. The radical system is a few steps removed from a root word system. The difference between them is significant and obvious.
Since the Spring and Autumn period (about 500 B.C.), the Chinese people has been learning Chinese words with a brutal memorization method. Every Chinese word was treated as an individual character and must be memorized as a whole without any association from other words. That is, for a few thousand years, the Chinese people themselves did not take the advantage of a word root language system. For a few thousand years, the Chinese themselves did not know the concept of word root system while the Chinese words are formed by a word root system. This fact could be a great surprise to everyone. Yet, it can be resolved in two ways:
1. To show and to demonstrate that Chinese word system is, in fact, a word root system.
Please visit http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/ for more details.
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