Chinese Etymology

Introduction and Instruction

Copyright © 2006 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

One: Introduction

In order to master Chinese language as a second language while without living in that language environment, it must be learned as a knowledge, not as a living habit. That is, only if the Chinese language is a logic system, it can, then, be learned as a knowledge.

There are two major differences between Chinese and English words. Some English words are having root words, such as:

However, the majority of English words are stand alone words, such as, book and love. Although most of them do have an origin of some sort (Latin, Greek, etc.), their meanings cannot be read out loud from their faces.

Thus, the followings are the two major differences between English and Chinese words.

  1. While some of English words have root words, 100% (not a single exception) of Chinese words is composed of word roots.
  2. The original meaning of every Chinese word can be read out loud from its face, such as:

Yet, no one ever learns Chinese written words in this way for the past 5,000 years. Chinese words were always learned as stand-alone words which must be learned one at a time. Of course, for native Chinese, they have a life-time to learn them. Seemingly, this is a great strategy to prevent any foreigner to master Chinese written language before he is Sinicized.

For the past two thousand years, there were only six sentences describing the Chinese Etymology. For the following reasons, they did not provide a foundation for a word root Etymology.

Now, I will give a scientific description of Chinese Etymology here. As ideographs, every Chinese written word can be viewed as a kind of birds. Thus, the following description (the genealogy and the internal dynamics of those birds) can be understood by someone who knows not a single Chinese word. There are four steps to construct the Chinese word system.

  1. r (Word roots) -- word root is the rock bottom building block for Chinese written words. It cannot be reduced any further as a composite of some constituent parts. There are a total of 220 Chinese word roots, and there are two kinds of word root. Note: The definition of word root here is similar to atom in chemistry, which is the rock bottom building block to build up molecules and the higher structures. Of course, every atom is still having a sub-structure. However, it is a subject of physics, not chemistry. Similarly, these 220 word roots also have substructures which will be discussed in lesson three. Before then, these 220 word roots are viewed as rock bottom units for dissecting Chinese words anatomically and syntactically.
  2. r (Modules) -- module is composed of, at least, two word roots. There are about 300 important modules, and there are two types of them. By definition, a module always can be a part of other words. In this book, I have chosen 300 modules which are also sound roots.

    Note: (leading radical) -- While word roots and modules are not explicitly described in the ancient Chinese Etymology, the (leading radical) is the central pillar of it. In d r (dictionary), it lists 214 leading radicals. It consists of two groups:

    Obviously, alone cannot construct a word root Etymology, as word roots (220) + modules (300) is much larger than leading radicals (214).

  3. r (Chinese written words): Thus, theoretically, every Chinese written word can be as a module.

    The above generating procedure can be described in a different way.

  4. J (word phrase);
    For thousands years, we all see that Chinese language is not a phonetic alphabetical language. In terms of English-like alphabets, Chinese language is, indeed, not an alphabetical language. However, according to the above discussion, each and every Chinese written word is spelled out with word roots. As all those word roots (220 of them) are silent in their composed words, they do not spell out Chinese written words phonetically directly. They, however, do spell out the meaning of each and every Chinese written word. They also create some sound modules (sound roots) which provide the sound for each and every Chinese written word.

    For each and every Chinese sound, it has four tones (| n ). The issue of four tones is discussed in Lesson two. In the entire Chinese verbal language, there are only about 250 | n (four tones). That is, the bandwidth of the entire Chinese verbal language has only about 1,000 tones. This is one of the reason that Chinese verbal language is very easy to learn. However, this also causes some confusions as every tone carries an average of 60 words (varying from 20 to 100), that is, they all have the identical sound and tone without one bit difference between them, such as, d B ~ B B Y B are all having exact identical pronunciation. The words in the parenthesis are all having identical sound, ( B x B i ), (M B B ), and (M B B K ). One way to resolve this kind of confusion is by adding a differentiator to form a J (word phrase). Thus, Y (desolation) B ~ G (in deep predicament) B (resting at...somewhere) can never be confused.

    By definition, a word of any language must consist of three elements,

    For a Chinese J (word phrase), it meets not only the definition of word above but with a much narrower definition. It has one and only one meaning. That is, it is more of a word than any single word which can have more than one meaning. In fact, the Chinese J (word phrase) is a kind of spelling word with all Chinese written word as it alphabets.

Thus, Chinese written words have three different types of alphabets.

The entire Chinese written word system is constructed with the above procedure regardless of what kind of words, the phonetic loan words or the sense determinator words. Furthermore, the above discussion is not a theory. In this book,

Of course, it will take a reader some time to digest those information in this book. Thus, I am giving some simple examples here first. These examples can be understood by someone who knows not a single Chinese written word. They can be viewed as some beautiful faces while the logic and the genealogy between them can be understood without knowing the ID of those faces.

Example one:

  1. Word root (king's seal), [ W B f B M B B O B R B B o K]. In this list, we can see that this word root has three different variants, such as ( f B M B O ).
    Note: This word root itself might not be implemented in some computers, and it cannot be printed out. In this case, it is the right radical of the word f or the bottom radical of the word M .

  2. Module:

Example two:

  1. Word root K , a G1 word.
  2. Module ( B B ). This module is not a stand alone word.
  3. Words,
    • G2 words: B B μ B β B B K K
      • G3 words, G B B W B ԯ B h B B B e B ٯ B J B B d K K

Example three:

  1. Word root p , a G1 word.
  2. Module ( d B ), this module is not a stand alone word.
  3. Words,
    • G2 words: I B d B · B B B B V B B y B B B W B A B B B B B g K K

Example four:

  1. Word root , this root is not a stand alone word, and it is not implemented in computer.
  2. Module ( B ), they are stand alone words, G1 words.
  3. Words:
    • G2 words, G l B B B B y B Z B N B K

Example five:

  1. Word root A , this root is also a stand alone word, a G1 word.
  2. Module q , this module is also a stand alone word, a G1 word.
  3. Words:
    • G2 words: B B | B [ B w B B v B U K

Example six:

  1. Word root H , this root is a stand alone word, a G0 word.
  2. Module , this module is also a stand alone word, a G1 word.
  3. Words,
    • G2 words, G B ñ B B E B ` B B F B B B d B y B I B C B K B B t B B P B B j K

With only one example, it can be an incidence. With only two examples, it can still be an coincidence. With more than three examples, it happens as accidence becoming very unlikely. There must be a underlying system driving the phenomena. In fact, the Chinese written word system is almost identical to a chemical compound system.

  1. By knowing all names of chemical elements, the names of chemical compounds can be read out loud easily. The word roots are the chemical elements in Chinese written language.
  2. By knowing all functions of Chemical modules (such as, benzene, enzyme, etc.), the functions of most chemical compounds can be again read out loud easily. It is the same for Chinese written words.

Two: Instruction

This is a 200 hour course. It can be easily divided into a six month schedule (30 hours per month), with one hour a day or 7 hours per week. The following is a recommended studying schedule.


Table of contant:

  1. Textbook
  2. Workbook