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What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 4:27 am

nukemarine wrote:It won't be 100% perfect, but again, 80% of 3000 is better than 100% of 300.


Well, I would agree, but it's rather optimistic to imagine *anyone* knowing 80% of 3000 or even 100% of 300.

Put it this way, you know the Latin alphabet pretty well, don't you? Do you know 100% of all words starting with "Q"? Or all the words with "E" in them? Okay, how many latin letters do you feel you know 100% of? Or even 80%?

The same with any 漢字 character. I wouldn't be brave enough to claim I know 100% of even one character, and I certainly wouldn't be brave enough to claim I know 80% of 3000. Or even 80% of 300.

Moreover, I don't know of any native Japanese speakers who would be brave enough to claim to know 80% of 3000. Not even a (former) Japanese language professor at Tokyo University.

Many of the characters have so many specialised usages and readings that it's next to impossible to know them all, let alone even recognise all compound words using that character. There are more than 200 ways using the character 上 in Japanese, I don't think anyone other than someone who has compiled a 国語辞典 would claim to be able to enumerate all the ways, let alone all the compound words. Indeed, based on that I would say I know less than 1% of that character!

The other day I spelled my name in 漢字 characters to a college student in the final year of studying to become a Japanese teacher. He immediately said "But these characters are not valid Japanese characters, they are Chinese characters." I pointed out that in fact all of them are valid Japanese characters, gave their readings and meanings, and showed him the dictionary entries for the characters. He said he had no idea, he has never met these characters before, despite being a native speaker and studying to be a Japanese teacher.

Indeed, some Japanese scholars speculate that the number of 漢字 that a typical Japanese who has graduated from high school is familiar with (ie. know all the typical readings and compounds) is probably less than 1000. There has been statistical studies that show the number of 漢字 used regularly in newspapers (rather than being part of someone's name, or a technical term, or a place name) is less than 1000.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 4:50 am

nukemarine wrote:Really, it does boil down to breaking kanji into radicals.


You may or may not already know this, but not every "component" of a 漢字 character is a "radical" (部首). Strictly speaking, there are only 214 部首, and they can only appear in specific places within a character to act as a radical. If a component is not a valid 部首, or a 部首 appearing in a "non legal" location, then it is not a "radical" but simply a 漢字の部分 (a part of a Kanji character).

Sorry to be pedantic, but you will confuse a lot of people (particularly native Japanese speakers) if you talk about "breaking kanji into radicals." Their response is likely to be: "But what do you mean by that? A Kanji can have only one radical!" Then when you describe what you mean, they'll say "But that is not breaking Kanji into radicals! That's simply breaking them into components!"
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Dustin » Sun 01.11.2009 4:52 am

Christine Tham wrote:
nukemarine wrote:Really, it does boil down to breaking kanji into radicals.


You may or may not already know this, but not every "component" of a 漢字 character is a "radical" (部首). Strictly speaking, there are only 214 部首, and they can only appear in specific places within a character to act as a radical. If a component is not a valid 部首, or a 部首 appearing in a "non legal" location, then it is not a "radical" but simply a 漢字の部分 (a part of a Kanji character).

Sorry to be pedantic, but you will confuse a lot of people (particularly native Japanese speakers) if you talk about "breaking kanji into radicals." Their response is likely to be: "But what do you mean by that? A Kanji can have only one radical!" Then when you describe what you mean, they'll say "But that is not breaking Kanji into radicals! That's simply breaking them into components!"


In the book we refer to them as "primitives" rather than radicals, important thing to keep in mind, because yes, there is a HUGE difference between the two!
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby richvh » Sun 01.11.2009 8:23 am

Christine Tham wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:発行 is read はっこう, not はつぎょう.

You evidently have a different edition of Koujien than mine. The 5th edition has this for definition 4 of 行(こう):
印刷して世に出すこと。「発行・単行本」


By the way, I should point out (just in case anyone else misinterprets the sentence), 印刷して世に出すこと。 does not mean "Print (i.e. printing a book). ". I think you parsed this sentence incorrectly, the こと here does not refer to 印刷する, but refers to the release or the issue of the output (出すこと) of the printing to the world at large (世), hence the reference to 発行 (publication) and 単行本 (publishing in one volume).

My translation of the sentence would be something like "the act of releasing something that was printed to the world/public" [not a perfect translation, I really should try to avoid using passive verbs to represent non-passive Japanese sentences - Jay Rubin would probably scream at me]

In any case, to draw this out as a potential "meaning" for the character 行 is fairly dubious, which may explain why the publishers decided to remove this interpretation from the latest edition of the dictionary.


I would say, rather, that こと applies to both 印刷する and 世に出す - the act of printing and public release.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby yukamina » Sun 01.11.2009 4:43 pm

Christine Tham wrote:
yukamina wrote:
Christine Tham wrote:
However, the more one learns the language, the more one realises characters with strong semantic associations are exceptions rather than the rule.

.....

However, more often than not, the Japanese also used characters purely for their sound, and the original "meaning" of the character was ignored.

I don't find this to be true.


May I ask what evidence do you have to support your assertion?

I don't have any quotations from books or articles, just my own experience. I've recently set myself to learning at least one word per joyo kanji, and I'm now into the 1600s. The meanings of the words become very predictable, easy to understand, and even redundant. For example:

懲戒 'admonish' + 'commandment' = discipline
淑徳 'graceful' + ''virtue' = womanly virtues
脅迫 'threaten' + 'urge' = threat
硬貨 'hard' + 'freight' = coin

(Mind, I don't think of English words when I study these) Of course, not every word is clearly connected to the meaning of the kanji used, but most of them are.

It's silly to even say this, but it's not like there was a native Japanese word ちょうかい that meant discipline, and they randomly assigned kanji that were read ちょう and かい. And it wouldn't make any sense to have used say, 潮貝 to write a word that means discipline either. If phonetics were the only part of kanji that matters, there'd truly be no need to use them. Hiragana covers that fine.

That said, when I know the kanji readings very well, the reading is what comes to mind first. I when I play matching games on Quizlet, I have to work 熟語 to じゅくご. If I start with じゅくご I'll forget what I'm doing and start looking for じゅくご.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 01.11.2009 5:01 pm

I think different things are being talked about here -- DeFrancis is really talking about the *construction* of hanzi, not their use to write compounds. What he's saying is that when we see characters like 中, 仲, and 沖, we tend to look at the meaning elements as the most important when in fact the historical record shows that the meaning elements were *added* to the sound "primitive" to form the character.

DeFrancis' comments also have to be taken in the context of his book -- one of the primary myths he is trying to dispel is the idea that Chinese characters have *no* sound and are purely used for meaning, which is not a myth many actual students of either Japanese or Chinese subscribe to.

I think what DeFrancis is really trying to say is that when you see a word like 火車, it's not that you're taking the abstract meaning "fire" and combining it with the abstract meaning "car" to get "fire car" which then means "steam train". Rather, the spoken language morphemes "huo3" and "che1" have the meanings "fire" and "car", and the characters are being used to represent those specific morphemes in a combination. This is what he means by an essentially phonetic, rather than semantic, use of characters. You cannot just use 火 for any morpheme meaning "fire", you can only use it for "huo3". Nor can you just freely combine characters any way you want and just rely on your readers to piece together the meaning of what you are writing from the meanings of the characters independent of actual words in the spoken language (some writers do this in a very limited fashion; I personally hate it when they do this because it makes it impossible to find out the precise meaning of what they're writing.)

This may seem like a pointless distinction but it is important because it does remind you that characters are tied to specific sounds in the spoken language and not just abstract meanings, and it reinforces the importance of learning compounds and not just single characters.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 5:55 pm

yukamina wrote:懲戒 'admonish' + 'commandment' = discipline
淑徳 'graceful' + ''virtue' = womanly virtues
脅迫 'threaten' + 'urge' = threat
硬貨 'hard' + 'freight' = coin


The examples that you quoted are all 漢語 (in other words, Chinese words borrowed by the Japanese, much in the same way as English words are borrowed and represented in Katakana).

Even then, there are examples of 漢語 in which the characters have been used phonetically rather than semantically. This happens when the Chinese borrow words from a foreign language and represent them using Kanji. But it also occurs for "native" Chinese words.

For 和語 (true Japanese origin words), however, it is far more likely a phonetic usage of the character was applied. For example, お風呂 has nothing to do with "wind" or "spine", but simply because the readings of 風 and 呂combined together sounds like the Japanese word for "bath" :-)

There has been a "nationalistic" trend in recent years to reduce the usage of 漢語 and promote the use of 和語. Indeed, some people make it a point to avoid spelling 漢語 in Kanji but to spell them using katakana instead, to emphasize that these are "borrowed" words and therefore should be represented using phonetics. You may perhaps have noticed this trend in magazines, advertisements in trains etc.

If this trend continues, Japanese writing will become even more phonetic based. Most people who are resistant to this trend are the older people. You have to realise, for a long time (right up to the twentieth century) official Japanese script was Chinese (in really official Japanese documents, the Japanese is translated into a form of Chinese), dating back from the 6-7th century when Chinese was the language used by the aristocratic class, and native Japanese was considered vulgar. Even today, many Japanese believe 漢語 words tend to sound refined and educated, and 和語 kind of sounds simplistic. Some scholars predict that as the pre war generation slowly disappears, Japanese will evolve into a language of 和語 plus katakana. I myself don't necessarily believe this, but it's possible.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 6:10 pm

richvh wrote:I would say, rather, that こと applies to both 印刷する and 世に出す - the act of printing and public release.


I think you would agree, therefore, that translating that sentence as "Print (eg. a book)" would be incorrect? That was my point. I would probably agree if Yudan had translated it as "Publish (eg. a book)", since publish implies printing.

PS - I think my Japanese teacher would probably disagree with you. I was taught that こと only applies to the phrase immediately preceeding it, so in this case should not span across the て conjunction (because otherwise こと would be referring to two events, not one).
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby NocturnalOcean » Sun 01.11.2009 6:12 pm

(digression) An interesting thing is the amount of 和語 such as 科学 which has been brought into Chinese.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 6:15 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I think different things are being talked about here -- DeFrancis is really talking about the *construction* of hanzi, not their use to write compounds.


I think you are clutching at straws here - although DeFrancis started by analysing the construction of the characters, his conclusions are much broader than that, and have been in fact interpreted by scholars in that broader context, as I have alluded to.

But rather than debating about the intent of DeFrancis, I would urge that you read the second book that I referred to (The Japanese Language) which essentially advances the same argument, but in the context of the Japanese language rather than Chinese. As I've mentioned, it has been translated into English.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 6:17 pm

NocturnalOcean wrote:(digression) An interesting thing is the amount of 和語 such as 科学 which has been brought into Chinese.


Don't get me started! I find this fascinating as well, but agree it's probably a discussion for a different topic!
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby yukamina » Sun 01.11.2009 6:22 pm

I...don't differentiate 和語 and 漢語; I just study words.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 6:36 pm

yukamina wrote:I...don't differentiate 和語 and 漢語; I just study words.


Yes, but the topic of discussion was relative frequency of usage. The words you quoted belong to a minority of words in the language, and therefore not representative.

An analogy would be someone claiming Japanese is nothing more than English rehashed, and as "proof" quoted a string of katakana words.
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Christine Tham » Sun 01.11.2009 6:47 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I think what DeFrancis is really trying to say is that when you see a word like 火車, it's not that you're taking the abstract meaning "fire" and combining it with the abstract meaning "car" to get "fire car" which then means "steam train". Rather, the spoken language morphemes "huo3" and "che1" have the meanings "fire" and "car", and the characters are being used to represent those specific morphemes in a combination. This is what he means by an essentially phonetic, rather than semantic, use of characters.


Sorry to correct you again, but the example you posted is incorrect. 火車 was derived as a semantic composite, literally meaning fire vehicle (or, more appropriately, a vehicle using fire). The sound of huo3 che1 is then used as a word to represent the concept of a steam train. In other words, the original usage was semantic, not phonetic.

I know this because this compound is often used by Chinese teachers to illustrate the concept of a semantic composite. :-)
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Re: What have you gained by using Heisig RTK1?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sun 01.11.2009 7:04 pm

Christine Tham wrote:Sorry to correct you again, but the example you posted is incorrect. 火車 was derived as a semantic composite, literally meaning fire vehicle (or, more appropriately, a vehicle using fire). The sound of huo3 che1 is then used as a word to represent the concept of a steam train. In other words, the original usage was semantic, not phonetic.


It's really hard to make this distinction, because native Chinese are always going to associate 火 with huo3 (meaning fire) and 車 with che1 (meaning vehicle), so I think it would be very difficult to determine whether the meaning of the character or the meaning of the morpheme were being used to construct the word.

The alternative is to believe that 火 is not associated with huo3 (specifically the huo3 meaning fire) but rather with some abstract concept of fire, which is what DeFrancis is arguing against.

I'm a little confused with the way you're using "phonetic" -- I was not trying to argue that 火車 was a purely phonetic construction with no semantic content, I was saying that the construction of that word comes from the semantic associations of the words the characters represent, rather than from abstract meanings supposedly represented by the characters.

I think you are clutching at straws here


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