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about the kanji for sand

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about the kanji for sand

Postby fog » Tue 12.09.2008 4:57 pm

Hi folks.

I sometimes look at kanjis and beeing noob of course I start with the simple ones. I found the
kanji for "sand" a bit peculiar. It seems to be a composite of "stone" and "few". This surprised me
a little. I would have expected "stone" and "small" to be a more logical choice. (Btw. I noticed the
two-kanji word "pebble" consists of the kanjis "small" and "stone".) I'm trying to attach an image file
to illustrate what I mean. Sorry for the lousy handwriting :oops: . Any comments?

sand kanji50.PNG
various kanjis pertaining the kanji "sand"
sand kanji50.PNG (31.94 KiB) Viewed 1433 times
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 12.09.2008 6:09 pm

I would advise against trying to make sense of kanji constructions; they often don't work out. You have to remember that these characters are thousands of years old, and have changed forms and shapes many times since then. In this case, the explanation is simply that 少 at one time indicated small size. As to why 小 was not chosen instead, if we ever invent time travel we can ask the ancient Chinese. :)
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby richvh » Tue 12.09.2008 6:30 pm

If you're interested in kanji etymology, I'd suggest you pick up "A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters" by Kenneth G. Henshall; he discusses the development of each kanji. According to him, 少 originally represented a small size than 小.
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby furrykef » Tue 12.09.2008 9:51 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I would advise against trying to make sense of kanji constructions; they often don't work out.


And by "often don't work out" we mean they rarely ever do. ;) The majority of kanji have a part that is used for its pronunciation rather than its meaning (and to make things worse, it's always an ancient pronunciation rather than a modern one, so the two characters may or may not sound the same today).

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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby fog » Tue 12.09.2008 10:49 pm

Thanks to all of you for the clarifying replies and advice :) . I guess it's easier to build that time-travel-machine than to actually learn all those kanjis :mrgreen:

(If I understand you correctly 少 did in ancient times mean "smaller than 小", (tiny perhaps?), but today 少 means few? :? That "explains" at least this little puzzle.)
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby Sairana » Tue 12.09.2008 11:41 pm

fog wrote: I guess it's easier to build that time-travel-machine than to actually learn all those kanjis :mrgreen:


I realize you're just being a little silly with this statement, but to be on the safe side, I wanna clarify.

It's not about learning all those kanji. It's about attempting to break them down into things that make "sense". There's tons of ways that various kanji came into being, and while it's tempting to try and "puzzle" them out, you may be setting yourself up for extreme confusion.

I say 'may' because you can certainly break things down however you like to use as mnemonics. Whatever helps something stick in your head is great! You just have to keep in mind that it is not necessarily logical in hindsight.

For illustration, someone on the about.com forums had posted a link to a website that proposes a kanji/hanzi system for English. I thought it was rather genius. For the naysayers: no, it isn't REALLY trying to start an English-Kanji movement. It IS a very intriguing insight on how kanji may have come to be in China, and why it is so tempting to try and derive the meaning of a kanji from the picture when it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it at all (although, sometimes it does by coincidence).

That all sounds very complex, but just read it for fun. Yingzi
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 12.09.2008 11:46 pm

That's a pretty good article; it's a good representation of the way that Chinese characters were constructed.
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby fog » Wed 12.10.2008 7:53 pm

Sairana wrote:I realize you're just being a little silly with this statement, but to be on the safe side, I wanna clarify.
....
just read it for fun. Yingzi


Yes, you are absolutely right about that statement, it was a little silly.

I did read the Yingzi link and found it quite interesting :)
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby KanjiHanzi » Thu 01.08.2009 3:56 am

fog wrote:Hi folks.
I sometimes look at kanjis and beeing noob of course I start with the simple ones. I found the
kanji for "sand" a bit peculiar. It seems to be a composite of "stone" and "few". This surprised me
a little. I would have expected "stone" and "small" to be a more logical choice.

Despite popular belief here Kanji very frequently are VERY LOGICAL, you just can't expect the same kind of logic to applied to each and every Kanji. In this particular case Stone + Few are perfectly logical: In sand there simply can't be TOO MANY ROCKS/STONES for the sand to be described as SAND. Few stones = good sand. (Try the beach!)

Etymology works well, frequently, but not always. What at one point was a perfectly clear image of an actual object can have drifted away from the original meaning, and that considerably. Just look at the rather peculiar metamorphosis of



and (and INTO)



Today it's really hard to tell EXACTLY what was originally used in the past. As long as it's parts of the body, it's pretty safe to assume that MOON is no moon, but merely "a piece of meat". And so on.
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Re: about the kanji for sand

Postby two_heads_talking » Thu 01.08.2009 10:04 am

I think we already settled this a month ago..
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