From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kanji Mastery—Radical 128 (Ear)

[a] Furryear RF
The graph for "ear" has a long tradition in Sino-Japanese writing. Most of the sensory orifices and appendages have a "radical"—a lexical marker (there are 214 of them) used in traditional dictionaries. Mouth (#30), eye (#112), and ear (#128) all qualify, and it doesn't take too great a leap of imagination to include hand (#64). Not so for nose, though. It qualified for a Round and Square "middles" post, but it finds no place in the great linguistic pantheon of dictionary pivots.

The character does some medium and heavy lifting in Chinese and Japanese. Beyond its obvious references to mammalian ears and hearing, it has further dimensions, not the least of which is "handle." This is not difficult to see. Parallel auditory flaps inspire all sorts of images of use to us in daily life. It sometimes conveys a sense of softness or pliancy, from which we can extend the meaning to "a flexible intellect."

[b] All ears RF
If you look at the examples, below, you will see the manner in which they proceed from quite obvious pairings to far more esoteric ones (combinations that require several levels of imaginative leaping).

Let's take a look at the etymology of the character, followed by a few combinations. By all means, check out the following sites for useful information on the character:
Radical 128
Chinese (Mandarin): er3, reng2
Chinese (Cantonese): ji5
Japanese (On reading): ジ, ニ JI, NI
Japanese (Kun readings): みみ, のみ mimi, nomi
Korean: 이  i

Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 128
Mimi ear. At left: mimi hen. Enclosure. Nickname: Ear.
JI ear
mimi ear; edge, border, loop; bread crusts

耳孔    じこう jikō ear orifice   ear + cavity
耳痛    じつう jitsū earache   ear + pain
耳屎    みみくそ mimikuso ear wax   ear + excrement
耳門    じもん jimon ear orifice   ear + gate
耳鳴    じめい jimei ringing in ears   ear + chirp/ring

The examples below take the literal elements above and move them to the next interpretive level, as it were. Note the manner in which ear or its paired character "interact" here.

耳早    みみばや(い) mimibaya(i) quick of hearing    ear + early/fast
耳垂    みみだれ mimidare ear discharge    ear + fall
耳遠    みみどう(い) mimidō(i) uncommon; deaf    ear + far
耳旧    みみふる(い) mimifuru(i) stale, hackneyed    ear + old

[d] Parallel RF
Finally, let's take a quick look at a few characters that have ear in them (for which "ear" is "radical" in the character, and you would look it up in a dictionary under Radical 128. I will be writing several posts soon that explain these matters for readers who, while not studying Japanese, are interested in the cultural background of these linguistic elements. For now, though, just note the way that the words above combine two different characters that are led by the ear, so to speak (the character for ear comes first).

The characters below, however, have an ear embedded in them (so to speak). I have pointed out several places where the pairing is obvious. There is nothing simple or mechanical about the way that "radicals" (ear in this case) combine with other elements. In the second and third examples, the "other" element is also a radical in the major dictionaries. It is not, however, radical in these particular characters.

No one ever said that this stuff would be easy. Just look them over and think about how characters and character elements combine in this fascinating language.

   しょく; つかさ           SHOKU; tsukasa    employment, job

   ろう; つんぼ; みみし  RŌ; tsunbo            deafness
                dragon over ear

   ぶん: もん" き(く)      BUN, MON; ki(ku)   listen; inquire          gate over ear
   ちょう; き(かない)      CHŌ; ki(kanai)

   しょう      SHŌ   whisper          three ears

[e] e-arrivederci RF

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