The formation of Modern Chinese lexicon and its evolution toward a national language: The period from 1840 to 1898
Masini Federico 马西尼 著
Licuit semperque licebit signatum praesenie nota producere nomen….
Horace, Ars Poetica, 58-62: 70-73.
It has ever been, and ever will be, permitted to issue words stamped with the mint-mark of the day. As forests change their leaves with each year’s decline, and the earliest drop off: so with words, the old race dies, and, like the young of human kind, the new-born bloom and thrive.
Many terms that have fallen out of use shall be born again, and those shall fall that are now in repute, if Usage so will it, in shose hands lies the judgement, the right and the rule of speech.
(Translation by H Rushton Fairclough, The Loeb Classical Library, London 1926)
Although China has one of the most ancient lexicographical traditions, we know little about the etymology of the more recent Chinese words. My goal in undertaking this study was therefore to establish the entity and characteristics of lexical events between 1840 and 1898, and show that Modern Chinese lexicon is not simply the fruit of the linguistic experiments that took place in the context of the literary movements of the early XXth century but in fact developed thanks both to its traditional base and to the contribution of lexical inventions of the XIXth century.
With the starting assumption that languages react to external stimuli, I paid particular attention to the impact on Chinese lexicon of those works written in Chinese either by foreigners or by Chinese in contact with foreigners, either in China or abroad. The impact of western language on Chinese lexicon could only be indirect, and take place via the formation of semantic loans and loan-translations, since Chinese has great difficulty in absorbing phonemic loans. The impact of Japanese was far greater. Although different in structural terms, to some extent Japanese and Chinese share the same writing form.
Precisely because Japanese lexicon did have such a strong impact on Chinese in the early XXth century, I have decided to limit myself to studying the lexical events up until 1898. By the start of the XXth century numerous Chinese scholars and students were living in Japan, thus opening new prospects for Chinese lexicon. In this text, I refer only to the impact of Japanese on Chinese lexicon up until 1898. I hope to be able to study events after that period more closely at a later stage.
I was forced to make definite choices with regard to the material to examine precisely because the subject is so vast. I had to exclude a great number of texts and, even among those chosen, numerous terms may not have been taken with the due consideration. Hence, there is no claim to completeness, simply the hope that this text may constitute a first contribution to furthering knowledge about an area of interest as yet little studied.
The work is divided into two separate sections. In part one, I look at the impact of historical, political and social events, in relation to the diffusion of knowledge first on the West and then on Japan. In Part Two, I examine the impact on Chinese lexicon of the events described in Part One, from a more purely linguistic perspective.
There are three appendixes. Appendix I contains a table of the various symbols of chemical elements introduced during the XIXth century. This is the only example of lexical innovation via the creation of new characters. Appendix II contains a vocabulary of all the neologism I identified in the course of my work. Appendix III contains a list of the terms contained in Appendix II, according to their English meaning and their Japanese pronunciation (in italics).
I have used Hanyu Pinyin, the Chinese spelling system currently in use in the People’s Republic of China. For the dialect terms, I have used the system adopted in the following dictionaries: Rao-Ouyang, Guangzhouhua cidian for Cantonese, and Min Jiaji, Wu fangyan cidian for the Wu dialect. The Japanese terms were transcribed with the Hepburn system, as indicated in the fourth edition of Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, Tokyo 1974.
Throughout my work, begun in Peking in 1987, I had the good fortune of being able to count on the learned guidance, support and affection of Professor Giuliano Bertuccioli and Tullio De Mauro of the University of Rome. To them, my deepest gratitude.
I wish to thank Professor Lionello Lanciotti, director of the doctorate program in oriental studies as the Instituto Universitario Orientale of Naples, for his kind support and for allowing me to conduct this research within the program.
I would also like to express my appreciation to Professor William S.-Y. Wang of the University of California at Berkeley, for having agreed to publish this text in the monograph series of the Journal of Chinese Linguistics. The publication of this work was also made possible thanks to a grant issued by the Italian Consiglio Nationale delle Ricerche.
Finally my thanks to Margaret Cook for revising my “pidgin English”!
1. Language and History from 1840 to 1898
1.4.1. Translations by the Protestant missionaries and the Taiping rebellion
1.4.2. The first language schools
1.4.3. Translations by the Tongwenguan of Peking
1.4.4. The first Chinese missions to the West
1.4.5. Translations in Shanghai in the 1850s
1.4.6. The Arsenal of Shanghai: the formation and diffusion of technical and scientific lexicon
1.4.7. From science to politics: Kang Youwei, Tan Sitong and Liang Qichao
1.6.1. Japan in the XIXth century
1.6.2. The first direct contacts: Luo Sen and Yanagihara
1.6.3. Diplomats, journalists and traders
1.6.4. Fu Yunlong and Huang Qingcheng
1.6.5. Knowledge of Japan at the end of the XIXth century: Huang Zunxian and Liang Qichao
1.6.6. The study and translation from Japanese
2. Some Lexical Phenomena
2.2.1. Classification and analysis of loans and neologism
2.2.2. Phonemic loans and hybrids
2.2.3. Loan-translations and semantic loans
2.2.4. Japanese graphic loans before 1900