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<< (Sebastian Hew quoted) 'If one were to label as zhuanzhu only those phonograms which were derived from existing characters ... existing characters to which semantic symbols were added, then the distinction between phonograms and the zhuanzhu would be more rational.'[/nq]
Well... it turns out you were correct, Richard. On the basis of the original text provided by Matin, it seems to be a slip on the part of the translators wherein the words 'as phonograms' were omitted.

FWIW, I think this was a simple slip in translation, representative more of the translator's carelessness than any systematic deficiency in either his understanding of the original Chinese or lack of competence in constructing its English equivalent.
I wonder whether Jacques clock reports the time
in zhuanzhu or phonograms?
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
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Tell me, o clever dean, why would someone apply the label "phonogram" to an entity that contains no phonetic element, but only a semantic indicator?

John's interpretation is not without merit, Peter. I think perhaps in this instance, you have dismissed his views to hastily.

Clearly, it does not make sense to call a character without a phonetic element a phonogram, but that wasn't what John said. He merely said that one way to look at things is to call only those characters comprising an existing character to which a semantic symbol is added a 'phonogram'. In such cases, the original character generally forms the phonetic element.

For example, 燃 (U+71C3) 'to burn', would be a 'phonogram' under this definition, formed by the addition of the semantic symbol 火 (U+706B) 'fire' to the existing character 然 (U+7136). (It is interesting to note that the original character originally meant 'burn', and was borrowed as a grammatical particle, but, to-day, the original character is only used for the particle, and the new character formed by adding 火 is used for the original meaning.) In this case, the resulting character would be a phonogram, the original character becoming the phonetic element, and the added symbol the sematic indicator.
(The code after each character is its Unicode code, since Peter has difficulty displaying Chinese characters in his usenet client.)

Be that as it may, John's description is perhaps also wanting, in that not all characters formed by the addition of a semantic element will be a phonogram. We need to state the a priori assumption that the final character formed is a phonogram. Then we ask how the character was formed, whether by the addition of a semantic indicator or a phonetic element, and the thesis here is that the former results in a 'phonogram' whilst the latter results in 'zhuanzhu'.
> I wonder whether Jacques clock reports the time in zhuanzhu or phonograms?

Has "Felix Tilley" just revealed his real name?
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.

Peter T. Daniels (Email Removed)
"Peter T. Daniels" wrote on 27 Dec 2003:

One doesn't need to know anything at all about the ... John Dean's suggestion about the writer's or translators' intentions did.

Add to this the knowledge that some Chinese characters have no separate phonetic but are pronounced, and others, primitives, have no separate phonetic and are not pronounced. The name of the former type of character is also the sound of the character.

Are you saying here that some Chinese characters are primitives that have no separate phonetic and are not pronounced?
I would argue that all Chinese characters are (or at least, were) pronounced, and, admittedly, there are primitives that arose largely from the picto/ideo-graphic stage that do not have independent pronunciations, but then these primitives are generally not regarded as characters in their own right.
For example, the character 登 (U+767B) shows two hands 癶 lifting a vessel 豆 (U+8C46). Should we regard 癶 to be a primitive? It depends on whether one chooses to consider the entire character part and parcel of the same ideograph, or as separate elements which may be combined. Do we relate this 'primitive' to characters like 双 or 拜 which also show two hands side by side? Certainly, both of the latter have their own pronunciation. I would say not (there are other reasons for this other than what I've presented here), but one can always argue one way or the other.
What of the primitive seen at the bottom of 舉 (U+8209) and 奉 (U+5949)? Again, the hand 手 (a single one) is represented here, but do we say it is a primitive, and do we consider it to have a pronunciation? In this case, I would say yes to both, but again, one can argue otherwise.
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I think that everyone who has looked at the OP's quote agrees that the original is poorly expressed and confusing. ... difficult Chinese sentence that seemed to make sense when they rendered it that way into English. Translators are not infallible.

The fault for the confusion in my original quote lies with both the translators and the author. I will explain in another post in more detail.
What is Peter's point? What does he know about Chinese characters?

Peter is not a sinologist, as far as I know, and, IMHO, he has gone a little astray in this discussion. However, in his defence, I will say that I cannot fault his scholarship. While we do not always agree (e.g., the recent discussion about what constitutes a weak verb in Modern English), I cannot deny that Peter has no little expertise in linguistics in general, and the study of writing in particular, although the Chinese script is not one which he has ever claimed to have any particular expertise in. Peter may not always be right, but he seldom makes idle claims without substance backing it up.

Of course, the issue now is whether you trust my judgement... ;-)
Then maybe you should consult a different book about Chinese. There are several good ones.

I have already checked my local bookstores here in Taiwan, but there is nothing that advanced in English, only the popular press stuff. I will follow your advice and ask you for a recommendation of two or three good books in English about Chinese characters.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of such books in English. Were I pressed for a recommedation, I would say that the monograph from which I quoted in the original post, 文字學概要 by 裘錫圭 represents a scholarly and balanced approach to and overview of the field. The copy I have was translated into English by Gilbert Mattos and Jerry Norman, both respected scholars in the field, and was published by the Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley.
I do not agree with everything the author says. In particular, I have problems with his definition of what constitutes a 'sign' in a manner which makes it dependent on the particular user and how he perceives the character. However, this monograph represents an important contribution to the the field, and the translation more so because of the paucity of literature available in English.
The paragraph I quoted should be taken as representative of neither the monograph nor the translation. I quoted the passage precisely because it was exceptional: the monograph is, in the main, written clearly, and the translation likewise fluent. (I will not say 'accurate' for now, since I have not had the chance to examine the original text, save the one sentence I quoted, but I have no reason to doubt, from reading the remainder, that the translation is largely accurate.)
Geoff helpfully quoted CyberCypher who had written: All the more so that the Chinese original very likely must have had the character yin ("sound") in whatever whoever translated "phonogram" IF whoever translated correctly.

The term 'phonogram' as used in the text I quoted is a traslation of the term 形聲字, so no YIN 音. Still, it has SHENG, which is much the same thing, so you're more-or-less right.
"When a semantic symbol is added". Added to what? I cannot think of any Chinese character functioning as a phonogram, except when added to another one functioning as a taxogram (semantic classifier).

Added to an existing character, which may or may not be a phonogram. It is the end result that is the phonogram.
In the majority of cases the taxogram is written first. But in many cases it is written last, such as ... and calling something else (zhuanzhu?) those consisting of a semantic classifier followed by a phonetic complement. Humbug, stuff and nonsense.

I agree with the last sentence here, but I think you are mistaking the author's intention. I don't think he is drawing a distinction depending on which element is written first in a given character, but, rather, how the character was historically derived.
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"Sebastian Hew" (Email Removed) wrote on 28 Dec 2003:

Peter has told me who you are and I have no trouble trusting your judgment. I am not prepared to challenge the judgment of people who, I now know, are scholars and experts in fields in which I am merely an amateur. What I've read in all of your replies tells me that I don't know enough to continue the discussion.
I look forward to reading your explanation of the confusion, though.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
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