"House" in Hokkien......

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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aokh1979
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"House" in Hokkien......

Post by aokh1979 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:42 am

Hi All:

Lately I have been struggling for the almost-no-doubt word for "house" in Hokkien - 厝. I live in Xiamen myself, and 厝 is used officially at many places, like 蔡厝 where 蔡 is the common surname for everyone in that district. It got me thinking that 厝 does not sound like just a "house" but more like a "clan" for me.

By referring back to 康熙字典 and 說文解字, 厝 is either grave or big stone. Big stone, I can accept if it carries an extended definition of "house" since our ancestors lived in stone-made houses during Stone Age. That's a little farfetched though. Grave, it gives me the creep that if it was the right character, that means our ancestors believed that we were going to die in the very house we lived in, or that house was meant to store our dead bodies. What do you guys think ?

Besides, on the pronunciation.

厝 = 錯 as indicated in 康熙字典. Of course, it might have been mistaken, that's why I am looking for more reasonable explanation.

However, there's a character 茨 in both 康熙字典 and 說文解字 that signifies "thatching", a place made by "thatch" and lived by human. Is that not a better answer to "house" ? The pronunciation based on fanqie, is zu or cu. It matches perfectly. Any thought from anyone ?
Ah-bin
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by Ah-bin » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:11 am

厝 has a bit of an unlucky meaning doesn't it. I have always thought of it as a sound borrowing for one of those words that didn't have a character because it wasn't Sinitic to start with. I also thought that if Hokkien people of the past spent more time looking things up in dictionaries they would have been scared to use it because of its connections to graves. I'd say the the character was "invented" by someone who didn't know it was already in existence in a dictionary somewhere with the meaning of "grave"
niuc
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by niuc » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:10 am

as 'chu3' (house) is also used in Singapore for place names e.g. Yio Chu Kang 楊厝港, Choa Chu Kang 蔡厝港 and Lim Chu Kang 林厝港. is 'cho3', is 'cho`3', so I don't know how became 'chu3'.

Sometime ago I also read of for 'chu3'. However, Quanzhou online dictionary (http://solution.cs.ucla.edu/~jinbo/dzl/lookup.php) lists it as homophone for and , so it is 'cy5'/'cu5'/'ci5'. Anyway, that's what the dictionary says. I have no problem if it is to be used as the (more) proper hanji for 'chu3'.
aokh1979
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by aokh1979 » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:39 pm

Yes, niuc. 厝 has been widely used in 閩南 in China. I wonder how it got recognised as the "standard" writing. 說文解字 listed it as "tombstone" since Han Dynasty. It later meant morgue, where one kept dead body before burial. How can that be the "house" we live ?

I am not sure about others but I have started using 茨 and I will explain my thought to as many people as possible.
Ah-bin
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by Ah-bin » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:09 am

I really don't think it's anything to do with a change in meaning. The word Chhu in Hokkien just ended up written that way, just like bah (meat) ended up being written with a character, even though it wasn;t a Chinese word to start with.

I'm sure the people who started using 厝 for house probably had no idea what it meant originally. Not everyone in the past who could read and write Chinese had access to old dictionaries or spent hours reading the Classics, especially by Ming times when popular literature began to flourish. Chinese people have invented many things themselves to write their spoken languages which are not found in dictionaries, new characters and imperfect sound borrowings and simplifications.

All of the old dictionaries where these characters are found (K'ang-hsi etc.) are dictionaries of written Classical Chinese, not of spoken Hokkien, so their definitions reflect the meanings of Classical Chinese, a different language from spoken Hokkien altogether. Just as different as Latin is from French. A Latin dictionary can tell you some things about the derivation of French words, but it isn't a Hokkien dictionary.

厝 is instantly recognisable to Hokkien speakers, used to write place names, and has at least a four-hundred year history of representing the word chhu in Hokkien and related languages. Why change to something no-one knows just because a dictionary of a different language uses it to represent a different word? Just fishing for answers....
SimL
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by SimL » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:33 am

I respect the sensitivities of the people who perceive the negative connotations of and hence want to replace it with , but I agree with Ah-bin. Personally, I don't feel these connotations, and I'm happy to continue using , for the very reasons that Ah-bin gives.
niuc
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by niuc » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:23 am

I find myself having similar opinion as Sim. Btw is 'chy3'/'chu3', so it is indeed reasonable for to have this pronunciation too...
aokh1979
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by aokh1979 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:35 pm

I will continue to keep an open mind on 本字 in Hokkien. I respect that most people continue to prefer 厝 than 茨. The same thing has been happening to us since the last few hundred years. Chinese language has indeed experienced a few rounds of "evolutions" and I personally believe we have lost enough essence from it. Next, younger generation will continue to write Simplified Chinese and in the next 10 years, more and more people will continue to mix up 發 and 髮 or 面 and 麵 until one day, when Traditional Chinese is no longer in use.

I fully agree that our dearest ancestors might not be any scholar, and they might not have looked up in dictionary when they tried to learn a new word. Lots of things were even passed down verbally. In Penang, there was slight confusion when the government tried to set up a Chinese road sign for 大銃巷. Should it be 銃 or 槍 as the latter one was the popular writing of "cannon" known to many of us ? I dunno how many people knew 銃 but for myself, 2 years ago, I always thought 槍 was the only correct character because my Mandarin text book said so. I then started looking around and questioning every Hokkien character I came across.

Though today, I am still not very convinced that 腳 should be 骹 and 土 should be 塗. I would love to hear more opinions from you all. Should 葉 be 箬 ? We have seen 佗落 as "where" written in many places but I doubt it is the right word. Right ? True, Hokkien words should not be simply changed according to a dictionary written in a different language. The question I have for myself, and I hope you can share your thought with me, is in which language were all these old dictionaries written in ? Of course I do not have a good answer to it, but I am quite certain that Hokkien carries many ancient elements of Chinese language, and it would make sense to me if Hokkien (or anything very similar to it) was the language spoken when these dictionaries were written.

Thank you for sharing your thought. I believe that Hokkien is a rich and witty language, that should be recognised as a full-fledged one, to use not just for chit-chat, but to discuss more serious discourse. 厝 may have been in use for a very long time, but if we foresee in the next 400 years, 后 will be used more widely or even worse, as the only written form for 王后 and also 后面(後面), nobody by then will know 後 exists. I do not have a full-proof evidence that 厝 is the original Chinese word for "house", it may not even be Chinese, it may be just a 借音字 but when I come across a more persuasive character for it, I will not easily give in to 約定俗成. We have more resources and accesses than our ancestors, to research and study. Is it not what we have been doing in this forum asking people how to write certain word in Hokkien ? I may be wrong, but to me 厝 should not be 厝 just because it's been there long enough.

:P
Ah-bin
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by Ah-bin » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:00 am

You think 后 is silly too? Then we are on the same side.

面 and 麵 are particularly bad for Hokkien as they aren't even pronounced the same.
and it would make sense to me if Hokkien (or anything very similar to it) was the language spoken when these dictionaries were written.
You can find the results of research on Old Chinese and Early Middle Chinese pronunciation in various places. It's not really Hokkien, but some of the things are similar, like the lack of initial -f. remember that Hokkien lost its original distinctions between final -p, -k, and -t (they all became unreleased glottal stops) and these sounds were reintroduced into Hokkien from the north during T'ang times.

Here is a nice resource on what spoken Chinese of the Han Dynasty probably sounded like:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~wbaxter/etymdict.html

All free too....
SimL
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by SimL » Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:15 am

Ah-bin wrote:面 and 麵 are particularly bad for Hokkien as they aren't even pronounced the same.
One of your pet hates, if I'm not mistaken :mrgreen:.
Ah-bin
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by Ah-bin » Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:23 am

Yes! When Chinese start writing properly again they should teach people the difference by slapping people in the 面 with wet 麵 until they get it right! :twisted:

As for original characters, even Mandarin is full of "mistakes" that have become accepted over time. 餃子 were originally 角子 because of their horn shape according to Jerry Norman. Sometimes I think for things like chhu one just has to give up because everyone knows it already. As for some of the other words that don'r really have accepted forms, the original characters are probably the best. That is my general principle, I know others disagree though....
niuc
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by niuc » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:06 am

Ah-bin wrote:Yes! When Chinese start writing properly again they should teach people the difference by slapping people in the 面 with wet 麵 until they get it right! :twisted:
Bravo, Ah-bin! :P
As for original characters, even Mandarin is full of "mistakes" that have become accepted over time. 餃子 were originally 角子 because of their horn shape according to Jerry Norman.
Good to know this trivia. Thanks!
Sometimes I think for things like chhu one just has to give up because everyone knows it already. As for some of the other words that don'r really have accepted forms, the original characters are probably the best. That is my general principle, I know others disagree though....
I am open to both. If Hokkien is to be written in TLJ, I think standardization is important. We also need to consider the best way to indicate which pronunciation (lit. or col. etc) to be used in the context of that particular sentence. And of course also which romanization scheme to be used in dictionary etc.
niuc
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Re: "House" in Hokkien......

Post by niuc » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:36 am

aokh1979 wrote: I wonder how it got recognised as the "standard" writing. 說文解字 listed it as "tombstone" since Han Dynasty. It later meant morgue, where one kept dead body before burial. How can that be the "house" we live ?
Talking about dead body, 屋 (house in Mandarin)'s radical is 尸 which according to zhongwen.com is pictograph of a person sitting or lying down. 尸 is also the simplified form of 屍 (corpse). Isn't this strange that 屋 is also related to dead body??? :roll: What is the word for house in classical Chinese?
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