Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A moment of blazing insight

I just had to share this story of me being very proud of myself.

Last night, I was prepping a lecture about tone for my General Phonetics class.  And I decided, as long as I was doing it, to put together a chart of "all" the ways people have to indicate tone.  The class is about the IPA, so of course we have to talk about Chao tone letters, but Chinese scholarship doesn't often use those, so I decided to take a sample of some of the other ways.

So the point was I was looking at a lot of Chinese on the web yesterday, and happily plagia--cop--er, um, making use of the information available in my chart. And so I lifted some Chinese characters from somewhere to use in my chart.

The four Mandarin tones are illustrated with the set "mother" "hemp" "horse" and "scold", which are all the syllable "ma" with different tones attached.  I will spare you the rest of the story, to get to the proud moment part.

I'm looking at my chart, and I notice that the character for "horse" can't be right.  I notice that the character, 麻, as two 'plant' radicals in it.  I know this because in my last name 'hagi' also has a plant radical in it.  So this must in fact be the character for "hemp".

So I do some more checking and I'm right. That's the character for hemp.  For the record, I have no idea about the other three symbols, since they seem to all share a radical, 馬, which seems to be "horse". So I'm betting "mother" and "scold" are wrong. Hmm.

But for one blazing moment, I'd recognized the plant radical!!!

Hey, I take my victories where I can get them these days.