An imagery-based theory Chinese character information configuration
Feng Lang
July 2021

Spoken language is the result of the natural evolution of humankind, while written words are more recent human inventions. Alphabetical writing systems use letters that are closely related to speech to record speech, and the relationship between the pronunciation and the meaning of the word is the result of arbitrary but commonly understood conventions. However, we do not know much about how ideograms came to represent meaning in written words. Chinese characters do not form an alphabetic writing system, and there is a lack of knowledge of the ideographic mechanism connecting the structure of a character and its meaning. We cannot even talk about the polysemy of Chinese characters and the mechanism of multi-character word formation. We analysed the relationship between the glyphs and meanings of nine thousand Chinese characters and found that the combination of elements in the glyph constructs certain imagery, and this imagery is a psychological representation of the experience informing the concept of the character, so the meaning and glyph of the characters are ideographically connected. Therefore, we hypothesize the idea of “character formation based on imagery”. We determine the imagery and system structure of these 9,000 Chinese characters, summarize the five cognitive models for combining these characters, and build the foundation for a “character formation based on imagery” theory. At the same time, these combination models are extended to multi-character words that combine various characters, and finally, we obtain the morphological ideographic mechanism of the Chinese writing system. The results reveal the ideographic mechanism of the dual-coded hierarchical combination that yields the internal configuration of Chinese characters and their imagery, provide new information about the explanatory nature of Chinese characters that directly represent knowledge, and help propose a guiding theory for character word formation in the Chinese writing system.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006090
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keywords: chinese character, imagery, ancient culture, morphology, cognition, morphology
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