Word of the day – 崎 (qí)

崎 (qí), noun = the banks of a winding river

This is an example of one of the very specific words in Chinese. I doubt if it’s used very often, but the fact that you pack so much meaning into a single syllable is quite impressive.

Pronounced with the first tone and combined with 嶇 (qū), this character means rugged, uneven or rough, e.g. 這條小徑崎嶇而多泥 (zhè tiáo xiǎojīng qīqū ér duō ní) – This path is rugged and muddy.

This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Words and phrases.

23 Responses to Word of the day – 崎 (qí)

  1. Mike says:

    It’s interesting that, in Japanese, the same character means “small peninsula” (さき/saki).

  2. Weili says:

    Hmm… I’ve never heard of 崎 being defined as “the banks of a winding river”. I just looked up this character on a random Chinese-English dictionary online and it gave the following definition:

    “rough, uneven, jagged, rugged”

    It’s also usually used with the other character you mentioned 嶇 and when used together (崎嶇), it still has the same meaning of “rugged”.

    With that said though, this is a good example of one of the types of Chinese characters that combine meaning with phonetic elements. Both characters have 山 shan (mountain) on the left, implying it’s related to mountains while they are pronounced the same as the character on the right, 奇 qi and 區 respectively.

  3. Mark S. says:

    This qí (崎) isn’t really a word. It’s a bound morpheme. It needs to be joined with other morphemes — such as qū (嶇), to form qíqū, as you noted — to form a real word in modern Mandarin.

    It’s a shame that “Morphosyllabogram of the day” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

  4. TJ says:

    aaa …… what’s up doc?

    Now lemme ask this … is there a kanji character for:
    pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanocaniosis ?

    It’s not a rubbish, it is a word indeed!! google it!

  5. Mike says:

    🙂 I doubt there’s a single character for it, but maybe something like 水晶埃息肺病気? I think it’d be read as “shui3 jing1 ai1 xi1 fei4 bing4 qi4” in Pinyin? It’s “suishouaisokuhaibyouki” in Japanese, but I don’t know if that is the real word for the condition. It pretty much says “crystal-dust breathing lung disease,” which is a rough definition of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (an illness of the lungs, caused by the inhalation of quartz or silica crystal dust).

  6. As Mike observed, in Japanese the character 崎 has a meaning of “promontory, small peninsula, cape”, and 崎嶇 does not even exist. However there is another interesting jukugo (i.e. compound word) for “rugged, uneven”, which actually suggests the idea of a rough surface with the very shape of its kanji: 凸凹 dekoboko. Individually, 凸 totsu means “convex”, and 凹 ō means “concave, hollow”. This is an amazing example of how some kanji preserve the shape of what they mean (as I maintained also in another thread, http://www.omniglot.com/blog/2006/04/27/word-of-the-day-dialect/ ). A surface on which cavities alternate with lumps is obviously “uneven, rugged”, and 凸凹 is indeed a simplified visual depiction of such feature.
    Interestingly, also the jukugo with kanji in reverse order exists, i.e. 凹凸 ōtotsu, less frequently used than the previous one, but with an identical meaning. Note how the first jukugo, dekoboko, sounds completely different: its reading is kun’yomi (i.e. Japanese-derived), unlike the second jukugo, ōtotsu, whose reading is on’yomi (Chinese-derived).

    As for the word pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (note, not …caniosis), it really looks dreadful. But being a (multi)compound word, for the sake of the reader’s comprehension I would rather spell it using hyphens to break it into its many parts or, better, change it into ultramicroscopic pneumosilicovolcanoconiosis, which makes it easier to read, …and maybe less frightening too. Pneumoconioses are a group of chronic lung diseases caused by breathing for years particles of silica, or asbestos, etc., more often in mines, factories or, as the word suggests, next to volcanoes. As most medical terms, the word has a double Greek root: πνεύμων pneumon = lung, and κονία konia = dust, sand, ending with -osis, a suffix that indicates degeneration of the affected tissues.

  7. Weili says:

    Speaking of the same word having different meanings in Chinese and Japanese…

    I don’t know how accurate this is but I read somewhere that in Japanese, the wife calls the husband 主人, which in Chinese means “master” as opposed to “slave” or “servant”. I also remember seeing 大丈夫 meaning “It’s OK” in Japanese but in Chinese it means “big husband/man of the hosue”. Maybe someone who knows Japanese can clarify.

  8. In reply to Weili, 主人 aruji (other reading: shujin) in Japanese has several meanings:
    not only “husband” but also “master”, “head of the household”, “landlord”, “employer” and “host”. The Japanese language maintains indeed a good dose of what in Western culture would be frowned upon as chauvinism. For instance, not only 主人 aruji is a word that most Western women would refuse to address their husbands with, but a Japanese husband, speaking of his own wife with others, calls her 家内 kanai (literally “inside the house”). However, in a slighter degree traces of chauvinism survive in many other languages, including my own native one.
    As for 大丈夫 daijōbu, the meaning in Japanese is “OK, in good shape” referring to one’s physical / psychic condition (i.e. not “OK” expressing the speaker’s agreement).
    I believe that this meaning has to do with 丈夫 jōbu = “strong, solid, durable”, or (less frequently) “hero, warrior” and, metaphorically, “husband” again.
    丈standing alone, read “take” has a meaning of “height, length, measure”. while read “jō” has two less frequent meanings: “an old unit of length of about 3 m” and, as a suffix, “a title of respect attached to the stage name of kabuki actors”.

  9. Weili says:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification.

    Interesting on what Japanese husbands refer to their wives when speaking to others. In Chinese we have a similar term, it’s 內人, which literally means “inside person”. Although growing up, I never really got the impression that 內人 is offensive to women as I’ve always thought the “inside” that is referred here is not the house but the family.

  10. Probably 內人 is just the same as 家内, considering that 家 alone has several shades of meaning: read “ie”, it means either “house” or “home” (generic), while read “uchi” it means “one’s own house”. In fact, “uchi” is also one of the readings for 內, which means “inside” (as it does in Chinese). For this reason, when speaking to another person, it is more polite to refer to his house/home using the expression お宅 o-taku rather than 家uchi or ie.
    Furthermore, when used in compounds, the shades of meaning of 家 include also “household”, “family”, “clan” (this implies also three more readings, “ya”, “ka” and “ke”), literally boosting the range of words in which this glyph is found.
    In some cases the connection to its main meaning might not be so clear, without a knowledge of traditional customs. For instance, 家 ka is used as a suffix in a number of words with a meaning of “practitioner”, in particular of martial arts (e.g. 空手家 karateka = “karate practitioner”, 柔道家 jūdōka = “judo practitioner”), because once these people were members of a 道場 dōjō, i.e. a martial art school/gym, whose members considered themselves almost as a clan (who knows Bruce Lee’s movies knows well what I mean!). But the use of suffix 家 is extended also to other arts, e.g. 画家 gaka = “painter”, 音楽家 ongakuka (ongakka) = “musician”, 作家 sakka = “author, writer”, etc. with a similar meaning.
    So 家 can be considered a graphic translitteration of a broad concept, as the various terms whose spelling contains this kanji (e.g. 家具 kagu = “furniture”, 国家 kokka = “nation”, 家主 yanushi = “landlord”, 建築家 kensakuka = “architect”, 合気道家 aikidōka = “aikido practitioner”, etc.) are bound together by associations of ideas, some of which sink deep into local culture and traditions. The chauvinism or prejudice that to a Westener’s eyes (or ears) mars terms such as 家内 kanai is mostly due to the fact that a literal translation often fails to grasp the semantic root of the word.

  11. Weili says:

    Very good point, Andrea 🙂

    It’s also interesting that I didn’t really have to read your explanation to know all the meanings of 家 and the various usage as it’s nearly identical, if not completely identical, in both Chinese and Japanese.

    Regarding the chauvinism or prejudice issue, I think it also has a good deal to do with stereotypes.

  12. The policy of being ‘politically correct’, that swarmed over Western cultures during the past 10-15 years, affected languages probably more than it did with other social aspects (customs, etc.). The more one language is likely to incur ‘linguistic prejudice’ of some kind, the more new words or expressions have to be introduced, to follow these winds of change.
    A practical example: having the Italian language a structure particularly inclined towards separate forms for masculine and feminine (not only nouns, but adjectives, verb inflections, etc. are gender-sensitive), several titles used to address professionals such as lawyers, architects, and others, once exclusively masculine, now exist in feminine form too, often raising debates on whether the masculine form should be maintained in either case, as a stock expression.
    Oriental languages, as far as my limited knowledge enables me to comment about them, seem much more impermeable to such trend, maybe due to stronger binds between language and local culture, or to the structure of the language, with the result that Orientals are perfectly comfortable with expressions such as 主人 (aruji) or 家内 (kanai), thus remaining firmly entrenched in common usage, whereas in the West they would now be unacceptable.
    In my personal opinion, a large majority of linguistic changes due to the so-called ‘political correctness’ are completely useless, also because in many cases altered words are merely a hypocritical pretext, which leaves the prejudice behind them completely unmodified. 🙂

  13. Weili says:

    I can’t speak for Japanese but the policy of being “politically correct” has also affected Chinese. In the past 100 years (not exactly sure when), some new characters were invented to reduce gender-inbalance. For example, words like 你 ni (you),他 ta (him), now have a “feminine counterpart”, which are 妳 ni, 她 ta, respectively. They are still pronounced the same but both are written with a 女 nü (female) radical. But keep in mind though, 你 and 他 were never used strictly to refer to males, it was used to refer to people, period, which is why they have a 人 ren (person/people) radical.

    I also noticed that while Japanese, Korean, and to a certain extend, Taiwanese society tend to be more “traditional” in terms of gender roles, mainland China is actually more “progressive” in that area, probably due to communism and its emphasis on equality.

  14. Japanese too has introduced in relatively recent times a specific term for “she”, which maybe less than a century ago did not exist. The word is 彼女 kanojo, opposed to 彼 kare (= “he”). According to the context, both words can also have a meaning of “girlfriend” and “boyfriend”, respectively. I think that before 彼女 was devised, the expression あの人 anohito (literally “that person”) could be used for either “he” or “she”.
    It is interesting that 他 means “he” in Chinese, because in Japanese it means “other”, not miles away from “he”, but still quite different. Combined with 人 it forms the compound 他人 tanin = “stranger, unknown person”. Furthermore, 他 can be used with any category, not only humans (as one may think because of its radical), e.g. 他の店 hoka no mise = “another shop”, 他の犬 hoka no inu = “another dog”, etc..
    Instead 她 does not exist in Japanese, but if I had been asked to guess what it means, probably I would have said “another woman”.

    Back to the ‘political correctness’ issue, I often smile in noticing how several kanji that point towards negative qualities contain the female radical 女.
    For instance, 妨 carries a meaning of “disturbance, hindrance”, 嫌 means “dislike, hate”, 妬 and 嫉 mean “envy”, while 奸 and 姦 mean “wickedness, mischief”. The last one, consisting of three female radicals, is also used in 姦しい kashimashii = “boisterous, noisy”.
    I guess the reason for this is that in archaic societies (both Oriental and Western), these qualities once used to be considered more typically female.

  15. Simon says:

    There are also quite a few characters containing the female radical with positive qualities:

    好 (hǎo) – good, nice, fine, excellent
    妙 (miào) – wonderful, excellent
    妥 (tuǒ) – firm, safe, secure, appropriate
    姚 (yáo) – handsome, elegant, good-looking
    威 (wēi) – dignity, majesty, authority, power, awe

    and many more referring to beauty, grace, etc.

  16. Weili says:

    Very good point, Simon.

  17. I definitely agree.
    However, in my Japanese dictionary three out of five of these kanji have an amazingly dual positive / negative meaning:
    妙 = “exquisite, excellent”, but also “queer, strange”
    妥 = “gentle”, but also “depravity”
    威 = “dignity, majesty”, but also “menace, threat”
    But maybe in Chinese they only have the positive meaning.
    Any clues?

  18. Weili says:

    The thing with Hanzi/Kanji is that the meaning of a single character in general is pretty abstract. It becomes more clear when combined with other character or characters to form words.

    For example, 威 by itself could mean any of the things both Andrea and Simon mentioned above. However, when combined with other characters, its meaning will be more… “focused”.

    • 威力 weili (same pronounciation as my name but different characters ;)) – “power”, “might”.
    • 威風 weifeng – “impressive force”, “power”
    • 威嚴 weiyan – “dignified”, “prestige”, “dignity”

    • 威脅 weixie – “threat”, “menace”

  19. Weili says:

    Just thought of another good example: 好 hao

    • 好人 haoren – good person (or usually in a story, the “good guy”)
    • 好處 haochu – benefit, advantage
    • 好感 haogan – favorable impression, good opinion

    • 好色 haose – to be perverted
    • 好吃 haochi – to be obsessed with eating, or having a bad habit of eating too much

    Note: when used in a negative way, I just noticed 好 hao is pronounced with a fourth tone instead of third.

  20. This is one more example of how the differences between Chinese and Japanese can be rather tricky.
    Unlike the glyphs we discussed before, which may refer to either positive or negative qualities, in Japanese 好 is used only with positive meanings (“to like, to be fond of”), and of the five compounds mentioned by Weili, only two exist, namely 好感 (kōkan) and 好色 (kōshoku). But while the first one has exactly the same meaning as in Chinese (“favourable impression”), the second one means “lust, sensuality”, …which is not exactly the same as “to be perverted”.
    I dare not imagine what consequences this misunderstanding might cause! 🙂

  21. Jason says:

    Oooh this is a fun blog.

    To expand on the word 好.

    好 plays the part of an adjective or adverb depending on the word it is paired with.

    Being the composite of the words “son” and “daughter”, it frequently means “fond of/fondness for”. In other words, “I LIKE…”

    As words have a tendency to morph, “I LIKE…” also became:

    “Good” – Because I like it.
    “Very” – Because I like it too much.
    “Excessive” – Because I like it WAY too much.

    “Good Usage”
    • 好人 haoren – Good person
    • 好處 haochu – Good place/part (i.e. benefit)
    • 好感 haogan – Good feeling (about …)
    • 好吃 with the third tone means – Good eat (tasty)

    • 好吃 with the fourth tone means – excessive eat (i.e. over eat)
    • 好色 haose (with the 3rd tone) – very sex(perverse) – to be perverted
    • 好色 haose (with the 4th tone) – excessively fond of sex – to want to have sex too much.

    Note that 色 plays two different roles in the usages above. When used with the 3rd tone, it is an adjective describing one who’s perverted. When used with the 4th tone, it is a noun describing the act of having sex.

    In this particular case, I believe the Japanese has managed to preserve the original meaning of the character 好 better.

  22. I agree with Jason’s last statement about 好.
    The left and right components of the kanji – sorry, I don’t know how radicals are referred to in Chinese according to their position – point respectively to a woman (女, the main radical) and to a child (子). Therefore, the original meaning should have been positive, i.e. either referring to “the feeling of a woman contemplating a child” or (a bit cheekier) to “the activity following which a woman might bear a child” – I’m doing my best to keep this blog from being rated. 😉
    Does anybody know whether such a dual meaning of 好色 depending on the tone exists also in Cantonese?
    Should only one meaning be possible in Cantonese (likely, the one with the 4th tone in Mandarin, the closer of the two to Japanese kōshoku), the other ‘beyond the edge’ meaning might be a consequence of the linguistic changes that official Chinese underwent during the past few centuries, due to which Japanese on’yomi readings today sound more similar to Cantonese than to Mandarin (see my other post in http://www.omniglot.com/blog/2006/03/30/gui/).

  23. Jukka.Wu says:

    There’s a mistake I must correct. There’s no first tone for 崎.According to the 汉语大词典(The Extensive Chinese Dictionary), 崎 has three kinds of pronounciation:qi2,qi3,yi1.Qi3 and yi1 is very rarely used in our daily expression,even in the formal texts or classical texts.

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