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Old 04-06-2009, 02:32 AM   #22
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
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Re: The etymology of Kote Gaeshi

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
At issue here seems to a fundamental misunderstanding. We divide the hand from the arm as two distinct body parts, but there's no reason why one must do that.
Of course. And there is no reason not to assume that the kunyomi original "te" has the whole limb as its reference field. But that does not address his question -- which flows from the written characters -- not the purely oral language.

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
That the 手 character is an ideograph of the hand and fingers doesn't mean it ever meant purely just that. It simply indicates the most distinctive feature of the whole body part.
The Chinese character goes back to the Zhou with bronze inscriptions between 1000-300 B.C. -- plainly depicting a "hand." In fact, a hand in the correct curved shape of grasping, at that.

臂 "arm" is later in the Qin and Warrings States -- ca. mid second cent. B.C. with known roots to Middle Chinese:

-- I have no idea whether the metonymy occurred in the translation into manyogana or the process of Chinese developing broader connotation from that time until the sixth or seventh cent. A.D. but the Modern Chinese suggests it was later, in translation.

Joshua Reyer wrote: View Post
Further, David Yap's info that 手 also refers to the whole arm in Chinese is quite relevant even from an etymological point of view.

Body part words, being very commonly used, are extraordinarily stable. The words "hand", "wrist", "arm", "elbow", and "shoulder" mean the same that they did 1500 years ago when "English" was first born.
I don't think that David (Yap) was suggesting that merely because 手 can be used to refer to "arm" that it is the common way to do so (it isn't). It may allow the suggestion that the expression might have available in the seventh century for reduction to manyogana. But it most likely does not, the common expressions, in modern Chinese are not single characters like 臂, but compounds, and they indicate the preservation of the reference distinction by joining them to mean the whole of the arm -- i.e. 手臂 and 手膀 -- both, lit.-- "hand+arm."

However, the modern Chinese usage David reports may more easily be a shortened back-formation from these later compounds. In classical Chinese at the time of the adoption of manyogana compound forms (particularly of common terms) would have been very rare, almost non-existent. Since the contextual distinction would be (usually) obvious, this is a good candidate for a shortened expression.

A close parallel with our Japanese example here, on a much shorter timescale, would be modern British English which refers to "telly" -- which is the shortened first part of a invented compound, "tele-vision," derived from previously unassociated Greek roots. If one tried to read the term with its Greek root it would say "I am going to watch the 'far away' ..."


Erick Mead
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