Monday, June 28, 2010

漢字: 「翻訳」の「翻」。 (What's the "hon" in "hon'yaku"?)

It's bothering me that I don't know what the hon in hon'yaku (translation) means; I always just use 訳 yaku (訳す、訳する). So let's find out. ちょっと調べてみよう。。。。

Well, that's ランドム. Kotoba gives two kanji, 翻 and 飜, and grays out the former, though apparently only the former is 常用 (Jouyou, common-use: school grade 8, JLPT level 1). Both mean "to flip over", and they share a hen of topped-rice and rice-field; in 翻 the tsukuri is 羽 (hane, feathers/wings), and in 飜 it's our old friend 飛 (tobu, to fly).

Not clear to me how either of these relates to translation, but maybe it's phonetic. I'll check Henshall先生 later.

1 comment:

  1. Henshall先生 says the hen of ban番 implies order or sequence, and that that combined with wings or flying led to the idea of flapping, which in turn led to change.

    He further says that yaku has an older form (譯), with a more complex tsukuri that depicts an eye watching over people prisoners. (Interesting that the part of the tsukuri that Henshall refers to as "prisoners", if you add shinnyuu, becomes...達, the plural suffix! Henshall says that part of 達 actually derives from big sheep and that how it came to mean plurality is unclear. Maybe 訳 is a clue.) At any rate, Henshall says the eye-watching-prisoners doesn't necessarily carry meaning but acts phonetically to express "change". He doesn't say quite how.