Tell me, please, how do 我's radicals 手 and 戈 create the meaning of 我 (ie: I)? I know that 戈's pictogram (象形) means a rake-like tool or weapon, borrowed for sound to mean "me" (note 'Oracle bone script')." But then how did "rake-like tool or weapon" shift semantically to mean "I"?

Yes, was a kind of weapon.

According to the book 字源谈趣, was a kind of broadax originally in slavery society.

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请看图(A),是甲骨文里的“我”字,象个什么东西呢?象把有柄有钩的古代武器——大斧,斧口有一排锋利的锯齿。原来,这是奴隶社会里一种用来行刑杀人和肢解牲口的凶器,叫做wǒ,古代也有人把这种锯斧叫做“錡”。

And then later, was obsoleted by other new weapons little by little. From Han and Tang dynasty, was borrowed to be used as first person, and the pronunciation doesn't change till today.

“我”这种奴隶社会杀人的凶器,到了战国时代,大抵被后起的更优良的凶器所淘汰;于是“我”字在汉唐以后便被普遍借用来作为第一人称使用,还是读作wǒ,字音至今不变。(先秦乃至汉唐以前,第一人称,是用“吾”“予”“余”等字来表示的。)但词性却已由名词变作人称代词,而“我”是杀人凶器的原义便早已不为人所知了。

This phenomenon is called 假借字, means select and use an old word for new expression and meaning, without creating a new word.

许慎:“假借者,本无其字,依声托事,令长是也。”即本来没有那个字,现在为了表达的需要,在不另造新字之情况下借用旧字来充当新义,就成了假借,“令”本义表命令的会意字,后来指县令。

Additional reference: 汉字“我”最早是杀人凶器

  • 假借字 means to "falsely borrow" a character for its sound, not for its meaning. – Nimrod Jul 26 at 22:24

Phonetic loan. The social hierarchy in Chinese society was such that one had to use pronouns according to class. 朕 (zhèn) means "I", but was eventually used exclusively by the emporor, and nobody was allowed to be equal to him. Therefore a range of honorific pronouns exist in Chinese, many of which are loan words or otherwise obscure.

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