4

I'm learning Sino-Korean vocabulary at the moment and have noticed that many words seem to end in a '子' that doesn't seem to add much semantically to the other character in the word.

What should I take '子' to signify in this case?

http://www.archchinese.com/chinese_english_dictionary.html?find=子 suggests that it can mean 'small thing', but a 獅子 is not a very small thing.

  • If you were able to read in Chinese, you could refer to this similar question in 知乎。 – zyy Sep 5 '18 at 21:33
  • @zyy thanks... but I think it will take me a whole lifetime to learn Korean :) – topo morto Sep 5 '18 at 21:48
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「子」originally meant child. By extension, through the following sequence, it was further used:

  1. To emphasise the smallness of an object.
  2. As a diminutive suffix, conveying a sense of intimacy/endearment.
  3. As a nominal suffix, doubling as a way of transforming a monosyllabic noun to disyllabic.

In the diminutive aspect (指小辭; 지소사), its function is very similar to the examples in the answer given by the question posted here.

In 菓子 and 帽子,「子」may play any one or a combination of the three uses above; the answer is not entirely clear, as the uses are related to one-another. In 獅子, which is obviously not small,「子」is used in sense 3 above and should be seen as the same as —이 in Korean 虎狼이.


Note, non-Mandarin Chinese languages also use diminutives; Cantonese「仔」is cognate to Mandarin「子」.

  • This is spot on. Diminutive doesn't mean small. – NS.X. Sep 6 '18 at 3:52
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[國] zi5 - Mandarin only

noun suffix added to certain nouns and measure words, e.g. 桌子, 胖子, 亂子, 一下子, etc

子 is a suffix that:

  1. emphasize a noun.

  2. add one more syllable to a single syllable word to make it more easy to hear

The actual meaning of 子 itself doesn't matter in this role

Similarly, 了 itself means 'finished/ end/ complete', but as a [final particle]( that indicating change of situation) those definitions do not matter

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