2

How does this character meaning become "small/tiny"? So many sources tell me that it's semantic 彳 + "phonetic" 𢼸, but what exactly is 𢼸? I've never seen this character elsewhere before. Could this possibly like 德 and 得, where the original character was missing the 彳 part? However, I haven't found any answer that explains the 𢼸 component, so was wondering if anyone can enlighten me, thanks.

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《說文・彳部》


𢕧
 

隱行也。从「彳」,「𣁋」聲。

「微」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*məj/), to travel [somewhere] under stealth. From semantic 「彳」 (to walk) and phonetic 「𣁋」 (/*məj/).

Strictly speaking, 「微」 is just a complexified character from 「𣁋」. Characters naturally become more complex over time for disambiguation purposes, as simpler characters tend to be used and reused for other senses or as rebus characters/phonetic loans, causing them to be overloaded with definitions and more easily subjected to shape distortions, and thus increasingly difficult to comprehend.

Since 「𣁋」 is the original character for the meaning small, slight, then in terms of glyph origins, 「微」 is built from semantic 「彳」 and doubly semantic and phonetic 「𣁋」 . 「彳」 is simply a semantic indicator appended on to 「微」 to extend the meaning small, slight to travelling under stealth.

So, all this begs the question - what exactly is 「𣁋」 supposed to be?


Glyph origins of 「𣁋」



𣁋
京都2146
合集27996
西周

𣁋
史墻盤
集成10175
戰國

𣁋
56.35
九店楚簡


𣁋
人部
說文解字


𣁋

 

「𣁋」 is constructed from semantic 「髟」 (picture of a person with long hair) and semantic 「攵・攴」 (picture of a hand holding a hitting implement > to strike, to hit), inferring the meaning delicate, slight through the action of cutting off a full growth of hair into a more elegant and delicate state.

Shuōwén's

《說文・人部》


𣁋
 

妙也。从「人」,从「攴」。「豈」省聲。

(/*məj/) [means] delicate. From semantic 「人」 (person), semantic 「攴」 (to strike), and reduced phonetic 「豈」 (/*C.qʰˤəjʔ/).

is probably a misunderstanding. 「豈」 may have originated from an alteration of 「壴」 (picture of a drum) into 「豈」 (beating of victory drums > triumphant music, now written as 「凱」), and Shuōwén has confused the top part of 「豈」 with the top-[left] part of 「髟」.



壴
2770
合集27694
西周

壴
壴鼎
集成1175
春秋

壴
王孫遺者鐘
集成261
戰國・楚

壴
性自命出49
郭店楚簡
戰國・楚

敳
1.011
信陽竹書簡


豈
豈部
說文解字
西漢

豈
縱橫145
馬王堆帛書
三國

豈
魏封孔羨碑
 


豈

 

For reference, shape derivation of 「豈」. Shapes 1-4 refer to 「壴」. Shape 5 is 「敳」, with the left-hand component as 「壴」 but the top-left part written as a rotated 「山」. This sets the scene for the confusion of 「豈」 and 「𣁋」 in Shuōwén. Forms 6-9 refer to 「豈」, which all inherit the (rotated) 「山」 shape.


References:

0

[W]hat exactly is 𢼸? [...] Could this possibly like 德 and 得, where the original character was missing the 彳 part?

Yes, exactly. From Unihan for U+22F38:

Unihan entry for U+22F38 with picture of character

This character's etymology, from ctext quoting 《說文》:

妙也。从人从攴,豈省聲。
Mysterious/clever. From Man (人), from Rap (攴), [with] phonetic 豈 reduced.

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  • In paleography and Chinese linguistics, 《說文》 is usually only a last resort if you can't find anything better.
    – dROOOze
    Nov 27 '20 at 7:32
  • @dROOOze I see. Would it have been more appropriate for me to give a comment instead of an answer then?
    – yawnoc
    Nov 27 '20 at 8:25
  • sorry, but I feel shuowen forces too many words to be phonetic-semantic, even when it makes no sense to me. In this case 豈 sounds nothing like 𢼸 or 微, It doesn't really explain the character components, and how 攴 brings any semantic meaning
    – Fishuman
    Nov 27 '20 at 13:56
  • @Fishuman I believe 豈, 𢼸, and 微 rhymed in Middle Chinese. This is preserved in Cantonese (hei2, mei4, and mei4 respectively).
    – yawnoc
    Nov 27 '20 at 14:48

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