I am going through 揭

“揭 jiē is composed of 曷 hé and 扌 “a hand; actions done with the hands,” pointing to the original meaning “to raise, hold s.t. up high.” 曷 gives the sound.”

  1. how hé is phonetic component for jiē ?
  2. what is the etymology or evolution of character 曷?
  • 2
    You mean: how hé is phonetic component? 曷 gives the sound (phonetic), not meaning (semantic).
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 3:00
  • dROOze, yes. I mean how hé is phonetic component. Updated the question.
    – user27485
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 5:12
  • 1
    For the first question: zh.m.wiktionary.org/zh-hant/%E6%9B%B7
    – xngtng
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 16:17
  • @xngtng in one tabular format they mentioned that hé is phonetic component of jiē. will go with that. what matters now is current sound jiē and it’s current meaning.
    – user27485
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 10:54
  • There's a table on reconstructed prononciation un ancient Chinese. Phonetic components are rarely updated due to change in phonetics. Current sound and meaning matter the least if you want to know how a character came about. Of course it is kind of a circular question since the only way we can reconstruct old languages without audio recordings is to infer from the present. But it is evidently or at least presumed phonetic if there are similar sounded characters with the same component with different meanings, which for 揭 there are a lot of.
    – xngtng
    Commented Jan 16, 2022 at 11:38

1 Answer 1


How the pronunciation is related

We need to view this in a diachronical way.

It's enough in this case to go as back as Middle Chinese. The sound for the two characters in Middle Chinese are as follows:

| 字 Character | 攝 | 字母 onset | 韻目 | 等第| 聲調 tone | 擬音 constructed pronunciation|

| -------- | -------------- |-------- |-------- |-------- |-------- |-------- |

| 揭 | 山 | 見|月|三|入| kǐɐt|

| 曷 | 山 | 匣 | 曷 |一|入 | ɣɑt|

From the constructed pronunciations of Middle Chinese, you can already see their connection. The sound of [k] and [ɣ], [ɐ] and [ɑ] are similar. The difference is very likely to have come from different 等第 and voicing. In the property of 等第, 三 means there's a prenuclear glide i. [k] is unvoiced and [ɣ] is voiced. Voicing and 等第 affect the quality of the following vowel.

In Old Chinese, some scholars think it's [ɣ] for 曷 while others use g, so the onset difference between 曷 and 揭 is more of voicing than manner of articulation.

How they arrive at current pronunciation

Two of the most important phonology changes from Middle Chinese to Standard Mandarin are palatalization and devoicing. [ki] is now palatalized as pinyin j ([t͡ɕ]), and [ɣ] is devoiced as h ([x]). This is a general rule for the onset.

For the 韻母 (non-onset), Standard Mandarin have lost final unreleased plosives, but the quality of the proceeding vowel is further affected, or in this case becomes more closed.

As for the tone, in Standard Mandarin 入 (the tone for characters with final unreleased plosives) are distributed into other three tones, namely 平、上、去. The pattern is more complicated, but in this case not very relevant, since 揭、曷 are both categorized into 平. The difference lies in 陰 yin and 陽 yang. Unvoiced onset is 陰 and the voiced is 陽. Thus the the tones of 揭、曷 have become 陰平 (tone 1) and 陽平 (tone 2), respectively.

Therefore, the Standard Mandarin pronunciations of 揭、曷 became jie1 and he2, respectively. They follow the general pattern.


曷 cognates with 何 (OC *ɡaːl, “what; where; why; how”). In fact, in early classical Chinese literature you can often see the two of them used interchangeably as “what; where; why; how”.

The 小篆 (Small seal script) of 曷 and 揭 are enter image description here enter image description here

They are not very different from the current forms of writing. Why they're written like that is, however, beyond my limit.

The discovered glyph origin of 曷 can go further, to 金文 (Bronze inscriptions), but I'm not sure about the correct form. Various online sources seem to offer different forms.

UPDATE on glyph origin from 《字源》

Basically the passage says that its composition is not clear. But at least it’s clear to see how it involves to the current writing.

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.