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Currently at the moment finding out the origin of character 皆 (jiē; all, every, everybody).

Just from reading it's entry on 說文解證 and according to 漢語多功能字庫, it states that the oracle bone script character is composed of 虤 (two tigers fighting each other) (or just a single 虎 (tiger)) and 口 (mouth) with the addition of 几 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*C.kr[ə]jʔ/) providing the sound to 皆 (Baxart-Sagart OC: /*kˤrij/).

However on the other hand according to 古文字譜系疏證, it states it's composed of two 人 components and 曰 (to say) while showing the other ancient forms for 皆 that looks closer to what the modern form is now and doesn't look mostly related to what Ji Xusheng states in his entry.

This makes me confused since I'm not really sure what 皆 is really composed of. All I know for sure is that the modern components in this character (比 and 白) is not related to what it once was in previous ancient scrips.

For reference, even the character evolution on 小學堂 shows almost the two forms of the ancient characters as seen below: enter image description here

If anyone could clarify here, what is the composition of the character 皆 and how did it got it's original meaning, "all"? Was the upper component already corrupted to 比 and the lower component already to 甘 by bronze inscription or is that an entirely different character? I just need some huge clarification on this one.

1 Answer 1

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時期
字體
字形 (隷定)    參考資料

⿱⿰⿱虎几⿱虎几口 542
合集27749
戰國
⿱⿸虍⿰儿儿甘 帛書乙篇
9.24
戰國・楚
⿱从甘 荊門包山
2.123

𣅜 睡虎地簡
23.2
皆 說文解字
自部
皆

「皆」 (Baxter-Sagart OC: /*kˤrij/) was originally made from 「口」 and one or two 「⿱虎几」, which has a phonetic 「几」 (/*C.kr[ə]jʔ/; see oracle bone forms of 「⿵氵几」, taking note of the central table-looking component 「几」). While we know that 「⿱虎几」 is a phonetic component, the function of 「口」 is unclear, and the character was already used for the modern meaning all in its earliest appearances. From 《小屯南地甲骨》1092:

《小屯南地甲骨》1092

辛子(巳)卜:「王其奠元眔永,皆才(在)盂奠 ...」

Divination on the day of xīnsì: The king (re)established the clans of Yuán and Yǒng*. They were all established at Yú† ....

*Names of feudal state leaders under the lordship of the Shāng king
†Name of an important agricultural and hunting region in Shāng territories

The development of the character now written as 「皆」, from its first appearance, is filled with component omissions and corruptions. In sequence, the following happened:

  • 「几」 (the phonetic component) was removed from 「⿱虎几」 in the Shāng forms.
  • For the two-phonetic-components variety, the two 「虍」 merged into one 「虍」. 「口」 was corrupted into 「甘」.
  • 「虍」 was later removed, leaving 「」.
  • 「从」 was later corrupted into 「」, culminating into the modern form of 「皆」.

I'm not sure about the character in 皆作⿰阝尊壺《殷周金文集成》9535. That may be 「皆」, but it's used as a proper noun in that artefact, and I don't see the shape being traced forwards or backwards in contiguous time periods.


As to your query

However on the other hand according to 古文字譜系疏證, it states it's composed of two 人 components and 曰 (to say) while showing the other ancient forms for 皆 that looks closer to what the modern form is now and doesn't look mostly related to what Ji Xusheng states in his entry.

, the listing in 《古文字譜系疏證》 mostly gives the Chǔ manuscript forms (the author didn't go back far enough in time). Note that 「皆」 was only traceable back to the Shāng period after the Warring States form 「⿱⿱虎几甘」

戰國・

⿱⿱虎几甘
中山王X鼎
集成2840

was interpreted as 「皆」; I'm guessing that the interpretation was given relatively recently.


References:

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  • That makes a lot of sense on how 比 came to be in it's modern form. I thought the upper two components, composed of 虎 and 几, was already corrupted to either 从 and 比 by the time bronze script came around. So maybe the character on 皆作壺(金) could've just possibly been another character or was already corrupted by then.
    – prismcool
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:23
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    @prismcool I made some additions to address 皆作壺. Yeah, I don't think you can do anything with that artefact, as the character in question is a proper noun and I don't see anybody trying to trace it forwards or backwards in history.
    – dROOOze
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:12

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