Untranslatability —- word

“In Chinese two ideograms correspond partially to the word: the ideogram that translates the notion of word or term, the character ci  詞, was only recently imported (after 1920)  whereas the unit of analysis remains the character zi 字 (Allenton, “Terminologie de la grammarie chinoise”). ”

In western linguistic system, “the word” usually refers to an independent semantic entity. However, in Chinese, as the quote above suggested, there are two ideograms corresponding to “the word.” This was very confusing for me when I tried to explain Chinese in English before, as I didn’t really understand the difference between “word” “character” and “letter.”  For example, 飲料 is a “word” means all kinds of drinks. Separately, 飲 means 1) verb, to drink; 2) noun, drinks; 3) noun, liquid traditional Chinese medicine; 4) bear and experience; 5) fade and hide. 料 means 1) verb, have thought/ guessed; 2) noun, materials; 3) noun, raw food; 4) noun, ingredients; 5) verb, to take care and to clean up; 5) a quantifier used in traditional Chinese medicine. Both zi 飲 and 料 are zi 字 and can be seen as a separate word, and together 飲料 is a ci 詞, a word which means drinks. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to translate “the word” in Chinese

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