Metaphysics of Linguistics

--- Culture Energy of China
Copyright © June 2007 by Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong

On the web page ( Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 2, History of Scientific Thought, ISBN 9780521058001 at http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521058001), it wrote, "The second volume of Dr Joseph Needham's great work Science and Civilisation in China is devoted to the history of scientific thought. Beginning with ancient times, it describes the Confucian milieu in which arose the organic naturalism of the great Taoist school, the scientific philosophy of the Mohists and Logicians, and the quantitative materialism of the Legalists. Thus we are brought on to the fundamental ideas which dominated scientific thinking in the Chinese middle ages. The author opens his discussion by considering the remote and pictographic origins of words fundamental in scientific discourse, and then sets forth the influential doctrines of the Two Forces and the Five Elements. Subsequently he writes of the important sceptical tradition, the effects of Buddhist thought, and the Neo-Confucian climax of Chinese naturalism. Last comes a discussion of the conception of Laws of Nature in China and the West."

That is, Dr. Needham wanted to know:

  1. Externally, did Chinese language have the capability to describe the logic of science?
  2. Internally, could the internal logic of Chinese language lead the Chinese people entering into the domain of science?

In addition to science, there are many items also parts of culture, such as, arts (painting, singing, dancing,...), architecture, and even cooking. However, we are unable to evaluate the culture energy scientifically with those items. Our only chance of comparing the culture energy among cultures is by studying their languages. In addition to as a tool for communication, the goal of any language is to describe the universe. By analyzing its capability of describing the universe, we are able to measure the scope and the energy of that language.

I. Types of language and their scopes

  1. Perceptual and conceptual
  2. The capability of languages
    • How big a scope of the universe can a language cover or describe?
    • How good a memory space management system does a language have?
    • How strong an ability can a language adapt for a future challenge?
  3. The scope of a language
    1. About abstraction
    2. About computability
    3. About syntaxing
    4. The scope of Chinese written language
II. Memory space management in Chinese written language
  1. Views from Western Sinologists
  2. Eighty-two words analyzed by Dr. Joseph Needham
  3. Memory management in Chinese word system
    1. Rational
    2. Visual
    3. Auditory
    4. Webbing
    5. Error forgiving
III. Learning Chinese written language
  1. For native -- burn-in
  2. For foreigner -- learning
IV. Conclusion and sample pages of the Canons

V. Epilogue

I. Types of language and their scopes

What is universe? Physicists have said a lot about it. Yet, in terms of any language, the universe has two parts:

a. Conceptual and perceptual languages

Thus, there can have two kinds of language. In the book The Divine Constitution (Library of Congress Catalog Card number 91-90780), it wrote, "... English is a good example of a perceptual language. In English, there are many grammatical rules: such as tense, subject-predicate structure, parts of speech, numbers, etc.. The purpose of tense is to record and to express the real time. The subject-predicate structure is for relating the relationship between time and space of events or things and to distinguish the knower from the known or the doer from the act. The parts of speech are trying to clarify the real time sequences and the relationship of real space or the relationships of their derivatives. In other words, English is a real time language, a perceptual language.

On the contrary, Chinese is a conceptual language. There is no tense in Chinese. All events can be discussed in the conceptual level. The time sequence can be marked by time marks. Therefore, there is no reason to change the word form for identifying the time sequence. Thus, there is no subject-predicate structure in Chinese, because there are no real verbs. All actions can be expressed in noun form when they are transcended from time and space. There is no need to have parts of speech in Chinese. In short, there is no grammar in Chinese. The following are a few examples to show the difference between a perceptual and a conceptual language.
Perceptual: I went to school yesterday.
Conceptual: I go school yesterday.

Perceptual: I am trying to find three pegs now.
Conceptual: I try find three peg now." (page 71)

Furthermore, the conceptual language has no alignment problem and, thus, will not cause any misunderstanding as the following example showed.

I go to school and saw three dog yesterday.
For a perceptual language, the above sentence is, indeed, giving a conflicting message. Yet, in the conceptual language, the following sentence does not give any conflicting message.
I go school and see three dog yesterday.

In short, the conceptual language marks the events with space and time marks. The perceptual language marks the syntaxes with space and time marks.

b. The capability of languages

Almost all computer languages are conceptual language. Yet, different computer language has different capability.

  1. The HTML is a masking language. Its sole purpose is to organize a set of data to fit nicely on a web page. It can do not much else.
  2. Both Basic (of 1980) and C++ are general languages. Yet, their capabilities are different. The major differences are the way of how the data are treated and of how the memory space are managed.

With these examples above, we now are able to list a set of criteria for comparing the capability and the energy of different languages.

For the first criterion, we again must know about what the universe is. In the story part of the universe, it consists of, at least, three items.

  1. Members of the universe -- a language must be able to name all members of the universe. I call this process as syntaxing.
    For a universe B with five members (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and a language system C with only three syntaxes (a, b, c), it is very easy to prove that the language C is unable to name all members of universe B. With this simple example, we can readily conclude a law.

    Language law one: If and only if the size (number of syntax) of a language C is large than or equal to the size (number of member) of the universe B, then C is able to describe B.

  2. Relations among members -- for a three member universe (a, b, c), it has the following relations: (a), (b), (c), (a, b), (a, c), (b, c), (a, b, c). Yet, no relation { ( ) , the emptiness} should also be one kind of relation. That is, for a three member universe, it has, at least, eight relations; for four member universe, 16 relations. Thus, we can get these with an equation:

    For a n-member universe, it has 2^n (nth power of 2) relations.
    If the order of the relation is important, then (a, b) is not equal to (b, a). Thus, for a n-member universe, its relations must be larger than or equal to 2^n.

    Furthermore, we do not truly know what the contexts of those relations are. I will call these relations as abstraction.

    Yet, we do know a few examples:

    With these examples above, we can readily conclude a new law.

    Language law two: if and only if the internal logic of language C is greater than or identical to the internal logic of universe B, then C is able to describe B wholly.

  3. Size of the universe -- in the book Mathematical thought -- from ancient to modern times (ISBN 0-19-506136-5), it wrote, "Two sets that can be put into one-to-one correspondence are equivalent or have the same power." (page 995)

    "Since the real numbers are uncountable and the algebraic numbers are countable, there must be transcendental irrationals." (page 997, ibid)

    As the mathematics is a part of the nature universe, the size of the nature universe must be larger than or equal to the size of the mathematical universe. That is, the size of the nature universe must be greater than or equal to countable infinity plus uncountable infinity. I call this size issue as infiniteness.

c. The scope of a language

Thus, to analyze a language on the first criterion, we must answer, at least, three questions:

With the Language Law One, we can intuitively guess that the syntaxing and the infiniteness are the same issue. If we can prove that the abstraction is also a subset of the syntaxing, then we can reduce the three problems above to just one issue.

i. Abstraction

What is abstract? In The American Heritage Dictionary, it wrote, abstract:

However, these definitions do not help us to deal with "abstraction" scientifically. Then, there is no chance for us to make any comparison between abstraction and syntaxing. Thus, I will not try to define what abstraction is but to show some examples.

  1. It is generalization. There are many equations, such as, 1 + 2 = 3; 3 + 4= 7; 8 + 9 = 17, etc.. Yet, all above equations can be written as (a + b = c). This kind of generalization is one kind of abstraction.

    Furthermore, even the operations of + (plus), - (minus), x (multiplication), ..., can be generalized, such as, a # b = c (# can be of +, -, x or ...). This # algebra is called abstract algebra.

  2. It is transcendental. In the book Mathematical Thought, ..., it wrote, "Any root, real or complex, of any algebraic (polynomial) equation with rational coefficients is called an algebraic number. ..., Consequently, every rational number and some irrationals are algebraic numbers,.... Those numbers that are not algebraic are called transcendental because, As Euler [Leonhard Euler, 1707 - 83, Swiss mathematician] put it, 'they transcend the power of algebraic method.'" (page 593)
  3. It is imaginary or absurdity. "Euler, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, still believed that negative numbers were greater than infinity. ... As late as 1831 Augustus De Morgan (1806 - 71), professor of mathematics at University College, London, and a famous mathematical logician and contributor to algebra, in his On the study and Difficulties of Mathematics, said, 'The imaginary expression (square root of (-a)) and the negative expression -b have this resemblance, that either of them occurring as the solution of a problem indicates some inconsistency or absurdity. As far as real meaning is concerned, both are equally imaginary, since 0 - a is as inconceivable as (square root of (-a)).'" (page 593, ibid)
    Till today, the square root of (-1) is called an imaginary number i.
The scope of abstraction is, of course, much greater than the three examples can cover. However, we can only handle what we know how to deal with first. The three examples above are, indeed, abstractions, and we know how to handle them. They all can be represented by functions. That is, they can be computed. In the book The Computational Brain (Patricia S. Churchland, ISBN 0-262-03188-4), it wrote, "Since this hypothesis concerning what makes a physical system a computational system may not be self-evident, let us approach the issue more gradually by first introducing several key but simple mathematical concepts, including 'function,' and the distinction between computable and noncomputable functions. To begin, what is a function? A function in the mathematical sense is essentially just a mapping, either 1 : 1 or many : 1, between the elements of one set, called the 'domain,' and the elements of another, usually referred to as the 'range.' Consequently, a function is a set of ordered pairs, where the first member of the pair is drawn from the domain, and the second element is drawn from the range. A computable function then is a mapping that can be specified in terms of some rule or other, and is generally characterized in terms of what you have to do to the first element to get the second....

What then is a noncomputable function? It is an infinite set of ordered pairs for which no rule can be provided, not only now, but in principle. Hence its specification consists simply and exactly in the list of ordered pairs. For example, if the elements are randomly associated, then no rule exists to specify the mapping between elements of the domain and elements of the range. Outside of mathematics, people quite reasonably tend to equate 'function' with 'computable function,' and hence to consider a nonrule mapping to be no function at all. But this is not in fact how mathematicians use the terms, and for good reason, since it is useful to have the notion of a noncomputable function to describe certain mappings. Moreover, it is useful for the issue at hand because it is an empirical question whether brain activity can really be characterized by a computable function or only to a first approximation, or perhaps whether some of its activities cannot be characterized at all in terms of computable functions (Penrose 1989)." (page 62)

ii. About computability

That is, we, now, might be able to transform the issue of abstraction to be an issue of computability which is better defined in mathematics. In the book Computability and Logic (Richard C. Jeffrey, ISBN 0-521-38923-2), it wrote, "We shall see in the next chapter that although every set of positive integers is enumerable [countable], there are sets of other sorts which are not enumerable. To say that a set A is enumerable is to say that there is a function all of whose arguments are positive integers and all of whose values are members of A, and that each member of A is a value of this function: for each member a of A there is at least one positive integer n to which the function assigns a as its value. Notice that nothing in this definition requires A to be a set of positive integers. Instead, A might be a set of people (members of the United States Senate, perhaps); it might be a set of strings of symbols (perhaps, the set of all grammatically correct English sentences, where we count the space between adjacent words as a symbol); or the members of A might themselves be sets, ..." (page 4)

"Now a set is enumerable if and only if it is the range of some function of positive integers. The empty set is enumerable because it is the range of e." (page 6, ibid)

"... that the set of functions computable in our sense is identical with the set of functions that men or machines would be able to compute by whatever effective method, if limitations on time, speed, and material were overcome." (page 20, ibid)

"Church's thesis: all computable functions are Turing [computer] computable." (page 54, ibid)

"Abacus computable functions are Turing computable." (page 53, ibid)

"Recursive functions are abacus computable. ... , the class of recursive functions is very broad indeed -- so broad as to make it plausible that all functions computable in any intuitive sense are recursive." (page 70, ibid)

"Turing computable functions are recursive. ... We have seen that all recursive functions [R] are abacus computable [A] and that all abacus computable functions are Turing computable [T]. We shall now prove that all Turing computable functions are recursive. This will close the circle of inclusion

R >= T >= A >= R [Law of computable universe]
" (page 89, ibid)

As soon as we know what abacus and the Turing computer are, we will be able to understand the above passages. Turing computer is an ideal computer which possesses unlimited memory space and unlimited time to compute. If a function is not Turing computable, it will not be able to be computed by any real computer of past, of present or of forever future. Thus, under this coverage, we can sense the scope of the computable universe which is larger than all tasks that all real computers can do.

Most of us know that all computer languages need only two codes (0, 1). Furthermore, a functioning Turing computer has also only two states, NEXT and END. That is, every computable function (task) can be written as a Turing trace, such as:

Function (task) = Turing {... next, next, ..., next (n), ..., End}

If a Turing trace cannot reach the state End, its corresponding function (task) is not computable.

Of course, for a real computer, there are very complicated algorithms under every NEXT. Without knowing the true meaning of what the essence of those NEXT is, we are unable to understand what this computable universe really is. Perhaps, the abacus computation can help us. The abacus computation was invented in China about 5,000 years ago. It consists of

According to the Law of computable universe above, whatever and however complicated an algorithm it is, it is always reduced to counting beads. Furthermore, this abacus computer has also only two states, MOVE and STOP. That is, all computable tasks can be written as an abacus trace, such as,

Computable task = abacus {... move, move, ..., move (n), ..., Stop}

From these two examples (Turing computer and abacus computer) together with the Law of computable universe, it is easy to prove a Two-code language theorem,

For universe B, and language C, B is computable.
then, C can describe B wholly if and only if C is a Two-code language system. Such as, (0, 1); (Yin, Yang); (next, end) or (move, stop), etc..

Now, we know what kind of language system is needed to describe a computable universe wholly. However, the computable universe is only a small part of abstraction. It is even smaller than the countable (countable infinity) universe. As we already know that the nature numbers, the rational numbers and the algebraic numbers are all countable infinity. (See page 994 - 998, Mathematical Thought,...) In the book Computability and Logic, it wrote, "Not all functions from positive integers [nature numbers] to positive integers are Turing computable." (page 27)

iii. About syntaxing

Now, we have reached two conclusions:

  1. The computable part of the abstract universe can be reduced to simple counting (which is syntaxing in terms of language), as the countable universe is larger than the computable universe.
  2. The non-computable part of the abstract universe must be described by a language system, if any, which has more than two-codes.

Thus, before trying to understand the non-computable universe, we are better just studying the counting (syntaxing in terms of language) problem first. In this nature universe, there are men (man 1, 2, ..., n, ...), dog (dog 1, 2, ...) ,..., virus (virus 1, 2, ...), .... Can we syntax them all? What kind of language can syntax them all?

So far, we seemingly are not concerned about this problem at all. From our experience and from our intuitive confidence, we (both English and Chinese) are confident to meet the challenge. Yet, only by solving this problem theoretically, we, then, are able to measure the energy of each language.

There is a well-known four color theorem: four and only four colors are needed to distinguish all countries from their neighbors on Earth (ball-shaped), regardless of how many countries there are on Earth, one million, one trillion, or to countable infinity.

What does this four color theorem truly mean? We can, in fact, borrow this four color theorem in our syntaxing procedure. For the first member of this nature universe, we give him a ball with one triangle on it. For the second member, we duplicate the last ball and add one dot on it. By connecting the new dot to the old triangle, there are two triangles on the second ball. For the third ball (for third member), we again add one dot, and it has three triangles on it. For every new member of this nature universe, we give him a ball as his id, the syntax, according to the above procedure. Guaranteed by the four color theorem, we can give out the unlimited number (in fact, countable infinite) of balls without any duplication in them. Every id (syntax) is unique.

That is, with four and only four codes, we can syntax the entire countable (infinity) universe. In the book Truth, Faith, and Life -- I understand; Therefore, I worship (ISBN 0-916713-04-0), it wrote, "Amazingly, all lives also can be described with four and only four colors, A, G, T, C. A is Adenine. G is Guanine. T is Thymine. C is Cytosine. A, G, T and C are four basic chemical building blocks for all lives. The human being's genes and the bacterium's genes are constructed with identical building blocks, but their nucleotide sequence is different. In other words, all lives are singing their own life song with four 'universal' notes, or they are painting their self-portrait with four 'universal' colors." (page 58) That is, the four color theorem is not only a mathematics theorem but is proved in biology.

However, there are more entities in a universe than its members. For a three member universe, it contains eight or more entities, as there are relations among members. Can the ball-syntaxing procedure syntax all those relations in addition to its members? The answer is NO. Georg Cantor proved two theorems,

  1. Nature numbers, rational numbers and algebraic numbers are countable infinity, denoted as N (0).
  2. Real numbers are uncountable infinity, denoted as c. And, c = 2^N(0). That is, c is infinitely larger than countable infinity.
    (See page 992 - 1002, Mathematical Thought -- from ancient to modern.)

Even without the mathematics theorems above, we can easily guess that four codes are not enough to describe the nature universe. Although every single life can be syntaxed uniquely with four and only four codes, some processes cannot be described with those four codes. One of the example is the reproduction process. Even for a cloning process, it is not described by the four codes. It duplicates the four codes. That is, for a cloning universe, it needs, at least, five codes. For a bi-sexual universe, we need 7 codes.

Thus, we can describe the nature universe with a language which contains 7 codes, if we can prove that the entire uncountable universe can be described with 7 and only 7 codes. There is, indeed, such a prove in the book Truth, Faith, and Life (ISBN 0-916713-04-0). See page 47 to 55.

However, how can we syntax the uncountable universe? There is a Seven color theorem: 7 and only 7 colors are needed to identify all countries on a donut-shaped planet. That is, instead of giving out colored-ball id (syntax), we can give out the colored-donut id. If we can syntax them all (members, relations, and else), we could describe that universe wholly.

Thus far, we have discussed the following issues:

The only thing that we have not done so far is to prove that the uncountable universe is larger than or equal to the non-computable universe. We can make this a conjecture. Then, the issues of language (syntaxing, abstraction and infiniteness) are reduced to syntaxing only. As long as we can syntax the entire universe (members, relations and else), our language is able to describe that universe wholly. Furthermore, that language needs only 7 codes.

From the above examples, the word code can be a label, a process or a dimension. Male and female are dimensions. Cloning and copulation are processes. The Adenine (A) and the Guanine (G) are labels; yet, they can be viewed as both dimensions and processes. The labels of 0 and 1 are also dimensions and processes.

iv. The scope of Chinese written language

Is Chinese language a 7-code language? It consists of the followings:

  1. Two root codes:
  1. A variant process: the two chi above are transformed into five variants, such as in the word . (V-code).
  2. A word root process: with the five strokes above, 220 word roots are constructed, 70 pictograph roots, 87 ideograph roots and 63 abstract symbols. (R-code).
  3. A roots composing to form words process -- there are sixty thousand words in Chinese now. (W-code).
  4. A phrasing or a sentencing process -- there are over 70 million Chinese phrases now. Of course, there can be an unlimited number of sentences. (S-code).
  5. A demarcation process -- to separate sentence from sentence. (D-code).

With the above, the Chinese language is a 7-code language, {G, M, V, R, W, S, D}. Furthermore, every two-code system can always grow into a seven-code language system. Then, the comparison between two languages is no longer the issue of how big a scope of a universe that a language can cover. We need to evaluate the second criterion, how good a memory space management system does a language have?

II. Memory space management of Chinese written system

a. Views from Western Sinologists

Dr. F.S.C. Northrop wrote a book, The Meeting of East and West -- an Inquiry Concerning World Understanding (The Macmillan Company, 1968). He was one of the most prominent Chinese culture experts in America. So, his understanding about Chinese culture can represent the depth and the scope of America's understanding of Chinese culture.

Dr. Northrop wrote in his book, "The Easterner, on the other hand, uses bits of linguistic symbolism, largely denotative, and often purely ideographic in character, to point toward a component in the nature of things which only immediate experience and continued contemplation can convey. This shows itself especially in the symbols of the Chinese language, where each solitary, immediately experienced local particular tends to have its own symbol, this symbol also often having a directly observed form like that of the immediately seen item of direct experience which it denotes. For example , the symbol for man in Chinese is 人 , and the early symbol for house is . As a consequence, there was no alphabet. This automatically eliminates the logical whole-part relation between one symbol and another that occurs in the linguistic symbolism of the West in which all words are produced by merely putting together in different permutations the small number of symbols constituting the alphabet. (page 316, The Meeting of East and West, The Macmillian Company, 1968).

"In many cases, however, the content of the sign itself, that is, the actual shape of the written symbol, is identical with the immediately sensed character of the factor in experience for which it stands. These traits make the ideas which these symbols convey particulars rather than logical universals, and largely denotative rather than connotative in character.

Certain consequences follow. Not only are the advantages of an alphabet lost, but also there tend to be as many symbols as there are simple and complex impressions. Consequently, the type of knowledge which a philosophy constructed by means of such a language can convey tends necessarily to be one given by a succession of concrete, immediately apprehendable examples and illustrations, the succession of these illustrations having no logical ordering or connection the one with the other. ...

... Moreover, even the common-sense examples are conveyed with aesthetic imagery, the emphasis being upon the immediately apprehended, sensuous impression itself more than upon the external common-sense object of which the aesthetic impression is the sign. Nowhere is there even the suggestion by the aesthetic imagery of a postulated scientific or a doctrinally formulated, theological object. All the indigenously Chinese philosophies, Taoism as well as Confucianism, support this verdict." (page 322, ibid).

Dr. Northrop was not simply discussing Chinese culture but was giving a verdict. His verdict has the following two points.

  1. About the Chinese writing language (Chinese words): Denotative and solitary -- no logical ordering or connection the one with the other.
  2. The consequence of such a language: No chance of any kind to formulate scientific, philosophical and theological objects.

Indeed, if Chinese words are all denotative, solitary and no logical ordering or connection the one with the other, it will be a nightmare for anyone who tries to memorize tens thousand of those words. Yet, in Dr. Needham's book, he seemed much more optimistic about the Chinese words system. In his book Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 2, History of Scientific Thought, he analyzed 82 Chinese words, and 77 of them are from two sources:

Both of these items were made before 2,000 b.c.. In his analysis, he listed a few explanations from Chinese sources for each word. He always pointed out which explanation is his favor. In the following discussion, I will list only his favor explanation as his understanding of that word. In fact, I do not have his original book in English. I am reading a Chinese translation of that book (published by a Taiwanese publisher, 台 灣 商 務 印 書 館 ). That is, his saying listed in the following discussion is not quoted from his original words but a translation from Chinese back to English by me. However, I do not believe that my translation back to English is far off from his original intention. Furthermore, I did rearrange the sequence of some of the words for the reason that they are logically connected. Originally, I intended to number the original sequence at the end of each word. However, it will become quite cluttered. As there are only 82 words (under 80 entries), it is not too hard to compare this paper with his book while without those original numbering.

In addition to Dr. Needham's comments on those words, I will give my explanation under his if I disagree with his saying. Furthermore, more than 50% of Chinese word roots are not words. This is why I do not call them root words. Of course, they are not implemented as characters in the computer. That is, I cannot print them out as they are. I must list a few words which share that root and identify it in this way.

Every Chinese word is composed of word roots. Its meaning can be read out loud from its face. However, there are more than 10 rules on how to read them. I will not discuss these 10 rules here. They can be found in my book Chinese Word Roots and Grammar. The simplest rule is to read it out directly, as a phrase. I will discuss the more complicated rules if they are needed among those 82 words.

b. Dr. Needham's analysis on 82 Chinese words in terms of its ability to describe science
-- my view on those words are also listed

I. Logic words:

  1. (stop, staying)
  2. (yes, be, correct)
    1. (and, also, to demarcate the end of a sentence)
      • Needham: pictograph of woman's external genital orifice.
      • Chinese language is all about Chi (life energy). In Chinese language, there was no punctuation marks. The demarcation of sentence is by using chi-words, such as, 之 、 乎 、 「 也 」 、 者 、 兮 、 矣 … . The man's chi has many variants, such as , the lower radical of , the right radical of . They are all curved or bent . Those chi are not yet straight and not yet strong, the half-note chi.
        is (twenty) (half-note chi). After twenty half-note chi, it is time to take a breath, take a break.
        Note: twenty is not implemented as a character. I borrow (lifting something with two hands) as it is similar to it.
  3. (no, do not)
    1. (no, wrong, ...,)
      • Needham: related to the word (fly), an abstract word.
      • is by stacking two (against or contradiction) which is the root word (transformation) and it mirror image back to back (two transformations compete). is contradiction over contradictions, the contradiction to the utmost. is the back side of the body. (fly) is (up-lift) two right radical of .
  4. (divide, division, different)
  5. (the same, together, unanimous)
  6. (as, similar)
  7. (if ... something, as ... something)
  8. (change, simple, easy)
  9. (change, transform)
  10. (transform)
  11. (at the beginning)
  12. (to begin)
  13. (the seed of cause)
  14. (the event of past, the cause of event)
  15. (exhaust, completion)
  16. (truth, fact)
  17. (category, catalog)
  18. (little, not much, getting less)
    1. (many, a lot). Note: This word is not listed by Needham. See http://www.chinese-word-roots.org
  19. (public, fair, fairness)
II. Action words:
  1. (doing things)
  2. (walking, doing things)
  3. (going away)
  4. (going out, coming out)
  5. (enter)
  6. (arrived)
  7. (birth)
III. Words of coordinate and the names of entities in the universe
  1. (up, top, above)
  2. (below, under)
  3. (middle, center, fairness)
  4. (direction, square, squareness, righteousness, methods)
  5. (south)
  6. (north, against, contradictive)
  7. 西 (west)
  8. (east)
  9. (sky, God)
  10. (Sun)
  11. (Moon)
  12. (bright, visible) Note: After 隸 書 之 變 (the first simplification of Chinese words, around 100 b.c.), about 30 (30/220 = 14%) word roots have some mixed up situations (the same as the above example). As this kind of infection is partial and sporadic for each word root, the total affected words are less than 200. The shared radical in the following words in ( ) is, in fact, not the same word root.
    ( 明 、 肌 、 服 ), ( 音 、 旨 ), (眾 、 羅 ), ( 幸 、 至 ), ( 草 、 苟 ), (几 、 股 、 鳧 ), ( 公 、 去 ), ...
    Although this kind of infection is very limited, it does become a great camouflage to hide the fact that Chinese word system is an 100% word root system.
    The second simplification (implemented in 1958) caused more confusions. It, however, did not affect the word root system. The total simplified words are 2010, out of 60,000 words. It consists of five parts:
    1. Already simplified over the ages: seventy percent of them are already simplified as non-standard ways to write ( 行 、 草 書 ) during the hundreds or thousands years already.
    2. Drop the silent word root: such as, ( --> ), ( --> ), ...
    3. Sound borrowing: this is different from the phonetic-loan words. For two words pronouncing identically, use the simple word for both words, such as, ( <--> ), ... . The real does add the radical heart on the left; however, my computer is unable to print it out.
    4. Symbolize some common radicals while reducing their strokes significantly.
    5. Created some new words. Less than 100 new words were created.
  13. (light)
  14. (year, age, the year end)
  15. (Spring)
  16. (the name for Chinese people, Summer)
  17. (Autumn)
  18. (Winter)
  19. (wind)
  20. (rain)
  21. (snow)
  22. (thunder)
  23. (electricity, lightning)
  24. (rainbow)
  25. (old)
  26. (die, death)
  27. (human)
  28. (man)
  29. (woman)
  30. (human body)
  31. (blood)
  32. (self, I)
  33. (progenitor)
  34. (deceased mother)
  35. (word, character, patten)
IV. Words of Chinese philosophy, theology and science
  1. (yang, positive, sun)
  2. (yin, negative, shadow)
  3. (metal, gold)
  4. (wood)
  5. (water)
  6. (fire)
  7. (earth, dust)
  8. (Chi energy, air)
  9. (Tao, pathway)
  10. (virtue)
  11. (law of nature)
  12. (rules, regulations, shaping an item)
  13. (measuring, yardstick)
  14. (law of man)
  15. (confining pathway, confining rules)
  16. (social protocol)
  17. (number, counting)
  18. ( ways and means, method, technique)
  19. (calculate)

Dr. Needham was obviously impressed that those words of science, of mathematics, of theology and of philosophy were in use more than four thousand years ago. Yet, seemingly, it is impossible for him to believe that the internal logic of Chinese word system was already systematized four thousand years ago. Thus, any explanation of a word which went beyond the pictograph, he either discarded or discredited it.

c. Memory management in Chinese word system

As I have shown before, the comparison between languages is solely hinged on the methodology of memory space management. While the phrasing and sentencing techniques are shared by almost all languages, then the determinant factor on comparing languages is about memory space management on words. The less memory is need to memorize as many words as possible, the better off for the young people. The ancient Chinese was obviously knowing about three distinct memory spaces, the rational, the visual and the auditory.

  1. Rational memory -- for a rational system, by memorizing only a small part of the system, it will be enough to recall the entire system, such as the suffix system in English. By knowing only 30 suffixes, the entire system of parts of speech is known. Thus, there is a law of memory for rational memory.
    Memory law one: for rational system B, C is a set of initial condition of B, and D is a set of rational rules for B, then,
    C + D = system = C x D

    For example, 100 words with 30 rules of suffixes (100 + 30) will generates about (more or less) 3,000 words (100 x 30).
    This rational memory algebra is one of the greatest memory space management technique.

    This algebra can be greatly improved by a root-generating system. If F is a root-generating system with N roots (members), G is the system generated from F and the member of G is the combination of x (a finite number, such as 2, 3 or 5) members of F, then,

    N = N^m, m can be any positive integer, 2, 3, ....
    Examples: N = 10, m=2, then N = N^2 = 100; when m=3, then N = N^3 = 1,000

    That is, by only knowing N roots, a system of unlimited size can be known as long as that system is wholly generated by those N roots. This root-algebra is more powerful than the rational memory algebra.

    I have shown that Chinese word system is an 100% root-system. However, this root-system was not revealed wholly to Chinese people. More than 50% of Chinese word roots are not words, and no Chinese knew their meaning. However, a 部 首 (leading radical or prefix) system was revealed. With this 部 首 system, the remainder of the word is viewed as all stand alone and unique face which must be memorized individually. Thus, Chinese word system cannot be learnt easily by foreigners while the native Chinese has a lifetime to burn them in. At least, the rational memory algebra is implemented and partially revealed. The following is one example.

    戀 、 巒 、 欒 、 彎 、 攣 、 蠻 、 鸞 …
    Almost no one knew the meaning of the shared radical. The second radical of above words is the 部 首 .

    In addition to the mathematic algebra above, the direct life experience and morality are also parts of rational memory. The following is one example.

    The three words above have identical pronunciations. In a way, this should cause some confusions. However, this is another way of memory management. I will explain it later. For any other derived words which are one- or two-steps removed from the original scene, their pronunciations change somewhat. The pronunciations of the following words are different from the three above.

    This example not only shows one of the technique of how Chinese words were created but shows a great way of memory management.

  2. Visual memory -- it is three dimensional, up to three dimensions. In fact, the more dimensions, the better. Chinese words are two-dimensional. Furthermore, it employs two additional techniques.

  3. Auditory memory -- externally, it is one-dimensional. However, it has some internal dimensions.

  4. Webbing memory -- this is more than memory by association. The Chinese word system is, in fact, a web. The modules are anchors. The 部 首 (leading radicals) are synapses.
    Example of Chinese word web
    Modules /
    Leading radicals
    * $ #

    or its root form

    or its root form

    Note: Often, when a word root becomes a stand alone word, it changes its word form, such as (hand) and (water). Furthermore, there are 14 (6.4% of 220) word roots for hands, as Chinese culture is based on the hands-on philosophy.

    In addition to the word form web above, there are word sound web and word meaning web. However, they are not revealed directly to Chinese people. Only after decades of concentrated study, one might be able to sense (not to construct, as it is a mammoth job) them. Furthermore, by letting some (over 50%) modules to be not words, these webs become very difficult to be discovered. Yet, although without the conscious knowing of those webs, their existences help the memory management unconscientiously.

  5. Error forgiving -- many different Chinese words with different meanings in their writing forms have the same (identical) pronunciation, including tones and accent. Seemingly, this will cause some great confusions. In a sense, it does. However, it is the greatest forgiving mechanism for the illiterate as those fine differences do not show up in a verbal sentence. That is, using a wrong word (with the same pronunciation) in a writing sentence can still be understood without any difficulty. Only something more is revealed; he is an illiterate. In fact, this forgiving mechanism is a great memory management tool for a language. This confusion is, in fact, a measuring bar to measure the degree of literacy.

III. Learning Chinese written language

With this error forgiving mechanism, with hiding 50% of word roots and with hiding 50% of modules, Chinese language system effectively divides its learners into two categories.

  1. The native Chinese -- they learn the language by burn-in. Every Chinese word is learned as stand alone word without the connection to any other words, as they have a lifetime to do anyway. With 20 years burn-in, the collage graduate learned about seven thousand words, and it is enough for them to live in a literate world. For those people, they might sense some beauty about the Chinese language but have no chance to know its essence.

    With a lifetime devotion (such as professors who teach the Chinese language in universities), one could put the error forgiving mechanism aside as those confusions are no longer confusions. He might even sense that there is a great underlying structure in Chinese language. Yet, no such a literature was published before 2006.

    On June 12, 2007, the Huntington Library in California announced that its Chinese Garden is named as 「 流 芳 園 」 (Garden of Flowing Fragrance), and this name was selected by a committee (which has at least three Chinese language professors).

    The word , indeed, means flow or flowing. While flow or flowing is a neutral word in English, the word carries a very strong negative meaning in Chinese, such as:

    1. 流 產 -- miscarry the pregnancy.
    2. 流 審 -- mistrial of a law case.
    3. 流 標 -- in an auction, no bit is submitted.
    4. 流 鶯 -- the prostitutes.
    5. 流 寇 -- the bandits.
    6. 流 氓 -- the outlaw.
    7. 流 浪 -- the vagabond.
    8. 流 言 -- the rumor.
    9. 流 放 -- the banishment.
    10. 流 星 -- the burnt off asteroid.
    11. 流 失 -- flowing into nothingness.
    12. 流 掉 -- lost.
    13. 流 血 -- losing blood.
    14. ...

    According to the news report, the name 流 芳 was chosen because it was used in a great essay ( 洛 神 賦 ) written in 220 a.d.. That essay described the meeting of a goddess ( 宓 妃 ) by the author ( 曹 植 ) who was the younger brother of the Emperor of Wei Dynasty.

    This goddess was first mentioned in an essay ( 離 騷 ) written around 230 b.c. by 屈 原 who was banished by a Duke. He was hoping to regain the love and the trust from the Duke but in vain. Finally, he drowned himself, and we race the dragon boats on that anniversary now every year to commemorate his loyalty to the Duke. In his essay, he mentioned that he tried desperately to search for the goddess but failed. In fact, that goddess is the metaphor for the Duke's trust on him before his banishment.

    曹 植 had the chance to be the Emperor. Thus, the goddess was the metaphor of that lost chance which was long gone, untouchable and unreachable. In addition to as fragrance, the word means virtue, or virtuous thing. Thus, in that essay, 流 芳 is not flowing fragrance but is the loosing virtue, the untouchable and the unreachable. The usage of the word in that essay is in accordance to all examples listed above. The essence of that essay is the four sentences below.

    Is the Chinese Garden of Huntington Library a place to draw flooding tears from the visitors? Is the Chinese Garden of Huntington Library a place of loosing virtue and loosing fragrance? Is it a place of untouchable and unreachable?


    The left photo can be viewed as two faces or as one vase. This kind of situation happens in the universe all the time. Chinese culture was fully based on Yijing ( 易 經 ), while the Yin-Yang ( 陰 陽 ) is its sole backbone. The left photo is one example of the immanence between Yin and Yang. Chinese language has a precise system to deal with this faces/vase entity. I will just discuss one of the ways here, the f/v (yin-yang) words. One example of f/v words is { (#23), (#1), (#26), (#68) }.

    For the f/v words,

    The word (keep or stay) has the identical pronunciation to the word . If we guess that these two words are the same word, we are not far off the target. In English, flowing is quite different from staying or keeping. Yet, in Chinese, they are f/v words. means flowing (away), lost, a goner. (keeping, staying) means flowing into future, into eternity. So,
    1. 留 影 -- keep a picture of where we have been.
    2. 留 念 -- keep someone or something in one's thought.
    3. 留 連 -- unwilling to leave a place.
    4. 留 戀 -- remain passionate on someone or something.
    5. 留 芳 -- there are some great idioms on this phrase.
      • 萬 古 留 芳 -- one's virtue or accomplishment has marked history, and it will flow into eternity. Not only is that individual flowing into the history, that virtue is flowing into the hearts of mankind.
      • 口 齒 留 芳 -- after sipping a great wine, the great taste is filled in mouth. This phrase can be used for other items, such as, good song, good essay, good poem. After reading a poem, my mouth is filled with great fragrance.

    So, 「 流 芳 園 」 can only mean a garden of losing virtue. And, the 「 留 芳 園 」 (Garden of living Fragrance) is a place for visitors to dwell ( 留 連 ) in that fragrance and to take that fragrance home as 留 影 (pictures) and as 留 念 (memory in heart). They can also leave their hearts in the Garden as 留 戀 (passionate thoughts of the place in their hearts).

    Of course, it is Huntington Library's business to name its garden. Yet, this example shows that how detailed fine structure the Chinese word system is. In short, with the burn-in process, the Chinese word system effectively divides Chinese people into three groups.

    1. The commoners -- the verbal language takes the precedence. The key words are tolerance and forgiving. That is, the mis-used or mis-pronounced words are all forgiving. Anyone learned less than seven thousand Chinese words (such as a college graduate) is in this group. Only about three thousand words are needed to read Chinese news paper.
    2. The educated -- many highly educated engineers and scientists are not educated in Chinese writing language. There are two unique features in Chinese language.
      • Many different words (with different word form and meanings) have the identical pronunciation. The words in each ( ) have the identical pronunciation. ( 方 、 芳 ), ( 仿 、 坊 、 訪 ), (雚 、 灌 、 罐 、 鸛 ), ( 詒 、 怡 、 貽 ), (妻 、 棲 、 悽 、 萋 、 淒 ), ( 志 、 誌 、 痣 ), ( 撤 、 澈 、 徹 ), ..., ...
      • One word can have many different pronunciations. With different pronunciations, the word means differently. The words in [ ] have the identical pronunciation and identical meaning although they are different words.
        • [ 相 、 像 (looks like) ], [ 相 、 襄 (helping) ], ...
        • [ 大 、 達 (great) ], [ 大 、 代 (assistance) ], ...
        • [ 諡 、 示 (showing...) ], [ 諡 、 易 (learning...) ], ...
        • ...
      • The internal structure of Chinese word system as 100% word root system was never known before 2006.

  2. The foreigners -- without the help of burn-in process, Chinese language is often a nightmare for most foreigners. Yet, as a verbal language, it can be learned in a year to handle the daily conversations. By the old design, Chinese language must be learned by burn-in in order to read those Chinese Classic which is the essence of Chinese culture. After a good burn-in, a learner would have been Sinicized.

    However, by knowing the underlying structure of Chinese language, any foreigner can set a solid foundation on Chinese written language in six months.

IV. Conclusion and sample pages of the Canons

While arts and many others are parts of a culture, only language can be evaluated as a test bar for the culture energy in terms of science. I have discussed two of the three issues on language.

  1. How big a scope of the universe can a language cover or describe?
  2. How good a memory space management system does Chinese language have?
For the third issue,
  1. How strong an ability can a language adapt for a future challenge?
The advancement of the world is shared by all languages. The only unique challenge for a language is the ability to digest the other languages. This issue must go into the detailed comparison between languages. It is, of course, a mammoth task. Thus, I would like to leave it to another occasion.

Besides the 100% word root system which was hidden for all those years, Chinese word system was studied very extensively from and very intensively in all directions. The following five books are the representations of those efforts.

  1. 爾 雅 , it was edited by Confucius. That is, it is more than 2,600 years old. It was a beginner's book, having over 5,000 words. It takes the form of synonym thesaurus.
  2. 說 文 解 字 , it was published around 150 a.d. , a time far removed (at least, two thousand years) from the creation of the Chinese word system. It is almost a book of word root system. It used the 部 首 (leading radicals) system, having 9,353 words. Because 20% of its explanations on words were wrong (in terms of the word structure, not in meaning), the word root system was buried in those errors.
  3. 康 熙 字 典 , it was commissioned by Emperor 康 熙 around 1665 a.d.. More than 300 scholars worked on it over 15 years. Google search was invented at this time while the searching was done manually. Over one million books were searched for every single word on its usage and its derived meaning. All genuine usages and meanings on any word are accepted in this dictionary. A word can sometimes have 20 different meanings and 10 different pronunciations. It collected over 50,000 words. This is the Bible on Chinese words.
  4. 詩 韻 集 成 , its book form appeared around 900 a.d.. Yet, it was extensively used around 600 a.d.. In Chinese language, there are 16 vowels and 21 consonants. In this book, words are classified into the groups according to its vowel and its consonant. This book collected over 40,000 words.
  5. 對 韻 , when it was published is not clear. It is a list of contrasted words thesaurus, especially in terms of their vowels.

One hundred and fifty years ago, those five books must be memorized by any learned scholar. Today, almost not a single college graduate (not in Chinese language department) ever touched those five books. That is, in terms of Chinese written language, those native Chinese college graduates are all in the commoner class. I am showing one sample page of a modern Chinese dictionary below. For every word, it listed only one meaning and one pronunciation. Yet, most of them knows only one-tenth of the words in that dictionary. As a burn-in culture, the culture energy is implanted in them without demanding their knowledge on the written language. Yet, for a foreigner without the burn-in, he will not easily capture the essence of Chinese culture if he does not know the details of Chinese written language.

Please click this Link to view the sample pages of those six books.

Epilogue

According to this language theory, 7 and only 7 dimensions are needed to describe the story part of universe, the actors and their relations. Four dimensions are needed for the stage part of universe, the space time. That is, this nature universe must have eleven (11) dimensions, and this could be verified by physics eventually.