發&髮→发

So it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been thinking I should start doing 1 character per post, that way they are easier to read and they come more frequently.

So let’s start with the character 发.


發simp

What is it? Well, it’s two characters merged into one. In Traditional Chinese those two characters are 發 and 髮, and they both have two completely different meanings.

I have found two different etymologies for the character 發, they both make sense to me, so I’ll post them both.


發

  1. 發(fā) is made up of the semantic 弓(gōng, bow) and the phonetic 癹(pō/bá). It has the meaning of “to send out”, which you could do with a bow. The 說文解字 uses this etymology.


    發2

  2. 發(fā) is a 會意 made up of 癶(bō, footprints)弓(gōng, bow)殳(shū, action with the hand). Therefore, its meaning could be seen as “the action of 殳 on a bow 弓 to make the arrow go forward 癶 – shoot”.

    Whichever origin you believe to be true, both work. Either way, both methods (形聲 and 會意) are normal ways of creating characters.

As for the second character, 髮, it goes a little something like this.


髮

On top we have the semantic 髟(biāo, hair) and on the bottom the phonetic 犮(bá). Thus, we have the character for “hair”, 髮(fà1/fǎ2).


So the simplification for these two characters is the same. 頭髮 and 發音 become 头发 and 发音 respectively. 发 is apparently based on the 草書(grass script) of both characters. It is a new character with no semantic or phonetic components. It does reduce the number of strokes but it doesn’t really simply things. What’s more, it looks a lot like 犮 and 友.

2 pronunciations, 2 meanings, 1 character, lots of confusion 囧