Many Japanese words are somewhat tautological: dance + dance 舞踊 infant + infant 幼児 error + error 過失 omission + omission 省略 move + move 移動 life + life 生命 life + life 生活 hot + heat 暑熱 thick + thick 濃厚 Maybe there's an official way to call those words but I don't know it. It seems there are hundreds of them, or at least they appear quite often. Learning synonyms and antonyms together is generally a good idea, so I wonder if there is a list of those, and also of "antonymic" words, such as 多少, 上下 etc. I think it would really help the kanji learning process. It doesn't seem like anyone bothered to make such a list (at least in an English language page), but I just started one. Please add any tautological or antoymic word you can think of.
I just found a page in Japanese on this subject. It doesn't have a huge list, but here they are: road + road 道路 help + help 救助 image + image 絵画 stop + stop 停止 add + add 増加 reduce + few 減少 river + river 河川 forest + forest 森林 trees + tree 樹木 ground + ground 土地 rock + stone 岩石 drink + eat 飲食 warehouse + warehouse 倉庫 rich + wealth 豊富 money + money 金銭 skin + skin 皮革 body + body 身体 onself + self 自己 start + begin 開始 compete + contend 競争 indicate + indicate 指示 exist + exist 存在 revolve + revolve 回転 and 転回 warm + warmth 温暖 cold + cold 寒冷 dark + black 暗黒 eternity + long time 永久 passing of time + past 過去 appear + present 表現 pure + clean 清潔 excel + excel 優秀 noble + respect 尊敬 variety + variety 種類 goods + thing 品物 law + law 憲法
The list also has 容易. Maybe he was thinking about 内容, which I added below?
Maybe enough to start a schedule... And some antonymic words: 寒暖〔寒⇔暖〕 苦楽〔苦⇔楽〕 高低〔高⇔低〕 損得〔損⇔得〕
Interestingly, none of the 9 tautological words I could think of was in the list of 36 that I found. This strongly indicates that there are many, many more, and my guess that there are hundreds of them is likely to be true.
Here are 16 more I just thought of content + contain 内容 secret + secrecy 秘密 be informed + know 承知 acquiesce + acknowledge 承認 completion + complete 完了 not yet + coming 未来 in love + love 恋愛 mixing + interchange 交換 birth + give birth 生産 build + create 構造 fortune + fortune 幸福 face + face 顔面 surface + surface 表面 trust + trust 信頼 revolve + return to 回復 fate + fate 運命 time + time 時刻 difference + separate 差別
And 4 antinomic extinguish + fire 消火 bright + darkness 明暗 sell + buy 売買 peace + war 和戦
There are now 100 words in the list of tautologicals... There are many more, so if anyone finds these lists useful, please let me know which words I should add. Some words are rather rare, but still interesting to help remember some jouyou kanjis. But if the word is rare and one of the kanjis is not jouyou, is it worth adding this word? In other words, should I make this list as complete as possible for its linguistical interest, or should I keep it within reasonable bounds to better use its mnemonic value to study up to JLPT N1?
I'm not sure if I fully understand the concept of tautological words. Would those rather mundane words such as 時代 (time + ages), 年代 (year + ages), 年月 (year + month) or 月日 (month + day) and the like fit the profile? I don't think I've seen them in your list.
As for the antinomicals, how about 今古 (now + old), 火水 or 水火 (fire + water) and 白黒 (white + black)?
Thanks a lot! There are many "mundane words" that fit in my lists. It doesn't look like the concept was studied at all, since all I could find were tiny lists, so it's a work in progress (the fact I just had to make up words to qualify those words is quite an indication)... I just added 時代 きんこ 水火火水白黒. Not the others because 日月年 there pretty much refer to specific (and different) periods of time instead of the concept of time as a whole, so it would be stretching the idea too much and I'd end up with thousands of words, don't you think? I'd like these list to have some value as a mnemonic tool: I'll remember at once a yomi of 2 kanjis and the semantic relation between them because of words on these lists. Also, for tautologicals I particularly like when the meaning of the whole word is pretty much the same as one of the meanings of both parts... That makes them tautological: 舞踊 means dance, and it's written dancedance. I just found that very interesting. We can't have that in any other language I know (I have a pretty decent knowledge of 8 languages, and know some basics of 6 more... That's 12 from the 3 big European families, Japanese, and Greek, so it's not a very big diversity, though). The closest I know is that in many language you can repeat an adjective to reinforce it: red-red is very red, dumb-dumb is very dumb. Maybe it's the kanji writing that allows that (is there the same phenomenon in Chinese?) or maybe it's the agglutination: can you agglutinate synonyms in Hungarians to get another synonymous? Maybe it's both? I don't know yet, but I thought it's a pretty cool linguistic element that is worth looking at, and can also provide mnemonic help with over a hundred kanjis. You made me think of 日月, sun and moon, which I added as antinomical. Edit: in wiktionary I tried 8 tautologicals, and among them, 優秀 is also a tautological in Chinese (excellent + outstanding = excellent, outstanding), and so is 移動 (move + move = move). Chinese is not agglutinative, so the kanji writing can, on its own, creates this phenomenon. But maybe the agglutination makes it much more frequent. Maybe agglutination also creates this phenomenon on its own. Speakers of Korean, Turkish, Nahuatl, Finnish etc could shed some light...
It's not completely unheard of. In the Kanji Kentei, on certain levels, there is a question type that asks you to define the relationship between two kanji comprising a word. You have to choose whether they have a similar meaning, an opposite one or if one elaborates on the other. For instance, from the test sample for 5級:
While this is less strict than your definition, I imagine these sort of lists appear in preparatory material geared for these sections, partitioned by kanji level. Or, put differently, people wanting to study towards them could benefit much from the lessons you created.
Thanks a lot gdartfow, that's interesting! But I didn't see anything about this in English, so it's a very uncommon subject. Also, the few small lists I found (which I copied in my 2nd and 4th message here), and the test question you provided only consider the tautologicals as only something one should be able to see for studying kanjis. While I think it can be used as mnemonics to study those words and their kanjis, I also think it's a linguistic phenomenon worthy of attention in itself, like the linguistic phenomenon of doubling words to insist. Let me check if there's something on the subject in French, Russian or German, I could have a surprise… zilch, nada and tipota. In this test they give 消火 as the example for the case え, while I included this words in my list of antinomics. Most of the words in this list are things like "up down", "pros and cons" etc, but the exceptions are more interesting. Like 左右, which doesn't just mean left and right.
I did some poking around the linguistic section of Wikipedia, and I think what you're describing are types of co-compounds. If you feel like doing some technical reading, I found these resources on Google:
That's really interesting, thanks! I just read that chapter in the first book, it's precisely what I was interested in. And it largely confirms what I thought, that either Chinese writing (or anything that's not strictly phonetic-based, but Egyptian and Mayan glyphs have lost popularity recently, so I'll just say Chinese writing) OR agglutination can create this phenomenon: Mordvin, Georgian, Uzbek and other languages quoted repeatedly are agglutinative. I didn't read the whole book, but I noticed a sentence saying that there may be something that prevents this phenomenon in European languages (how about alphabetical writing and the absence of agglutination?... What about Hungarian?) I also noticed that the author barely touched Japanese, with an example p 19 pointing to the fact he probably didn't have enough information and therefore couldn't correctly assess this phenomenon in the Japanese language. I also noticed that the author quotes a 1982 Soviet article, in which the author, who was writing in Russian, used a concept excessively common (to my taste) in Russian to describe a completely different phenomenon. In Russian you don't eat strawberries, you eat strawberry, which is a collective noun. And there are way too many of these words (speaking as a user). So when the Soviet linguist discussed Uzbek or Mordvin words like mountainhill, honourhonour etc, he mentioned that as a case of collective nouns, which seems (after this first read) like he completely missed the point. Couldn't make a new word to describe something new? Too old to adopt new concept? Or, unfortunately, it's possible it was dictated by political considerations: in some cases Soviet linguists had to stretch what they knew to fit into the ideology that Soviet peoples are brothers (and therefore they had to show imaginary similarities). The Balto Slavic language group is a bit of a stretch, for example, and Baltic schoolchildren were taught about some insignificant similarities as a proof of a the languages being very close. Don't laugh too hard at the USSR, though, the EU does pretty much the same, in a more subtle way Anyway, thanks again for those references. The first pretty much confirms, at least, that this phenomenon in the Japanese language hadn't received enough attention, as it's quite an interesting phenomenon.
I don't think you should regret that, I have scientific degrees, languages are just a fascinating hobby. Besides, some linguistic professors are best at taking the fun out of languages (that's what I gathered from some of their victims). Also, if you find something interesting that wasn't studied well enough, you can dig and become the expert on that very specific question (and contradict "common knowledge"), if you try hard. Happened to me, in a completely different subject (and I was proven right 2 years later). I just thought about a pretty obvious one: try.try is a trial, 試験. That's number 120, I think, and if there are still obvious ones like this, there must be at the very least 100 more. I wonder if there are 3kanji and 4kanji tautologicals and antinomicals, couldn't think of one yet, but I probably didn't look hard enough. Funnily, I wouldn't have paid attention to this if I weren't learning Greek, which made me pay attention to some unexpected similarities among European languages and sometimes beyond. E.g. when people agree in Greek (συμ•φωνώ, hence "symphony"), it means they "together•voice", that their voices are in tune... in a musical chord (French then English accord, Italian accordo...), same as Russian со•гласие. Or "Zu•stimmung" in German, and 同•調 in Japanese. Yes, there are several words for that in Japanese, and German etc, but this musical analogy is one of them. I would guess this idea is present in all cultures that have the concept of musical chord. So, when I paused and thought about 舞踊, and realized that there's nothing like that in the European languages I know, I thought it's worth looking at it.