This is gonna be a long one since my ritalin just kicked in, sorry in advance. No offense or anger meant by the length, just how this post is gonna be.
(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: <snip>
I'm against there being "proper" meanings, not against there being meanings in any capacity. A vague meaning with no predictive value is not a "proper" meaning. There are certainly kanji that have proper meanings like 不 and 内 but the kanji that don't have "proper meanings" are substantial in number.
(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: What I meant to emphasize is that you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji -- sometimes relying on the English gloss as a guide -- if you don't have an overly simplistic understanding of what the kanji's meanings are.
That's a dangerous generalization, and while it certainly represents a truthful concept, "you can break down the meaning of a word into the meanings of each kanji" doesn't work. You can only understand words in terms of other words, not their kanji. Kanji are not the language. The words are the language. I'm not trying to spew abstract nonsense as an argument there, I'm dead serious, and I finish this thought right after the next paragraph.
I realize that koohii is literally an RTK community, but you can only use RTK "properly" if you understand the distinction between kanji and the morphemes they encode. Forgive me for using linguistics terminology here, but it's the only well-known word for this concept. Morphemes are free beasts that can do whatever they want.
Japanese is not an analytic language like varieties of Chinese are, so morphemes do not have to have a reasonable application of their underlying meaning when they appear non-derivationally in words. Look no further than 誌 being glossed as magazine for no reason but association. "Magazine" is by no means a proper meaning of 誌, yet without knowing that 誌 is associated with words having to do with magazines, you can't predict the meanings of words with 誌 in them with any real accuracy.
When you use your understanding of the language in general to predict the meaning of a word based on its kanji in japanese, you don't do so on account of knowing proper meanings. Meanings are a small component of it. The key elements in predicting the meaning of a word are 1) words with shared characters that are used in similar situations*; 2) association between the kanji in the unknown word and the other words in which that kanji appears**; 3) general reading comprehension.
* compare "declension" to "conjugation", which are both ~ion words that appear in the same contexts, and probably have reflective meanings (which they do)
** compare "metalworks" to "fontworks"; even though the meaning doesn't belong to the sequence "works", you can tell from "metalworks", referring to foundries, that "fontworks" is probably using "works" the same way
Now, it certainly is the case for some kanji to definitely have proper meanings. 木, 地, 死, basically anything that represents a very simple concept will have something that I would accept calling a proper meaning, and for characters like 不 and 無 which basically correspond directly to certain derivational morphemes in their own right, you can't not
say that they don't have proper meanings. But non-beginners shouldn't ever have trouble understanding a new word that only differs in one of these characters, like going from 名 to 無名.
(2017-01-01, 12:44 pm)Sembei Wrote: RTK sometimes oversimplifies or distorts the meanings, because it's not designed as a kanji dictionary or even as a guide for helping you make sense of words written in kanji. It's designed as a mnemonic technique for being able to write kanji. When we try to rely on it for more than just writing, we get into trouble.
You absolutely can use RTK for more than writing, you just have to be aware of its limitations and what it's really doing for you. Isolated kanji memorization as in RTK, even without readings or words, is still useful because it makes it much easier to see through the orthography of the language to the morphemes that make up the words in the text, and that should increase the rate at which you acquire (retain) the language, even if and when you don't make accurate predictions about what you're reading.
I think that it's very important to understand the distinction between kanji (which are sort of like identifiers, like species names) and the particular morpheme usage that kanji will be used to write whenever it appears on paper. If you know that 誌 doesn't actually
mean "magazine", there's no issue calling it "the kanji for magazine", especially because words regarding magazines are by far the most relevant to it.
That's not to say you can't get in trouble, but when you're using conscious memorization to make acquiring a language easier, you're always going to run into trouble. RTK is perfectly fine if you can avoid getting in too much trouble when you use it. It doesn't even have to be for writing. In fact, KKLC might be better for writing because it has explicit stroke order and direction information for every single kanji, rather than doing it by components and order without direction like RTK does (hence saying "do RTK with KKLC's data" on the previous page).
Edited: 2017-01-04, 6:46 am