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Chemical elements in East Asian languages
The names for chemical elements in East Asian languages, along with those for some chemical compounds (mostly organic), are among the newest words to enter the local vocabularies. Except for those metals well-known since antiquity, most elements had their names created after modern chemistry was introduced to East Asia in the 18th and 19th century, with more translations being coined for those element discovered later (see Discoveries of the chemical elements).
While most East Asian languages use--or had used--the Chinese script, only the Chinese use the characters as the predominant way of naming elements. On the other hand, the Japanese and Koreans primarily employ native alphabets for the names of the elements (Katakana and Hangul, respectively).
In Chinese, characters for the elements are the last officially created and recognized characters in the Chinese writing system. Unlike those characters for dialectal usage (e.g., written Cantonese) or other now-defunct ad hoc characters (e.g., the those by the Empress Wu), the names for the elements are official, consistent, and taught (with Mandarin pronunciation) to every Chinese and Taiwanese who has attended public schools (usually by the first year of middle school).
Some metallic elements were already familiar to the Chinese, as their ores were already excavated and used extensively in China for construction, alchemy, and medicine. These include the traditional "Five Metals" (五金)--gold (金), silver (銀), copper (銅), iron (鐵), and tin (錫)--as well as lead (鉛) and mercury (汞).
Some non-metals were already named in Chinese as well, because their minerals were in wide-spread use. For example,
European Pronunciation-based Characters
Most elements, however, remained unknown to the Chinese until they were isolated during the Industrial Age. These new elements therefore needed new characters be made for them. New characters were invented using the phono-semantic principle. Each character consists of two parts, to signify the meaning and to hint at the sound:
The "water" radical (水) is rarely used, since only two elements (bromine and mercury) are truly liquid at standard room temperature and pressure (see List of elements by melting point). Both of their characters are not based on the European pronunciation of the elements' names. Bromine (溴), the only liquid nonmetal at room temperature, is explained in the following section. Mercury (汞), now grouped with the heavy metals, was long classified as a kind of fluid in ancient China.
A few characters, though, are not created using the above "semantic-phonetic" design, but are "semantic-semantic", that is, both of its parts indicate meanings. One part refers to the element's usual state (like the semantic-phonetic characters). However, the second part indicates some additional property or function of the element. Such elements are:
A minority of the "new characters" are not actually new inventions, or rather, they happen to coincide with archaic characters, whose original meanings have long been lost to most people. For example, 鏷 (protactinium), 鈹 (beryllium) and 鉻 (chromium) are obscure characters meaning "raw iron," "needle," and "hook," respectively.
The majority of the elements' names are the same in Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, merely being variants of each other, since most of the names were translated by a single body of standardization prior to the PRC-ROC split. However, since francium and the transuranium elements were discovered during or after the split, they have different names in Taiwan and in Mainland China.
Many operating systems and web browsers do not support the display of some of the newer elements, since the characters for elements with atomic numbers 104 and above were only added in Unicode 3.1 (2001) as surrogate pairs that are part of the CJK Ideographs Extension B character set. They are thus displayed twice in the traditional characters table below, as both the surrogate pair characters themselves and as combinations of phonetic components. Simplified characters for elements 104 and above have not been encoded as of Unicode 4.1 (2005) and are thus given only as combinations of phonetic components in the simplified characters table below.
Color coding for atomic numbers:
Even though the Japanese languages also uses the Chinese characters (the Kanji), it primarily employs Katakana to transliterate names of the elements from European languages (often but not always English). For example,
On the other hand, elements known since antiquity are Chinese loanwords, which are mostly identical to their Chinese counterparts (see above), albeit in the Shinjitai and native reading, for example, iron is tetsu (鉄) and lead is namari (鉛). Whereas all elements in Chinese are single-character in the official system, some Japanese elements have two syllables, .e.g.,
Some elements with names written in Kanji have the suffix -so (素), meaning "element/component". For instance, arsenic is hiso (ヒ素 "hi element") in modern Japanese. The name hi (ヒ) is derived from hishima, the Chinese name for crystalline white arsenic (砒霜 "bi frosts"). In modern Chinese, however, arsenic is now simply shen (砷), being an approximation of the second syllable of the element's European name (-sen-). Likewise, although boron is written in katakana now (ホウ素 hōso), its origin is Chinese. Hō (ホウ) is derived from housa, the Chinese name for borax, the "peng sands" (硼砂). Boron is still called peng in modern Chinese.
Furthermore, a few of the pre-modern elements from the 18th century also have Kanji names, though sometimes drastically different from their Chinese counterparts. The following comparison shows that Japanese does not use the radical system for naming elements like Chinese.
As the Hanja (Sino-Korean characters) are now rarely used in Korea, all of the elements are written in Hangul. Since much of the Korean scientific terms were translated from Japanese sources, the pattern of naming is mostly similar to that of Japanese, namely, the classical elements are loanwords from China, with new elements from European language. For example:
Pre-modern (18th-century) elements often are the Korean pronunciation of their Japanese equivalents, e.g.,
Some of the metals known since antiquity are loanwords from Chinese, such as copper (Đồng from 銅), lead (Chì from 鉛), tin (Thiếc from 錫), and mercury (thuỷ ngân from 水銀). Others have native Vietnamese readings, such as Sắt for iron, Bạc for silver, and Vàng for gold. In either case, nowadays they are always written in the Vietnamese alphabet.
The majority of elements are shortened and localized pronunciation of the European names (usually from French). For example:
A minority of elements without--or with etymologically unclear--suffixes retain their full name, e.g.,
Some elements have multiple names, for instance, potassium is known as pô tát (from English) and kali (from kalium, the element's Latin name).
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Chemical_elements_in_East_Asian_languages". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|