On Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 07:19, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On the other hand, it is difficult for someone to coin a new
> word in a language where the writing is utterly unrelated to the
> sound. How do the Chinese coin new words for things like Internet and
> iPhone? Surely someone doesn't sit in their study making up new
> squiggles for each new concept.

They do just that for newly-named chemical elements!

In general, though, they either coin a new word using existing
morphemes (much like English did with "inter-" + "net"), or they use
existing characters purely phonetically (as if English had called the
device "eye-foe-'un" [last one as in "young'un"]).

In the second case, you have to know whether a given character carries
meaning or just sound (which confused me briefly recently when I
happened to see the Chinese word for "palaeo-Siberian languages" and
it looked like "old west something-something" - until I realised that
the thing after "old" was not intended to mean "west" but was simply
used for its sound, the beginning of "Siberia").

I suppose it's a bit like deciding whether "Rob" means "steal"
(meaningful) or "person named Robert" (just sound) - context.

Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]>