Alex Fink wrote: > I should qualify this and say that there is at least one case where > arbitrary change of pronunciation does seem to be a common > resolution: that is where a word becomes homophonous with a taboo > word. Thus for instance English _shut_ and _shuttle_ would have > regularly come out with the KIT vowel; and Mandarin 卑 'humble, > ignoble, etc.' is _bei1_ rather than the regularly expected _bi1_ > which would match 屄 the crude word for 'vagina'. > > The same phenomenon can cleave a single etymon in two: to take a > Mandarin example again, 'bird' historically had a /t/ initial, but > came to be used for 'penis', and as this gained prominence the > initial was irregularly altered to /n/ when 'bird' was still > literally meant. The two are now spelled differently, 鳥 vs. 屌. Hmm. Is the phrase "the birds and the bees" purely coincidental, or might it in some way be related to the Chinese words 屌 and 屄? (Perhaps in an alternate history.) But it's interesting to think of the shape of Chinese characters as a kind of "spelling". I guess the idea behind the Cangjie input method is much like a "spelling" of Chinese characters. Or you could go further and think of strokes as the basic letters of Chinese spelling.