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> In Chinese, some root words have up to 10 meanings, all separated by
> toning.
 
Pretty impressive given that standard Chinese has but four tones.
 
In my old Guinness Book of Records it states that the fourth one of 'i'
has 84[?] meanings (and even more characters).
 
The little book "About Chinese" says that the Chinese government has
been pushing a "write as you speak" style of written Chinese and that
before this style came into use a written Chinese text might be
difficult to understand if read out loud.  The characters resolve
ambiguities in a way that the sounds don't.  To avoid this kind of
ambiguity when speaking the Chinese tend to use doublets, saying "eat
food" where they might write just "eat".  The words "eat" and "food"
might have many meanings but these intersect just at the target meaning.
 
-- jP --