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Different uses of ‘wen’ in Chinese

Chinese words, learning Chinese

Isn't "闻 (wén)" related to the nose? We say "this smells really good (闻起来很香)", so why does the character "闻" have "耳" from "耳朵" (ear) in the middle?

"闻"不是和鼻子相关吗?我们说"闻起来很香",为什么"闻"字里面有个"耳朵"的"耳"呢?

It is well known that Chinese Characters have a few thousand years of history. Over the course of these thousands of years, the meanings of Chinese characters have developed and evolved. Take the Character "闻", which first meant "listen". There is a proverb that goes "闻鸡起舞 (wén jī qǐ wǔ)", which originally meant that when a person hears the crowing of a rooster in the middle of the night, they get out of bed and practise their swordsmanship. Later it was also used to convey that someone has high ideals, is very ambitious, is extremely hard working, and is able to promptly rise up with force and spirit to take action.

大家都知道,汉字已经有几千年的历史了。所以汉字的意义在这几千年的过程中也有一些演变。就拿"闻"这个字来说,它最初的意思就是"听"。有个成语叫"闻鸡起舞",原意就是一个人在半夜听到公鸡的叫声就起床舞剑练武了,后来也用来表达一个人很有理想,很有抱负,十分刻苦,能及时奋起行动。

There is another proverb "博闻强记 (bó wén qiáng jì)", which means to have heard many things, and to have remembered many things. It describes a person with rich knowledge and a powerful memory.

还有一个成语"博闻强记",意思就是,听过很多东西,记住了很多东西。形容一个人知识丰富,记忆力好。

In an essay titled '师说' by the Tang Dynasty's Hanyu, there's a sentence that goes something like: "闻道有先后,术业有专攻 (wéndào yǒu xiān-hòu, shù yè yǒu zhuāngōng)". It means: becoming aware of the truth has a proper sequence, skills and studies each have specialized considerations. The "闻" here means "to know". Initially it was "to hear", only later on did it become "to know". In modern Mandarin, the "闻" from the term "听闻  (to hear)" also contains this meaning.

唐朝的韩愈在《师说》这篇文章中有这样一句话:闻道有先后,术业有专攻。意思是:知道道理有先有后,技能学业各有专门研究。这里的"闻",是"知道"的意思,最初是"听到",然后才是"知道"。现代汉语中,词语"听闻"中的"闻"也是这个意思。

"闻" can also be used as a noun, expressing the affairs one has heard of. For example: 新闻 (news) can also be considered the newest affairs one has heard of. Of course, in this modern era of flourishing information, a lot of news isn't necessarily heard, but can also be viewed. Also: 见闻 (jiànwén), which means the things you have seen and the things you have heard.

"闻"也可以作为名词用,表示听到的事情。比如:新闻,也就是最新听到的事情。当然,现代资讯发达,很多新闻也不一定是听到的,还可以是看到的。还有:见闻,就是你看到的事情和听到的事情。

"闻" can also express "reputation", and is related to "听 (to hear, to listen)". How do you know of someone else's reputation? You hear about it. For example: 丑闻 (scandle).

"闻"还可以表示名声,也是和"听"有关,别人的名声你是怎么知道的呢?听来的嘛。比如"丑闻"。

The "闻" in ''闻起来很香" is related to "鼻子 (nose), and is just one of its many meanings. In my view, this is just a rhetorical technique: things from outside enter the ears and enter the nose, or perhaps it is only from the Chinese people's perspective they are related?

"闻起来很香"这里的"闻"和鼻子相关,这只是"闻"这个汉字众多意义里面的一个。在我看来,这也是一种"通感",东西从外面进入耳朵和进入鼻子,或许在中国人看来是相关的?

Now perhaps you still have a question: I understand the "耳" in "闻", but what's with the "门"? The "耳" here conveys the meaning, while the "门" indicates the sound. This is a typical example of a phonetic compound. For example in the character "妈" which you learned in the very beginning, "女" represents the meaning while "马" represents the sound.

现在或许你还有一个疑问,"闻"字的"耳"我已经懂了,那"门"又是怎么回事?"耳"在这里表示的是意义,"门"在这里表示声音。这是一个典型的形声字。比如你最初学过的"妈","女"表示意义,"马"表示声音。

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2016-06-21

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