Last week the Taigi version of Disney Frozen’s Let it go was constantly playing in my head. So I typed the lyrics as correctly as I could in that thread. One thing I don’t like doing is assigning random Hanji to Taiwanese words just because they sound alike or people have been using it for a while. If the true origin of the word is unclear, I rather leave them in their Tailo spelling, that’s exactly what makes things like Hangul, Kana and Tailo so useful. Of course in the end I compromised a little, for example I left in all the 這 for tse and tsia.
One such word I left in Tailo was “kui” from “kui座山頭”. “Kui” means whole or entire. In the song it describes the entire mountain top is covered with snow. It can often be heard when people talk about the whole body, “kui-sin-khu” kui身軀.
The Ministry of Education wants people to use the word 規 for this usage. While 規 means circle, round and could be implied as whole, there is no such usage in historical texts. So I went looking for the correct Hanji for “kui” and I think I might have found it.
“Kui” = 渾
As in “渾身是膽” when classical texts likes to describe someone has a lot of courage, that his guts fills his entire body (sounds pretty unhealthy when I put it like that…). This is exactly the same usage as “kui” in Taigi. If someone read 渾身是膽 as “kui-sin-sī-tánn” in Taigi, it would make perfect sense.
渾 in Mandarin is pronounced as hún, and in Taigi literary reading is pronounced as hûn (basically the same pronunciation in both Taigi and Mandarin), but in several dictionaries, especially those describing Old Chinese such as Shuowen Jiezi (說文解字), say 渾 is pronounced the same as 軍 (从水軍聲).
軍 is pronounced as “Kun”. Many words that phonetically loaned the sound of 軍 experienced a consonant shift of /k/->/kh/->/h/. This is pretty common in many languages, words like 厚 kāu became hòu in Mandarin. 行 in Taigi Colloquial Reading (Old Chinese) is kiânn, but in Literary Reading (Classical Chinese) becomes hîng. This explains why literary reading and Mandarin reading of 渾 starts with the “h” sound. If “kui” is the Taigi colloquial reading of 渾, then the consonant remained unchanged from Old Chinese.
That leaves us with the vowel part of 渾, and examples of this /un/->/ui/ phenomenon is extremely close to home. 揮, 輝 are both pronounced as hui in Taigi, and /xu̯eɪ̯/ in Mandarin, both at one time also was read the same way as 軍. I can’t be sure about the chronology of the shift, but there are 3 likely scenarios. 1. /ui/ -> /un/ 2. /un/ -> /ui/ or
- /uĩ/ → /ui/
My personal guess is 3 is very likely. 軍 probably was read closer to /kuĩ/ and as phonology evolved, some vowels became /ui/ dropping the nasalization, and some enhanced it and became /un/
Either way, now someone just have to convince the MOE to change their word suggestion for “kui” from 規 to 渾…