Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pairs of two-syllable Chinese words having swapped Pinyin spellings in their syllables

Here are some pairs of reasonably common, two-syllable Chinese words, of which the Pinyin spellings (disregarding tone) of the two syllables of each word could be swapped to yield the other word of each pair. As usual for this type of blog entry, I may modify this list over time.

Ordered by Pinyin. Different members of a pair may share characters, though such a shared character doesn't necessarily have the same meaning in both words.

  • 部分 bùfen part (of something)
  • 分部 fēnbù branch (e.g., branch store of a larger company, etc.)

  • 記念 jìniàn commemorate
  • 年紀 niánjì age

  • 解釋 jiěshì explain
  • 世界 shìjiè world

  • 時鐘 shízhōng clock
  • 重視 zhòngshì attach importance to; take something seriously

  • 相信 xiāngxìn believe
  • 信箱 xìnxiāng mailbox
The above pair show two qualitatively different meanings of 信; the first is a verb, meaning to believe/give credence to, the second is a noun, meaning letter (as in mail).

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