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If you look up a Chinese character and its meaning in classical Chinese, there is a good chance you get a long list with many different semantically unrelated meanings. Take 而 for instance, that bears the meanings: 1. and, 2. but, 3. than and a few further functional meanings.

What is the statistical evaluation of the polysemy of the Chinese words of that time, how did the statistics change over time, did the polysemy increase, decrease, stay more or less the same?

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  • How do you know the first and second meanings are actually distinct?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 1, 2014 at 2:06
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    One factor that makes analysis more difficult is that, especially in early writing, a particular graph could be used to write several different words which were not homophones.
    – HAL
    Nov 2, 2014 at 18:41
  • was it frequent back in those time, that a character could refer to many words?
    – meireikei
    Nov 2, 2014 at 19:03

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