In replying to inquiries on this site concerning kanji origins, composition and interpretations, certain respondents (1/2) have described analysis based on sound symbolism as "non(-)mainstream." If so, what characterizes mainstream analysis, and which scholars of kanji (Chinese characters as used in Japan) belong to this mainstream?
This question has been around for quite a long time, and there still doesn't seem to be any suggestions of satisfactory and accessible Japanese resources to explain kanji glyph origins in the last few years to represent opinions of the scholarly mainstream.
There have been two major (and perhaps not entirely independent) developments in paleography research in the last 30-40 years which have greatly expanded knowledge and improved analyses of characters, and these are:
- Synchronisation of detailed Old Chinese and Middle Chinese phonological data with character analysis;
- Large improvements in the analysis of glyphs from the Warring States period.
Without these two developments, character analyses and explanations were heavily prone to over-interpretation and sound symbolism, and such explanations are considered quite non-mainstream and incorrect now. More conservative and traditional resources will be guilty of doing the same thing, and also cannot be trusted.
The following is a sample list of authors and an example of one of their titles that is considered some of the most authoritative and up-to-date literature to do with Chinese paleography and phonology:
- Baxter and Sagart, Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction
While these are not accessible to most Japanese readers, the current situation is that Japanese resources that most people quote to do with the topic do not actively reference the latest development in the field.
If anyone owns a copy of 角川《新字源》, please check the bibliography to see if they reference any of the authors above, as I've seen a few good character explanations coming from this resource quoted from other people, but don't own a copy myself. If they do reference them, this would be a good starting point for a list of Japanese resources for character origins.
On the whole, I'm not actually convinced that glyph origins (apart from kokuji, shinjitai not shared with Chinese regions, and kanji purely used for kokkun words) are even on topic for this site due to their heavy relation to Chinese linguistics and only passing relation to on'yomi, but that's for another question.