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6 facts you should know about Chinese radical

Enjune Zhang

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6 facts you should know about Chinese radical 

 

1. Code of character  

There are lots of characters sharing the same part, and meanings of these characters have something to do with that certain part, and this is more than coincidence. We call this part radical.It exists as part of the character before it is applied as the clue to search for the characters in dictionary.Radical (部首) is just the name given later.Characters with this part are essentially related to a certain kind of thing or something related to that certain kind of thing, and that's how characters are formed and the meanings stretch. A new character formed with the radical carries the basic meaning of radical itself, and some specific meaning further, which the radical itself could not reach. For example,氵means water, characters with it as radical (海江湖泊) have something to do with water,but their meanings will be more concrete than water.Relation between meaning of radical and meaning of character with the radical is like that between the general and the specific. An accurate identification of a character's radical could help you distinguish it from its counterparts by revealing what it is mainly about. Sometimes,we may come across confusing characters like 请清情晴蜻氰鲭, but the meanings may reveal themselves if you know the meaning of the radical 讠(talk),氵(water),忄(heart),日(sun),虫(insect),气(gas),鱼(fish). 讠refers to conversation, so 请 (please) is a wording applied in daily communication;清(clear),a description of water 氵; 情(feeling),a mental activity related to heart 忄; 晴 (sunny),a status of weather related to sun; 蜻(dragon fly), an insect; 氰 (cyanogen), a  poisonous gas; 鲭(mackerel),a kind of fish. Knowing the meaning of radicals can also help us with the identification of similar radicals like 礻(supernatural being) and 衤(clothes). Therefore, you won't apply 礻by mistake when you try to write the character 袖(sleeve),which is part of the clothes; neither will you think that 衤will be part of 福 (blessing),something supernatural beyond your control.      

 

2. A crack on the radical with greater amount of characters first  

Focus on the radicals widely applied to tons of characters instead of keeping your eye on those with small amount of example available. So it is wise to pay more attention to several radicals frequently employed. You will find the rule mentioned applies to most of the occasions.Sometimes when it is hard to find the relation between the character and its radical, don't be too hurried to cast a doubt in it.The evolution of characters may leave some original radicals behind. For example,it is unclear why 白 has anything to do with 的,and 宀 with 它.However, if we take a further look into the ancient form of character,the answer is around the corner.旳 is the original of 的,it takes 日(sun) as the radical.旳 means as clear and bright as the sun.And meaning could be extended into "as certain and undeniable as something's existence under the sun", which leads to 旳确 dí què. Here in this word 旳=确. Although its modern form 的 has another pronunciation of de, the wording of 的确 remains. And the transformation of the radical makes the relation between the radical and character confusing. Another case is 它 (牠).It makes sense that 他 (he) has a radical of 亻and 她 (she) takes a 女 as radical. And 牜(animal) acts as the radical of 牠(it). 牠 is the original of 它, and again the inconsistence of ancient and modern form brings about the mystery. Therefore, if the link between modern character and its radical is weak,try to give an exploration to its ancient form. Drop it if you don't have adequate clue to make the relation make sense. Just focus on what you know applicable. It is a rule self evident and can justify more than half of the stories if it is not for every occasion. Even universal law may have its exception. And what's more, it is a valuable clue for you to link characters together for easier memory.Building connections is the way to make learning less complicated,so if you figure out the path,don't squander it.    

 

3. Memorize the certain radical with its essential meaning and the related characters frequently applied  

It is unrealistic to learn radicals separating therm from characters related.It will be a utopian thought to conquer all the radicals and then take a look of the characters and expect that you could open every door with the key you get. Start with the common characters and find the radicals corresponding. Every link you see between the character and its character may mean another strengthening of your belief in mind.  

 

4. Focus on the radical that could be a character itself  

There are radicals acting as an independent character itself, and a concentration on them may save your trouble.  

 

5 How to strengthen familiarity with radicals  

Practice searching characters via radical; analyse the radical for every new character you come across, trying to see why the meaning has something to do with radical.  

 

6 How to decide the radical of a certain character  

If it is a character with a part reflecting the pronunciation (not the 100% pronunciation and probably the vowel of the Pinyin), and another part indicating the meaning, try the part carrying the meaning (清 with 氵). If it is a character with a part embracing another part, try the part outside (围 with 囗;句 with 勹, 函 with 凵).If it is a character with side by side structure, the left part is likely to be taken, but the right part could be the radical if it contains less strokes (姑 with 女; 故 with 攵). If it is a character with top-bottom structure, take the part less incompact (盛 with 皿, 覆 with 覀).If it is a character inseparable,take it as the whole (羊 takes itself as radical). If the radical is not clear to find, try the first stroke to see if you get it right (中 wtih 丨).


Finally, for those who would like to learn more about Chinese radicals, resources available are listed below.

汉辞网 http://www.hydcd.com/zidian/hz/2240.htm                      

汉字英雄 explanation of radical given by 于丹

Essential Meaning Of Radicals Frequently Applied-enjune.pdf



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Large blocks of English text can be hard to read, especially on a phone. The paragraph is a very useful invention!

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6 How to decide the radical of a certain character  

If it is a character with a part reflecting the pronunciation (not the 100% pronunciation and probably the vowel of the Pinyin), and another part indicating the meaning, try the part carrying the meaning (清 with 氵). If it is a character with a part embracing another part, try the part outside (围 with 囗;句 with 勹, 函 with 凵).If it is a character with side by side structure, the left part is likely to be taken, but the right part could be the radical if it contains less strokes (姑 with 女; 故 with 攵). If it is a character with top-bottom structure, take the part less incompact (盛 with 皿, 覆 with 覀).If it is a character inseparable,take it as the whole (羊 takes itself as radical). If the radical is not clear to find, try the first stroke to see if you get it right (中 wtih 丨).

 

 

A few points:

 

A person who is unsure of the radical in 清 is unlikely to know that 青 (also a radical, at least in the abstract) is the phonetic...but by all means at some point remark that some radicals may find more use as phonetics than as radicals (a better/even more consistent example in terms not only of pronunciation but position however is 丬/爿 ). Concentrate on positions first and foremost, and don't assume too much if anything really!

 

The enclosing element may be the radical in 围 and 函, but it isn't in 句 (at least, not in traditional or hidebound dictionaries).

 

Similarly, the student may need to be made aware that 攴 is the canonical form of 攵 (despite 攴 itself being a relatively infrequent form).

 

Lastly, saying that丨is the first stroke of 中 is ambiguous, as that could be taken to mean either 1) the long, piercing central stroke (which in terms of stroke order is actually the last), or 2) just the first stroke of the flattened 口 (the possibly alternative radical in 中). Either way, and given the phrasing used, this is a problematic example: it will teach incorrect stroke order, or an only partial use of 口 , and the two inconsistencies aren't really compatible (though fudging fortuitous or otherwise might in other instances be helpful sometimes).

 

And some possible English corrections (hope you don't mind):

 

(not the 100% pronunciation and probably the vowel of the Pinyin) > change the 'and' to 'but'?

 

the part less incompact > the more compact part?

 

If it is a character inseparable (from what, itself?) > a character that can't be divided or decomposed (into constituent parts); an indivisible character?

 

take it as the whole > a?

 

Some of my English corrections might seem debatable to some though, so don't worry too much about relatively minor stuff like this, the reader can certainly get the gist of your writing.

 

Other than that, not a bad subset of tips! Welcome to the forums LOL.

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Enjune Zhang

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@Gharial  Thanks for the comment, reminding me that there is room for improvement. Actually, we could refer to 句 by both 口 and 勹 as the radical.

find 句 via 勹 in paper dictionary.jpg

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I did say 'at least, not in traditional or hidebound dictionaries' (that is, I'm pretty sure the Kangxi lists 句 only under 口, as does the Far East, the ABC ECCE, and the NTC/Kenkyusha New J-E Character Dictionary, to name but three dictionaries that I have with Kangxi-based radical indexes; then there is stuff like Unicode that also persists with and gives only 30.2 and not 20.3 as the 'Standard' radical and residual stroke count for 句).

 

Equally, I'm aware that some dictionaries (such as the Xinhua, Oxford/Commercial Press Concise, and Compact Nelson, all also on my shelves) may be less dogmatic and helpfully list characters under more than one radical, and/or under a potentially more logical radical, but thanks all the same for the photo LOL.

 

You should incorporate this sort of information into your materials, as it might help people select a (printed) dictionary best suited to their needs than potentially buy somewhat blind. But as most people use or fall back on apps like Pleco nowadays there isn't the need to be quite as au fait with radicals and their various positions as there was before.

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