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Harpoon

Components of characters?

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Harpoon

I'm starting to notice several repetitions in the structure of characters the more I study them...

For example, nu:3 appears in the bottom of the more complicated character yao4 ... the first means "female" and the second means "want" or "important".. I don't see the connection. Same thing with and , and , and etc... were they designed this way on purpose?

I also noticed that this stroke: 1234.jpg seems to appear either right side up or upside down in a LOT of characters as well. Is it just a common stroke (you're bound to have repetition with thousands of characters) or was it put into the specific characters for a reason?

Thanks.

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wushijiao

I'm sure someone else can give a better explination, but most of the repetitions you have noticed are either radicals or the phonetic components of characters. Radicals, as you may know, usually give you a rough idea of what the character is about. Because Chinese is so different from Western languages, I would suggest going to http://www.zhongwen.com/ and reading the "Chinese FAQ" to get a sense of how the langauge works.

I would strongly suggest that you memorize the meanings of at least the most important 20-30 radicals at the start. Then, on some rainy day, spend an afternoon trying to look up new characters in a dictionary by identifying the radical. For example, as you noticed, in the character 他 (ta1, he) the lefthand part is the radical for people. This is also seen in the men 们 of 我们 (wo3men, we). You might know the word door or gate 门 (men2), which does look a bit like a gate, by the way. By putting the people radical in front of the gate, the character tells the reader that it refers to people, but is pronounced like gate. Likewise, 她 (ta1, she) is pronounced the same as the other ta, but the radical is the 女 (for woman).

I don't see the connection.

Well, sometimes there just isn't a connection. But the fact that you've figured out how to break up a character into parts is a great step, in my opinion.

After a few weeks, when you look at a character, you'll start to become faster at differentiating the pronounciation component and the radical.

The more radicals you know (there are only 189), the more phonetic components you can recognize (there are about 1,800), and the more extensive reading you do, the faster and easier the whole process will be. :D

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roddy

The 1234.jpg is a form of 人, person. It's used as a radical in a lot of characters - sometimes, but not always, when the character means something to do with people. For example. 你, 他, have this radical at the left.

Roddy

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Harpoon

ah I see, thanks a lot.

hmm, so I see that when these characters were designed, the pronounciation aids considered different-toned syllables like man and man2 to be the same for the purposes of giving a hint as per the pronounciation?

Are native Chinese aware of these radicals (yeah that's the word, knew I was forgetting a key term so I just used "component" :o ) and their purpose? Are they important for native Chinese to learn characters?

This is also seen in the men 们 of 我们 (wo3men, we). You might know the word door or gate 门 (men2), which does look a bit like a gate, by the way. By putting the people radical in front of the gate, the character tells the reader that it refers to people, but is pronounced like gate.

Isn't this kind of dialect-specific? I mean, the "man" plural is only for Mandarin, it's "deih" in Cantonese. Does your example apply in Cantonese too? Meaning that "gate" 门 is also pronounced "deih" in Cantonese, allowing the person to see that 们 would also be pronounced "deih" and would have something to do with people? Anyone know Cantonese? :conf If that's not the case then it doesn't make sense, because then that means they were using spoken Mandarin to design a character system that's supposed to unify many mutually unintillegible dialects under a common writen toungue... just how important has Mandarin been, and how long has it been around??

Also, is it true that Simplified Chinese has destroyed a lot of the radicals?

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skylee

First, here is a table of radicals -> http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/Radical/index2.html

Click a radical and the dictionary will show you the characters belonging to that radical arranged in the order of the number of strokes.

Second, the characters 門 and 們 (I use traditional characters, BTW) are pronounced "men2" in Mandarin and "mun4" in Cantonese (note that the Cantonese tones are different from the Mandarin tones). They are not pronounced "deih" in Cantonese. The word you referred to as "deih" is 哋, not 們. When we say "we" In Cantonese, we say 我哋 (ngo5 dei6), rather than 我們 (wo3 men). It is just like some people would use "lorry" while others use "truck" to refer to the same thing. But in theory people use Mandarin in writing, and many people speak the "common language", i.e. Putonghua aka Mandarin, so people speaking in different dialects can still communicate.

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Quest

Just like Japanese now, pronouns were rarely used in ancient China, so each dialect developed a slightly different set of them.

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beirne
Isn't this kind of dialect-specific?

It is mainly specific to past times when syllables were pronounced differently. If you look at etymologies in something like Wenlin you will find that a lot of characters are based on phonetic similarities that aren't obvious anymore. The signific will give you hints to pronunciation and it will help you guess if you don't know the character, but your guess will still often be wrong.

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Alhazred

Here's a little on-topic riddle, I suppose it must be really easy for native speakers so, please leave it to (not-too advanced) learners:

你没有他有

天没有地有

(I liked it when I first came across it, in my first year of learning Chinese and I must say I had a hard time figuring it out hehe).

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Quest

也 is pronounced "ya" in both Cantonese and Japanese (や). So, combining the human stem radical 亻(called 单人旁 or single-person-side) and the phonetic radical 也 (ya) gives you a "ta" reading.

Are native Chinese aware of these radicals (yeah that's the word, knew I was forgetting a key term so I just used "component" :o ) and their purpose? Are they important for native Chinese to learn characters?

The answer to both questions is yes. We learned new characters by recognizing the radicals, guessing the meaning, and then checking with a dictionary/book/source.

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florazheng

Hi Guest,

I have a net pal who is a Cantonese-Amerian. He reads and writes Chinese in big 5 and speaks Cantonese. But he can't type Chinese. Chinese input methods I use, such as pingyin and 五笔, are not fit for him because he doesn't speak Mandarian that well because of accent. As I know, you are a Cantonese-American, aren't you? Maybe you can recomcomend input software of Chinese for him. Thanks.

Cheers, :roll::roll::roll:

Flora

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skylee

Most Hong Kong people speak in Cantonese and write in traditional characters. The majority of them, well afaik, use Cangjie (倉頡) input method or a easier version called Sucheng/Jianyi (速成/簡易). I myself am unable to use either as I find them illogical. So I use pinyin.

There is also another input method for traditional characters called 九方 (Jiufang), which is based on stroke sequence and is used on mobile phones. I guess it is similar to 五筆, but am not sure.

九方 -> http://www.q9tech.com/b5/services/download/download.php3

倉頡/速成/簡易 -> http://www.ied.edu.hk/cj/

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florazheng

Hi Skylee,

Thank you for your response. I supposed he is more than 60 years old. So it is impossible for him to recite and become familiar with a lot of complex stroke sequencesof 五笔input which I spent several months to master before. On the other hand, it is not necessary for him to use Chinese.

As to Pinyin input, he said he can't pronounce Mandarin accurately and he hasn't ever visited the mainland of China. So it is a big hurdle for him to use it.

I wonder whether there is easier imput way for Cantonese-American or not.

Thanks!

Flora :roll::roll::roll:

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skylee

Some people use Cantonese input method. But since the "pinyin" of Cantonese is not standardised, sometimes one will have to guess it.

If the guy can write in traditional Chinese, then he probably can use Jiufang, which I remember is fairly easy to master because it follows the handwriting's sequence of strokes.

And also, there is this tool called 手寫板 and the software is called 蒙恬, IIRC. Check it out.

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florazheng

Thank you again, Skylee. I would like to recommend Jiufang for him to try, handwriting pad is also a good choice. :mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen:

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GCZ
I'm starting to notice several repetitions in the structure of characters the more I study them...

I also noticed that this stroke: 1234.jpg seems to appear either right side up or upside down in a LOT of characters as well. Is it just a common stroke (you're bound to have repetition with thousands of characters) or was it put into the specific characters for a reason?

Thanks.

You're right on track harpoon. I am doing research about learning Chinese characters' date=' If you haven't alrady done so it would be really helpful if you would paticipate by doing this survey

A really great book to help lear characters is McNaughton Reading and Writing Chinese: A guide to the writing system Make sure you pick up the Revised edition) this deals with traditional characters, but does show simplified too, and uses Hanyu pinyin. McNaughton has aslo just released (or just releasing) a very similar book for simplified - Reading & Writing Chinese: Simplified Character Edition

If you are serious about writing characters these books are a Godsend.

All the best with your studies

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