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Pall

Systemized list of 214 radicals for memorizing characters faster

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Pall

At the HSK Acadamy site https://www.hsk.academy/en/learn/the-chinese-radicals  I saw that two radicals were interpreted as "child", two as "container", two as "gate", as many as three radicals as "hand" (though two of them also had other meanings). It's not convinient in using them as instruments to remember characters. Besides in Russia a number of radicals are understood quite differently. That's why I decided to put all that in order: to leave only one meaning for each radical, and the meanings should not be like others. If there were different interpretations, I chose either HSK Acadamy's or Russian version, the main criteria was the convenience to remember and distinguish from other radicals with similar names, as well as the easiness to form Russian prefixes. I'm uploading the full list of the systemized 214 radicals with English and Russian names. Also I put there Russian prefixes for those who may decide to use them to memorize characters, the Russian names having Latin transcription (see explanation at https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58727-characters-learning-how-to-proceed-after-radicals/)

Systemized 214 radicals.doc

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ParkeNYU

I cannot stress this enough: the radicals are not meant to be a tool for understanding character composition. They were only ever meant to be a means of finding a character in a physical dictionary (an index of section headers, hence the name 部首). To really understand character composition, one should instead study functional components as outlined in Outlier Linguistics.

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Pall
16 hours ago, ParkeNYU said:

the radicals are not meant to be a tool for understanding character composition

 

16 hours ago, ParkeNYU said:

To really understand character composition, one should instead study functional components as outlined in Outlier Linguistics.

 

I don't argue, you must be right on the linguistics. But I'm not going to become a linguist or to understand character composition. All what I want is to find a way to memorize characters quickly. If it was necessary for that to learn "functional components" of characters, I would do it, buw it's not needed, fortunately. Of course, all that is very interesting, and if I had time for that, I would study this field.

 

However for practical purposes it's enough to take the characters just as an alphabet, a very long one and having very complicated letters, words being constituted by two letters usually and even one sometimes.  It's not easy to remember even a part of this alphabet. But we're lucky thanks to the radicals, they make memorizing these complicated letters not so hard. And I wrote how to learn characters quickly in the comments to the topic "Characters learning - How to proceed after radicals". It really works. 

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Shelley

Could you please give some examples of the 

18 hours ago, Pall said:

two radicals were interpreted as "child", two as "container", two as "gate", as many as three radicals as "hand" (though two of them also had other meanings)

 

I only know of one radical for child 子

 

As pointed out by @ParkeNYU these are only to be used for looking up characters in a dictionary, not for learning Chinese characters.

 

If you want a method for learning characters by their component parts I suggest you have a look at Outlier here https://www.outlier-linguistics.com/

They also have many posts here on the forum, where there is lots of useful information. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/45912-outlier-linguistic-solutions/?tab=comments#comment-346309

 

 

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Pall
3 minutes ago, Shelley said:

I only know of one radical for child 子

 

As pointed out by @ParkeNYU these are only to be used for looking up characters in a dictionary, not for learning Chinese characters.

 

If you want a method for learning characters by their component parts I suggest you have a look at Outlier here https://www.outlier-linguistics.com/

They also have many posts here on the forum, where there is lots of useful information. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/45912-outlier-linguistic-solutions/?tab=comments#comment-346309

 

Thank you, Shelly! But I'm on track, the radicals are quite enough to memorize characters fast. If I have difficulties with that, I'll follow your advice. 

 

As to the "child", the HSK Acadamy also refers to the radical. I gave it as "son" in my list in order not to confuse the two.

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Shelley

You are apparently happy with what you are doing but I still wouldn't recommend it.

I can tell that you will not be swayed in your decision to use this method for learning characters so I will not try.

 

I will just say, I hope you think again about what has been said.

 

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Pall

I'm going forward rather fast now, why should I change it for something more respected? After all, the criteria is how soon I will manage to pass the HSK4. It took my graduate student whom I supervised and who had specialized in Oriental studies,  6 years to pass HSK4. In the end of June I new just 200 words, now I can read something of the HSK2 or 3 level. I hope it'll not take me that long to pass the HSK4 exam. 

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ParkeNYU

@Pall

 

It seems to me as though you don't fully understand what @Shelley and I are actually suggesting. The thing is, most of the basic radicals are themselves functional components and the rest comprise them. By learning the 214 radicals, you are already learning a good number of functional components in addition to superfluous forms; you're doing more work than you need to! Our recommendations are actually an even better and easier form of what you're already seeking to do. I think we actually agree on how characters should be learnt—you're just not using the best list to do it!

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vellocet

The name "radicals" always confused me.  Radical from what?  The Chinese name makes much more sense: 部首。 This literally means "section heading" and this is why they were magicked out of thin air in the first place.  You'd find out which of the components was randomly designated a radical (by memorizing the 214! of course!), and use that to look up what part of the dictionary it was in.  If you've never tried, borrow a paper dictionary sometime and try to look up a character.  

 

With the demise of paper dictionaries, the entire concept of "radical" is deprecated.  Characters no longer need be separated for manual lookup, it is all done on the electronic dictionary now.  I recommend Pleco, it's well worth the registration fee if you are at all serious about Chinese.  

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Shelley
52 minutes ago, vellocet said:

I recommend Pleco, it's well worth the registration fee if you are at all serious about Chinese

 

Seconded.

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mungouk
1 hour ago, vellocet said:

The name "radicals" always confused me.  Radical from what? 

 

Presumably as in the meaning of the root (Latin: radix) or original form.

 

 

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vellocet
12 minutes ago, mungouk said:

Presumably as in the meaning of the root (Latin: radix) or original form.

Poor taxonomy.  They shouldn't have chosen a word that has a namespace collision with another word with such a radical meaning.  All the more evidence that this concept should be left in the past.  

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Pall
On 9/8/2019 at 4:39 PM, vellocet said:

All the more evidence that this concept should be left in the past.  

I'm not sure that we should forget about radicals in the light of electronic methods to look up characters. Look, for example, in the following prefix to the pinyin as many as four radicals are reflected for  搬 : лунолодкостолоснова-bān. It's not a very long one, and it's enough to know it in order to imagine the character in one's mind. It's an alternative (verbalized)  way of writing characters in fact. However, I'm not going to replace characters for such form, it's only for memorizing them. (And some characters includes small details like seperate strokes, which it's not reasonable to show in such prefixes).

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ParkeNYU

@Pall

 

The character 搬 has but one radical: 手, which you can use to look it up in a dictionary.

 

If you analyse it as functional components instead, it's ⿰手般, with a meaning related to hand and a sound related to 般.

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Pall
10 hours ago, ParkeNYU said:

The character 搬 has but one radical: 手, which you can use to look it up in a dictionary.

 

If you analyse it as functional components instead, it's ⿰手般, with a meaning related to hand and a sound related to 般.

Thank you! I know, that the "hand" is the main radical if we need to look up the character in the dictionary. But I included in the prefix all four parts in order to be able to imagine the character, how it looks like, in my mind. If I remember лунолодкостолоснова-bān, which is not difficult I can always recognize the character, type it and even write with hand, the latter provided that I know how to draw 214 radicals.

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ParkeNYU
Quote

But I included in the prefix all four parts in order to be able to imagine the character, how it looks like, in my mind.

 

These would be four components, not radicals. Almost all characters have only one radical, and the only exceptions are those whose radical differs between the PRC and ROC (very few, but 最 is one such example with radicals 曰 and 冂, respectively).

 

In a proper analysis, 搬 (to move) has only two functional components: 手(meaning: hand) and 般(sound: ban).

You may then further analyse 般 ('spinning trays' borrowed to mean 'way/manner') as having two components: 殳(meaning: weapon→movement) and 凡(meaning: tray & sound: fan), which was corrupted to 舟 despite having nothing to do with a boat.

You may then further analyse 殳 as having two components as well: 又(meaning: hand) and 几(meaning: staff), which was corrupted from a depiction of a staff despite having nothing to do with a table.

 

If, on the other hand, you analyse 搬 as having three 'radicals' to help with meaning: 手, 舟, and 殳, it won't ultimately be very helpful and it will create more confusion down the line.

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Pall
30 minutes ago, ParkeNYU said:

These would be four components, not radicals. Almost all characters have only one radical, and the only exceptions are those whose radical differs between the PRC and ROC (very few, but 最 is one such example with radicals 曰 and 冂, respectively).

 

In a proper analysis, 搬 (to move) has only two functional components: 手(meaning: hand) and 般(sound: ban).

You may then further analyse 般 ('spinning trays' borrowed to mean 'way/manner') as having two components: 殳(meaning: weapon→movement) and 凡(meaning: tray & sound: fan), which was corrupted to 舟 despite having nothing to do with a boat.

You may then further analyse 殳 as having two components as well: 又(meaning: hand) and 几(meaning: staff), which was corrupted from a depiction of a staff despite having nothing to do with a table.

 

If, on the other hand, you analyse 搬 as having three 'radicals' to help with meaning: 手, 舟, and 殳, it won't ultimately be very helpful and it will create more confusion down the line.

Let's call them components, I don't object. For me all of them are just suitable elements to remember the character.

 

But in your way to analyse the character structure there are more words (ten!): "hand", "ban", "way/manner" , "weapon", "movement", "tray" "fan", "hand" (another picture!), "staff". Of course, it looks very smart and based on fundamental theory. But isn't it too complicated for practical purposes? I use only four components: "hand", "boat", "table" and "again", and it's enough for me to imagime the character. And since I can see it in my mind, I can consequently recornize it, type and even draw with hand. Isn't it what we all look for?

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ParkeNYU

Remembering 搬 as 'hand boat table' is indeed a valid tactic, but let's be clear on what that tactic actually is: arbitrarily memorising a character's constituent components as pseudo-spellings (at least remembering 'cat' as 'c-a-t' has phonetic significance). This method is fine if you just want to remember how to write a character and nothing more, but it will not necessarily help you at all to remember the other two important properties of characters: meaning and sound, whereas the true etymology posted above will (at least to a greater extent).

 

Personally speaking, I find it amazingly difficult to remember anything unless I know why it is what it is. I can accept rote memorisation for components numbering in the hundreds, but not for full characters numbering in the thousands. Remembering 'hand boat table' is easier than remembering the actual etymology, yes, but that three-word tag will only help you with that character, whereas the true decomposition and analysis will help you to remember every character related to it as well.

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Pall

It's reasonable. But what about "A BAN to move your boat with hands onto the water with a table in it to drink there again"?  The word in capital  letters is for the sound, one underlined for the meaning and those in Italic for components (including the radical). The advantage to express that in Russian would be that it's always possible to put all the words in the required order, it would be convenient to start from the upper left corner of the character and further clockwise, I think. In this example I would position "hands" before the "boat". 

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Pall

One of the anvantages of such approach as compared to the functional analysis of the character composition is that the number of words, which we combine and have to remember is limited to 214 only (with some rare additions maybe).

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