RE: Ideograph?!?

From: Allen Haaheim (
Date: Mon Nov 29 2004 - 18:30:06 CST

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    >they often (not always) combine 1 or more radicals, with 1 or more strokes
    >that are not radicals themselves.

    Sorry Philippe, this is simply not true, and your email follows this with a
    few dubious statements. A Han character has one radical. That is, it can be
    catalogued under only one radical, exceptions before codification
    notwithstanding. The fact that other components in a given character may be
    used as radicals in other contexts is irrelevant and can only confuse
    matters here.

    Allen Haaheim

    -----Original Message-----
    From: [] On
    Behalf Of Philippe Verdy
    Sent: November 29, 2004 2:01 PM
    To: Flarn
    Subject: Re: Ideograph?!?

    From: Michael Norton (a.k.a. Flarn) <>
    > What's an ideograph? Also, what's a radical?
    > Are they the same thing?

    Some radicals (in the Han script) may be ideographs, but most ideographs are

    not radicals: they often (not always) combine 1 or more radicals, with 1 or
    more strokes that are not radicals themselves.

    Radicals in the Han script serve to their classification, and help users to
    locate ideographs in dictionnaries, but they also consider the additional
    strokes (radicals are themselves made of a wellknown number of strokes).

    Ideographs rarely represent alone a concept or word, but most often a single

    syllable. In Chinese many words are short and consist in 2 syllables, and so

    are written with two ideographs.

    We should call these characters "syllabographs" instead of "ideographs", but

    this may conflict with the concept of "syllabaries" that are much simpler,
    unlike Han ideographs that can each represent very complex syllables (with
    diphtongs, multiple consonnants, and distinctive tones), and sometime (in
    fact rarely) a concept or word (which may spelled with more than one
    syllable, depending on local dialects).

    Many words are created from two ideographs, and the concept behind each
    ideograph is unrelated or sometimes very far to the meaning of the whole
    word. In that case, the pair of ideographs is chosen mostly because the
    concepts are pronounced similarly in some dialect of Chinese (sometimes old
    dialects), and so they can be read phonetically (For example, "Beijing" is
    written with the two ideographs for "bei" and "jing", but you may wonder why

    "bei" and "jing" were used, and which concepts they represent, and their
    relation to the name of the city...).

    For these reasons, some linguists prefer to speak about "sinographs"
    (reference to Chinese), or sometimes "pictographs" (because of their visual
    form, instead of their meaning)...

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