Re: Radicals and Ideographs

From: Edward H. Trager (
Date: Mon Nov 29 2004 - 21:04:15 CST

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    On Monday 2004.11.29 16:30:06 -0800, Allen Haaheim wrote:
    > >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.

         To clarify:

         A Han character will always be classified under just one radical in,
         for example, a dictionary. But there can be differences between
         dictionaries. For most characters, such as the previously-mentioned
         妊 (ren4 ㄖㄣ "pregnant"), it is very obvious to a literate speaker
         of Chinese or Japanese that the radical is 女 (nu:3 ㄋㄩˇ woman). But for
         a subset of characters, it is not so obvious, so much so that
         dictionaries may contain a "Table of Characters that are difficult
         to locate" (難檢字表). For example, "男" (nan2 ㄋㄢ "male") is a
         simple character, but it is difficult to know whether the radical
         used to find this character in a dictionary is "田" (field) or "力"
         (power/strength) -- in this case, the radical is "田". Of course
         a lot of modern dictionaries use pinyin or a similar phonetic system
         which is great *if* you know the pronounciation: When you do not
         know the pronounciation, then look up by radical followed by a count
         of the remaining strokes after the radical is a traditional and
         still commonly-used method.

    - Ed Trager

    > Allen Haaheim

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