What are the names of the parts that Hanja is composed of?
August 10, 2018 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I've been studying Hanja for only a few days, and I'm trying to learn the jargon from the start. Several of the books and webpages I've consulted mentioned that there are 'parts' other than radicals, but don't give examples, and I'm not familiar enough with radicals — yet — to recognize them 100% of the time. For instance, the book The Chinese Character Decomposition Guidance says, 'Strokes other than radicals are not shown in the decomposition table.
posted by Chasuk to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're talking about radicals, the main real-life use is to look up characters using the radical-stroke method (and these days with computing technology it's by far the least efficient method unless you only have access to a paper dictionary).

In this situation, any given Chinese character is composed of (1) the radical and (2) all other strokes not part of the radical, which at least in Chinese lexicography does not have a specific name as far as I'm aware. So for example with 話, the radical is 言 and 舌 is the part of the character that is not part of the radical; it'd be found in the dictionary underneath the 言 radical + 6 additional strokes.
posted by andrewesque at 8:12 AM on August 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I studied Japanese, but here's another explanation. In the example from andrewesque above, the second part (舌) can also serve as a radical in other characters (it means tongue; the box shape at the bottom means mouth, so it's a sort of a drawing of the meaning).
posted by pinochiette at 8:27 AM on August 10, 2018

There are 214 historical radicals. There are some indexing system that simplify this, and many of the more complex radicals seems like they should decompose into simpler ones, like 麻 seems like it should decompose to 广 and 木. Anyhow, 214 radicals is a lot to remember.

There are some characters that have recurring non-radical shapes, such as 剣 検 倹 険. I'm not aware of special names for those shapes (although I'd be surprised if there isn't one). In the case of the four characters here, the index radical (the parts that are different) are the semantic component, and the identical parts are the phonetic component (the Chinese-derived pronunciation in Japanese is "ken" in for all of these).

Ultimately all characters, and all radicals, can be decomposed into a relatively small number of single strokes, and there are four single-stroke radicals as well.
posted by adamrice at 1:00 PM on August 10, 2018

The part that's not the radical is the phonetic. E.g. the characters adamrice listed have phonetic 僉 qiān. It's used as a phonetic in 劍 jiàn, 檢 jiǎn, 儉 jiǎn, 險 xiǎn/jiǎn, 臉 liǎn, 㷿 xiān, etc. Note that these all rhyme with qiān. (The initial sound is also related, but in a more complicated way.)

If you want to explore phonetics, this online dictionary is really useful. For most characters it will give a 'composition' which points you to other characters that use the same radical or phonetic.

Since you say hanja, I assume this is for Korean. The Chinese phonetic may or may not work for Korean... but then it doesn't always work for modern Chinese either, because the system was designed 2000 years ago. E.g. 俄 é has the phonetic 我 wǒ, which is pretty useless; but in Old Chinese they were both pronounced ŋâ.

One more pitfall: some characters don't fit into the radical + phonetic pattern, and they're just shoehorned in. As a simple example 三 sān isn't considered a radical, but dictionaries list it under the radical 一 yī. Of course it's just 3 lines representing '3'. On the plus side, such oddities include a lot of very common characters that you'll be learning pretty quickly anyway.
posted by zompist at 9:41 PM on August 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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