Confusion Concerning Radical 96 – a Hanja Question
August 27, 2018 5:22 AM   Subscribe

Is this Hanja —玉 — really radical 96? Wikipedia seems to think so, but I think they are wrong, that this — 王 — is radical 96 instead. Who is right?
posted by Chasuk to Writing & Language (6 answers total)
Wikipedia. 王 gets assigned to this radical because it looks similar (in standardized post-Han form), and in many characters the radical itself appears as a little 王, but the “basic form” of the radical is 玉. At least that’s how I learned it.
posted by No-sword at 5:43 AM on August 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

My own dictionaries agree with Wikipedia.
posted by adamrice at 7:38 AM on August 27, 2018

No-sword, so they are variant forms of the same radical? My apologies, but Hanja is new to me.

I guess I'm puzzled that the “basic form” — 玉 — is more complicated than the derived form, if I am understanding correctly. Or is the frequent identification of 王 as radical 96 in error?

Oh, one more question: What is the name of the "bead" in 玉?

Thank you very much!
posted by Chasuk at 4:53 PM on August 27, 2018

According to Pleco, it's zhu3丶(dot, which is radical 3)
posted by kokaku at 7:26 PM on August 27, 2018

“Radical” doesn’t exactly refer to what’s actually written... it’s more of an abstract grouping, sometimes quite arbitrary. So, yeah, you can think of 玉, 王, and various deformed versions of these as variants of the same thing. A book that said “radical 96 is 王” would be considered wrong by the mainstream, but a book that said “radical 96 sometimes appears without its dot and can be seen on the left side of 琉” would not, if that makes sense.

The relationship with the character 王 is a bit of a complex story. If you look at older forms of the characters, 玉 wasn’t just “王 plus a dot.” Nor is 王 “玉 minus a dot.” Neither was derived from the other; they were different graphs entirely. They just ended up looking very similar in the writing system that stuck around. And when it came time to assign 王 a radical, on the theory that every character must have one, it was assigned 玉 even though it doesn’t contain the whole thing and isn’t even related. As far as I know this was entirely arbitrary and 王 could just as easily have been assigned radical 1, 一.

Ultimately, radicals are kind of like English spelling: there are rules involved and as you come to dig them this works in your favor, but they’re not natural law; there are a lot of wrinkles and kludges that you just have to put up with, since after all it is an attempt to impose order on a messy system that had already been developing organically for a long time.
posted by No-sword at 4:46 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Note that the Kangxi radicals refer to a specific dictionary, the Kāngxī Zìdiǎn, published in 1716; it borrowed its list of radicals from the Zìhuì of 1615. Previously, a much larger set of radicals was used-- in that system, in fact, 王玉 were separate radicals.

Key point: these dictionaries came 2000 years after the characters developed in their modern form. The Kangxi radicals are not how the writing system was created; they're some scholars' attempt to organize them usefully.

(The characters are older than that, of course. I'm referring to 楷書 kǎishū style.)
posted by zompist at 3:59 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

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