Names of the Radicals

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
SimL
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Names of the Radicals

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:15 pm

Hi Everyone,

The long promised posting :P.

I’ve been looking at the names of the (Kang-xi) radicals. It all started from seeing the names in Mandarin a few months ago (background explained below), and then I moved on to looking at their names in Hokkien.

But I remember that even when I was very young, I heard my mother refer to the “辶” radical as “cau2-be2” (走馬). When I started learning Mandarin as an adult, about 6 years ago, I was very puzzled when I thought back to this term used by my mother, because – while the radical obviously is related to running – there didn’t seem to be a particular connection to horses (horse run, of course, but then so do a lot of other animals and humans). Also, when I looked up 跑馬 or 走馬 in a Mandarin dictionary, I couldn’t find anything related to the radical.

It was only a few months ago that I happened to stumble across - in Douglas (p.578) - “tsáu-bé-ūn, the 162d radical.” [This would appear to be 走馬運, as the compound is also listed on p.604, under “運” (and Douglas implies that it has this “運” in the name *because* “運” has “辶” as the radical).] This was the first external confirmation that the term I heard my mother use when I was young was in fact known – possibly even common – usage. It was also my first realization that the names of the radicals might be different between Hokkien and Mandarin.

So, what follows will be a series of postings about radical names; first in Mandarin, then in Hokkien.
SimL
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Joined: Mon Jun 26, 2006 8:33 am
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Re: Names of the Radicals (Background)

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:31 pm

First, a bit of background about why I started looking at radical names:

I think my handwriting is pretty good (for someone who picked up Chinese late in life). But I felt that it could still do with some improvement, so I’ve been reading “Learn to Write Chinese Characters” by Johan Björkstén. It gives hints on how to improve the appearance of one’s characters. These are basic hints like making long horizontal strokes slope slightly upwards, while keeping long vertical strokes perfectly straight; making the left side of a character slightly higher, and the right side slightly lower (for 2-part, left-right characters); making the middle part of character slightly higher than the left and right parts (for 3-part, left-middle-right characters); etc.

The author stresses that this is NOT a book on “calligraphy” (as in “with a 毛筆”). Instead, it’s a book which attempts to teach the reader how to write beautiful Chinese characters using a fountain pen (or a ball-point pen, or pencil, by extension).

The author says his Introduction:

[Quote]

“There are two principal ways to learn calligraphy. You can begin in the traditional way, with a brush. This calls for long practice, infinite patience, and a good teacher. By practicing with a brush you emphasize the artistic rather than the practical, for few modern Chinese use the brush in everyday life. Good teachers of traditional calligraphy are a rare breed outside Chinese communities.

Your other option is to practice with a fountain pen. This has many advantages. The fountain pen is the writing tool used in present-day China, so you have a practical use for what you learn. The fountain pen is easier to use than the soft, pliable brush, so you can avoid spending time on technique and concentrate on writing neat characters. The principles for writing with a fountain pen hold equally well for pencil and ballpoint pen, though it is easier to form pleasing strokes with a fountain pen. Lastly, you can make do without a teacher. Fountain pens are readily available, and ordinary paper can be used. For brush calligraphy, special Chinese writing paper is preferable.

Many teachers of Chinese hold the misconception that in learning calligraphy it is necessary to start practicing with a brush. As a result many schools give makeshift courses in brush calligraphy or, more commonly, offer hardly any instruction in the subject at all. In fact, fountain pen calligraphy is becoming more and more popular in the whole Chinese-speaking world; there are many books offering model characters and aesthetic guidance, as well as regular exhibitions and competitions. Practicing with a pen is as good a way to learn the characters as practicing with a brush”. He also says: “[…] Much has been written on these subjects, and at the end of the book I list a few titles of further interest. On the other hand, there is, as far as I know, no introduction to writing characters with a pen that is designed for a non-Chinese-speaking audience. I hope this book will fill the gap. The material should be well suited for all learners of Chinese, from high school students and first-year undergraduates to old hands who would like to improve their writing technique. Because the book presupposes no previous knowledge of Chinese, it should also attract anyone with an interest in the language and culture of China.”

[End of quote]

Anyway, one chapter of the book is devoted to the radicals, and in it he gives the names of (specific forms of) 39 of the radicals.

This is how I began to be interested in the names of radicals. In the next reply, I'll show the names which Björkstén gives.
SimL
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Re: Names of the Radicals (Björkstén)

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:36 pm

Right, so below are the names Björkstén gives.

I have divided the names he gives into the 3 main categories I detected, with some of the main categories having sub-categories. Basically, I see a pattern that the 3 main categories are: 1) The name is based on “旁”; 2) The name is based on “頭”; 3) Miscellaneous.

The radicals written on the side tend to be called “旁” and the radicals written on the top tend to be called “頭”. The sub-categories are difficult to classify, but are pretty obvious when you see them. By far the most common type of name is “X字旁”.

1. The name is based on “旁”
  • 口 ... 030 ... 口字旁
    女 ... 038 ... 女字旁
    广 ... 053 ... 廣字旁
    日 ... 072 ... 日字旁
    木 ... 075 ... 木字旁
    火 ... 086 ... 火字旁
    王 ... 096 ... 王字旁
    疒 ... 104 ... 病字旁
    目 ... 109 ... 目字旁
    礻 ... 113 ... 示字旁
    禾 ... 115 ... 禾字旁
    ⺼ ... 130 ... 月字旁
    言 ... 149 ... 言字旁
    貝 ... 154 ... 貝字旁
    ⻊ ... 157 ... 足字旁
    車 ... 159 ... 車字旁
    金 ... 167 ... 金字旁
    門 ... 169 ... 門字旁
    飠 ... 184 ... 食字旁
    馬 ... 187 ... 馬字旁

    土 ... 032 ... 提土旁
    扌 ... 064 ... 提手旁

    彳 ... 060 ... 雙人旁
    ⻏ ... 163 ... 雙耳旁
    阝 ... 170 ... 雙耳旁

    亻 ... 009 ... 立人旁
    刂 ... 018 ... 立刀旁

    忄 ... 061 ... 豎心旁

    犭 ... 094 ... 反犬旁
    糹 ... 120 ... 絞絲旁
    衤 ... 145 ... 補衣旁
    辶 ... 162 ... 走之旁
2. The name is based on “頭”
  • 亠 ... 008 ... 六字頭
    ⺮ ... 118 ... 竹字頭
    艹 ... 140 ... 草字頭
    雨 ... 173 ... 雨字頭

    宀 ... 040 ... 寶蓋頭
3. Miscellaneous
  • 厂 ... 027 ... 偏廠
    心 ... 061 ... 心字底
    氵 ... 085 ... 三點水
Note that the 雙 in the name of 彳 (雙人旁) is not structurally related to the 雙 in the names of “⻏” and “阝” (雙耳旁). In the former case it’s because there is a pair of 撇 above the 豎 in the radical itself, whereas in the case of the latter two, it’s because there are two of these radicals (neither of them having a pair of anything in them).

In the next reply, I'll show the results of further searching on the web.
SimL
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Re: Names of the Radicals (Wikipedia)

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:35 pm

Based on the initial information provided by Björkstén, I did a Google search on some of these terms, which led me to this article in Chinese Wikipedia:

- http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%81%8F%E6%97%81

This gives lots more information.

In particular, it told me that while many (common) radicals do have commonly known names, this is not the case for all of them. And even for the ones with common names, they are by no means standardized, but instead, more “general descriptions of the appearance”, and not necessarily related to the principles of character composition. [許多偏旁,在生活上溝通的需要有約定成俗的稱呼。一般來說,中文使用者並沒有對所有偏旁定義稱呼,日本則對偏旁名稱有較完整的體系(但罕見部首的名稱亦不普及)。這些俗稱通常只是表達偏旁的外觀,並不一定符合造字原理。]

It concludes by adding that some people don’t even use this informal terminology with a few useful distinctions, but instead just call every radical “旁”. [也有人將框、底都稱為「旁」,如走之旁。無論如何,偏旁的名稱只為口頭溝通文字方便,並沒有一定正確的名稱。]

The article explains that (in broad terms): 旁 is used for radicals on the left or right; 頭 for radicals written at the top, enclosing the top, or enclosing from the (top) left side; 框 for radicals enclosing at both the top and the bottom; 底 for radicals written at the bottom. It also gives some examples which show that “number + 點” is used for a couple of (reduced forms of) radicals based on dots.

All these points matched the terms which Björkstén used - in general, if not in exact detail.

Although neither the Wikipedia article nor Björkstén explicitly state this, I noticed that 提 is used as part of the name for radicals where the last stroke – normally horizontal in the non-radical form – is written sloping slightly upwards (as the 土 in 地, 壞, 境, etc; and the 手 in 提, 打, 接, etc). The Wikipedia article uses this even when talking about the “old-fashioned” form of the 肉-radical (⺼), and calls it 提肉旁. This makes sense, as “提” “lift” is also the name of the “horizontal stroke which slopes slightly upwards”.

Below, I have tabulated a comparison between the names given by Björkstén and those given by the Wikipedia article. It’s also nice that the Wikipedia article gives additional information on the names in Cantonese (this is handy later, for when I compare the Mandarin names to the Hokkien ones). [Note: the heading “Wikipedia Cantonese” indicates the names of the radicals in Cantonese, according to the *Mandarin* Wikipedia article, *not* their names according to the Cantonese Wikipedia (which I haven’t consulted on this topic).]

The Wikipedia article explains that a radical which resembles its full form <X> is simply called X字旁 [“部首外型為常用字者,直接稱呼「~字旁」,如:魚字旁、羊字旁、食字旁。”], so I give these in brackets, if they correspond to ones given by Björkstén. I haven’t bothered to list all the ones with X字旁 if they are not given by Björkstén, as they conform to a regular pattern, and there is nothing interesting to say about them (e.g. that they match or do not match the term given by Björkstén), if I don’t have a Björkstén equivalent to compare it to.

Getting the columns to line up was pretty tricky, and I haven't been completely successful. My apologies.
  • .... ... ..... ... Wiki.... ... Björk.. ... Wiki
    # .. ... Rad ... Mand.... ... -stén.. ... Cant
    === ... === ... ======= ... ====== ... ====
    008 ... 亠 . ... ————— ... 六字頭 ...
    009 ... 亻 . ... .單人旁. ... 立人旁 ... 單企人, 企人邊
    014 ... 冖 . ... .秃宝盖. ... ———— ... 冧宮頭
    015 ... 冫 . ... .兩點水. ... ———— ...
    .... ... ... . ... .冰字旁. ... ....... ...
    018 ... 刂 . ... .立刀旁. ... 立刀旁 ... 刀字邊
    020 ... 勹 . ... .包字頭. ... ———— ...
    027 ... 厂 . ... ————— ... 偏廠. ...
    030 ... 口 . ... ————— ... 口字旁 ...
    031 ... 囗 . ... .國字框. ... ———— ...
    032 ... 土 . ... ————— ... 提土旁 ...
    038 ... 女 . ... (女字旁) ... 女字旁 ...
    040 ... 宀 . ... .寶蓋頭. ... 寶蓋頭 ... 冧寶頭
    053 ... 广 . ... ————— ... 廣字旁 ...
    054 ... 廴 . ... .建之旁. ... ———— ... 撑艇, 撐屎艇, 艇字邊
    060 ... 彳 . ... .雙人旁. ... 雙人旁 ... 雙企人
    061 ... 心 . ... (心字底) ... 心字底 ...
    061 ... 忄 . ... .豎心旁. ... 豎心旁 ... 豎心邊
    064 ... 扌 . ... .提手旁. ... 提手旁 ... 剔手邊
    072 ... 日 . ... (日字旁) ... 日字旁 ...
    075 ... 木 . ... (木字旁) ... 木字旁 ...
    085 ... 氵 . ... .三點水. ... 三點水 ...
    086 ... 火 . ... (火字旁) ... 火字旁 ...
    086 ... 灬 . ... .四點火. ... ———— ...
    .... ... ... . ... .四點底. ... ....... ...
    087 ... 爫 . ... .爪字頭. ... ———— ... 狗爪邊
    094 ... 犭 . ... .反犬旁. ... 反犬旁 ... 狗爪邊
    096 ... 玉 . ... ————— ... 王字旁 ...
    104 ... 疒 . ... .病字頭. ... 病字旁 ... 疾病頭, 病字邊
    105 ... 癶 . ... .登字頭. ... ———— ...
    109 ... 目 . ... (目字旁) ... 目字旁 ...
    113 ... 礻 . ... .示字旁. ... 示字旁 ... 神字邊
    115 ... 禾 . ... (禾字旁) ... 禾字旁 ...
    118 ... ⺮ . ... .竹字頭. ... 竹字頭 ... 竹花頭
    120 ... 糹 . ... .絞絲旁. ... 絞絲旁 ... 繑絲邊
    130 ... ⺼ . ... ————— ... 月字旁 ...
    140 ... 艹 . ... .草字頭. ... 草字頭 ... 草花頭
    145 ... 衣 . ... .衣字框. ... ———— ...
    .... ... 衤 . ... .衣補旁. ... 補衣旁 ... 禮衣邊
    149 ... 訁 . ... (言字旁) ... 言字旁 ...
    154 ... 貝 . ... (貝字旁) ... 貝字旁 ...
    157 ... 足 . ... (足字旁) ... 足字旁 ...
    157 ... . ... .足字. ... ———— ...
    159 ... 車 . ... (車字旁) ... 車字旁 ...
    162 ... 辶 . ... .走之底. ... 走之旁 ... 撐艇, 撐艇仔, 撐屎艇, 艇字邊
    163 ... 阝 . ... .左耳旁. ... 雙耳旁 ... 斧頭邊, 戽斗邊, 耳仔邊
    167 ... 金 . ... (金字旁) ... 金字旁 ...
    169 ... 門 . ... (門字旁) ... 門字旁 ...
    170 ... ⻏ . ... .右耳旁. ... 雙耳旁 ... 耳仔邊
    173 ... 雨 . ... (雨字頭) ... 雨字頭 ...
    184 ... 飠.. ... (食字旁) ... 食字旁 ...
    187 ... 馬 . ... (馬字旁) ... 馬字旁 ...
Notes:

1. There are only 5 radicals (or forms of radicals) where the name as given in the Wikipedia article differs from that given by Björkstén (in the table, I've put them bold). This doesn’t mean anything is wrong with either, but only illustrates the variation and non-standardization which the Wikipedia article talks about.

009) 亻: 單人旁 vs. 立人旁
104) 疒: 病字頭 vs. 病字旁
145) 衤: 衣補旁 vs. 補衣旁
163) 阝: 左耳旁 vs. 雙耳旁
170) ⻏: 右耳旁 vs. 雙耳旁

The 疒-radical differs in name apparently because the Wikipedia article considers it to be a 頭, whereas Björkstén doesn’t. The last 2 differ only to the extent that Björkstén doesn’t give a distinct name for the left and right radicals.

2. The Wikipedia article gives as 足字, but this seems to be incorrect to me (perhaps a typo, or a missed correction when doing cut-and-paste?). I imagine that ⻊ should be called 足字旁 (while 足字底 should be the name of the 足 in 踅, 躄, 蹙, etc). Even within the variation / non-standardization in names, referring to ⻊ as “底” seems so at odds with the informal conventions that I’m pretty sure it’s incorrect. For all other tables below, I have I have taken the liberty of “correcting” this.

3. One rather odd thing is that the article claims that Cantonese doesn’t distinguish “爫” from “犭”, calling both “狗爪邊”. I find this extremely strange (even more so because the two do not resemble one another at all).

4. Where in the Wikipedia article the Cantonese name is not given, it is unclear to me whether this means that the name is identical to the Mandarin one, or just not known to the writer. In a similar way, it is unclear to me whether the Cantonese names given are *additional* ones in Cantonese, while the “Mandarin” names are also known in Cantonese, or whether they are used *instead* of the Mandarin ones, in Cantonese (in this case, I suspect the latter).

5. It would appear from the article that the names in Mandarin are (much) more regular and standardized than in Cantonese.

The next reply will be the "long awaited gripe" about Chinese :P.
SimL
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Re: Names of the Radicals (the gripe(s))

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:58 pm

Now my gripe(s).

When I started looking into this subject, I was really surprised at the lack of standardization of the names of the radicals.

Radicals have existed in Chinese culture for about 400 hundred years (since 1615, with the publication of the 字彙 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zihui], the “first dictionary to use radicals”), and have existed even in a standardized (and widely used) list of 214 for nearly 300 hundred years (since the Kangxi dictionary, 1716 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangxi_Dictionary]). But there are – to this day – only “informal and generally accepted descriptions” of them (sometimes with many variants), instead of a systematic terminology.

In an “analytic approach”, one of the first things one would expect is a standardization of terminology. For example, one could declare that only the left- and right-side radicals are called 旁. One could coin standard terms to distinguish the ones on the left from the ones on the right. One could declare that only the ones *really* written on top are called 頭, and one could coin a new term for the top ones which enclose slightly. One could even coin a separate term for the ones which surround the rest of the character from the top and left (厂, 广, 疒). One could declare that the ones which are written on the bottom have to be called 底, and that the names of all the (forms of) radicals with a slightly sloping horizontal last stroke must start with 提. One could probably even make a distinction between the radicals which “surround on two sides - top and bottom” (衣 in 哀, 襄, 裹, etc) from those which “surround on two sides - left and right” (行 in 術, 衛, 街, etc), perhaps even from those which “surround from above and two sides” (門 in 問, 開, 關, etc) versus “surround from below and two sides” (凵 in 出, 函, 凶, etc) versus “surround from all four sides” (囗 in 回, 因, 因, etc), and one could coin standardized terms for all of these distinctions.

This would hence establish a standardized terminology, which could be used for (almost) any radical, once the system and convention was understood. For example, it would enable any Chinese speaker to easily distinguish the 足 in 踅, 躄, 蹙 etc [i.e. 足字底], from the ⻊in 路, 跟, 跑, etc [i.e. 提足旁]; and similarly, it would enable any Chinese speaker to easily distinguish the 金 in 鑒, 鑿, etc [i.e. 金字底], from the 釒in 錯, 錢, 錄, etc [i.e. 提金旁]. And many other examples one can think of: 食 in 養, 餐, 饗, etc [i.e. 食字底], versus 飠in 館, 飯, 飲, etc [i.e. 食字旁]; 手 in 拿, 掌, 摩, etc [i.e. 手字底], versus 扌in 提, 打, 接, etc [i.e. 提手旁]; etc, etc.

This is why I’m surprised (and disappointed) that such a system hasn’t evolved / been developed.

[Having said all this, I have to acknowledge that the situations where one would need this terminology are very limited. In purely written communication, one just writes the characters, so the need doesn’t arise; in oral communication, one just talks about what one wants to, so here too, the need doesn’t arise. It’s only when talking about written text, i.e. characters, that such terminology might be useful. And even then, there would be only very few situations where it would be needed, and in those cases, one can use the common, non-standardized terminology.]

As a last (and separate) point, it seems to me to be almost criminal negligence to have introduced the simplified system of characters while not – at the same time – introducing a (new) standard system of radicals to cover them. The (IMHO) *disastrous* consequence of this is that there are now *several* systems of “simplified radicals”, used by the various dictionaries which use simplified characters.

[And regular readers will know that I’m not at all against simplified characters – I actually like them. And I’m not even complaining about reforming the system of radicals: I also actually prefer the radical system for simplified characters, where (for example) all characters with a “moonish” component are classified under “moon”, rather than some under “moon” and some under “meat”; because a learner can’t know which of the two it is, until after the meaning has been found out from the dictionary (and in some cases – e.g. 能 – it’s difficult to see which one it belongs to even after one knows the meaning).]

What I *do* find very disappointing here is the absence of a *standardized* system of radicals to cover these simplified characters. When the PRC reformers pushed through the official use of the simplified characters, it seems to me to have been little additional effort to (first work out, and then) push through a corresponding official system of simplified radicals.

I should add (and apologize) that the criticisms above are probably a very Western / Ang-mO-sai point of view. For the overwhelming majority of Chinese who have grown up in the Chinese speaking / reading / writing world, this absence of standardized terminology (or standardized simplified radicals) is probably a complete non-issue!

The next reply will be the names of the radicals in Hokkien. I'm dreading trying to get the table columns to line up, as the tables which are to come are even more complex than the previous one.
SimL
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Re: Names of the Radicals (Hokkien)

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:13 pm

Now the Hokkien names.

I got these from two sources:

1) Douglas / Barclay
2) http://www.ispeakmin.com/bbs/viewthread ... e&tid=6436.

The Douglas/Barclay ones were got by searching for “radical” in English in my character-enriched and OCR’ed pdf-file, and then slowly and painstakingly getting the relevant characters out. The usual problem with Douglas is that a 3-character term XYZ has to be found under X, under Y, and under Z before one can be completely sure that it’s the correct 3 characters XYZ. I did this as best I could, but (obviously) the large number of terms with X字頭 (X-jī-thâu) and XY畔 (X-Y-pêng) are not all going to be listed under 字 and 頭 and 畔. When it’s as obvious as that, I haven’t insisted that I find the XYZ combination under all three characters.

I then did a Google search on some of these terms, which led me to the ispeakmin posting given as “2”.

Again, comparing the Douglas/Barclay terms with the ones from the ispeakmin posting shows that there was no standardized terminology in Hokkien. If there isn’t one for something as big as Mandarin (and a very irregular one for Cantonese, with lots of variants), then it’s unreasonable to expect more of Hokkien. I get the impression that the types of names (from one radical to another) is also less standardized – and the number of different names (for a single radical / radical form) greater – in Hokkien than in Mandarin.

Below, I have tabulated a comparison between the “Amoy names” (Douglas/Barclay) and the “Taiwanese names” (from the ispeakmin posting). As you can see, I gave up trying to adjust the dots to make the columns line up. Instead, these are just screen captures, which is unfortunate, as they can’t all be displayed at the same time (one has to scroll), and they cannot be further cut-and-pasted.

The characters I’m unsure about I have put in square brackets. I have adopted Ah-bin’s 踦 for Hokkien “khiā” (= “to stand”). Note that some of the differences in pronunciation are only apparent differences because of slightly different transcription systems, e.g. (Taiwanese) “ts-/tsh-” vs. (POJ) “ch-/cch-”; or (Taiwanese) “-ua-” vs. (POJ) “-oa-”; or (Taiwanese) “-ing” vs. (POJ) “-eng”. Also, the same Hokkien morpheme for “side”, i.e. “pîng/pêng” is written as 畔 in the “character-enriched” Douglas, but as 旁 in the ispeakmin posting.

From the ispeakmin posting, I gather that jī-pîng (字旁/畔), jī-thâu (字頭), and jī-khak (字殼) are the most common terms; for (respectively) “side” radicals, “top” radicals, and “radicals which (partially or fully) surround”.
hokkien-table-p1.jpg
Hokkien radical names - part1
hokkien-table-p1.jpg (214.07 KiB) Viewed 35864 times
hokkien-table-p2.jpg
Hokkien radical names - part2
hokkien-table-p2.jpg (225.23 KiB) Viewed 35864 times
Notes:

1. Where Douglas/Barclay and the ispeakmin posting give the same radical, the names given match very well. There is minor variation between 斜 and 挑 for the radicals where “the last stroke – normally horizontal in the non-radical form – is written sloping slightly upwards”. In contrast to a number of differences between the Wikipedia article and Björkstén for Mandarin, for Hokkien, there are no differences between Douglas/Barclay and the ispeakmin posting which are particularly striking (though there is definitely more variation in names for specific radicals or radical forms).

2. I’m unsure which radical (form) the writer of the ispeakmin posting means by “漢字ê khiau 腳「元」”.

3. The ispeakmin posting gives “日旁” as one of the forms of the 日-radical, but it’s difficult to imagine which form this could be. As mentioned above, as far as I can see, the 斜 and 挑 are used for describing radical forms where “the last stroke – normally horizontal in the non-radical form – is written sloping slightly upwards”. It’s difficult to see how this can be applied to the 日-radical.

The “日字頭” is less problematic – I take it to be where the “日” is written above the rest of the character, e.g. in 景星早暑昇旦晨晃昂昱暈 etc.

4. One of the odd things (paralleling the lack of distinction between “爫” and “犭” in Cantonese) is that Douglas claims that in the Amoy Hokkien of the time 半禮 poàn-lé – normally used to refer to “礻” – could also be used to refer to “衤”. If this is/was true, then (to me) it again reflects the Chinese attitude that “things can be distinguished from context”, rather than coining specific terms so that things don’t *need* to have a context, in order for the distinction to be made.

5. Similarly, Douglas claims that in the Amoy Hokkien of the time 反文 huán-bûn could be used to refer to either “文” or “攵”. Yet another case of needing to distinguish by context rather than just making up a different name. This one is even more odd, in the sense that there seems to be no particular reason to call the normal “文” huán-bûn (using the name 反文 for “攵” does have some sort of logic behind it, if one interprets the “反” as sort of meaning “distorted”.)

The next reply will be the “pièce de resistance” of this whole thread: a comparison between the radical names in Hokkien, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
Last edited by SimL on Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Names of the Radicals (3-language comparison)

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:11 pm

So, finally, here is a tabulation - and cross-compaerison - of all the above names in Hokkien, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p1.jpg
Hokken-Mandarin-Cantonese radical names - part1
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p1.jpg (131.57 KiB) Viewed 35865 times
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p2.jpg
Hokken-Mandarin-Cantonese radical names - part2
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p2.jpg (131.44 KiB) Viewed 35865 times
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p3.jpg
Hokken-Mandarin-Cantonese radical names - part3
HMC-rad-names-comparison-p3.jpg (129.86 KiB) Viewed 35865 times
Notes:

1. In the interests of ease of comparison, I have taken the liberty of standardizing the “畔” used by Douglas to the “旁” used in the ispeakmin posting, as they obviously both refer to the same morpheme.

2. In the Hokkien column, the term given is the term from Douglas/Barclay, supplemented by the ispeakmin term, if it is different. The ispeakmin term is indicated by {}. In the Mandarin column, the term given is the term from Björkstén, supplemented by term from the Wikipedia article, if it is different. The term from the Wikipedia article is indicated by {}. Furthermore, if the Wikipedia article doesn’t give the term explicitly, but it’s a term which fits the “rule” given in the Wikipedia article for 旁 and 頭, then this is indicated by {(X字旁)} or {(X字頭)} – the {} indicate that it’s from the Wikipedia article, and the () indicate that it’s not explicitly given.

3. The table holds only the radical names I've been able to track down. It seems to me that a related aspect to the lack of standardization of the names is that it’s not easy to find a complete list of the names of the radicals.

The unfortunate thing with the 4 partial lists I managed to get hold of - Björkstén and Wikipedia for Mandarin, Douglas/Barclay and ispeakmin for Hokkien - is that the radicals on one list often don't overlap with the ones on another, so there's not even consensus on “the list of common radicals for which common names exist”.

4. If readers know of other names for radicals or forms of radicals (either Mandarin or Hokkien), please mail them to me or post them as replies here. I’m particularly keen to hear about ones which are not “X字旁” or “X字頭”.

If I get to know of enough new ones (or if I find any other information in the future), I’ll consolidate the tables and present a revised version.

Even better, if someone who can actually read Chinese easily could Google and try and find such lists on the web and post a reference to them here, I would be extremely grateful.

As always, any other comments will always be appreciated.

5. It seems too complicated to try and highlight the differences between Hokkien vs. Mandarin terminology. Furthermore, with both lists being incomplete, any such comparisons would be just “tentative”. If I ever get a complete list for both Hokkien and Mandarin, I *might* attempt an analysis in general terms.
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by SimL » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:15 pm

Two final remarks.

Despite the lack of any confirming evidence from Douglas (or anywhere on the internet), from the same period when I remember my mother referring to the “辶” radical as “cau2-be2” (走馬), I also remember her referring to the “氵” radical as “saN1-tiam2-cui2” (三點水). Sadly, I never heard her say “si3-tiam2-h(u)e2” (四點火).

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

>> and in some cases – e.g. 能, it’s difficult to see which one
>> it belongs to [i.e. to the 月-radical or the ⺼-radical] even
>> after one knows the meaning

I consulted a book on the etymology of characters***, and – apparently – the ⺝ in 能 is neither the moon-radical (月) nor the meat-radical (⺼). Instead – apparently – 能 used to be the word for “bear” (nowadays written 熊, as we all know), and the ⺝-part was originally a drawing of the mouth (and possibly sharp teeth)!

All the more reason to support the simplified system of radicals!

***: “Illustrated Account of Chinese Characters” (Chinese-English bilingual edition) [漢字圖解]; compiled by Guanghui Xie [謝光輝]; publisher 三聯書店, Hong Kong; ISBN: 978.962.04.2088.7.
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by Ah-bin » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:45 pm

Wow, thanks SIm, you have put a lot of work in there. Now I haven't gone back to read the whole thing yet, but as I skimmed right down to the end, this sentence struck me:
All the more reason to support the simplified system of radicals!
Don't you mean "a simplified system of radicals"? Since each simplified dictionary seems to have its own system. Chinese dictionaries are in a huge mess at the moment. Only Taiwan and Hong Kong have a standard, and that is the Kangxi system.

Okay, now I've read the gripes I see you've addressed this point, so I've added this bit:
As a last (and separate) point, it seems to me to be almost criminal negligence to have introduced the simplified system of characters while not – at the same time – introducing a (new) standard system of radicals to cover them. The (IMHO) *disastrous* consequence of this is that there are now *several* systems of “simplified radicals”, used by the various dictionaries which use simplified characters.
It's because simplification was carried out only as a stop-gap solution before getting rid of the characters entirely and using some phonetic system. This is little-known in China, but I read it in a Peking Review from 1952, I think when they introduced the first batch of simplified characters. One quote I remember from it was that "learning Chinese characters will still be helpful for reading the phonetic Chinese of the future" or something very similar. No-one bothered to make a standardised form for the first simplification, because a second one was on the way, and then a third (although this last one was not adopted). Lack of certainty over the retention of the present system of simplified characters is probably what makes people drag their feet over the issue in China. My guess is that when the most highly-educated Chinese control the education system in China, the old system will come back to some extent.

As for the lack of standardisation of radical names in spoken varieties of Chinese. A standardised name for each Kangxi radical did exist, but many were restricted to the written language and not used in speech.

The Chinese literati of the past were happy just to write 虫部 for the insect radical, even though the word "hui" (the original reading of this character) doesn't exist in ordinary spoken language, nor did "yi" 邑 for city, (written as 阝) so people just used their own easy-to-remember descriptions for the purpose of learning, substituting the everyday word 蟲 chong, adding -zipang -字旁 for the descrition of the written form, or a description like 耳朵旁 erduopang. Colloquialisms were beneath the interests of the literati, who considered them as vulgar.

(An analogy I can think of in English is that no serious chess book will refer to the rook as the "castle" or the knight as the "horse", even though many people use these terms to describe chess pieces.)

Although they might employ them for didactic purposes, the literati would never deign to use spoken terms in their own writing, and since the book language was the universal in pre-modern China, and spoken languages merely localised, I am not so surprised that the colloquial names for radicals were often localised (or even restricted to certain classes of people) as well.


Another thing I have thought of is that there are actually two words for "radical" in Mandarin. I notice both words are mentioned above.

One is the traditional 部首bushou, of which 214 are now usually counted (BTW bushou existed long before Kangxi, the Han dictionary Shuowenjiezi 說文解字 had them too, over 500 of them, the dictionary Zhongwen Zipu 中文字譜 is organised according to this system, I think). This means "section head" and properly refers only to the radicals by which a dictionary is organised. 水, 邑, and 辵 are 部首. This name is more traditional.

The other term which the Chinese teachers from China seem to prefer now is 偏旁 bianpang, which refers to those written forms that compose parts of written characters, which are usually those which have the colloquial names, such as 氵,阝, and 辶. I am guessing that they are encouraging the use of this name because according to the PRC no true bushou system exists any more except historically, but the bianpang are still useful for remembering and learning characters.

Finally, I can think of a few Japanese names offhand that were different from the Mandarin names.

氵 = sanzui "three water" 三水
月 = nikuzuki "meat moon" 肉月
門 = mongamae "門構え

Now to go back and read Sim's posts!
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by SimL » Tue Dec 20, 2011 2:45 pm

Hi Ah-bin,

Thanks for your very informative reply.

Yes, you saw on closer reading that I was aware of the problem of the existence of different systems of simplified radicals. But you're quite right, I should have said "a simplified system of radicals" rather than "the simplified system of radicals".

Ah-bin wrote:It's because simplification was carried out only as a stop-gap solution before getting rid of the characters entirely and using some phonetic system. etc
Indeed, in my earlier reading about the "history of the Chinese language", I had come across the information that - initially - the Communists had envisaged character simplification as only a temporary measure - with the grand and ultimate goal being their eventual abolition, with replacement by pinyin. I also remember reading that this last goal had died a very quiet death. [In fact, from memory, I think I even read an article in the 80's or 90's which explained that at some stage (in the 60's or 70's) Zhou Enlai had been interviewed, and in that interview he had been asked what the progress was on the issue of abolishing Chinese characters, and he had either given a very neutral answer (e.g. "not one of our top priorities"), or perhaps even explicitly confirmed that the goal had been abandoned by the PRC government. (Note: the interview itself wasn't in the 80's or 90's, as Zhou Enlai died in the mid-70's - the 80's or 90's was when I read the article, referring to an interview from much earlier.)]

But, despite having known this for a long time (both the original intention to completely abolish characters, as well as the abandoning of this plan in the course of the 60's and 70's), I hadn't made the connection between the original policy and the lack of a standardized system of simplified radicals. Indeed, this is an excellent explanation for the current state of things, so thank you. Understanding why things are as they are - due to insights into the history - are always beneficial :P.

I can only hope that the PRC government gets its act together and *starts* (or continues) working on such a system (of simplified radicals), which they can then promulgate. I am in general against authoritarianism, but in some cases (e.g. language standardardization), I'm sometimes in favour of it. I mean, having a standard is IMHO (almost) always good; and then one should always be free to not use it :mrgreen:.

Again, I qualify my statement of this perceived need as being something from my own very Western perspective. I remember explicitly reading in one of my many books "about" the Chinese language (written in English, of course), that, for example (and I paraphrase, obviously, as it's something I read years ago): "In fact, the numbers of the radicals themselves are more an artifact of Western learners learning Chinese, not something embedded in Chinese culture. The average Chinese person [of the ones familiar with the Kangxi system, i.e. from Taiwan or Hong Kong], while being perfectly aware that "言" is a radical, would not be able to tell anyone that it is radical #149. As an analogy, most native English speakers would not be able to tell anyone that 'J' was the 10th letter of the alphabet." I found this insight to be quite a useful one, and that's the reason I've remembered it.

[The other thing which I wish the PRC government would get on with is declaring Unicode code-points for characters like ,,,;,,;,,;,,;,,,,,;,,,;,;,;,,,,,, etc. These currently don't have simplified equivalents. To be sure, they are very obscure characters, but all below character #6000 in a ranking which was done in the 1990's (with #0001 being the most commonly occurring character, #0002 being the second most commonly occurring character etc). I've read over and over again that 4,000 characters is sufficient for most (even quite highly educated) written Chinese, but still, I think 6,000 is a reasonable figure which the PRC government could strive to get code-points for in simplified characters, if they conform to some sort of standard simplification (i.e. ->, ->, ->, ->, etc).]

Ah-bin wrote:The other term which the Chinese teachers from China seem to prefer now is 偏旁 bianpang
Yes, this is the term used in the Chinese Wikipedia article I quoted (and learnt) a lot from.

However, even while I was trying to understand that article (and it took me and a friend about 6 hours to "decode" it - looking up unfamiliar and non-transparent 詞語, and trying to decipher (for us) complex sentence structures like "由於最早將漢字以部首加以分類的《説文解字》還是以小篆為標準字樣的,所以「心」、「忄」與「⺗」是相同形狀。"), it "irritated" me that they chose a term like "偏旁", when obviously (from what is said in the article), the term covers not just "left-" (木, 氵, 牜, 犭, etc) and "right-" radicals (刂, 卩, 邑, 鳥, etc), but also "top-" (宀, 竹, 艹, 癶, etc) and "bottom-" (心, ⺗, 灬, etc) radicals (not to mention the ones which "surround from top-and-left", "surround from left-and-bottom", "surround from left-and-right", "surround from top-and-left", "surround from 3-sides", etc). In that sense, I prefer the term "部首", even though this too is limited, in the sense that it isn't intrinsically about the character itself, but only (as you too point out) about which heading the character is classified under, in a list of characters (e.g. in a dictionary).

PS. For the sake of simplicity, I say "top-", "bottom-", "left-", "right-", etc radical, but I'm of course aware that it's not the radical itself which is (intrinsically) a "top-", "bottom-", "left-", "right-", etc radical, but only that it's the form the radical "takes", when it's in the "top-", "bottom-", "left-", "right-", etc position (though some do of course have only a "top-", "bottom-", "left-", "right-" position, and many have a preferred "top-", "bottom-", "left-", "right-" position).
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by SimL » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:08 pm

Ah-bin wrote:BTW bushou existed long before Kangxi, the Han dictionary Shuowenjiezi 說文解字 had them too, over 500 of them, the dictionary Zhongwen Zipu 中文字譜 is organised according to this system, I think). This means "section head" and properly refers only to the radicals by which a dictionary is organised. 水, 邑, and 辵 are 部首. This name is more traditional.
Thanks very much for pointing this out.

For many years, I thought that the Kangxi dictionary was the first one to use radicals. Then (about 2 years ago) I read in a Wikipedia article that a dictionary about 100 years earlier - the 字彙 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zihui] - was an earlier example. I had heard about the Kangxi dictionary for more than 20 years, but this article was the first time I had heard about the 字彙. So, this article corrected something which I had previously believed. From that point onwards, I believed that the 字彙 was the first dictionary to used radicals.

In my reading about the 說文解字 (in the last few months), I had also read that it had over 500 部首, but I didn't realise that this obviously contradicted my "new" belief that the 字彙 was the first dictionary to use radicals.

So, I've gone back and re-read the respective articles, and this has emerged:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuowen_Jiezi (my italics):

"Although not the first comprehensive Chinese character dictionary (the Erya predates it), it was still the first to analyze the structure of the characters and to give the rationale behind them (sometimes also the etymology of the words represented by them), as well as the first to use the principle of organization by sections with shared components, called radicals (bùshǒu 部首, lit. "section headers")."

whereas, in contrast, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zihui (again, my italics and bolding):

"The work is divided into 14 fascicles (juan 巻 "scrolls") and contains a total of 33,179 Chinese characters. It was the first dictionary to introduce the modern radical-stroke system."

So now all the facts fit nicely together, and I (think I) understand what's what. But it was your remark about the 說文解字 using 部首 which made me go back and check everything, so thanks for this.
Last edited by SimL on Tue Dec 20, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PS

Post by SimL » Tue Dec 20, 2011 6:20 pm

While trying to find the Wikipedia article on the 說文解字, I came across the article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuowen_Ji ... n_program).

This prompted me to go looking for clips of this program on youtube. I didn't manage to find any, but this other amusing link turned up. Not really anything special, but it's in Hokkien, so just posting here to share...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRgTnq-D ... re=related

BTW, why is it that there are so many Hokkien people on the net who are so "camp"? :mrgreen: [Nothing wrong with being "camp", I hasten to add - I just wondered why there seems to be a statistically larger proportion of such people :P.]

PPS. Maybe it's just me, but here are two more, one in Mandarin, and another one in Hokkien:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=en ... nGPW1qGgCw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgU2DeKr ... re=related

Neither would really win a "John Wayne Masculine Man of the Year" award :mrgreen:.
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by amhoanna » Wed Dec 21, 2011 12:42 pm

Sim, I came across a pretty long list of radical names in Hoklo a few yrs ago. I think it was in a 19th century textbook (scanned, PDF) I found off Iûⁿ Ún'giân's site. If I see this kind of thing in the future, I'll post a link here.

Related notes. Ah-bin, U seem to question the longevity of the PRC characters. How dare U? :lol: I'm curious where U get your faith. I heard that the PRC is rolling out an ambitious program to rid Kwongtung / Kúiⁿtang of both Cantonese broadcasts and pre-PRC kanji at one fell swoop!

Interestingly, today I rode past the printing presses of 西貢解放日報 (Saigon Liberation News?), a Chinese-language paper. I've never read this paper or even heard of it. I stopped to look at the block kanji on the side of that building and sure enough, there were in pre-PRC kanji. I guess the Chinese-language audience was so bougie (bourgeois) that the Vietcong had to let it slide.

Back to the radicals, kind of. Some Sinophone friends came to visit me in southern VN. One showed interest in learning VNmese, so when we went to the bookstore, I thought I'd show him which dictionaries to buy too. All the Han-Viet dictionaries were arranged by Mandarin and Pinyin. The friend (from TW) seemed kind of "nonplussed" ... is that the word? Radical tables and brush strokes were actually his weapon of choice. No cigar, though, they were all Mandarin/Pinyin.

Now, I picked up a pair of Viet-Han and Han-Viet dictionaries in Saigon back in 2007 that were just great, but I haven't seen any as good recently. The PRC flavor of the new offerings seems to get stronger every year. There also don't seem to be a lot of Viet-Han dictionaries designed with the Han-proficient reader in mind, unlike the one that I bought in '07. The best such dictionary I've seen this yr was actually a Viet-Jap dictionary!
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by niuc » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:52 am

Thanks everyone for the enlightening postings about those radicals.

Sim, do you have those in doc or pdf? If yes, please send me one copy. I'd love to have yours & Ahbin's & Amhoanna's postings here as a doc/pdf for keeping! 8)

And I haven't read everything in details, but what do you mean by "camp"? I got two definitions for "camp" as adjective from dictionary.cambridge.org but not sure whether any of them is the meaning you're referring to.
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Re: Names of the Radicals

Post by SimL » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:11 pm

Hi niuc,

You've no idea how happy I was to read that you were interested enough in the radical posting to ask for a copy of the original documents, so that you could have a proper electronic version of the documents (searchable, cut-and-paste-able, etc). I'll be delighted to send it to you.
niuc wrote:And I haven't read everything in details, but what do you mean by "camp"? I got two definitions for "camp" as adjective from dictionary.cambridge.org but not sure whether any of them is the meaning you're referring to.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_(style)

"[...] When the usage appeared, in 1909, it denoted: ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical, and effeminate behaviour, and, by the middle of the 1970s, the definition comprised: banality, artifice, mediocrity, and ostentation so extreme as to have perversely sophisticated appeal. [...]"

Actually, in Australia until about the mid 80's, it was just a synonym for "gay" (in the modern sense of the word). I guess most people reading this would realise that I had a certain podcaster in mind when I made my original statement :P.
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