Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - A question about kanji.

A question about kanji.

Have a Question about some Grammar point? Share it with the world!

A question about kanji.

Postby soldieroH » Thu 09.02.2010 10:48 am

So, i have noticed that a lot of kanji share the same elements, for example [語], [読] and [話] all share the same [言] element, which itself is also a kanji symbol. Also i have noticed that a lot of "simple" kanji's are used building blocks to make more "complicated" kanji, for example [言] and [舌] toghether make [話].

And what i wanted to know is - why do a lot of kanji's share the same element? Does it have anything to do with the meaning or pronunciation of that kanji? :roll:
soldieroH
 
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat 07.17.2010 5:15 pm
Native language: Latvian
Gender: Male

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby phreadom » Thu 09.02.2010 11:53 am

I believe they're called "radicals", and they each have their own meanings etc that can contribute to the meaning of the kanji they are a part of. :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_%2 ... aracter%29

http://japanese.about.com/library/weekly/aa070101a.htm

http://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/radicals.html

And so forth.

I hope this helps answer your question. :)
猿も木から落ちる
User avatar
phreadom
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1762
Joined: Sun 01.29.2006 8:43 pm
Location: Michigan, USA
Native language: U.S. English (米語)
Gender: Male

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby micahcowan » Thu 09.02.2010 1:44 pm

soldieroH wrote:So, i have noticed that a lot of kanji share the same elements, for example [語], [読] and [話] all share the same [言] element, which itself is also a kanji symbol. Also i have noticed that a lot of "simple" kanji's are used building blocks to make more "complicated" kanji, for example [言] and [舌] toghether make [話].

And what i wanted to know is - why do a lot of kanji's share the same element? Does it have anything to do with the meaning or pronunciation of that kanji? :roll:


Yes yes yes! This is a very important aspect of kanji. While the prospect of learning a couple thousand complex kanji characters can seem very daunting, they're actually made up of just some 200 or so reusable components—Kanji ABC calls them "graphemes"; Heisig's Remembering the Kanji calls them "primitives"; the term "radicals" is also used, but this refers to a particular, official set of graphemes that doesn't really cover the full set of frequently-reused components.

In some cases, these components lend their meanings to form a character whose meaning clearly derives from their combination. 話 is a good example of this, being a combination of "words" and "tongue", to provide the meaning "talk" or "tale" (in Chinese, or at least in modern Mandarin, it actually has the meaning "language"; Chinese is written as 中国話). The combination of sun (日) and moon (月) to provide bright (明 - note that it has other meanings too) could also fall into that category. However, most characters are made up of one or two components that lend an idea or category, and another one that lends only its sound (and that sound would have been from ancient Chinese, so doesn't always necessarily carry over to Japanese おん readings, though often they do). So you're left to invent associations for yourself, to make remembering them easier.

A highly recommended book that takes strong advantage of these facts to enable efficient kanji-learning, is Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" (RTK). It systematically teaches a primitive, followed by a number of characters that use just that primitive and the other primitives you've learned so far, so that you have a much smoother learning path. Learning the kanji in this fashion can move quite quickly; I'm about two months in on volume one (the one that actually "teaches" you with all the kanji), and have learned (and can recall all of) over 1500 characters; I expect to finish in a couple more weeks (previously I had a repertoire of probably around 400). NOTE, however, that RTK vol 1 teaches only the characters, and a keyword that is related (sometimes a bit loosely) to its meaning (or one of them). You don't learn any pronunciations in volume 1, you don't learn full sets of meanings, and you don't learn compound words.

Volume 2 of RTK focuses on taking advantage of the fact that many characters that share primitives also share pronunciations. For instance, every character that contains 中 as a component, has an おん pronunciation of ちゅう. It also introduces some compounds for those characters, but isn't a terrific source of those, and really doesn't give much coverage to くん readings.

As you have hopefully noticed, all this means that RTK isn't a complete system: completing the RTK books will not mean you "know" all the kanji (as many of its fans inaccurately claim). It will, however, provide you with a huge foundation from which to learn kanji and vocabulary much more smoothly and quickly. Personally, I'm already finding that I can glean meanings from context much more readily than I could before, even if I don't know how to pronounce the words; and can sometimes even deduce the pronunciation of a character I only know from RTK, from the surrounding okurigana, when it's a word I'm already familiar with but didn't previously know the character for.

A similar system is provided by "Kanji ABC"; however, "Kanji ABC" doesn't focus on the idea of learning all the meanings (keywords) of characters separately from their pronunciations and use (which I've found very helpful), doesn't strive to use a single unique keyword for each character among several with similar meanings, displays only the printed form of the character (which can vary significantly from the handwritten style), and doesn't teach you how the characters should be written (stroke order, etc), all of which are covered in RTK vol 1. OTOH, I believe I like the chosen grapheme keywords better in Kanji ABC than the ones used in RTK.
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby soldieroH » Thu 09.02.2010 2:33 pm

Thank you very much! :)
soldieroH
 
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat 07.17.2010 5:15 pm
Native language: Latvian
Gender: Male

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby blutorange » Fri 09.03.2010 2:20 am

Read it all up on http://kanjinetworks.com
They have etymological explanations for many kanji.
blutorange
 
Posts: 41
Joined: Sun 01.24.2010 4:23 pm
Native language: German

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby furrykef » Fri 09.03.2010 4:44 pm

micahcowan wrote:A highly recommended book that takes strong advantage of these facts to enable efficient kanji-learning, is Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" (RTK).

It's not so highly recommended on this forum, I'm afraid. :lol: Most of the old hands here are neutral towards Heisig at best; a few are even hostile. The number of Heisig advocates here does seem to be growing, though, and I'm among them myself (though I only advocate RTK1, not 2 or 3).
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
Also see my lang-8 journal, where you can help me practice Japanese (and Spanish, and Italian!)
User avatar
furrykef
 
Posts: 1572
Joined: Thu 01.10.2008 9:20 pm
Native language: Eggo (ワッフル語の方言)
Gender: Male

Re: A question about kanji.

Postby micahcowan » Tue 09.07.2010 2:02 pm

furrykef wrote:
micahcowan wrote:A highly recommended book that takes strong advantage of these facts to enable efficient kanji-learning, is Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji" (RTK).

It's not so highly recommended on this forum, I'm afraid. :lol: Most of the old hands here are neutral towards Heisig at best; a few are even hostile. The number of Heisig advocates here does seem to be growing, though, and I'm among them myself (though I only advocate RTK1, not 2 or 3).


I should've been clearer: highly recommended by me. :)

Despite the raving review I probably just gave it, there are several things about it that disgruntle me too. Mostly, some of Heisig's theory as stated in the introduction, and the keywords that he chose to represent character meanings, which I very frequently find to be poor choices. However, it's the basic familiarity with the character that really matters in the end, and even a poorly chosen keyword can serve as a sort of handle on the character, to associate it with its various "true" meanings in various contexts. RTK sucks, honestly, and I would love to see it completely redone; however, of the large number of systems I have tried, RTK sucks much, much less than anything else I've ever seen or tried, and I'm already seeing dramatic improvements in my understanding and retention of kanji (as actually used in Japanese, and not just associated with Heisig's crappy keywords). The bottom line is that it works, and works well, provided you are willing to keep on working to complete your knowledge of the kanji, as RTK can only provide a foundation; in the strictest sense, I'm not sure it could be said to teach much of anything, it just makes it fantastically simpler to learn afterwards.

I should also have mentioned the importance of using an SRS (like Anki, or http://kanji.koohii.com/) together with Heisig. Reviewing the characters while learning is absolutely essential.
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語


Return to Grammar Questions and Problems

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests