Identifying Semantic Elements in the Phonetic Component of Chinese Characters

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2013-07-16
Authors
Gillett, Abraham
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Jiang, Song
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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Given their intimate relationship with the Chinese written language, we assume that Chinese scholars generally understand the complexities inherent in their writing system. They have long recognized that most Chinese characters are composed of two components, a signific constituent represented by the radical, which contributes a semantic element, and a phonetic constituent that suggests pronunciation. Xu Shen (ca. 58 CE – ca. 147 CE) of the Han Dynasty was one of the first Chinese philologists to illustrate this unique characteristic of Chinese written language. In his dictionary the ???? Shuo?we?n Jie?zi?, Explaining and Analyzing Characters, he clearly differentiates thesemantic and phonetic components of Chinese characters for future generations of Chinese philologists.
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38 pages
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