Take the 2-minute tour ×
Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

On one comment to a recent question, LulalaBoss made reference to this article on Chinese character classification. When a character is transformed or redefined, is there a comprehensive method to identify when one is dealing with a sound-loan rather than an 形聲 that has changed to a related (presumably more modern) meaning? On the other hand, I see some characters that appear to simply have had newer meanings added to an existing character. I'm curious to understand more about:

How to discover basic sound-loans (is this even necessary to be aware of in reading/writing/speaking Chinese)?

share|improve this question
1  
I think understanding the character classification is very helpful for learning the language but once you've become proficient you'll treat characters even words as a whole and you'll be significantly less aware of the composition of the character. An example is the 'gotcha' riddle: 三点水加来来去去的去念什么. It gets more native speakers than language learners. –  NS.X. Aug 27 at 22:25

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Let me try to answer your question, though I am not a professional in Chinese language.

Seems you are talking about the so-called radical-phonetic characters, and you are asking a way to spot them among tons of Chinese characters. I have a trick here for you, since I always use it when I, as a Chinese, don't know the character.

First of all, you need to be able to know which one is the radical part, normally either on the left side or on the top, e.g. 沐. The radical part here is the "three drops of water". So that you know, aha this has something to do with water.

Then, the most important, you must be able to pronounce the phonetic part. E.g. 沐's phonetic part is 木, and it is pronounced as "MU".

At last, the rule of thumb is, you just pronounce using the phonetic part! No matter what. 90% you will pronounce it right (maybe the tones need some adjust). If you are wrong, there will be people correcting you, and then you remember next time. :D

Simple, right?

Examples are as follows: 尧 is pronounced [yao 2]. It is the name of an ancient legendary king. But when you see 烧[shao 1], 浇[jiao 1], 饶[rao 2], they don't pronounce as [yao 2], BUT you may discover that they share the common vow. Another example is: 提[ti 2], the right part is 是[shi 4], which has totally a different sound.

share|improve this answer
    
This is indeed quite useful and a good process for everyone to know about. One could infer sound using this method. It seems that the exceptions to the rule might be when one is looking at a sound loan. Could you provide an example where this process might have broken down? (if so, we can trace the etymology of the character) –  Tommie C. Aug 30 at 12:33
    
Sure. Examples are as follows: 尧 is pronounced [yao 2]. It is the name of an ancient legendary king. But when you see 烧[shao 1], 浇[jiao 1], 饶[rao 2], they don't pronounce as [yao 2], BUT you may discover that they share the common vow. Another example is: 提[ti 2], the right part is 是[shi 4], which has totally a different sound. But you will seldom see this happens, I think. Learning the Chinese pronunciation is somehow similar to learning Danish: You never know, you just go for it and wait for others to correct you :D –  ileonard Aug 30 at 17:00

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.