14

Looking at the list of Kangxi radicals over at Wikipedia, I just noticed something I haven't noticed before. Radical number 34 (夂) and 35 (夊) are virtually identical. I write these radicals in the exact same way and I've asked one native speaker who also says she writes them the same way. The example characters are 夆 and 夏.

Since I mostly use radicals to learn/teach mnemonics, I realise that the difference between these two is irrelevant. They mean (almost) the same thing and can therefore be used as one for mnemonic purposes.

However, I'm still curious about these two radicals. Is there a difference in how they are written? Is there a difference in meaning? And finally, how come that there are two very similar radicals which also has very similar meaning?

9

The difference between the two in writing should be clear from these drawings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_35 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_34 and the stroke animations from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%8A and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%82

夂 is normally used at the top (for example 条條修脩务務夐) or the left (for example 处) of a character, and 夊 at the bottom (for example 愛夏复) or the right (for example 致, see http://zhongwen.com/d/173/d80.htm).

Originally both characters were quite different (see http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%8A and http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%A4%82), but nowadays there are typically both written as 夂 by most people and most fonts don't make the distinction anymore.

  • As I know, the 攵, also (informally) known as the 反文, is usually written as a right component, which is actually different from both 夂, the 折文, and 夊, as a bottom component. – Krantz Aug 8 at 17:14
5

Short Answer

The shapes「夂」and「夊」are writing variants. As a component of a character, the majority of the time it is just a「止」(picture of a foot) pointing in the opposite direction to「止」.

The dictionary definitions are tangential to the component meaning.

  • 「夊」is defined as walking slowly, an extended meaning from「止」, which represents motion in general.
  • 「夂」is defined as arriving from behind, but this was probably made up. Apart from the single Shuowen definition, which all other dictionary definitions seem to stem from, there are no recorded words/expressions/phrases which contain「夂」meaning arriving from behind.

Long Answer

Is there a difference between 夂 and 夊?

The question is complicated through differing ways of writing these components throughout history, to this very day, often due to confusion as to what「夂」and「夊」actually are. In any given character, different fonts or language standards may use one or the other, or even use the unrelated「攵」.

「攵」is completely unrelated to「夂」and「夊」. For reference,「攵」originally depicted a hand「又」holding a beating implement (stick, whip, staff).「攵」, or its variant「攴」, is heavily used as a semantic component to do with disciplining, attacking, or more generally motion.



enter image description here
上博2426
合集27742
戰國

enter image description here
燕侯載器
集成10583


enter image description here
包2.99
 
現代

enter image description here
「教」
 

Shape evolution of the「攵」component, as shown in later forms in the character「教」. The character「教」depicts a child「子」learning arithmetic (represented by two「㐅」, original character of「五」) under threat of being beaten by「攵」. The two「㐅」and「子」later fused into「孝」; the original meaning is better preserved in the Kangxi variant「敎」. The second form above shows the shape similarity to「攴」; here, the beating implement changed slightly to the shape of「卜」(Zhengzhang OC: /*poːɡ/) to provide a phonetic hint for「攵」(Zhengzhang OC: /*pʰoːɡ/, /*pʰroːɡ/).

Other examples of the use of「攵」include:

  • 「牧」, which depicts a cow「牛」being herded by a hand with a whip「攵」;
  • 「變」(change, Zhengzhang OC: /*prons/), phonetic component「䜌」(Zhengzhang OC: /*b·roːn/, /*b·ron/, /*b·rons/);
  • 「做」(to make or do), both semantic and phonetic component「作」corrupted into「估」;
  • 「改」(change, Zhengzhang OC: /*klɯːʔ/), phonetic component「己」(Zhengzhang OC: /*kɯʔ/);
  • 「攻」(attack), phonetic component「工」.

「夊」was originally「止」(a foot), but pointing in the other direction:



enter image description here
8.4.2
合集21837


enter image description here
說文解字
 
現代

enter image description here

 

Compare「止」:



enter image description here
1532
合集27434

Here's where things get tricky.

  1. 「夊」did not originally represent a word; it was not an individual character (being found exclusively as part of other characters), nor appear to have any pronunciation, until the Qin-Han era. The pronunciation recorded in dictionaries, 楚危切 (Mandarin suī), was a word meaning something like slow strides, variously represented as「綏」or「奞」. For all intents and purposes, as part of other characters, it is just a variant form of「止」.

  2. The shape of (not the word represented by)「夂」is just a variant way of writing「夊」. Note that the stroke「㇏」is just for drawing the big toe and the outline of one side of the foot without the other toes.

    enter image description here

    The difference in the shapes is trivially just whether the stroke「㇏」protrudes or not, and both shapes are seen, for example in「各」:



    enter image description here
    5.24.4
    合集22001


    enter image description here
    2589
    合集27625

    This indicates that「夂」and「夊」are just variant ways of writing upside-down「止」. There was no such rule saying that the stroke must protrude when the component is on the bottom of the character and must not protrude when it's on the top; this is a convention made up later, possibly out of confusion about what「夂」and「夊」actually are, or possibly for aesthetics.

    西周

    enter image description here
    作冊夨令簋
    集成4300

    Despite their modern appearances, characters which contain「夊」on the bottom, such as「後」, have no requirement that the stroke must protrude.

  3. Shuowen confusingly lists a separate character with an identical shape to「夂」, and gave it a definition 从後至也 (approaching from behind) and pronunciation 陟侈切 (zhǐ). This definition was probably made-up, and is suggested to be a Simplified form of「致」(from where its definition and pronunciation was derived). For reference,「致」was originally comprised of「至」(both a semantic and phonetic component) and「人」(a semantic component); later on,「夊」was added and「人」was removed.

    西周

    enter image description here
    曶鼎
    集成2838


    enter image description here
    35
     


    enter image description here
    說文解字
     
    現代

    enter image description here

     

    It is surmised that scholars didn't know what「夂/夊」was doing in this character, having not known that「人」was omitted previously, so forced a Shuowen definition into existence in an attempt to explain its presence in「致」.

  4. Shuowen also mentions「夂」in its entry for「冬」:

    四時盡也。从仌从夂。夂,古文終字。

    This corresponds to some dictionaries listing the pronunciation zhōng. This component has an entirely different history, originally depicting objects hanging off the end of a connector, indicating the meaning end.



    enter image description here
    1183
    合集11656

    A line was later drawn across the character, bridging the two branches. To emphasise the meaning winter, sometimes「日」was added to emphasise time > seasons, and other times「仌/冫」was added to emphasise cold or ice:

    戰國

    enter image description here
    陳璋方壺
    集成9703


    enter image description here
    說文解字
     

    However, the crossing line made the shape prone to corruption into「夂/夊」, which leads on to the modern form.



    enter image description here
    睡ㆍ秦94
     
    現代

    enter image description here

     


References:

0

Originally both characters were quite different (...), but nowadays there are typically both written as 夂 by most people and most fonts don't make the distinction anymore.

Indeed https://xuehanyu.wikispaces.com/Radicals mentions that "夊 (...) no modern characters; this radical is often omitted"

  • That website is referring to '夊' which is a slight variant of '夂' – LegendLength Apr 13 '18 at 5:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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