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Is there any discernible rule concerning whether 木 as a component of a character has attached legs (as in 李) or has detached legs (as in 新)? Worse, this seems to vary from country to country.

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    Anecdotal: on the bottom. I never see it detached on the left, top, or right. No evidence for this assertion, hope a calligrapher can clarify. By the way, in Traditional Print forms, 木 never gets detached - if you see something that's detached, it is not 木 (or what Traditionally is considered 木; e.g. 余 should be detached). The rise of detached 木 legs is from brush calligraphy. – dROOOze Nov 3 '19 at 11:16
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    There’s many common hanzi with 木 on the bottom e.g. 桌集, looking up the radical in Pleco gives only very rare characters e.g. 鎥 without the detached radical at the bottom. – Becky 李蓓 Nov 3 '19 at 14:28
  • So I'd venture to formulate this rule: If at all, the 木 with detached legs appears in a bottom position. A hanzi thus formed may, however, appear anywhere as a component of a complex hanzi. But is there any pattern concerning the use of attached/detached legs in the bottom position? – user22495 Nov 3 '19 at 21:35
  • Legs? Trees have legs? I read the old meaning of 朩 is 'bush'. Not too much difference between tree and bush. Maybe the 2 were mixed in history. Certainly, looking at old forms of 木 and 朩, they look the same. – Pedroski Nov 3 '19 at 22:13
  • Maybe you should clarify which stander you are talking about. Appearance of characters may different in mainland / hongkong / taiwan. The same characters may looks different in that case. – tsh Nov 6 '19 at 9:54
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To start off,「木」is not supposed to have detached legs and end up looking like「朩」. In one of the most stringent glyph standards, Kangxi Dictionary style Ming (Serif), if the Shuowen small seal shape contains「木」, then it does not have detached legs.

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This is for glyph shape fidelity reasons, and conversely, if it has detached legs, you can be certain that, at the very least, the Kangxi Dictionary didn't think that it came from the component「木」.

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Of course, this sometimes doesn't turn out correctly, as with ancient characters which were no longer used, such as「亲」and characters which use it as a component.

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For reference,「亲」(hazel tree) is a variation of「𣓀」, and is constructed from semantic「木」and phonetic「辛」. This word is now written as「榛」.

西周

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中伯壺
集成9668


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木部
說文解字
臺標

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臺標
隸定
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Detached legs on「木」are strictly an invention from calligraphy, and overwhelmingly occur on the bottom of characters:

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Thus, all character shapes directly affected by calligraphy, including those set by government standards, will have a chance of containing「木」appearing with detached legs. This is purely a shape phenomenon - it has nothing to do with the language.


Characters which are affected by calligraphy are:

(1) The Taiwanese MoE standard, which actively prescribes writing「木」on the bottom as「朩」, and this effect has bled into their print fonts.

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(2) PRC's regularised cursive shapes

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But I guess it is arguable whether regularised cursive is appropriate for any kind of character shape analysis.

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    I noticed some characters like 宋 or 采, while having 木 on the bottom, will have the two strokes attached, unlike the Taiwanese shape for 桌. I read (I can't find the source on this anymore) that there can only be one instance of the following three strokes in a character: 鉤, 捺, 長橫. This supposedly explains why 木 is written like that sometimes when on the bottom, and also some other differences like why 七 is written without the hook in the Taiwanese shape. However, it seems somewhat inconsistent, like how 榮 has them detached, but none of those three strokes are present. Any ideas on why this is? – wang_xiao_ming Nov 6 '19 at 1:21
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    Update: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_Form_of_National_Characters This standard tends to follow a rule of writing regular script where there should be no more than one of ㇏ (called 捺), long horizontal stroke, or hook to the right (e.g. ㇂ ㇃) in a character. – wang_xiao_ming Nov 6 '19 at 22:31
  • @wang_xiao_ming I'm still hoping that a calligrapher can clarify. Calligraphy (regular script or otherwise) is not my area of reading. – dROOOze Nov 9 '19 at 7:29

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