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感觉 means to feel; however, both 感 and 觉 both mean to feel by themselves. Why does the word 感觉 exist then? I've noticed that a lot of words are redundant.

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  • More generally, there is this question: Why use combined characters that have the same meaning?.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jan 22 at 6:54
  • For a fairly in-depth discussion of the stress-related aspects of monosyllabic vs. disyllabic words, see Duanmu, S. (2007). The phonology of standard Chinese. He discusses this specific question in one of the later chapters in the book.
    – Olle Linge
    Jan 22 at 8:14
  • Discussion on the same Topic, but for "redundant" words in the English language. english.stackexchange.com/questions/369752/… Jan 22 at 8:54
  • I haven't gotten proof, but as a native Chinese user, I believe many of these type of words contain 2 characters with slightly different meaning. E.g. 悲哀. I believe 哀 is a sadder version of 悲. The same can be observed in Japanese, where they've borrowed these 2 characters and assigned the same native pronunciation: ka-na-shi (悲し, 哀し). I would love to see someone expand on this. Jan 22 at 11:29
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"感", more objective, the feeling that surroundings impose on you. "冷感", "热感"
"觉", more subjective, the feeling from your heart (/mind/senses) about surroundings. "味觉", "视觉"

Yes, they are quite similar, and in some cases, they both mean "feel/feeling".

But in some other cases, you can find the difference by comparing "感到" and "觉得".
"我感到房子在摇动", I have a feeling that the house is shaking.
"我觉得房子在摇动", I think the house is shaking (maybe not, actually).

In fact, there are quite a lot of chinese words made of characters with similar meaning, like 奔跑/游泳/旋转/图画/增加. Two of the reasons I know:

  1. it can avoid ambiguity with the same pronunciation (which reminds me of the different characters with same pronunciation in Japanese).
  2. it improves the symmetry and fluency of a sentence, as most words in chinese are made of two characters.
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actually this group of words is called 同义复合词 Synonymous compound

its advantage:

1.make the definition more clear. if you only use one character, it may have many different meanings.

2.enlarge the meaning. eg: 牙齿,牙 and 齿 both mean a certain part of the tooth, but when combined, it means the whole group of teeth.

3.increase rhythm. in some ancient poems, there are character restrictions, like 5 or 7, so in order to reach 5 or 7, people use 同义复合词. these words now becomes our everyday use.

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