Now that we know what radicals are and can identify a few, let’s get cracking on character composition!
In Chinese, there’s 2 meaningful patterns to why a character looks a certain way.
The first one is by meaning.
As you may have seen before, 木 means tree.
Now what happens when you stick another “tree” next to it?
You get 林, which means woods/forest.
Now if you add another “tree” to that…
You get 森, which means dense forest/jungle.
Let’s get a different character and try our hand on that.
明. Notice it has 日(sun) and 月(moon).
Can you guess what it means?
The sun shines light and the moon also shines light. Now if both of them were together next to each other…
It would be very bright outside, wouldn’t it?
That’s right, 明 means bright.
The second pattern is by pronunciation and sound.
This might be a little difficult to explain, especially since I’m not teaching you pronunciation. But it’d be a bad idea not to go into some detail about this pattern, so here I go.
Sometimes characters are composed by having a character which shares the same sound as its pronunciation and a radical that denotes its meaning.
馬 means horse. It is pronounced mǎ.
媽 is pronounced mā.
Did you notice the 女(woman) radical on it?
媽 means mother. Usually it’s written as 媽媽 (māmā). Yep, that’s right. Mama.
馬 and 媽 have similar pronunciations, that’s why 媽 has the character for horse on it. The character for woman shows that the word has to do with a woman or a female.
I hope that explanation makes sense!
Until next time!