Are WK radicals real (standard)?

Hello everyone.
Last weeks I’ve dive into monolingual definitions as for progressively using more and more japanese as a way of learning new words.
I wanted to do a similar thing with material here in WK, so I want to gradually start putting the actual radical name in japanese for each radical presented.
Are the radicals here in WK equivalent to the a actual standard radicals, despite of the name I mean??

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No, they are not. Some “radicals” on WK aren’t radicals at all in the standard sense, and those that are have different real names usually.

To be fair, real radical names are descriptive, so useless to create mnemonics… ex くさかんむり (“the crown/top part of 草”, flower on wk)


As far as I know, actual radical names are mainly used for classification purposes, not as a mnemonic device. As such, WK pretty much “had to” come up with custom radical names in order to facilitate learning. However, many WK radicals are used in the standard classification schemes, so it will be fairly easy to create a map between the two schemes, even though a definitive radicalization scheme does not exist (There exist a scheme imported from China, known as the kangxi radicals, plus a multitude of other schemes, see for info on the Hanzi radical schemes).
Also, WK uses approximately 80 custom radicals, that do not exist in the standard classification schemes.

For more info on the traditional kangxi radicals, you can consult this tofugu article

Of course, the above is based on my understanding of the situation. Since I am a beginner, it might be wildly inaccurate, so take it with a grain of salt. :slight_smile:


As Testfugu said, the radicals are mainly to teach mnemonics, and as such some are completely made up, though others draw influence from what I guess you could call ‘established’ radicals.

But I suppose you need to ask yourself, does it really matter? Is there seriously going to be a situation where you are going to be quizzed on what the radical of a kanji is and be penalized because you learnt WK’s system instead of whatever a textbook says the Kanji is composed of? The aim is to get you reading and understanding the Kanji, not to be a master Etymologist.


Oh, I see. I guess it won’t be a simple adding the correspondant standard name. :thinking: … more like a mayor overhaul…

well, I guess I’ll try to add the ones that fit the most in the whole routine (maybe the 214 standard ones… though I’m thinking those many might be already burned :sweat_smile:) while leaving some of the more creative ones alone.

Sometimes the references in WK will seem a bit wacky for me, so I put them aside and create my own menemonics… though sometimes I later get them… last one was 召 … I couln’t understand the reference, until I remembered the whole “why so serious” scene :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I would like to familiarize myself with the standard radicals too, as for the phonetic-semantic composition kanjis it is sometimes easier to rely the actual meaning of the radical to make sense of the composition and the on’yomi. :+1:
There’s a great add-on for reviews that uses the phonetic-semantic composition here in WK… when those kanjis get to be all too familiar, it’s much easier to do a simple mnemonic aiming at what’s different in that kanji compared to the rest of the kanjis sharing the similar components rather than starting with a story from scratch.


I think knowing the etymology of a character does sometimes help remember it. I for one do occasionally consult Hanzi etymology resources for kanji that trouble me :wink:


Oh no I completely agree. But when I came across this very same situation and asked myself the same question whether it mattered, I realised very quickly that whatever I was using to understand the language, be it Genki, WK, AJATT, JFZ or a University course, there is only ultimately what works and what doesn’t work for an individual, and that there is no “Right way” to learn, which is what I meant by ask yourself if it matters or not to you that you’re not following the textbook standard or not! :slight_smile:

I’m sure for some there are cases where it would be beneficial, but I feel there is a pitfall in the thinking of “WK is not teaching the radicals the correct way” that does it a huge disservice for what it actually achieves you get me? So instead I just decided that any Etymology I could just learn with time and experience (as I do in English) and get the all important understandings and readings that I was struggling to learn through textbooks down first. :slight_smile:


Oh, no. This ain’t one of those “WK radicals are bs” posts or anything in those lines.
Their witty radicals have serve me well up to know. But as I want to later go into other resources for writing, and plan to keep learning kanjis when I’m over with WK, getting acquainted with standard radicals and the phonetic-semantic system will be a nice addition to simplify things when possible :+1:

PS: and actually this is all in the context that I’m trying to go monolingual in my studies.


The standard radicals were defined strictly to sort kanji in a dictionary, with a single radical per kanji. They are not very correlated with the etymology of characters (the radicals are graphical decompositions of the final shapes of the characters) and they are not equal with the semantic elements in semantic-phonetic compositions (for example stuff like 丨丶丿亅 is just used to “draw” characters that don’t actually fit the scheme). In a way they are as meaningless as the WK radicals.

Most of the WK radicals are full-scale kanji anyway, used as phonetic components. There are 477 radicals in WK (far more than the standard radicals), basically most parts that recur graphically in jouyou kanji are used. Tofugu should just rename them, the term just attracts “radicals are bs” flies :slight_smile:

You only require the standard radicals if you want to describe a kanji verbally, or look one up in a book. For the semantic components it’s sufficient to remember how the reduced forms (“radical forms”) relate to full-scale kanji, like 手扌, 心忄, 衣衤 , 犬犭. There is a list of radicals with equivalent versions here.

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Thanks… I guess it will be of less value than I thought…

Does anyone knows if there’s a resource for phonetic semantic components?
I use that very much in my lesson , I will like to have a reference for further kanjis outside wk too.:smiley:

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For the Keisei script I use mainly three sources:

Niconico-Pedia (for example 方とは (ホウとは) [単語記事] - ニコニコ大百科). 字形 contains the etymology with some theories why a kanji has its current form, and under 声符 are compounds that use that kanji as an phonetic element.

Sometimes the above site doesn’t have information for a kanji (occasionally happens even with widely used ones), then occasionally the Japanese Wiktionary at least has something.

The site with the most coverage in terms of kanji is Jigen, but the information is usually quite terse. For example 方の漢字情報 - 漢字構成、成り立ち、読み方、書体など|漢字辞典. 声符「方」 is the usage as a phonetic component, the lower part is information about Middle Chinese (the pronunciation of the kanji when they were imported to Japan, the pronunciation for 方 was byang, pyang, so the Japanese probably turned it into ぼう and ほう (they didn’t have endings like -ng and did some freaky things instead).

The sites often have information on what is for example 呉音 or 漢音, all of these readings can be used as readings of phonetic component, that’s why the semantic-phonetic compositions are quite messy in Japanese, with multiple or seemingly unfitting readings.

Edit: you will often see that semantic-phonetic composition is just one theory of several, how a kanji is constructed is never really set in stone …


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