Radical Priority

Have you guys, more experienced, ever noticed a pattern for the priority of radicals in kanji? 氵 for example, for what I’ve seen, always comes “first”, when we read the order from left to right. I figure this is hard to determine because there are cases in which radicals basically occupy the same space (screw physics), but I’d like to know if there is something similar to my idea.
Sometimes, I can recall what radicals compound a kanji, but not in what order they’re displayed. If I could remember a pattern such as “tree normally generally comes before eye”, I think it’d be helpful.
Here’s another example: 禾 normally appears left. 言 normally appears left as well. When those two are put together, though, in the kanji 誘, 言 goes left, instead of 禾. That means 言 has more priority than 禾. Does that make sense? I know that it wouldn’t be a definite rule, but I think having a start point is already pretty helpful.

But what’s the point of this priority? You’re hopefully not remember kanji as a jumble of radicals and piecing it together every time right? Also we aren’t learning this the way Japanese kids do (they learn radicals on’yomi and a bunch of kanji that uses that radical etc.), so what do you get out focusing on radicals with English names?

Sorry if I misunderstand your post…

Oh, no, not really. Not when I read it. But when I think about writing it, since I haven’t exercised that, I have an overall image of the kanji in my mind and sometimes the radicals are misplaced (especially when there are two, the positions get reversed). I think understanding some order patterns could counter that?

You’ll probably find this site helpful for exploring your theory:


I don’t think you will find a hard and fast rule, but knowing something about the construction of kanji helps a lot.

Check wikipedia here: Chinese character classification - Wikipedia

You are interested in compounds. These are mainly either 1. compound ideographs (all parts are taken for their meaning) or 2. phono-semantic compound characters (one part meaning, one part just shows the reading).

For the first kind there will be exceptions to any rule you might find, even though they were often simplified to match the style of the phonetic compounds. But there are still things like 譱 out there.

For phonetic compounds there will be only two main parts, a “sound” part and a “meaning” part. The meaning part is probably what you want to consider as “more priority”.

In your example 誘 has two parts, the kanji 秀 that shows the reading (“read me as しゅう”) and the determinative part 言 (the しゅう related to “words, speech” → invite). Granted, the actual reading of 誘 changed to ゆう (damn those Japanese), but that’s the general idea. The “pine” in there is not at the top level.

A nicer example is:

(Sound ゆ relating to words, sickness, mouth, feelings, carts, …)

You can check my userscript that integrated such information in WK.

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Thank you very much. I obviously wasn’t aware of those concepts. I think I’ll try your script after reading some more about it.

I think I now know what they meant, hehe

Thanks to @rfindley too. I loved that website and it does help me “visualize” my theory better, at least. Hehe

So, thanks guys ^^

I haven’t checked out the other sources posted here, but I remember someone posted this youtube video a while ago that talks about some of the same stuff:

Six minutes for reaching enlightenment? On it. Thank you very much!
Oh, now, that’s interesting: those 62.something% fall exactly into what acm2010 mentioned, 形声
and WaniKani teaches using only 会意, if I’m not mistaken, what represents 24.something%

WK uses mnemonics with their own kanji part interpretation, so it is similar to treating everything as compound ideographs. The meaning of the radicals is originally different of course, they didn’t use the nailbat for all their problems in ancient China (or did they?).

It’s a valid approach, you can learn everything that way. The phonetic compounds are not a solution for everything.

The Japanese imported the sounds from different Chinese dialects from different times, so one tone mark suddenly has several options to read (similar to 人 = じん? にん?), or the reading changed to something completely different. Another problem is that both compound types use the same building blocks, so you need to remember that as well. For example 休 is (most likely) a person leaning against a tree, and not read like 木.

Still, on this level (31) I got ~2/3 of the readings for free, which is not so bad.

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