[Userscript] Keisei 形声 Semantic-Phonetic Composition

Is anyone aware of a good source where I could read up on this aspect of Kanji? I see there are database sources in the OP but I’m looking more for books, published studies, etc.
I loved this script when I was going through WaniKani, and have recently become extremely interested in exploring the concept in more depth.


There’s a little more information on the source for a lot of this in the original phonetic-semantic composition script thread, though the link to the thesis appears to be broken, so you might have to look elsewhere for it if you want to read it. There is also a book called The Kanji Code that is based on the original thesis, which I have not yet read myself, but it might be worth checking out!


I actually just ordered the book last week (it hasn’t been delivered just yet), but the broken link from the other thread is actually what led me to try asking here :sweat_smile: Even tried looking searching around on google for Hiroko Townsend to try and find the thesis somewhere else, but haven’t had any luck yet.

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I found a couple links that might be useful! Here’s one, and here’s another. I think the first is the paper originally cited in the first version of this script, and the second link seems to be an article that was published in a journal a couple years later.

Something that’s kind of funny to me is that it seems like this WK script has actually driven a lot of people toward studying this topic in earnest. Multiple reviews for The Kanji Code on Amazon mention WK, haha!


Just saw this! You’re a saint and a scholar, thank you! :smile:


@Sinyaven Is there a way to use this without compatibility mode? Another script I use requires it off.

Are you using version 1.8.15? It should currently also work with compatibility mode disabled. What doesn’t work for you? Reviews? Lessons?

I investigated a bit more and it looks like it was a configuration error on my end rather than a compatibility mode issue. Sorry for the confusion.


I’m a little bit lost with the topic i have the script but i don’t really understand how the phonetic composition works. Can someone share a link or something where i can more about the topic? Thanks :slight_smile:

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I’m not sure what the best resource for explaining the subject is (I have several books on it, but those are going to be on the advanced side), but the general idea is that many kanji (something like 80% of the ones most people know) are composed of an element that indicates the broad meaning category the kanji belongs to, and one element that represents the sound that the kanji has.

This is often quite straightforward. The radical 氵 indicates something is related to water, and 羊 sounds like よう, so 洋 is a new character that is related to water (it means ocean, and later, by extension, other countries across the ocean) and sounds like よう.

Other times, the relationship is obscured by history. Kanji shapes change, meanings change, pronunciations change, and things that originally made sense in ancient Chinese can appear completely unrelated in modern Japanese. So that might make you scratch your head when looking at some of the listed items.

If you have more questions, I can try to answer them.