A meaningful (and dare I say radical) usage of the essentially meaningless (dingbatesque) members of the RADICAL blocks

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/28 10:16 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/12/28/6883657.aspx

Regular readers may have noticed that I have often used the CJK Radicals and the KangXi Radicals as sponsors to various blogs.

The other day, Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven and John H. Jenkins were talking about the radicals (well, Jeroen was explaining his assumptions about what seemed to be going on with them and John was clarifying the actual information about them), best summed up in the most recent post in the conversation:

Jeroen: What I understand is that the Kangxi radicals are the base 214 radicals as they appeared in the Zihui and Kangxi dictionaries.

    Nowadays, due to simplifications and other changes, various additional radicals got introduced in order to make look ups easier/more consistent/whatever. For this we encoded the CJK Radicals Supplement.

John: Actually, no. The encoded radicals have nothing really to do with lookup (in the computer sense).  They're mostly derived from the custom in dictionaries in their radical tables to include the multiple shapes a radical may take.  We used to do the same in our radical stroke charts but stopped with the chart in TUS 5.0 to save space.

    You really, really, really should think of the encoded radicals as dingbats.  They're only there so that people can print radical charts.  (Well, that and compatibility with CNS 11643, which was the original motive for the 212 radicals they include.)

    As such, minor differences between the shapes can be significant. These are dingbats, after all.

Jeroen: U+2e95 and U+2f39 - radical snout (two) (a bit dubious one, since the latter seems to have the bottom stroke drawn past the standing stroke)

John: That's the extent of it.

Jeroen: U+2ed1 and U+2fa7 - radical long (one) (no apparent difference)

John: I'll have to check if this was deliberate (I doubt it) and file a glyph erratum.

Jeroen: U+2ee3 and U+2fbb - radical bone (no apparent difference)

John: U+2EE3 is the Simplified Chinese version (box on the left inside the top).  U+2FBB is the form everybody else uses.

Jeroen: U+2ee4 and U+2fc1 - radical ghost (no apparent difference)

John: As before, I should double-check this.

    Basically, since these are dingbats, you may adapt their shapes slightly as needed. For example, I would expect that U+2ED1 and U+2EE4 would be drawn with one fewer stroke.

    On the whole, you will almost never need to use *all* of the encoded radicals, because not all of them will be relevant to your locale and use.  Use the ones you need and ignore the others.

Jeroen: Since I am going to use radicals for an application I am developing I want to be sure I am not misunderstanding anything. If the above are indeed not different would I just have to make sure I use the Kangxi radical over the CJK Supplemental one?

John: Again, if you *need* to express a difference, then it's possible. You should never feel obligated to use any of these beasts, let alone all of them. They are dingbats. They don't really *mean* anything.

Now admittedly the only reason I tend to be attracted to them as sponsors is that their names (you can see them here and here in nice lists with images care of fileformat.info), and the fact that the names often have some relation to the particular blog and I was simply not feeling like using some of my more subtle sponsorships since I get the feeling that most people don't get them because I have gone past allusion and directly into associative linkage that people would probably only glean if they were in a position to ask me....

But I did find it a tad ironic (in the Katie sense) that my exclusive use of them has been when I feel they would help provide explicit meaning to their sponsorship roles when John would go to some effort to point out that thy should really be thought of as dingbats that have no meaning.

I think that gives my usage of these two blocks a decidedly ironic edge that I use them for their explicit meaning when they are best thought of as meaningless!


This post brought to you by(U+4dfc, aka HEXAGRAM FOR INNER TRUTH)

John Cowan on 28 Dec 2007 10:21 PM:

Note that there is a perfectly good regular Han character for each of the radicals; that's their "semantic identity" as opposed to their "dingbat identity".

pne on 29 Dec 2007 3:47 AM:

Each of the radicals? I can imagine that several of the low-stroke-count radicals don't have a regular Han character to match them, that they are mostly "shape" radicals rather than "meaning" radicals and don't really have any semantic identity of their own.

Andrew West on 29 Dec 2007 6:51 PM:

There is a corresponding unified ideograph for each and every character in the Kangxi Radicals block, but not for each character in the CJK Radicals Supplememt block (e.g. there is no corresponding ideograph for U+2E80 ⺀)

Please consider a donation to keep this archive running, maintained and free of advertising.
Donate €20 or more to receive an offline copy of the whole archive including all images.

go to newer or older post, or back to index or month or day