There are 214 radicals, and their positions can be either Hen, Tsukuri, Ashi/ Ashi Variant, Kanmuri, Nyō, Tare or Kamae/ Kamae Variant.
One example 衝(oposition), so this kanji is made of the kanji 行(to go) and 重(weight), 行 stands for gyo-gamae(kamae position) and this is where I need help:

-) Is it true that the 行 makes the semantic part and 重 the phonetic part of the kanji 衝?
-) If yes is it always so that that the kanji which presents the radical of the main kanji makes the semantic part and the other kanji the phonetic part?
-) Some radicals have suffixes based on their position like ninnyō, wakanmuri, tsutsumigamae, etc., but what with the others with suffixes like gashira does it mean that they are phonetic and semantic(phono-semantic) kanjis and they can be placed anywhere and does that apply to the other kanjis which don't have those suffix endings like : ~hen, ~ben, ~ri, ~kuri, ~tsukuri, ~ashi, ~kanmuri, ~ganmuri, ~nyō, ~tare, ~dare, ~kamae, ~gamae and the ones with this suffixes are they always semantic or can they be phonetic or even phono-semantic?

  • Sometimes the radical of a 形声文字 can't be the semantic element, simply because the semantic element wasn't chosen as one of the 214 traditional radicals. For example, the radical of 錦 is 金, the phonetic portion.
    – user1478
    Mar 3, 2015 at 0:19
  • Thank you very much, this helps me to remember them easier :D
    – Nezir
    Mar 3, 2015 at 5:53

1 Answer 1


It's true that 衝 is traditionally / generally considered as [ semantic 行 + phonetic 重 ].

However it is not always the case. For example [衡]{こう} ( as in 平衡, 均衡 ), which looks pretty much like 衝 in appearance, is believed to be from semantic [ 角 + 大 ] ( said to represent "a yoked ox" ) + phonetic 行.

Similar cases can happen also with other radicals. For example, you can compare:

闇 / 閣 / 閲 [ semantic 門 + phonetic 音/各/兌 ]
問 / 聞 / 悶 [ semantic 口/耳/心 + phonetic 門 ]
開 / 閉 / 間 / 関 [ semantic + semantic ]

  • Thanks‼, I think I understand enough about the radicals now and if there's anything left about them I will probably learn it by studying the other kanjis. ◕‿◕
    – Nezir
    Mar 3, 2015 at 6:24
  • 1
    But you don't have to be too nervous, because this kind of "kanji with phonetic part pretending to be a radical" are not really abounding. OTTOMH all I came up with is 飾 (with phonetic radical 食), in addition to snailboat's 錦 and my 衡. (問/聞/悶 will actually be found in radical sections of 口/耳/心 respectively in dictionaries.) So, in most cases you can consider as "radical = semantic". Anyway, go for it and good luck!
    – isayamag
    Mar 3, 2015 at 7:40

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