Reading Is there a difference in drawing between the "mouth" and "enclosure" kanji radicals? made me think: does (enclosure) have to be the outermost radical? Apparently the answer is "no" since we have this (incomplete) list of exceptions: 烟姻廻咽個恩悃迴. It also seems to happen with other "enclosure type" radicals, e.g. -> or 广 -> , but are there any radicals that can only be in a specific position in the kanji and nowhere else?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taito_(kanji)
    – siikamiika
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 21:45
  • @siikamiika: Sorry, but I'm not sure how that link is relevant to my question. Can you please explain? Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 21:59
  • Given that you can pile kanji like that to form new characters, nothing prevents you from eliminating a supposed outermost radical by placing something next to it. If you limit yourself to kanji included in some list like 常用漢字, it is possible to use something like KanjiVG to determine which radicals only enclose kanji and not part of a horizontal or vertical shape kanji or which radicals only appear as the left/right or top/bottom radical and are not enclosed or eliminated from the top level by a horizontal or vertical radical (this explanation is convoluted but I hope you get what I mean)
    – siikamiika
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:15
  • Does this answer your question? I can post the previous comment as an answer
    – siikamiika
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 22:27

1 Answer 1


It's an interesting question. My first idea was that as a general rule a radical could appear everywhere, except when it comes in some "contracted form" (think of つちへん(土偏) such as in 地) where it has to be in a specific place (left in this case). Of course this is just a graphical distinction but we are talking always of the same kanji, that is, 土. If you look at all kanji where this is the radical, when written as 土偏 it's always and only on the left.

Anyway, I think Wikipedia also provide interesting insights:

enter image description here

According to this it seems that there is not a general rule for the position, and a radical could indeed appear everywhere.

My guess that in some particular forms (like earth on the left as I mentioned above) they always appear in the same place still remains though. As I said I failed to see a kanji where the contracted form of 土 is not on the left, but yet again, although it graphically looks different it is always 土.

Anyway I guess that in general the answer to your question is no, and the key sentence in the article above is the following:

[...] 部首は、原則として文字のグループに共通する意味を表すので、部首のつく位置は必ずしも一定していない.

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