I’ve put ⻏ in the search function but got no result.

There are two ⻏radicals. Their origins are different but they are visually identical.

On Jisho: enter image description here

But in a different dictionary (an app I got for my iPad) the two ⻏ radicals are listed differently. One as having 2 strokes while the other 3 even though they are visually identical: enter image description here

Also, while for Jisho the kanji listing is coherent depending on whether the ⻏is on the left or right side, the one from the application dictionary has kanji listings where the ⻏is in different positions.

So my question is: why? AFAIK dictionaries are frontends for the same database. Why are they listing that radical differently? Which one is right? Is the app one faulty in its radical classification?

  • These two things are completely different in the original Kangxi radical system. But in present-day kanji they've ended up the same shape, for some reason. – Super-User Mar 8 '20 at 22:56
  • I feel like we need a help page discouraging people from worrying about things that are not part of character function, like "radicals" and "strokes"... – dROOOze Mar 8 '20 at 23:19

I think part of the confusion here is that radicals are not the same thing as components. This is compounded by the fact that many sources use the term "radical" incorrectly, including jisho.org, which refers to what it offers as a radical search, but what it does is actually more correctly a component search.

component is a term for any common part of kanji characters which can show up in multiple kanji. Most kanji are made up of a bunch of components put together.

radical is actually a technical term which refers specifically to just the component of each kanji which is traditionally used to index and order it in dictionaries, etc. There are many components that are used in kanji which have never been used for the purposes of indexing/ordering/etc, and thus are not technically radicals (and there are many kanji that have components which are radicals, but the place that the component is used in that kanji makes it not a radical in that particular case).

I'm not familiar with the dictionary app you reference, but it may be using a more traditional dictionary radical index, which means it is probably only looking up kanji according to their typical/official radical for that kanji (typically each kanji is only assigned one radical, even if there are multiple shapes in it which look like radical shapes, and often the choice of which is "the radical for this kanji" can be a bit arbitrary, or based on non-obvious historical factors).

Jisho, on the other hand, will actually (usually) find kanji which use a particular component anywhere in the kanji, regardless of whether it's the official radical for that kanji or not (however, Jisho does still distinguish between left-side and right-side versions as different components, as you've noticed).

So I think the answer to your main question is probably that the two are actually not using the same underlying data. One is using a radical index, and the other is actually using a component index (which is much more comprehensive than just radicals).

As for why the dictionary app shows that shape as both a two-stroke and a three-stroke radical, I don't really know. As Pablo mentioned, that radical is sometimes interpreted either way, so it is possible that they just listed the same radical in both categories so that it would be easy to find regardless of whether the user thinks it's a two-stroke or three-stroke radical. It's also possible that they're distinguishing between left-side and right-side versions, and just using the stroke count as a (not entirely obvious) way for the user to tell one from the other (since you can't tell by how they're drawn), but if that's the intent I'm not sure how you're supposed to know which is which (except trial and error).


Here are a few key things to note about this.

  1. Strokes: Let's keep it simple and call them 'components' for now, in that they are a collection of identical strokes. The two components you asked about are visually identical and most dictionaries list them as having 3 strokes, not 2 (e.g. such as Weblio).I'm not familiar with the app you mentioned so I can't be sure of their source database.
  2. Position: When the component⻏ is on the left side of a kanji, it is called こざと and is listed as a 'hen' radical. When the same component appears on the right side of a kanji, it is called おおざと and is listed as a 'tsukuri' radical. By 'same component', I mean only the composition, not the content. The positioning is very important because it represents simplified versions of different characters depending on where it is. So the visual overlap should not be taken to mean they represent the same thing. They are components which have the same composition but different lexical properties. Think of it like an English analogy such as homographs - the words 'wind' (to wind a spring) and 'wind' (a cold winter wind) are visually identical but have different lexical properties (in this case different pronunciations and meanings).
  3. Radicals: Radicals are a subsection of all components. They are simply the ones which lexicographers use to systematize kanji. It is true that radicals tend to convey semantic information which links groups of characters, but they are still an indexing system. There are several ways to classify kanji and they may not be the same. So it is wise to not get too worried about questions like "is this a radical or not?" unless your specific learning goals require that kind of information.

In jisho.org those two do not look the same, one is clearly on the right side, and the other clearly on the left side. And they are classified as 3-stroke, which is the most common.

On the app, however, they are both centered.

Jisho.org doesn't include small stroke variations; for example the 辶 radical is given in only one version (the "modern" one, with only one dot). I bet that your app give you the two forms, with one and two dots.

Jisho.org uses the components for their logical/etimological value too (if ou select 亀 you also get 龜; and in the components matrix you only have 亀 as a choice). The other app seems to use instead a more visual approach, as can be seen for example on the fact that for 2-stroke components ti gives 42 choices, while jisho.org only gives 31. Several of the variations are not significative.

It seems to me that more thought has been put on the decomposition used in jisho.org (which, I suppose, uses the EDICT free software database); the other one maybe is some computer generated data ?

They don't seem to use the same database. In particular it seems the app doesn't differentiate between left side 阝 and right side 阝.

  • Note that jisho.org it isn't always consistent either; left side 阝 gives 阜 and 埠 but not 蘖 – Pablo Saratxaga Mar 8 '20 at 22:43

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