7

Kanji are made of radicals, right? But that "E" looking thing in the left of 印 doesn't seem to be a radical, for I looked at many radical databases and didn't find anything like that. Is that a radical? If so, could you give me another example of a kanji that uses it too? If possible, I would appreciate if you told me the meaning of such radical, if it is indeed so.

2
  • To find the radical most quickly, in my experience, scan left, top, bottom, right. Secondarily, the greater the number of strokes in the radical, the more likely it is the correct radical. Learn 辶 counts as 7, not 3 strokes, because of simplification. There are several other simplifications.
    – rppkgai
    May 12 '20 at 21:36
  • As Leebo mentioned below, I am using "strict" definition of radical called 部首. Only 214 exist. They are the 214 Kangxi radicals. While many kanji, such as 運, can have more than 1 kangxi radical, every kanji is assigned only one official radical. And that is the radical used to find it in a kanji dictionary. Sorry that I caused confusion. I'm not sure about "kanji parts".
    – rppkgai
    May 13 '20 at 2:01
11

Good answer from @jogloran - here's an idea of the glyph evolution in case you're not convinced:



enter image description here
112
合集22148
春秋

enter image description here
曾白𩃲簠
集成4631


enter image description here
秦律十八種
睡虎地秦簡


enter image description here

 

「印」 is comprised of a hand 「爪・爫」 pressing down on a kneeling person 「卩」. Compare 「妥」.


A somewhat lengthy note about this idea of radicals...

Kanji are made of radicals, right?

No, they're not. Sometimes this might be a convenient idea, but as you come across some very common kanji, you'll realise that this idea quickly devolves into something misleading and downright false.

Radicals (部首) are a collection of strokes that are purely for the purpose of indexing characters under dictionary section (部) headers (首). Most of the time this collection of strokes resembles parts of characters, but this collection of strokes is really just a collection of strokes - they are sometimes not even parts of the character they index.

The idea that kanji are made from radicals - a rapid descent into confusion.

Radicals provide meaning to a kanji - A convenient idea

  • 「酒」, radical 「酉」.

    • Real decomposition: 「[酒]{しゅ}」 (alcoholic beverage) is made up from semantic 「水・氵」 (water > liquid) and simultaneously semantic and phonetic 「[酉]{ゆ}」 (container for alcohol).
  • 「掌」, radical 「手」

    • Real decomposition: 「[掌]{しょう}」 (palm of hand) is made up from semantic 「手」 (hand) and phonetic 「[尚]{しょう}」.

Radicals provide meaning to a kanji - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are parts of kanji that inform sound or meaning - A convenient idea

  • 「問」, radical 「口」
    • Real decomposition: 「[問]{もん}」 (to ask) is made up from semantic 「口」 (mouth) and phonetic 「[門]{もん}」.
    • Radical decomposition: 「門」, 「口」
  • 「信」, radical 「人・亻」
    • Real decomposition: 「[信]{しん}」 (honest speech > truthfulness > trust) is made up from semantic 「言」 (words, speech) and phonetic 「[人]{じん}」.
    • Radical decomposition: 「亻」, 「言」

Radicals provide meaning to a kanji - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are parts of kanji that inform sound or meaning - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are the part of a character which are grouped under dictionaries - A convenient idea

  • 「健」, radical 「人・亻」

    • Real decomposition: 「[健]{けん}」 (strong, healthy) is made up from semantic 「人」 (person) and phonetic 「[建]{けん}」.

    • Radical "decomposition": 「亻」, 「廴」, 「聿」

  • 「修」, radical 「人・亻」
    • Real decomposition: 「[修]{しゅう}」 (to decorate > fix up > repair, mend) is made up from semantic 「彡」 (patterns) and phonetic 「[攸]{ゆう}」
    • Radical "decomposition": 「亻」, 「丨」, 「攵」, 「彡」

Radicals provide meaning to a kanji - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are parts of kanji that inform sound or meaning - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are the part of a character which are grouped under dictionaries - An inconvenient fiction
Radicals are just a collection of strokes; they are sometimes not even part of the character they index.

  • 「爵」, radical 「爪・爫」
    • Real decomposition: 「爵」 (alcohol vessel) is a picture of an alcohol vessel.
    • Radical "decomposition": 「爫」, 「罒」, 「艮」, 「寸」
  • 「年」, radical 「干」
9

You're right that it's not a radical. For instance, the radical of 印 for dictionary purposes is actually 卩.

The "E" looking thing is actually a rotated version of the component 爪 found at the top of 妥, which represents a grasping hand.

This can be seen from the earliest forms. The second character below is an ancestral form of 印 that shows a hand pressing down on a kneeling person. The sense of pressing down was extended to impressing a seal.

enter image description hereenter image description here

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  • In the case of 妥, the 爪 is everything excluding the 女 part? Moreover, how do you know that the "E" looking this is a rotated version of 爪 if it isn`t even a radical? I mean, it makes sense graphically, but how can you be so sure? May 12 '20 at 21:48
  • @ElizabethMiddleford Just to be clear on the "not even a radical" thing... You're aware that different people use "radical" differently right? The traditional meaning is "the portion of a kanji used to categorize it in a kanji dictionary." In that sense, this element is not a radical. But other people use radical more loosely to mean "any element of a kanji." Those people would call this a radical. So, when you say "kanji are made of radicals" in your question, it sounds like you heard that definition from someone who uses the loose meaning of radical.
    – Leebo
    May 12 '20 at 23:09
  • @ElizabethMiddleford radicals are not part of characters. At all.
    – dROOOze
    May 13 '20 at 2:21
  • 1
    @ElizabethMiddleford We can be sure by looking at ancestral forms of the characters. The script has evolved over time such that we cannot always tell that two components are the same based on their modern appearances. For example, as you may know, the thing that looks like 月 in 肺 is actually a derivative of 肉.
    – jogloran
    May 14 '20 at 4:28

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