Monday, July 20, 2009

Running away from the Sea

One of the first memories I have of breaking words down into their component parts is doing it with "Shanghai" (上海).

The first step was easy, since the two characters were 上 (shàng, meaning 'on') and 海 (hǎi, meaning 'sea'). Shanghai ... "on the sea" ... fantastic. Even I could remember that!

It was very easy to remember '上' - but '海' remained elusive for me. So I got to wondering how that character might be made up. (And if you haven't already starting asking questions like this, don't worry ... you will!)

So with use of a decent dictionary (I used both and here), we find that:
  • 海 = 氵 + 每
hǎi (sea) is made up of shuǐ (the water radical, usually 水) and měi ('every')
  • 每 = 艹 + 母
měi ('every') is made up of cǎo (the grass radical, usually 艹) and mǔ ('female' or 'mother')

So now it's quite easy to remember:

Linking words together like this is another example of what I've called Wordpacks (see here for an introduction, and click here to see all Wordpacks in Mandarin Segments so far). I find it makes it easier to memorise words, and certainly more interesting to learn.

And please don't just read this post, nod your head sagely and think that it would make it easier to learn, if you could just be bothered. Look at the three characters, note the similarity, note the build-up (or the the 'build-down'), make up a sentence ('a sea for every mother'???) - and learn it. Actually learn it.

And if you have similar hanzi build-ups that you use, drop us a note in the comments below.

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