Sometimes the radical appears different depending on how it's used. The
character $B?M(J is a radical, but can also appear like
$B%$(J. Some examples:
Actually, those last two are different versions of the same character, and their radical really is $B[)(J (which is, be careful now, different from $BF|(J). When the character was changed from $BPr(J $B"*(J $B2q(J the $B[)(J component was lost from the character, but it still remains as the traditional radical, but many dictionaries list them both under $B?M(J. Is it ``correct''? I dunno' -- it's not like science with an absolute truth.
Sometimes the differences among forms is larger. The radical
usually appears as the left part of $B=A(J (i.e. the part that's doesn't look
like a cross). Some examples:
Some characters don't even physically contain the radical anymore, due to changes over the years. The $BPr(J $B"*(J $B2q(J from above is one example. Another is $BMh(J, whose traditional radical is $B?M(J because the old form of $BMh(J is $BPT(J. Some other kanji/radical/orig sets are
(the history blurb taken mostly from Jack Halpern's ``New Japanese-English Character Dictionary'')
Jack Halpern's ``New Japanese-English Character Dictionary'' also reports the traditional radicals, and at times they differ from Nelson. I don't know which are the ``authentic'' traditional radicals, or even if such a thing exists for modern characters (although Halpern does report the ``lost radicals,'' such as with $BPr(J $B"*(J $B2q(J from above). I do know that the examples reported above came from both sources, so there are probably some inconsistencies. Welcome to the wonderful world of kanji.
This was both good and bad. Virtually all Japanese and Chinese dictionaries (for the native speaker or the student) available used something relatively similar to the traditional radicals. Even if the status-quo is silly, there is indeed some benefit to sticking with it. Not only did it offend the traditionalist's crowd as both blasphemous and rinky-dink, it could potentially harm the new student. If one learns on the S&H radicals, they might well have trouble using any other dictionary.
Personally, S&H was the first kanji dictionary I ever looked at, so had no ``traditional sensibilities'' to be hurt. I was just starting to study kanji, and wanted whatever would make it easier. My one data point with a native Japanese using it was during a conversation where he was in a rush and I wasn't understanding the word, he saw the S&H on my desk and found the word in about 10 seconds. At least with that one he had no problem (S&H indicate that their changes only influence about 15% of all characters).
Still, there are a lot of very common characters in the ``no radical'' group, so anyone learning via S&H would do well to at least check out the traditional radicals. Personally, in 7 years, I've never felt limited by my using only the S&H radicals. But then, only on occasion have I ever looked up something in a Japanese-Japanese kanji dictionary -- those that use them day-to-day would probably run into the differences more readily.
The chore of hunting for kanji by determining their primary radicals has been simplified with the new Universal Radical Index, and characters can be identified immediately using any one of their radical components.Thus, it seems that if you can identify any component of a character as a radical (even if it's not the radical), you can find it via the new index.
I find SKIP to be extremely useful for quickly finding a character. In fact, I even use SKIP when searching kanjidic. Most traditionalists scoff at it as just a new gimic, but of those (few) I know that have given it a reasonable try, all have eventually decided it is faster and more reliable for them.
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