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Say It Right Series

文, 言, 字, 词 and 诗

Posted by johnb December 1, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

The last two lessons have been pretty tough -- 廖 and 毙 are, admittedly, not characters you run into every day. Today we'll take it down a notch, and look at five characters that talk about language.

We'll start with [wén], which means "language" or "literature," but has an expanded meaning "culture" and "civilization." In fact, one of the more common words it is found in, 文化 [wénhuà] "culture," really means something like "culturalification," in the same way that 自动化 [zìdònghuà] means "automation." It is also found in words for the names of languages, like 中文, 英文, 日文, etc. Radical: 文 (67). Components: 亠乂. Stroke Count: 4

The next character we'll look at is [yán], which means "speech" or "language." By itself, 言 means "to say," basically the same as [shuō], but is seldom used in this way. Instead, 言 is found in tons of compounds, including 语言 [yǔyán] -- "language" -- 谣言 [yáoyán] -- "rumors." Radical: 言 (149). Components: 亠口. Stroke Count: 7

Next up we have [zì], which refers to written characters. This character is both easy and common, and should be no problem to learn. An obvious word involving this character is the entire focus of our group, 汉字 [hànzì] -- "Chinese character." 数字 [shùzì], meaning "number" -- as in the actual digits: 1234567890. Radical: 子 (39). Components: 子宀. Stroke Count: 6

Fourth we'll look at [cí], which means "word" (generally made up of one or more 词). This can be a little confusing at first when looking for a good dictionary, as 字典 [zìdiǎn] contain only individual character entries, whereas a 词典 [cídiǎn] has both words and characters (but only characters that are words on their own). For music lovers, the word 歌词 [gēcí] -- "lyrics" -- might be important as well. Radical: 言 (149). Components: 讠司. Stroke Count: 7

Finally, we arrive at something made up of 词 and 字 -- [shī], "poetry," "verse." A poet is simply a "poem person" -- 诗人 [shīrén] -- in Chinese. You can add this character to the back of many dynasty names to get a word for poetry written during that time, like 唐诗 [tángshī] for poetry from the Tang Dynasty. Radical: 言 (149). Components: 讠寺土寸. Stroke Count: 8

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