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Say It Right Series

phonetic maps explained

Posted by goulnik September 23, 2008 in the Group General Discussion.

to answer henning's question, who said he still hadn't figured how to read those (phonetic map) tables, here's the idea :

  1. list the most frequent characters containing a specific phonetic element (for example zhào),
  2. give one, sometimes more examples of compounds containing them (2-characters words,e.g. 照片 zhàopiàn for  zhào) .
  3. group characters with the same pronunciation (except for tone) on one row. For reasons of space (3 columns max), these often need to span several rows (2 in zhao above, possibly 3),
  4. from top to bottom row, go from closer to phonetic to less frequent reading (zhao, chao, shao, tiao)

When I came up with this representation, my vision was that of a 3 x 3 matrix with the phonetic root in the center and 4 characters using it in the corners, or more as required, with some idea of symetry.

Another option would have been 5 columns for each of the tones, but as you can see there isn't any regular pattern, so I end up sort of centering the root and grouping the other characters around using some uh fuzzy heuristic like same tones closer together or same arrangement of radical vs phonetic (L|R, Top/Bottom etc.)!

Keep in mind that I am no linguist, and only have finite and somewhat limited amounts of time, so it isn't meant to be comprehensive or completely orthogonal. Instead, I am going for simplification wherever possible, with inevitable inconsistencies along the way. It's also a learning exercise, and I find new tricks / patterns / issues as I explore more characters.

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