Koreanclass101.com

Learn Hebrew online

Learn a new language outside the books with Mondly

How the Chinese writing system works

The illustrations below of the various ways the character for horse is used in Chinese give you an idea of how the Chinese script works.

Evolution of the character

You can see below how the character for horse has evolved since it first appeared in the Oracle Bone Script during the Shang Dynasty (c. 1400-1200 BC).

Evolution of the character for horse

Further information about the evolution of chinese characters

Basic meaning

The character 马 [馬] is pronounced in Mandarin and máh in Cantonese. It means horse and is also used as a family name.

Usage in compound words

The character is used in horse-related compound words, such as:

Radicals and phonetics

About 90% of Chinese characters contain a semantic component or radical (bùshǒu), which gives you a clue to the meaning of a character, and a phonetic component, which hints at how to pronounce the character. The character for horse is used both as a phonetic compontent and as a semantic component.

The charcter for horse is used as a phonetic component in the following characters, some of which are only used in compound words, and some of which are rarely used:

The charcter for horse is used as a semantic component in the following characters:

Further information about types of Chinese characters.

Usage in the transliteration of foreign words

The character for horse is also used for its phonetic value alone when writing foreign loanwords or the names of foreign people or places.

The few foreign loanwords that exist in Chinese come mainly from English but the word mǎhū comes from the Sanskrit मोह (moha) - ignorance. The syllables of mǎhū are usually doubled to make it mǎmahūhu. This is a common way to intensify the meaning of adjectives.

中文翻譯

Further information about the Chinese script

Learn Chinese with AIChinese

Recommended books

Books about Chinese characters and calligraphy
Mandarin, Shanghainese, Hokkien, Taiwanese and Cantonese language learning materials

Links

Chinese Etymology - shows all known forms for each character (including horse): http://www.internationalscientific.org/CharacterEtymology.aspx

Chinese-Characters.org - shows modern and some ancient forms of characters: http://chinese-characters.org

Semanto-phonetic writing systems

Akkadian Cuneiform, Ancient Egyptian (Demotic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieratic), Ancient Egyptian (Hieroglyphs), Chinese, Chữ-nôm, Cuneiform, Japanese, Jurchen, Khitan, Linear B, Luwian, Mayan, Naxi, Sawndip (Old Zhuang), Sui, Sumerian Cuneiform, Tangut (Hsihsia)

Other writing systems


If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.

If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donation, or by contributing in other ways. Omniglot is how I make my living.