Koreanclass101.com

Learn Hebrew online

Talk In Arabic

Types of Chinese characters

Traditionally Chinese characters are divided into six categories (六書 liùshū "Six Writings"). This classification is often attributed to Xu Shen's second century dictionary Shuowen Jiezi, but it has been dated earlier. This page shows four of those categories.

Chinese characters - Pictographs

Thought to be the oldest types of characters, pictographs were originally pictures of things. During the past 5,000 years or so they have become simplified and stylised.

Ideographs
Ideographs are graphical representations of abstract ideas.

 Phonographs

Compound pictographs and ideographs combine one or more pictographs or ideographs to form new characters. Both component parts contribute to the meaning of the compound character.

Note

The character for thought was originally a combination of the characters for brain + heart. In the modern character the brain component has been replaced by the character for field, which is very similar to the one for brain.

Semantic-phonetic compounds

Semantic-phonetic compounds represent around 90% of all existing characters and consist of two parts: a semantic component or radical which hints at the meaning of the character, and a phonetic component which gives a clue to the pronunciation of the character.

Characters containing the same phonetic component may have the same sound and the same tone, the same sound but a different tone, the same initial or final sound, or a different sound and a different tone.

Phonetic components are generally a more reliable indication of pronunciation than semantic components are of meaning.

中文翻譯

Further information about the Chinese script

Recommended books

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

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.