Section Headers of A Chinese Dictionary

Section Headers Of A Chinese Dictionary

Section headers (in Chinese, 部首 bùshǒu), also known as index keys or classifiers, are graphic portions of Chinese characters which are used for organizing entries in Chinese dictionaries into sections which all share the same graphic part. In practice the most common term for these is radical; however, this term has been used in many different ways, leading to great confusion, as explained at Radical (Chinese character). For disambiguation purposes, the term radical is thus avoided here.

Since Chinese is not alphabetical, another means of organizing the characters for dictionary purposes is needed. In organizing his Hàn dynasty etymological dictionary Shuōwén Jiézì, the scholar Xǔ Shèn categorized all the characters using a system of 540 graphic elements that he called bùshǒu (部首), the literal translation of which is section header. These were component parts found in different characters and often reflecting some common semantic or phonetic characteristic, but also often just a shared graphic element such as a horizontal stroke. Some were even artificially extracted groups of strokes, termed glyphs by Serruys (1984, p. 657), which never had an independent existence other than being listed in Shuōwén. Each character was listed under only one element, which is then referred to as "the" section header for that character. For example, characters containing 女 "female" or 木 "tree, wood" are often grouped in that section.

Over time, Chinese lexicographers continued to refine this system for indexing Chinese characters, in order to collect and document them. For convenience, the list of section headers was later trimmed to 214 in the 1615 dictionary Zìhuì. The Kāngxī dictionary of 1716 was indexed using the Zìhuì section headers, and they form the standard list of 214 section headers still used by many dictionaries today. Although there is some variation in such lists – depending primarily on what secondary section headers are also indexed – the canonical 214 headers of the Kāngxī dictionary still serve as the basis for most modern Chinese dictionaries. Some of the graphically similar section headers are combined in many dictionaries, such as 月 yuè "moon" and the 月 form (⺼) of 肉 ròu, "meat, flesh". Mei Yingzuo's Zìhuì was also the first dictionary to order the characters under each section header using stroke count – the "section-header-and-stroke-count" method still used in the vast majority of present-day Chinese dictionaries.

Read more about Section Headers Of A Chinese Dictionary:  Shape and Position of Section Headers in Characters, Limitations of The Section Header System

Other articles related to "section headers of a chinese dictionary, dictionary, chinese, section headers, chinese dictionary":

Radical (Chinese Character) - Meaning - Section Headers of A Chinese Dictionary
... none—in that character) under which it is listed in the dictionary, known in Chinese as 部首 bùshǒu (Japanese bushu, Korean busu) ... Section headers is the literal translation, but these are also known as dictionary classifiers or index keys ... meaning root and semantic component, as well as because most (but not all) section headers do happen to play a semantic role in the characters listed under them ...
Section Headers Of A Chinese Dictionary - Limitations of The Section Header System - Variations in The Number of Section Headers
... Though section headers are widely accepted as a method to categorize Chinese characters and to locate a certain character in a dictionary, there is no ... This is because section headers are merely arbitrarily chosen categories for lexicographical purposes ... may not be duplicated exactly in every Chinese dictionary, but which few dictionary compilers can afford to completely ignore ...

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