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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kanji Mastery—Radical 137 (舟 Boat)

[a] Passing RF
Like boats passing in the darkness, the more obscure "radicals" in the Sino-Japanese lexicon often get forgotten amidst the frothy waves and tempestuous waters of the fifty or so most common ones (人, 口, 水, 木, 金,). Each of the core radicals has hundreds—and sometimes several hundreds—of characters in the biggest dictionaries. Those in the less-commonly invoked category carry only little boatloads of compounds. Indeed, the standard-use Nelson's Japanese-English dictionary—which is by no means "large" in terms of the language used by Japanese writers in the last millennium and a half—has twenty-four. About half of those are rather obscure. So, while we are not yet to the point where we are analyzing rarely used radicals (龜), we are definitely in the "high intermediate" end of things with "boat."

[b] Treasured junk RF
And, according to many everyday use dictionaries (such as Nelson's), it is the "ship radical." Bunk. Cabin. Berth. Nonsense. Radicals are "character parts" of ancient origin, and I use the word ancient in a strict sense (not to mean "a few centuries old," as people insist on doing when speaking of Chinese and Japanese history, for some reason). There were no ships in ancient China (let's say c. 500 BCE, just to give a "round" number). There were a whole passel of boats—even big ones. Sorry, maritime anthropologists, you won't convince me that we should use the word "ship" to refer to this character and its origins. 
[c] Modest RF
It has grown (with the language and shipbuilding technology) to incorporate everything from a little outboard and row operation all of the way to the QE2. Still, I insist on calling it the "boat radical," and I won't change. What I will do, however, is quote the dictionaries the way their authors and editors wrote them. Let's take a look at jibs, spankers, bowsprits, gaffs, bilges, and orlops. We might even confront a scupper or two before we slide down to the poop.
Radical 137
Chinese (Mandarin): zhou1
Chinese (Cantonese): zau1
Japanese (On reading): シュウ SHUU
Japanese (Kun readings): ふね fune
Korean: 배 주
Selections from The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary.
Radical 137
Fune hen left-side "ship." Variant . Nickname: Ship.

SHUU boat; fune boat, ship, vessel, steamer, liner, barge; shipping; tank, trough, cistern, vat.

Let's look at some of the most obvious connections between "boat" and a second character. These, as usual are obvious well beyond any East Asian cultural knowledge.

舟人 ふなびと       funebito        seaman; ship passenger    (boat+person)
舟子 しゅうし    shuushi         seaman; ship passenger    (boat+person/specialist)
舟行 しゅうこう   shuukou        naviagation; go by ship       (boat+go/proceed)
舟車 しゅうしゃ     shuusha        boats and vehicles               (boat+car/vehicle)
舟橋 しゅうきょう  shuukyou      pontoon bridge                    (boat+bridge)

Pretty straightforward. Now let's just make things a little more complicated (but not much). The following combinations range from obvious to a little bit of a stretch.

舟軍 しゅうぐん     shuugun               (ancient) navy                  (boat+military)
舟運 しゅううん     shuuun                 freight; shipping               (boat+transport)
舟歌 ふなうた        funauta                  sailor's song, boat song   (boat+song)
舟路 しゅうろ          shuuro (funaji)         ship's course                    (boat+road) 

O.k. Let's just take it a small step forward with combinations that are not obvious. This particular radical does not have very many of those, so these will not seem as "out there" as we have seen with some of the other characters featured in Kanji Mastery thus far. Please notice, though, that the second and third combinations "mean the same" thing but are not the same thing. They are pronounced exactly the same way, and the second characters are synonyms. Language works like that. A foot by any other name is still à pied.

船端 ふなばた        funabata               gunwale                      (boat+extremity/end)
船足 ふなあし        funaashi                draft; speed of ship    (boat+foot)
船脚 ふなあし        funaashi                draft; speed of ship    (boat+foot)

And let's wrap up the ol' cruise with a few characters in which "boat" is radical. Remember that phrase. Every character has a radical. Some have two or three elements which are radicals in them (什, 仜, 仁, 位, 依—you get the idea). Only one element is radical in each character. In the case of the sentence above, it is the left-hand element ("person"). Learn to notice this. With "boat," it is easy. It is always on the boat traffic. 

舵 ダ、かじ                            DA; kaji                            rudder
  カン                                   KEN                                warship
  ショウ、シュウ、ソウ      SHOU, SHUU, SOU        counter word for boats
[e] USS Wisconsin RF

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