Most Chinese characters quickly evolved towards abstraction, as different elements or pieces of characters were combined or fused together to form new characters that no longer provided a literal picture of something. As a result, only about 4-5% of the Chinese characters currently in use are actually pictographs or ideographs. Most of the characters are more abstract in nature, although certain elementsofthecharactersmayretainacorepictographicmeaning. For example, the character shù 树, meaning “tree,” has the pictographiccharactermù⽊(representingatree)ontheleftsideof it.Infact,manycharactershavingtodowithwoodorthingsmadeof wood contain the mù⽊ element (this is commonly referred to as a “radical”or“root”).Herearesomeexamples:lín林(forest),lán栏 (railing),yǐ椅(chair),andbǎn板(plank,board).Sometimesinthe modernmeaning,thelinkto“wood”canbehardtosee,however.For example,duǒ朵hasthe⽊radical,butmeans“earlobe”.Itisusedin combination with the character ěr ⽿ to mean “ear” (ěrduō ⽿朵). Theoldmeaningofduǒ朵,however,is“flower”or“blossom,”like one you would see on a tree or bush. An earlobe might thus be thoughtofas“thefloweroftheear.” One reason Chinese characters became more abstract has to do with pronunciation. The Chinese language long ago developed differentregionaldialectswhichovertimebecameseparatelanguages —asdifferentfromoneanotherasthelanguagesofEurope.Asthese languageschangedandnewwordsdeveloped,peopleneededtoknow how to pronounce the characters used for those words. Thus, for example, an existing character which had the sound shù 尌 was addedtomù⽊torepresentanewwordmeaning“tree”whichwas pronouncedasshù樹.Here,theelement⽊indicatesthat樹means “tree,”whiletheelement尌showshowitispronounced—asshù.In morerecenttimes,thecomplicatedtraditionalform樹wassimplified to树.Today,about80%ofallChinesecharacterscombineasemantic element (something which gives meaning) and a phonetic element
(something which gives a clue to pronunciation). Here are some examples: waterradical⺡(avariationof⽔)＋phoneticyáng⽺ (sheep)＝yáng洋(ocean) womanradical⼥+phoneticmǎ⻢(horse)=mā妈(mother) rainradical⾬+phoneticlìng令(toorder)=líng零(falling [rain];zero) grassradical⻀(fromtheoldcharacter )+phonetichuà化 (tochange)=huā花(flower) Inthecharactersabove,thephoneticelementaddsnothingtothe meaning:itjustprovidesthesound. As they became more complicated, Chinese characters also becamemoredifficulttolearnandremember,aswellasmoredifficult and time-consuming to write. The process of using simplified or shorthandformsforthecharactershadbeengoingonforalongtime, andwasaccelerateddramaticallyinthe1950sand’60sbytheChinese government,whichcreatedsimplerversionsofmanycharacters—now called“SimplifiedChineseCharacters”—topromoteliteracyinChina. Under this new system, many common Hanzi elements were simplified. Forexample,whenyán⾔(tospeak)isusedasapartofanother character,itisrenderedas⻈andnot .Thus,thetraditionalcharacter qǐng (“please”)whichhasyán⾔ontheleftsideisnowwrittenas 请.Inothercases,wholecharactersweresimplified.Forinstance,the commonlyusedcountingwordgè hasbeenchangedto个,andjǐ (many) has been changed to ⼏ (this character can also mean “table”). Here are some other examples of traditional and simplified formsofcharacters: → 么me(what?); → 兴xìng(mood); → 问wèn(toask;question);and → ⼉ér(child).
Note that the second stroke begins at the left, and then hooks straightdown.Itshouldbewritteninonecontinuousmotion,without thepenorpencilleavingthepaper. If a character has multiple components, the general rule is to go from left to right, and from top to bottom. For example, this is the strokeorderforthecharacterqǐng请(please):
(please).LearningChinesecharactersisabitlikeapuzzleorgame anditcanbequitefun!Therearemanybooksandflashcardsonthe marketthatusemnemonicdevicessuchasthesetohelpyoulearnthe Hànzì. TheHanyuPinyinalphabet ThesystemusedinthisbookforromanizingtheChineselanguageis thestandardHanyuPinyinalphabet.Inthissystem,Latinlettersare used.Mostthemhavepronunciationsquiteclosetothesoundsthey haveinEnglishwords: Pinyin a b ch d f g j k l m n p s sh t w y
WhiletoanativeEnglishspeaker,thePinyinletterschandq,sh andx,andzhandjmaysoundidentical,nativeChinesespeakerscan heardistinctdifferencesinpronunciation.Youshouldcloselylistento theaudiotomasterthedifferencesinthesesounds. Finally,innorthernChina,itiscommontoaddaguttural/r/atthe end of nouns (to pronounce this sound, imagine a pirate saying “Argh!”). To show this in Pinyin, an “r” is added to the end of a syllable;inHànzì the character ⼉ is used. In most cases, the “r” is merely added to the pronunciation of a syllable. However, when the “r”isusedafterani,n,orng,thesesoundsaredroppedaltogether,so yī diǎn ⼀点 (a little) becomes yī diǎnr ⼀点⼉ (pronounced “ee dee-ar”), and xiǎohái ⼩孩 (child) becomes xiǎoháir ⼩孩⼉ (pronounced“shee-ow-har”).Theretroflex/r/isgenerallynotusedin PinyinorHanziinthisbook.However,sinceitissocommonlyused innorthernChina,Mandarinlearnersshouldbeawareofit. Awordofwarning:PinyinisusedforromanizingChinesewords, forteachingChinesetoforeigners,andforsomesignsandrestaurant menus,butitisnot generallyusedforcommunicationwithinChina. SincemanypeopleonthestreetmaynotbeabletoreadPinyin that well,donotimaginethatitcanbeusedasasubstituteforHànzìora substitutefororalcommunication. Tones
Thefourthtonebeginshighanddropsquickly. In addition, there is a fifth, or neutral, tone, which is used for syllablesthatarenotimportantorcompletelyunstressed. Please note that in certain syllable combinations the tones can change,butthischangeisnotreflectedinthewrittenPinyinforms. It may be easier for some students to learn the proper pronunciationofthetonesbypracticingwholephrasesandsentences inChinese,ratherthanbyjustpracticingwordsinisolation.Listento the online audio carefully, and practice repeating the phrases and sentencesexactlyasyouhearthem,overandoveragainuntilyoustart gettingitright. Chinesegrammar ThegoalofthisbookistoteachvocabularyandphrasesinMandarin Chinese,allowingstudentstolearnChinesegrammarthrough induction.Thatis,studentsseehowthegrammarisusedincontextfor communication,anddrawconclusionsastogrammarrulesfromthese observations.Havingsaidthat,hereareafewquicknotesonChinese grammartogetyouoriented. Generally,Chinesesentencesfollowthesamesubject-verb-object word order as in English. However, unlike English, Chinese lacks articles (a, an, the), verbs never change form (no tenses, etc.), and pluralsarenotgenerallyused(thoughthereareexceptions). TwofactorsthatmightbepuzzlingtoEnglishspeakersaretheuse of counting words, and the use of particles. The most common countingwordisgè个.Itisusedtolinknumberswiththenounsthat follow.Forexample,inChinese,ifyouwanttosay“oneperson,”you havetosayyígèrén⼀个⼈(notyìrén⼀⼈).Aparticleisasmall word, like gè 个, which has no meaning in itself, but which is grammatically necessary. The most common particles include de 的 (showing possessive), ma 吗 (a verbal question mark), and le 了 (oftenusedtosignifythepasttense).
TherearesurelymanyotheraspectsofChinesegrammarthatyou willnoticeandlearnasyouusethisbook. Howtousethispicturedictionary First,whenlearningChinese,itisbesttoplaytoyourstrengths.Focus onwhatyoudobest(forexample,speakingorreading),andcome backandlearntherestlater. Second,asthevocabularyinthisbookisarrangedbytheme,itis best to approach this dictionary topically, rather than systematically. Find the topics that are useful or of interest to you, and learn those words first. Third, practice and use the words in context with the conversationsandphrasesprovided. Fourth,listentotheaudiorecordingsseveraltimesandreadorsay theChinesewordsaloudasyoulookatthepictures.Youcanalsouse yourfingertotraceout thecorrespondingChinesecharactersasyou doso.Ifyouhavetime,practicewritingthecharactersinanotebook oronblanksheetsofpaper.Thiswillhelpreinforceyourmemoryof thevocabularyandphrases. Finally,thispicturedictionaryshouldbejustabeginning,andnot anend.Ifyoufindatopicthatinterestsyou,usetheinformationinthe picturedictionaryasajumpingoffpointtolearnmoreaboutthattopic inChinese. Theindexattheendofthebookwillhelpyoufindthemeanings of words you have learned, but which you may have forgotten. The following information is included for each entry—the English word, the Chinese word in simplified Chinese and spelled in Pinyin, the lesson number and the order in which the word appeared in that lesson, followed by the page number where the word appears. For example: English word abrief
Chinese word ⼀段时间
Lessonand order [15-30]
Pagein book 39
The free online audio contains recordings by native Mandarin speakers reading all the vocabulary and sentences, so students can quickly acquire the correct pronunciation. A link to download the recordingscanbefoundonpage96.