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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton January 14, 2021

A diachronic analysis of the FIRE character

Danqing Huang, Dirk Geeraerts and Weiwei Zhang
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


Chinese radicals are the semantic components of Chinese characters that generally indicate major concepts and categories. Characters that share the same radical may be semantically linked in various ways to the broad semantic category that the radical represents, and radicals may thus be considered a categorization mechanism to distinguish lexical meanings. Given the fact that FIRE is an independent character that can also be used as a radical in composite characters, the question arises as to what extent the semantic developments of the FIRE character and the FIRE radical are similar, i.e. does the FIRE radical develop independently of the FIRE character? Against the background of this question, this paper studies the diachronic semantic structure of the FIRE character, which will be compared to the FIRE radical in composite characters in follow-up studies. The analysis shows that the overall diachronic development of the FIRE character exhibits prototypical characteristics and a radial network structure.

Corresponding author: Danqing Huang, Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, e-mail:

  1. Funding: This research was supported with a grant from the China Scholarship Council–CSC (File No. 201708330249).


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Published Online: 2021-01-14
Published in Print: 2021-02-23

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