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International Journal of Theoretical Linguistics

Ed. by Roelcke, Thorsten / Kelih, Emmerich / Köhler, Reinhard

Editorial Board: Altmann, Gabriel / Andreev, Sergey / Bär, Jochen A. / Embleton, Sheila / Gries, Stefan Th. / Grzybek, Peter / Leiss, Elisabeth / Liu, Haitao / Macutek, Ján / Bruch Nemcová, Emilia / Patrás, Vladimír / Sanada, Haruko / Wilson, Andrew

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Quantitative analysis of Chinese characters system based on a tree model

Jiajia Hu / Ning Wang
  • Research Center for Folklore, Classics and Chinese Characters, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2014-05-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glot-2014-0005


As an ideographic system, Chinese writing is not based on the irreducible elements used in speaking (e.g., syllabic or alphabetic elements) as in phonetic systems. Consequently, there is a misperception that in Chinese writing, each character is treated as a separate symbol, which makes it seem very difficult to learn Chinese writing. In the modern study of Chinese ideography, the elements of Chinese writing are called components, which can play a quadruple role in composing characters. Based on this understanding of components, this paper uses the mathematical tree model to analyse the structure of Chinese characters and create a computational description of all of the character structures explained in Shuowen Jiezi, a character dictionary of Chinese seal script. Using this methodology, this paper also performs a statistical analysis of synchronic Chinese characters and provides quantitative data to illustrate the systematic nature of Chinese writing. There is much room for further research using this methodology.

Keywords: Chinese character structure system; tree model; character component; structure mode; character layer; direct constructing ability

About the article

Published Online: 2014-05-29

Published in Print: 2014-06-01

Citation Information: Glottotheory, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 65–83, ISSN (Online) 2196-6907, ISSN (Print) 1337-7892, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glot-2014-0005.

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©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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