The three kanji 恵, 専, and 敷 share the same first 6 strokes. Using the traditional radicals I could describe them as being composed "一, 日, 丨" at the start and then finishing "...心", "...寸", "...⼂, 方, 攵" respectively. However, are these 6 strokes derived from some older kanji? If so, does this kanji have a meaning and what would it be in Japanese? For example, many kanji use 冫 on the left side and this is derived from 水 which means water or みず in Japanese. The trouble I have is the three kanji (恵, 専, and 敷) don't seem to share any meaning in common that I can use to give meaning to strokes they share.

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    Welcome to languagelearning.SE. Unfortunately your question is off-topic, as this is a website on how one learns languages, not how specific languages work. You might check out japanese.stackexchange.com ; please first see if your question has been answered and whether it is on-topic. – Tommi Brander Sep 16 at 19:11
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    I like this question, nevertheless. Nice one. – AML Sep 16 at 22:46
  • I will just share very basic knowledge that I know about Chinese characters. I am currently trying to learn Japanese with its grammar and Kanji. 冫 is kinda like a radical. I know that氵is used with sheep ("半") to make ocean 洋. 🌊 Sorry if this is perceived as rude but perhaps maybe a quick search might reveal some information? – Steve Woods Sep 17 at 21:34
  • Oh how embarrassing. I thought I was posting on the correct site but I see now it's not quite on-topic for languagelearning.stackexchange. I've edited the question so hopefully it's a bit better if not on-topic at least less embarrassing :). – Brett Pontarelli Sep 19 at 15:43

Historically, Japanese kanji are copied from or derived from Chinese hanzi. The stroke order of the kanji , and is identical to the stroke order I would expect if they had all been Chinese hanzi, even though only has exactly the same form in Chinese. MDBG lists and as Japanese variants of 惠 and 專|专, respectively. Note, however, that Japanese stroke order is not always identical to Chinese stroke order.

Since kanji typically derive from hanzi (there is also a small set of kanji that were invented in Japan), it is somewhat relevant to know that there are various categories of hanzi based on formation. The largest category are so-called pictophonetic compounds, which have a semantic and a phonetic compound. However, the phonetic compound is based on the pronunciation of 200 BC, which has changed considerably since then. The phonetic components of these characters are only a somewhat reliable guide in Chinese. Since Japanese is an unrelated language with a different set of phonemes, and since the Japanese reformed their writing system both before and after World War II, resulting in a reduction in the number of Kanji and hence an increase in the number of readings per kanji, the original semantic and phonetic components have become much less reliable guides to meaning and pronunciation than they currently are in Standard Chinese.

Of course, the radicals haven't disappeared, but since there are only 214 radicals (based on the Kangxi-era list) for thousands of meanings, they can only tell you that character X has something to do with the concept denoted by the radical (氵: something to do with water; 冫: something to do with ice; 刂: something to do with a sword or a knife; 土: something to do with earth; 木: something to do with trees or other plants; etc.). They can't do much more than help you disambiguate between meanings that you already have in mind, rather than suggesting meaning when you have no clue.

Conclusion:

  1. With regard to stroke order: some people learn general rules about character components etc., while I learnt stroke order by copying characters from sheets that showed the stroke order, so that after a few hundred characters, I had unconsciously derived the rules for stroke order without ever going through that boring kind of theory.
  2. With regard to meaning: some university students are expected to learn the radicals, including their stroke order and meaning. I learnt characters in a more natural way but radicals were sometimes discussed in class, and we had one or two reading exercises where we were asked to infer the meanings of certain words within a specific context (e.g. prices of railway tickets: hard seats versus soft seats in Chinese trains) based on radicals. Knowing radicals can be useful in Chinese; I'm less sure about Japanese.

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