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Chinese characters - composition
The composition of Chinese characters follows a certain system. Most of the characters consist of several components, one phonetic component and one symbolic component. That means that even though the Chinese language -unlike the Roman alphabet- is not a phonetic alphabet you can sometimes recognize how a character is pronounced. The meaning of a character can be guessed from the symbolic component.
The following character serves as an easy example:
The character consists of two components:
On the left the symbolic component, meaning "mouth"
On the right the phonetic component, pronunciation "dao"
The meaning of the character is "to babble, to chat" the pronunciation is "dao" in the first tone. It is interesting, that the above mentioned character has two different meanings and also two different pronunciations. The second meaning is "to be given preferential treatment". The same character with this meaning is also being pronounced differently: "tao" in the first tone. This is quite an easy example but there are also characters which consist of about 50 strokes.