East Asian Writing Systems

Chinese Writing: Home >

Exceptions to the generalisation that Chinese characters represent monosyllables

(This is a side note to the page The Chinese Writing System)

Although Chinese characters almost invariably represent monosyllabic forms (each character represents a single syllable), there are a few rare exceptions.

1. At one stage polysyllabic characters were created to represent foreign weights and measures.

For example, li2-mi3 'centimetre', hao2-ke4, 'milligram', qian1-ke4, 'kilogram', qian1-wa3 'kilowatt', etc.

These characters are no longer used, at least in Mainland China.

2. A reverse example is the character er *er, which adds an 'r' colouring and is smaller than a syllable.

Back to Top