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Introduction of Phono-semantic compounds

By far essentially the most numerous category are the phono-semantic compounds, also named semantic-phonetic compounds or pictophonetic compounds. These characters are made of two parts: one of a limited set of pictographs, typically graphically simplified, which suggests the common meaning of the character, and an current character pronounced roughly as the new target word.
Examples are () river, () lake, (liú) stream, (chōng) riptide (or flush), (huá) slippery. All these characters have on the left a radical of three dots, which is a simplified pictograph for a water drop, showing that the character has a semantic connection with water; the right-hand side in each case is a phonetic indicator. For instance, in the case of (chōng), the phonetic indicator is (zhōng), which by itself means middle. In this case it can be seen that the pronunciation of the character has diverged from that of its phonetic indicator; this process means that the composition of such characters can sometimes seem arbitrary today. Moreover, the choice of radicals may also seem arbitrary in some cases; for example, the radical of (māo) cat is (zhì), originally a pictograph for worms, but in characters of this sort indicating an animal of any sort.
Xu Shen placed about 82% of characters into this category, while in the Kangxi Dictionary (AD 1716) the number is about 90%, due to the extremely productive use of this technique to extend the Chinese vocabulary.
This method is still sometimes used to form new characters, for example ("bu", meaning "plutonium") is the metal radical plus the phonetic component ("bu4"), described in Chinese as " gives sound, gives meaning". Many Chinese names of elements on the periodic table were formed this way.