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Number of Characters
(2,844 words)

The question of how many sinographs (Hànzì 漢字 'Chinese characters') there are is fundamentally unanswerable, as different approaches result in wildly different estimates. One of the largest dictionaries of single characters, the Zhōnghuá zìhǎi 中華字海, or Ocean of Chinese Characters, contains 85,568 graphs (Lěng and Wéi 1994:4), but the great majority of these graphs are alternate forms, erroneous forms known to have been used in texts, or characters which have almost never been used, many of which are of unknown meaning or pronunciatio…

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Matthew M. ANDERSON, “Number of Characters”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 04 March 2024 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2210-7363_ecll_COM_00000301>
First published online: 2015

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