Chinese morphology

Written Chinese has two levels of morphological structure. One is at the component level and the other is at the word level. At the first level, within an individual character, there are semantic components,

which provide information on the meaning of the whole character. Yet semantic components may not provide reliable meaning information. Those that do provide reliable meaning information, are called transparent semantic components, while those do not are called opaque semantic components.

 The second level of morphological structure is at the word level. For words that consist of two characters, each character represents an independent meaning. For example, the two character word, 牛肉(beef) is the result of the two separate meanings contributed by the character 牛(cattle) and 肉 (meat). Words that share a character share similar meanings, as in for example, 牛奶(cattle milk), 牛油(cattle oil) and 牛肉(cattle meat).