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Disambiguating different senses of a Chinese word

Chinese is a rich language with a long history and this leads to words that have many different meanings. That is, the same character or combination of characters has different meanings in different contexts. There are two different cases of this: (a) a homonym, where the words are truly different, and (b) polysemy, where there a multiple related senses of the word.

Let's look at the example of the character (pinyin: shì), which is one of the most common words in Chinese that most often means 'is.' There are eight different meanings found for this character, as shown in the screenshot below.

Word-sense disambiguation for <a title="shì | 1. is; are; am; to be, 2. is exactly, 3. is suitable; is in contrast; used for emphasis, 4. this; that; those, 5. really; certainly, 6. correct; affirmative, 7. to exist, 8. used between repetitions of a word" class="vocabulary" href="/words/277.html">是</a>
Word-sense disambiguation for

To help decide on the meaning that applies to the Chinese sentence that you are trying to understand, there are notes to help explain and differentiate the different meanings and senses. Below the list of word senses are examples that the word is contained in.