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roddy

Oxford Chinese Dictionary - upcoming interview with Chief Editor

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realmayo
the E-C entries do not have pīnyīn. Right?

Wow, that'd be a pain (for us learning Chinese): if you look up an English word, find it's Chinese equivalent, then how are you supposed to double-check and look up the word in C-E half, assuming you don't know the pronunciation of the characters you've just been shown? They will have a look-up by radicals/stroke order I guess? Still, I guess it would have been too cluttered, and much longer, if they had included pinyin.

Another question, just out of idle curiosity, how many entries are there for Chinese words, and how many for English?

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creamyhorror

I have the very nice 时代汉英双解词典 (Times New Chinese-English Dictionary), which has example expressions and sentences for most Chinese words, with full pinyin and translations included. It's pretty great, even though I don't use it much (it being a paper dictionary). Is it common/well-known here on the forums?

I remember my school days, when we were only allowed to use Chinese-Chinese dictionaries officially, so it was useless to look up definitions for most of us. Dictionaries were just to remind yourself how to write the word if you forgot. Back then I used to think how counterproductive it was to prevent us from using Chinese-English dictionaries, and I still think so. (Schools here still only allow Chinese-Chinese dictionaries, though they've created a less-demanding Chinese syllabus for the less Chinese-inclined students.)

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Mugi

Is the pinyin in the CE part prescriptive or descriptive? And does it indicate tone sandhi or not?

eg. Is 一会儿 rendered as yī huìr, yí huìr, or yì huǐr?

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roddy

This has not been forgotten - we're just having scheduling issues. Sorry for the delay.

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Taibei

I’d like to congratulate the editors on the publication of this monumental work.

The examples in the four-page advertisement posted earlier (Thanks, Roddy!) don’t provide enough information for me to get a good idea of the dictionary’s handling of word parsing and other orthographic concerns for Pinyin. (I hope to get a much better look soon.) But they do provide enough to prompt a few questions and comments on the dictionary’s handling of Pinyin, which is my particular area of concern.

First, the thing that struck me most was the choice of font for Pinyin, specifically the childish single-story a ("ɑ"). Other Oxford bilingual dictionaries don’t use this common [in China] but nonetheless god-awful style. Even previous Oxford Mandarin dictionaries (e.g., The Starter Oxford Chinese Dictionary, The Oxford Beginner's Chinese Dictionary, and The Oxford Chinese Mini Dictionary) don’t use this. So why switch for the worse in this new work? What, if anything, did the typographers and book designers at OUP say about this?

I’m disappointed that the usage examples do not include Pinyin. I understand, though, that the decision to take that approach may have been dictated by matters of space. In the online edition, in which space will not a concern, will orthographically correct Pinyin be provided for all of the usage examples?

Elsewhere, the omission of Pinyin is more puzzling. For example, the box to explain the word gēzǎixì is labeled only “歌仔戏." There is no Pinyin for this, even though there’s plenty of space for it on the same line as the Hanzi headword. Why doesn’t this have Pinyin? And within that box there are no tone marks on what little Pinyin there is. Why not?

Also curious is that the Pinyin in the pull-box features a standard-style letter “a”. Although I’m pleased not to see single-story a’s there, I can’t help but wonder about the inconsistency, given the use of single-story a’s elsewhere in the Pinyin. This inconsistency seems especially odd since the Pinyin in the pullbox is in italic, which happens to be the one style of text in which the single-story “a” appears in many (though far from all) well-designed fonts.

Can you explain some of the thinking behind these choices.

Thanks.

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Mugi
For example, the box to explain the word gēzǎixì is labeled only “歌仔戏." There is no Pinyin for this, even though there’s plenty of space for it on the same line as the Hanzi headword. Why doesn’t this have Pinyin?

Although this probably isn't the reason for them not using pinyin, in a sense I am glad that they have chosen not to in this case. The reason is that no one ever actually says "gēzǎixì". 歌仔戏 is a Hokkien-specific word, and if it is referred to when people are speaking Mandarin, in my experience they will always use the Hokkien pronunciation. So, despite it appearing in other dictionaries with pinyin, assigning pinyin is a little disingenuous and may lead the reader to mistakenly believe that the word will be understood in Mandarin. The same is true of other "dialect" words that haven't actually entered into spoken mandarin, but which one may see in print (I'm thinking in particular of the plethora of Cantonese words that one comes across in Guangdong and HK publications, those intented for a Cantonese audience and which a Cantonese speaker would never actually transliterate into Mandarin in real life).

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roddy

Some answers for you, I think there's more to come.

to james johnston and real mayo

How can a dictionary help steer Chinese learners of English away from treating English idioms with the reverence they apply to chengyu, while also helping English-learners of Chinese to find when something might best be said in the form of a chengyu? Obviously, there are limits to what a dictionary can do and experience of the language is essential, but how can a dictionary help with these aesthetic issues?

- As you say, there are limits to what the dictionary can do, but essentially we tried to be as honest as we could with the translations by providing every time translations that were a good match in register, i.e. level of English/Chinese, so that learners of each language were never given the impression that a chengyu that was high-level in Chinese was anything other than high-level in its translation, and vice-versa. Where an English expression was rendered neatly into a chengyu in Chinese (even if it did not take idiom form in English) this we tried to make this happen, but again, the idiomatic translation had to be a good match in register. We always made it our priority to provide translations, whether for chengyu or any other type of headword, that could be used straight off the dictionary page. This means that we were never providing definitions, but rather translations that could be applied across a range of examples. Where there were exceptions, and the translation could not be used, this would be shown in examples following the main translation. Other bilingual dictionaries may provide more gloss-like information than we did. Sometimes we provided glosses containing background information to a chengyu where the literal Chinese had not been captured in the English translation because an equivalent, but contextually different idiomatic translation could be found in the English, but only if there were points of specific interest or relevance in that chengyu.

for real mayo -

Roddy, I would also like to know:

- if they indicate when the Chinese words began to be used (or at least written down). EDIT: I mean, if they show when a particular usage became current.

No, the Oxford English Dictionary is based on historical principles - presenting through definitions and citations a picture of the history of a word. The first sense in the entry is the earliest known dating, and the last the most recent. Our Chinese dictionary focused on presenting up-to-date usage and up-to-date translations (not definitions), and order senses by frequency, with the most common meanings coming first in the entry.

- if they plan to release updates in the future

Yes, the Oxford Chinese dictionary will be continually updated online and for downloadable versions. There will also likely be future print editions.

- what they mean by "Chinese". Is the dictionary based on 普通话, with occasional references to usage outside of the mainland? How about 'dialects' within the mainland: would a non-普通话 expression very commonly used in Beijing be included, but not a word commonly used in (say) Chengdu?

Yes the dictionary is based on 普通话 with occasional references to usage outside the mainland, where they can be proven to be in popular use on the mainland. The same is true for words commonly used in Chengdu - these would make it in if there was sufficient evidence for the use across all parts of China (including Beijing).

- if they felt that everyday language in the mainland has been influenced by the preferred language and syntax of Chinese government officials, via the very heavy play their speeches etc get (more so in the past) across newspapers, radio and TV.

Yes this definitely influences everyday language in the mainland, but we did try to move past that to include popular expressions as seen on the Internet and in everyday speech. Hopefully you will see a wide selection of Chinese as represented through all types of media, and not just government-sanctioned media. However, the most useful of these terms, and the most modern of them, had to be included as the evidence for them is obviously strong.

- for dictionaries like this, would you broadly have Chinese speakers doing Chinese to English, and English speakers English to Chinese (or vice versa)? Or is there no such split? And did there seem to be any clear distinction between how the two sets treated their own language (ie more flexible, more prescriptive etc)?

Each native speaker took responsibility for expert guidance relating to their native language; no translator translated into a language that was not their mother tongue; and they worked with native speakers of the other language to tease out nuance, cultural difference, and other complex language features to ensure that the translation was the most appropriate as well as the most idiomatic and natural-sounding. It is a truism that the best translation is about equivalence rather than literal translation, but the crucial role of native speakers is less well recognized. The end result is that the dictionary is a substitute for the insight of the native speaker, so that having the dictionary alongside is akin to having an informed native speaker alongside too.

Everybody was working to the same remit, so I can't remember and there shouldn't have been any difference in the way in which the two sets treated their own language.

- finally, did they find the distinction between 书面语 and 口语 holds true in the same way for English as it does for Chinese?

Yes there is the same difference, but we needed to represent both in this dictionary, and you will find that on both sides there is a healthy mixture. Where one is 书面语 it will be labelled as such; the same is true for what is essentially 口语.

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roddy

More . . .

to Xiwang -

1. What were the biggest internal debates at Oxford University Press regarding the style or methodology to be adopted for the dictionary?

There were no internal debates. The style and methodology used was based on that which has already been applied for OUP's other bilingual titles, and as such tried and tested across a range of languages.

2. What criteria do OUP use in creating example sentences?

The examples are all 'real examples' which is to say not plucked from the heads of the editors, but based on examples as retrieved from a wide range of published media, and so reflecting evidence of the living English and Chinese languages.

3. What was the role (as mentioned on the dictionary's cover) of the Foreign Language Training and Research Press in the development of the dictionary?

FLTRP were the co-publisher of this dictionary. They supplied the Chinese headword list, including new words and examples, and checked all content for accuracy of the Chinese, and how the Chinese had been rendered into English.

to Daan

Does this new dictionary contain words that have fallen out of use, but which may still be encountered by advanced students reading Lǔ​ Xùn​ or even the Analects?

The dictionary's list of head characters is comprehensive, and as such you will still be able to find words that have fallen out of popular use, but which students of classical Chinese may find useful. Under the head character, you may still be able to find relevant Chinese expressions containing the head character. Our view was that as well as coming up with as many new, modern words as we could, we should also contain some of the more outdated words or chengyu as these provide insights into the ancient culture that help the user to understand better the more modern context.

to Gato

Given that many in the target market for this new dictionary already have the ABC Dictionary, an obvious question would be what are the benefits of this new dictionary over the ABC Dictionary. The more detailed the comparison the better

Obviously there is a size and scope factor: firstly the ABC is just Chinese-English, and we have both Chinese-English and English-Chinese. The ABC contains short of 200,000 entries; OUP's Chinese dictionary contains 670,000 words, phrases and translations. One of the problems with the ABC dictionary is that you cannot search for entries by head character. That means that unless you know the pinyin for the entry you are looking for it could take you a long time to find the word that you want. In the OUP Chinese dictionary you can search for the word that you are looking for by radical and then through the stroke count. Depends on what your priority is, but I would argue that with the OUP system, searching by head character, and not pinyin, you are likely to find more derivatives of the head character, which we call headwords, and as such stumble across more than what you were originally looking for. This aids the learning process.

Further, for both sets of learners, there are indicators throughout the dictionary that show which meaning of a word is meant. Other dictionaries which may just list the different senses but without providing hints as to the context of each sense. In the OUP Chinese dictionary, indicators are synonyms for the word in that sense or provide contextual information. We also use subject and object collocates to show which subject or object is normally used with the translation provided.

Added to this, there are a whole lot more examples of usage than you will see in the ABC. These include common constructions or example sentences. Then there are also special boxed features for grammar and other aspects of language, for example, dealing with comparatives, or talking about seasons and the weather. Additional cultural information is also included either within the entry or in a separate cultural note. In the centre matter, supplementary material contains example CVs and cover letters in each language, and the most common text message (SMS) abbreviations in both English and Chinese. Again, this is going a lot further than ABC does, so we're often going back to the question of size and scope.

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realmayo

Nice, thanks for putting those up Roddy and if you're still in touch with Julie Kleeman please thank her too. :)

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roddy

Certainly shall. I also have a couple more replies to put up later.

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roddy

Wow, she even answered mine. That's dedication for you!

to roddy

What happens to the team who worked on this now? Do you disband and go find other jobs, or does work on the next edition start immediately?

There will be spin-offs of this dictionary - possibly a Pocket that replaces the old red one we've all used, and which was produced out of OUP Hong Kong. There will also be various different electronic products. That should keep some of the editors busy for a while. But there will never be as much to go around again, and many of the editors will need to look for new jobs. The Chinese team did this as part-time work, in between teaching English at universities around China, so they will likely be less affected.

Electronic versions - what are we going to have in terms of desktop, mobile and web versions, will these be Oxford's in-house products or in partnership with the likes of Pleco Software? And if you happen to have any timetables . . .

There will be various different platforms - a web version, a downloadable version for iphone/other handheld devices etc. The product is actually ready, but we are waiting on confirmation of the relevant licensing agreement with the company handling the data. Once this can be agreed then we are ready to launch.

With electronic versions - we now see with Google and Sougou Pinyin IMEs regular updates of new vocabulary being delivered to our computers automatically. How long until our electronic dictionaries automatically download the latest dictionary entries for us?

How long indeed! Let me get to work on that!

Which words do you regret having to leave out?

There are a few terms that appear on the Internet that we couldn't put in because they couldn't be proved across a fuller range of media. 顶 is often used in BBS forums to express support, and to help push a topic/post to the top of the BBS forum so that more people will see it. I'm not sure if we managed to get that sense in (I do not currently have the dictionary to hand!). Likewise the variant form of 粉 - used instead of 很 when referring to something a bit sickeningly cute...

We didn't include 草泥马 or 河蟹, nor 粪青 which is a pun on 愤青... I am quite fond of 很黄,很暴力, but that didn't make it in either. I would have loved to see some of this popular Internet slang go in, but because it's not yet established enough, not proved across different forms of media, nor certain to stay for long, we couldn't include it on various grounds.

Slightly disappointing lack of info on electronic products there, but if they can't say anything they can't say anything. An update to the Little Red Dictionary would be fun - but only if it stays little and red.

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roddy

Some more for you . . . I think this is all. Hope it was interesting.

to mugi

I would be interested in knowing what OUP's criteria were for selecting the EC checkers/editors (& translators), and for that matter, what the criteria were for the CE translators, checkers and editors.

Each editor, translator and reviser was required to test for the position by first translating/editing/checking a batch of entries containing somewhere between 100-150 words. Many candidates, despite excellent skills in Chinese/English, were rejected at this stage if they did not display the ability to understand what was required of them. Translators/editors who were accepted were then 'mentored' for their first few batches of formal work. Feedback was given to them throughout the course of the work, in order to ensure consistency between contributors as well as quality.

to gato

From the sample pages, I notice that the E-C entries all have English definitions followed by Chinese translation, and then example sentences/phrases using the English words, followed by Chinese translations. However, the C-E entries have only Chinese definitions, with much more sparse usage examples. The C-E examples are only very short Chinese phrases and no full sentences. These differences between the E-C and C-E entries makes me think that the dictionary might be better for Chinese learners of English than foreign learners of Chinese. A learners of Chinese, I think, would need a lot more examples of how the Chinese words are used, particularly the chengyus. Perhaps Roddy can ask about how the design choice was made.

The simple answer is that there is a lot more need on the EC side for examples. This is because English has a lot of set constructions - these are rules that must be followed, often without variation. The same is not so true for CE. As such, it was not a conscious design choice: it was based on the realities of the two languages, rather than the needs of the users. If you look closer on the CE side you will see that there are indeed some full sentences. This depends on the entry and the complexity of the word. Note that language usage boxes add a lot of information that entries themselves often do not supply. These are particularly helpful for learners of Chinese on the CE side. I do agree, however, that more work could have gone into the more widely-used chengyus. More examples would be useful here. This is something to think about for updates and future editions.

to Daan

The E-C entries do not have pīnyīn. Right? And the cultural notes do not have tone marks on the pīnyīn either. How are they supposed to be useful to Chinese learners? Why did they not include pīnyīn? The Oxford Starter Chinese Dictionary has pīnyīn everywhere, both in its C-E entries and in its E-C entries. It's also sorted alphabetically, like the ABC dictionary, and unlike this new dictionary which uses the Chinese system. Why's that? I assume it's because they've intended this mainly as a dictionary for Chinese learners of English, but I'd like to know what benefits they think the Chinese system has.

The simple answer is space - it was an early, and regrettable decision not to include pinyin marks for translations in the printed book. However, pinyin will certainly be provided in any electronic forms of the dictionary. The Oxford Starter Dictionary and the Oxford Advanced Learner's are smaller dictionaries and they are aimed predominantly at learners of Chinese. This new dictionary is targeted at more advanced students, and for both English-speaking learners of Chinese-speaking and Chinese learners of English. At no stage was there a decision to prioritize one market over the other.

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Daan

Thanks, Roddy and Julie, for giving us a quite unique insight into how this dictionary was produced. I'm looking forward to seeing it appear on the shelves of our library's reading room, and I hope the electronic versions will appear shortly :)

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skylee

I've just seen it in a local 三聯. IIRC it costs HKD440+ but there is a 15% discount. It's big, but not very big. As every copy is wrapped in plastic I could not browse thru it. Too bad that it is in simplified Chinese.

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SiMaKe

I echo Daan's comments. To be able to glimpse what is involved in producing such a work adds a substantial element of "human-ness" to what is often just an inanimate "tool" that many of us use regularly. Having just "de-thatched" my study, I await the electronic version as well.

Thank you roddy and Julie for sharing this.

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jbradfor
Hope it was interesting.

Very much so. When you first started this thread I was a bit "yeah, whatever", but reading the questions and answers has been very interesting!

||Too bad that it is in simplified Chinese.||

why?

Because Skylee is from Hong Kong and learned traditional, and so simplified is less useful to her.

I too would prefer a traditional version. [Not as if I would probably buy it either way....] Is it really coming out only in simplified? That seems strange.

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skylee

I just don't like simplified Chinese, that's all. It will be just as useful, but I will not like to use it.

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889

In two volumes and with some 3500 pages, my largest Chinese-English dictionary is the Han Ying Da Cidian 汉英大辞典, published by Shanghai Jiaotong Daxue Chuban She 上海交通大学出版社 (1993). Let's see how the new Oxford compares with it side-by-side, based on the snippets in the Oxford brochure. Oxford's on the left. See the attachments.

Based on this comparison, I don't see the new Oxford offering any significant advantage over the 汉英大辞典, though no doubt it includes some new terms and excludes some dated ones, since the 汉英大辞典 was published over 15 years ago.

Like others, I'd prefer Hanyu Pinyin in my large English-Chinese dictionary. To think this is useful primarily to beginning students misappreciates the nature of studying Chinese.

post-41-042047300 1284514321_thumb.jpg

post-41-057828000 1284514336_thumb.jpg

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creamyhorror

Just for comparison's sake, here's a comparison against the 时代汉英双解词典 (Times New Chinese-English Dictionary) (1st ed, 1997):

(Oxford on the left, Times on the right)

BBHjB.jpg

yONRY.jpg

It's definitely not as comprehensive as the Oxford or 889's Shanghai Jiaotong (and doesn't aim to be, no doubt), but it has the key advantages of 1) example sentences + translations and 2) hanyu pinyin for both example sentences and example phrases.

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