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roddy

Oxford Chinese Dictionary - upcoming interview with Chief Editor

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Kobo-Daishi

Dear all,

889 wrote:

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.

I don't think the new Oxford should be compared to the multi-volume, two in this case, 汉英大辞典.

Here is a snippet from an August 25, 2010 article titled "Oxford Readies Giant Chinese-English Dictionary" from the Wall Street Journal web site's China Realtime Report blog found at the thread titled "Giant Oxford Chinese-English Dictionary Slated For Sept. Release":

Five years, 60 editors and translators, 300,000 words, 370,000 translations: It all adds up to the largest single volume English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary ever put together, due to be published Sept. 9 by Oxford University Press.

They tout the Oxford as the largest single volume English-Chinese, Chinese-English dictionary.

I have a copy of the 汉英大辞典 but don't use it much. I find that it has too many technical jargon terms. So much so that I wonder if most native speakers would even know half of those terms.

The new Oxford stresses the spoken language. Besides the Oxford is also an English-Chinese dictionary which I think would beneficial to beginning, intermediate and even advanced learners.

When I first started learning Chinese back in the 70s, you first started with about a semester of just speaking then later the characters. The first character text in the Yale series "Read Chinese" only featured 300 characters and only a few compounds featuring each character.

The second text another 300 characters.

After the third and final text an undergraduate in Chinese would have a knowledge of only about 1,000 characters.

I don't know how it is today. Maybe kids start earlier and learn more now. I read news stories every day where they've set up teaching Chinese to pre-schoolers or elementary school kids one place or another.

But 1,000 characters and a few compounds, usually 3 or 4, to each character is not going to leave one with a lot of words.

The English-Chinese dictionary part would help the student acquire a lot more vocabulary a lot faster.

For instance, ditu or map isn't covered until book two. Ditto with tushuguan (library).

With an English-Chinese dictionary the student would be able to look up these words him or herself. I don't even know if they covered dongwu animal or dongwuyuan zoo. Too difficult to look through the Yale because they index the characters by stroke count and then by how the first stroke is written. :rolleyes:

But I guess most kids today would use their computers or their mobile phones to look up characters.

I guess I'm a dinosaur. :)

Kobo-Daishi, lumbering back to the tar pits. :P

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889

"I don't think the new Oxford should be compared to the multi-volume, two in this case, 汉英大辞典."

The comparison is very fair because Oxford is selling the dictionary's comprehensiveness. The advertising brochure screams, "A World First: The largest, most up-to-date, most accurate, and most authoritative English-Chinese/Chinese-English dictionary ever published" and claims the dictionary has "Unrivalled coverage."

Yes, the 汉英大辞典 is not very convenient for frequent use, but when Wenlin fails it's there.

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Gharial
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.

It's true that ordering entries exclusively by alphabetical order (Pinyin ~ ) results in compounds with the same head character becoming somewhat scattered among compounds with differing head characters (and the solid block of those headed with syllables with -n and then -ng as a final really does break up the flow of the "-n and -ng-less"!), and this problem can only increase with a dictionary's size; and I guess that anyone knowing or having established the Pinyin of only the head character of any given compound (perhaps Julie meant to say 'unless you know the pinyin for the complete entry you are looking for') would find it relatively easier to locate that compound in an Oxford-style than ABC-style dictionary (but it wouldn't be impossible in the ABC dictionary).

But what Julie's said in her third sentence there almost makes it sound like the ABC dictionary doesn't have a radical index; then, the whole point and general attraction of completely alphabetical ordering is surely that it makes the dictionary more "aurally-orally friendly", in that it can help disambiguate similar-sounding compounds, which is something that really would be difficult if not impossible to do with Oxford-style-ordered entries (especially when you consider that the ABC indicates the relative frequency of pretty much everything, whereas the Oxford doesn't).

So the overall "Oxford argument" would seem to be something like 'Our dictionary will help you plod more steadily and surely through the process of looking up compounds that you meet in reading, whose full pronunciation you may not know', even though that is pretty much what C-E dictionaries did prior to the advent of the ABC range; that is, there is ultimately no real way that Oxford can downplay or diminish the ground-breaking achievements of the ABCs.

All that being said, I just might buy this new OCD, and there can be little doubt that their other Chinese dictionaries, especially the Oxford beginner-level one by Yuan & Church (which comes in various titles/editions), are pretty good printed dictionaries!

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889

The ABC Dictionary has another, related problem. Without head characters to break up the page, it consists of nothing but column after column, page after page, of unbroken lines of type, making it hard on the eyes and difficult to quickly zoom in your search. Ultimately, the proof of a good dictionary is how often it gets used, and today was the first time in a couple of years I pulled my ABC out of its pretty box (to confirm that yes, there is a radical index hidden away at the very back).

Content-wise, it's a great dictionary, especially when it comes to set phrases and such, and I use the Wenlin version constantly. But the print edition is just not user-friendly.

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Gharial

Hi 889. I agree that head characters/HC sections can help break up the page, and it may be the format that the majority of learners (at least at the lower levels) prefer to use - "character-driven" learning, one might say. And the ABC font, whilst crisp for its size, is a bit small in comparison to certainly the head characters in the likes of the Oxford dictionaries. But I have to again say that I really do like the ABC format for the way it allows one to zoom in on items with similar or identical pronunciations all arranged side by side, and for its ordering by/indications of relative frequency, so I'm willing to put up with a little potential eye-strain (though it doesn't usually get too bad).

Hmm, I wonder if anyone has conducted tests (experiments) on look-up speeds between the two types of dictionary?

As for using mainly Wenlin, I can understand that, and some of the comments in the Language Log thread relate to Chinapunk (i.e. "Cyberpunk" ultra-techy nanochipped and booted-up LOL) learners of Chinese who apparently have zero experience of using paper dictionaries (even after several years of study). I guess that their Chinese learning grinds to an almost complete halt when their PC or the internet stops working. (Not that using paper dictionaries isn't a bit of a grind sometimes, regardless of publisher and format! But I like paper dictionaries for their front and end material and general comprehensiveness of design - foreword, introductions, appendices etc. The ABC is certainly full of interesting stuff besides its main text!).

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889

"And the ABC font, whilst crisp for its size, is a bit small."

For just this reason, I suspect there's an inverse relationship between age and affinity for the ABC Dictionary. John DeFrancis must have had great eyesight even in his late years. It's also curious that the box and cover show considerable attention to graphic design, while the text looks like it was slapped up by computer. (Actually, I suspect the folks who produced this dictionary knew about the readability problem perfectly well, but felt that larger type and occasional white space for breaks would have made the dictionary more expensive and too large on the shelf.)

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Gharial

Well, I'm nearing 40 and at the moment have only the very dinky (and thus "super-small") Pocket edition of the original ("non-Comprehensive") ABC, for what it's worth. Maybe my eyesight will change or deteriorate because of excessive ABC dictionary (ab)usage, in which case I can look forward to nursing a chunky ocularly-satisfying Oxford instead in some premature retirement home! :blink: :P

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Gharial

Actually, the original (i.e. non-comprehensive) edition of the ABC does have one real disadvantage: its main radical index only deals with and includes simplified characters.

So if for example one was a relative beginner and trying to find out about 廣 , one would 1) draw a blank in that main index, then 2) need to look in a supplementary index of traditional characters (basically the 480 or so that were officially simplified post-1949) arranged by Kangxi radical in order to establish the pronounciation as guang3 (no simplified characters/equivalents to the traditional are supplied in this supplementary index), then 3) have to proceed to the entry for guang3 in the dictionary itself to be able to actually see the simplified form alongside the traditional.

In comparison, those Oxford dictionaries (for example, the venerable Oxford/Commercial Press Concise, and it would seem this big new OCD too) that purport to deal with traditional as well as simplified characters, do so very well: the traditional characters have been assigned to the most obvious simplified radical(s), and are clearly bracketed in the radical index (and indeed throughout the dictionary) to indicate that they are pre-simplification forms, so look-up is pretty much a one-stage process.

Anyway, the reason for all this is that I have a question!:)How does the Comprehesive edition of the ABC deal with complex versus simplified characters? (Or perhaps that should be simplified versus complex characters, as I've at least gathered that the Comprehensive has apparently switched to Kangxi radicals for its main system of indexing, versus the simplified CASS 189-radical set that the original, non-comprehensive edition used). I'm assuming that simplified characters are included in the Comprehensive's index by simply being assigned to the most obvious Kangxi radical, but I wouldn't be surprised (although I would be a little disappointed) if the ABC team had chosen/retained a relatively complicated conversion system still!

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889

I see no quick or convenient way to find 廣 in the Comprehensive ABC Dictionary.

I have the version published on the Mainland; perhaps the US version is different.

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Gharial

But it has a radical index, right, 889? ("Yes, there is a radical index hidden away at the very back"). And if it's by Kangxi radical, then 廣 should be pretty easy to find (under 广 i.e. Kangxi radical 53). I wouldn't be surprised however if the simplified character 广 were hard to find and involved several look-up stages in the "traditional" (i.e. now apparently Kangxi-based) Comprehensive, just like looking up the traditional character 廣 isn't straightforward (as I outlined in my last post) in the mainly simplified (i.e. CASS-189 based) original non-comprehesive.

Thanks in advance for checking further for me!:);)

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889

Yes, in fact 廣 is there under radical 53, 11 strokes in Appendix X on page 1414. It's marked with both a dot and a superscript 1. There's no key to these markings at the beginning or end of Appendix X. There must be a key somewhere, but like I said, it's not a user-friendly work.

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Gharial

Can you also look up the simplified character 广 for me, 889? Pretty please?:) And perhaps other examples, such as the simplified character 厂 (chang3) versus its traditional counterpart 廠 (to allude to a previous discussion: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/14713-learning-hanzi-the-eternal-dilemma-of-simple-or-traditional/page__st__40__p__202469#comment-202469 ). Thanks!

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Gharial

Hey, thanks everso for posting the scan, 889!:) I now have a much better idea of how the Comprehensive ABC deals with simplified characters within its Kangxi indexing.

The dots immediately to the right of certain characters are indicating those complex characters that have simplified alternatives, and where the radical is the same in each case (e.g. 廣 versus 广 ) one would only need to scan back through the listing to find the earlier instance of guang3.* It would be helpful however if the Comprehensive actually also indicated which of the forms listed were simplified forms; as it is, it would be a bit like if the Oxford were to dot simplified forms but then not bother bracketing the traditional! (I guess one solution in the Comprehensive might be, especially wherever both simplified and complex forms are to be found under the same radical, to instead provide superscript letters after both the simplified and complex form rather than just an uninformative dot after only the complex, so that the reader can then jump between the two forms: for example, 广 a - 廣 a ; .. ; 庆 b - 慶 b ; 庑 c - 廡 c; .. ; 库 d - 庫 d; . ; 应 e - 應 e; 庐 f - 廬 f, etc. [Full stops in the above sequence indicate those characters, in the radical 53 listing of the jpeg that 889 posted, that either ended up differing in form and thus under differing radicals due to the process of simplification, or were no different pre-and post-simplification; both types are thus not relevant to the series that was just being illustrated]. Hmm, and maybe those characters that, due to the simplifications, can no longer be found under the same radical, could have a capital or enclosed letter denoting that they are simply T (Traditional) or S (Simplified) and that their "other" form therefore has to be found elsewhere in the radical index or indeed in the dictionary’s main alphabetical listing instead. And those characters meanwhile no different pre- and post-simpification could be left completely unmarked, without any sort of superscript. And here's a thought: publishers could perhaps one day consider listing all alternative forms completely slap-bang side by side in not only the dictionary entries but in the radical index too! :rolleyes: ).

The superscript numbers preceding the Pinyin syllables meanwhile can really only be indicating entry numbers (for whatever syllable-tone e.g. sense 1 of guang3) in the dictionary's main body, which will obviously help increase look-up speed. The fact that some syllables e.g. the shi's, yi's and zhi's, are getting up into the 40s shows how comprehensive the dictionary is (compared to the original non-comprehensive certainly)! I guess I'd better buy it then - that, or get Wenlin finally! (Hmm, but does Wenlin include the Comprehensive, or only the non-comprehensive? I'd best check their website!).

One thing I really like is that the Comprehensive tells you when you might be looking under the wrong radical, i.e. when what you assumed was the radical (in a character you were looking up) is in fact only part of a larger radical(-character). For example, that "See also 198 鹿, 200 麻" note at the start of the 53 广 radical section.

About the only quibble (albeit not exactly a minor one) that I can see is that Comprehensive would appear to be a little too dogmatic and traditional with its assignment of radicals. For example, the Comprehensive apparently lists 席 xi2 only under 巾 (KX radical 50), whereas the Oxford Concise has it under the surely more logical 广 radical (CASS 36/KX 53), whilst the Xinhua that I've got anticipates and allows look-up by either radical. But then, the Comprehensive is in this respect at least a "traditional" dictionary. Yet provided one is aware (or made aware) of all this, I still think: What's not to like in the Comprehensive and the ABC range/approach generally? They're more innovative than hidebound!

*This obviously wouldn't be possible with that 厂 (廠) chang3 example however - you'll likely still only find the simplified form listed under the Comprehensive ABC's Kangxi radical 27, though this would obviously be an improvement on my Far East dictionary, which as I said in the linked discussion above doesn't list simplified forms anywhere in its indexes, but rather only in the main body of the dictionary, bracketed after and thus only alongside the traditional form's actual entry!

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889

Comparing a column at random from the Comprehensive ABC with Wenlin, I didn't see a single difference, either in the words listed or the definitions.

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Gharial

Thanks for the further info, guys!:)

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roddy

The dictionary (and others) is now available online, by subscription. Details here.

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Taibei

Unfortunately, full(?) Pinyin is not scheduled to be added until November. So those who want that feature may want to wait a little longer.

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