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necroflux

Zi4 dian3 - 字典 vs. 詞典

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necroflux

Hello all - I'm extremely pleased to find this forum and grateful in advance for everyone here helping us Chinese n00bs. :)

A textbook of mine lists the characters for "zi4 dian3", dictionary, as 詞典, where as most other sources I've found use 字典. Actually the textbook lists "zi" as a second tone, but I've been told by my friend to use a fourth tone. That is obviously a regional issue, but the character discrepancy has me confused.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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That is obviously a regional issue, but the character discrepancy has me confused.

No, that is likely a typo.

a 字典 is different from a 词典。

Do you know how a 字 differs from a 词?

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necroflux

Ha - thanks for the reply, I just realized my friend must not have known that two types of dictionaries exist - ci2dian3 and zi4dian, the latter being a "character dictionary". So now I know that both exist as two different things. :)

is a character, whereas is a script/language, correct?

Thanks!

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marcopolo79

詞/辭典, for example a 辭海, is a lexicon that lists terms, compound words.

字典, the earliest of which, 說文解字, date back about 2,000 years, traces individual characters.

We don't have a similar distinction in Western languages, so it seems like a strange notion at first, but, just like describing a protein, it helps if you think about the structural composition of a character: the equivalent of the primary structure is the stroke; the arrangement and number of strokes form a (secondary structure) radical; sequences of radicals cross over with other sequences of radicals to form a tertiary structure, characters; finally different characters join with other fully formed characters to make compound words, or 詞.

When you use a typical Chinese dictionary, you first go by the stroke, then by the radical, then by the character. If it's a 字典 the character will be defined by a quotation and it's pronounciation given using 切韻. If it's a 辭/詞典 then compound words starting with that character will be listed. If it's a reverse dictionary, than compound words containing that character will be listed. Chinese-English dictionaries essentially (and only partially) combine these two roles, futher obscuring the original distinction between the two.

Basically, the moral of the story is that nothing is ever simple when it comes to Chinese, even consulting a dictionary requires much practice and patience before it goes smoothly.

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gato
/辭典, for example a 辭海, is a lexicon that lists terms, compound words.

典, the earliest of which, 說文解字, date back about 2,000 years, traces individual characters.

We don't have a similar distinction in Western languages,

The closes paralell, I think, to 字 (zi4) are the Latin roots that some of you might have studied at one time to bone up on your vocabularies. There're the common ones like pre- or post-. But how ab- and ad-? They mean something in Latin, but not much to us who haven't learned Latin. They are, however, the parts of many English words, as well as words in many other European languages.

Similarly, Chinese words (詞, ci2) are made up of characters (字, zi4). Some characters are still commonly used today by themselves, such as 米 or 人. But most are meaningless (or at least ambiguous) outside the context of a compound word (詞, ci2). In classical written Chinese, there were many more characters that could be used alone. For example, I see 群众 (crowd, the masses) often written as simply 众 in classical texts. It's hard to say how well the classical written form corresponded to the spoken usage of those days.

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carlo

Most languages have 'word roots' of some kind, though not all list them in dictionaries. Dictionaries of Arabic group words according to basic roots (like Hans Wehr), so that under the root ktb 'to write' you'll find related words such as 'writer', 'writing desk', 'typewriter', 'correspondence' etc. If you are learning an agglutinating language like Hungarian or Turkish, you'd probably also find it helpful to study these 'roots' first.

Latin and English, on the other hand, are not very 'segmentable', so one has to learn more forms independently. For example, 我们 is [1st person] + [plural] in Chinese, so that 我 and 我们 are obviously related, while 'I' and 'we' in English are not.

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