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OneEye

Outlier Linguistic Solutions

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Nikolaj

I already know quite a few characters, but I still have a long way to go before being able to read a newspaper article. When I first started learning characters our teacher would give us a list of characters every few days, ask us to memorize them and then we'd have a test. It was boring as hell, but it worked for the simple ones. We only got a very short introduction to radicals and character components, but it was never brought up when new characters were introduced. 

 

Last year I decided to buy the first Heisig book, after hearing all the praise they're being given, but I put it down after the first couple of chapters, simply because I really didn't like the idea of filling my head with someone else's mnemonics (some of which were quite elaborate), especially as I already knew a lot of the characters. These days, when learning a new character I tend to look at the different parts of the character and go "oh, that's a bit from that other character, and I recognize that bit too, from that third character," which is much more helpful for me, but since I was never taught to do that it's sometimes hard for me to spot those bits.

 

I'm hoping that the Outlier dictionary will help me reinforce and properly use this system for memorizing characters, which is why I've backed it at the $50 level. I'm very excited about this project and my only regret is that I was informed about it a full year(!) before the planned release. What will I do in the meantime? :P

 

Finally, I have a question: In the demo the characters are organized in a list and each is assigned a number. I realize the layout will probably change, but do you intend to keep such a list? Rather than just use this as a dictionary, I think I'd like to actually go through all the characters, one by one, and as such a numbered list (or some other kind of organised system) would be nice.

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OneEye

Sorry for the delay in responding to some of the recent comments. Things have gotten really busy.

 

 

 

^ For those in the know, I'd be interested to know to what extent that's correct.

 

Yes, 能 was the original character for "bear," but actually, the bear's head became 厶, while the jaws became 月. You can see how it evolved over time here. If I had to guess about the 火, I'd imagine it's because bear was a food item during the Warring States period. But I'd have to look into it to be sure.

 

 

 

DD I'm not saying that the "radical system" is some super-cool system, it's just a guide to breaking characters into their component parts and given that most characters are meaning + sound, it works fine with most characters. But it's not a system to follow or anything hardcore like that, I'm not suggesting it is 'the way to learn characters'.

 

I think the disconnect here is that "radical" has been extended to mean "any component," when in reality the 部首 system is just a system of dictionary organization — the radicals are the head 首 characters of a given section 部.

 

 

 

So in, say, 庆, what's the 大?

 

It's an empty form. It doesn't add meaning or sound to the character, it just substitutes for an earlier form (the rest of what's under the 广 in 慶). If you want more details, check out a cursive form:

 

XJ.gif

 

They simply straightened out the cursive strokes into 楷書 strokes and came up with 大. The learner doesn't need to know that unless they find it helpful.

 

 

 

Seems to me that if every time you see a component you have to work out "what 大 is this one, is it a sound component or is it a form component or is it one of those characters which is both, or maybe it's a meaning component, or have I got it wrong and it's one of those meaningless components" seems like a bit of an effort?

 

You don't have to work it out. Our dictionary will tell you what it is. :lol:

 

But really, a system of 4 types of components which clarifies how characters work vs. a system of 2 types of components which muddies the water...I think the (slight) added complexity is justified. You might not agree, of course.

 

 

 

Helping students breaking down components, and showing them which indicate meaning, which indicate sound, and which do neither (but here's the etymological backstory to click on if you're interested) is very important....I don't see why this product needs to push the system when it's already offering something that should help people memorise characters quicker.

 

You just basically said "I see how the system is important, but I don't think the system is important." The explanation of the components and how they function is the system. So I don't really understand your objection to us talking about how the system is helpful.

 

 

 

Finally, I have a question: In the demo the characters are organized in a list and each is assigned a number. I realize the layout will probably change, but do you intend to keep such a list? Rather than just use this as a dictionary, I think I'd like to actually go through all the characters, one by one, and as such a numbered list (or some other kind of organised system) would be nice.

 

Well, you'll be able to browse all the entries in the dictionary, but I'm not sure if we'll have any sort of numbered list. Our idea is that the dictionary should be able to be used with any learning materials you may be using, so we don't want to prescribe a specific order. But maybe if enough people ask for something like that, we'll publish a list on our website or something.

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li3wei1

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Any 'system' for looking at Chinese characters can only be as 'systematic' as the set of Chinese characters themselves, and they're just not very systematic.

 

Could you explain what you mean here, or give an example of a character you think our framework can't accurately explain? I think they're quite systematic, if you understand the processes by which they evolved, the historical phonology, and all that.

 

I'm not suggesting that there are characters that you can't explain, just that your system, and indeed any system, can't reduce the messiness of Chinese character development to less of a learning task than it is. You say "they're quite systematic, if you understand the processes by which they evolved, the historical phonology, and all that." Well, yes, if you know all that, it's quite systematic, and if you don't know all that, you have to learn it all to understand the system. So what you will have is a comprehensive etymological dictionary based on updated research, and written in English. This is needed, and very welcome, and having it will make it easier for me to remember a few characters, just as any other book I've got has helped me with a few characters. I'm not convinced, though, that by itself this approach is better than any of the others. For each character, you have several hundred words of explanation. This explanation involves several different kinds of components, but a component that serves one function in this character might serve another function in another character, and yet another function in another character. And there's no system for knowing this, you just have to read each entry and learn it. Reading the entry for one character won't help you with any other characters. Maybe I'm expecting a bit too much out of the words 'system' and 'systematic'.

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stapler

Recently I've been on the fence about whether I should chip in for this dictionary. I really do like all the detailed explanation that comes with the expert edition. But my current question is "what kind of characters are going to be included in the first 2000 and 3500"? The reason why I ask is that many of the characters I struggle with are fairly rare and I'm not sure if they'd be included in a frequency list that only goes to 3000 or so. Ideally I'd like to read entries on characters I'm learning. But it's hard to tell if your dictionary would do that. Have you guys planned which characters you're actually going to provide entries for? And will they all be as in depth as say the example entry for 藍?

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OneEye

Well, yes, if you know all that, it's quite systematic, and if you don't know all that, you have to learn it all to understand the system.

 

 

That's not true at all. That's like saying you have to understand the physics of how a car works in order learn how to drive it. We're certainly not saying that anyone needs a graduate degree in palaeography in order to learn Chinese characters. We know all the complex background stuff, but we're boiling it down into a simple system that's easy to grasp. It's not necessary to know all the info in the "Expert" section just to learn a character.

 

 

For each character, you have several hundred words of explanation.

 

 

The core of the product is the "Essentials" info, which is only a few dozen words of explanation. We're certainly not expecting everyone to read all the stuff under the "For Experts Only" heading — that's just for people who are interested or find it useful.

 

 

This explanation involves several different kinds of components, but a component that serves one function in this character might serve another function in another character, and yet another function in another character. And there's no system for knowing this, you just have to read each entry and learn it. Reading the entry for one character won't help you with any other characters.

 

 

Sure it will. That's the whole point.

 

Say for instance, you come across this sentence: "他用臉盆洗臉" and you haven't yet learned the character 盆. Since you know the rest of the characters, you read the sentence as: "He used a face-盆 to wash his face." From context, you know that a face-盆 is something people use to wash their face with. If you understand functional components, you know that 皿 mǐn is a type of container and that 分 fēn means "to divide."

Since 分 is a common sound component, and 皿 is not, you might surmise that the pronunciation of the this character is fen, ben, or pen and it refers to a type of container. Of course, without looking it up, you don't know for sure. All you can do is make an intelligent guess. If you looked up 盆, you'd find that it is pronounced pén and means "basin." Knowing that b-, p-, and f- are very closely related sounds, you could happily accept 分 as the sound component for 盆. Being able to make intelligent predictions like this is a very useful skill to have indeed and the fastest way to obtain it is to have a good understanding of functional components and how they work. Seeing these connections also makes it easier to remember new character forms, because they fit into the mental framework you've established.

 

 

But my current question is "what kind of characters are going to be included in the first 2000 and 3500"?

 

 

We're using frequency statistics to choose the characters, but we don't have a concrete list just yet.

 

 

And will they all be as in depth as say the example entry for 藍?

 

 

Well, that depends on the character. With some characters, there's just not much you can say about them. 謝 is an example from the demo. So for some entries, there will only be info in the Essentials section.

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xiaokaka

Any chance they could be uploaded to youku or any other non-blocked site?

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OneEye

Yeah, I uploaded them to our Vimeo channel a little while ago, but they take a while to process. The first one should be up here in about half an hour.

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Demonic_Duck

I actually didn't realise vimeo wasn't blocked.

 

I'd also suggest sticking some Chinese subtitles on there - I think a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese people would love to see this kind of thing competently explained by an American. I know native speakers aren't your main target audience, but all publicity is good publicity, right?

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OneEye

We talked about that too. We'll get them added at some point, probably after the Kickstarter, once things calm down.

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OneEye

Yeah, but the battle isn't won yet. :shock:

 

On the 24th (I assume you mean the high donation and low number of backers), we had a big donation from a family member who had collected from friends of the family.

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Yang Chuanzhang

I finally made my pledge. Don't want to miss out on the lifetime updates. By the way, are those inheritable?  :P

 

Ah, I thought you had gotten featured somewhere big because there was a surge of donations for a few days.

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OneEye

Well, the next day Mike Love sent out an announcement to his mailing list. We got a nice surge from that.

 

Thanks for backing! I just saw it come through.

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OneEye

New videos:

 

Sound Components and Sound Series (YouTube, Vimeo): This video covers sound components and sound series (諧聲系列). We cover a few characters to demonstrate the different types of sound series.

 

Needs of Non-Native vs. Native Learners of Characters (YouTube, Vimeo): This video covers some of the differences between native and non-native learners of Chinese characters. Why does it seem so much more difficult for non-natives to learn characters? And is it a good idea to try to learn them like native-speaking kids?

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Yang Chuanzhang

Are there any plans to make a poster of sound series?

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OneEye

Yes! That one will come a bit later though, once Ash's paper is published.

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oceancalligraphy

Finally had the chance to take a look at the demo. Glad I did too, since the Kickstarter deadline is only a few days away. The project looks awesome, and I will advertise as much as I can.

 

Just curious, will there be list of references, maybe on the website? Obviously a lot is from original research, but maybe journal articles or books for budding linguists for their curiosity and further reading.

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OneEye

Thanks!

 

Yes, we'll cite all of our references in the dictionary itself. You can see an example of that on some of the entries (the ones labeled "Full Features"), if you click [Reference].

 

You can also see a few of the resources we use in this thread.

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