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Character "etymology" dictionary for Pleco, plus other stuff

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Last year, after completely losing hope that the Outlier Dictionary will ever catch up with characters I already know, I looked up other "etymology" dictionaries. Why lost hope? Well, they have only just hit the 2000 definitions mark, after 3-5 years of selling it under grand advertisements, and many definitions are simply stubbed with the split key + phonetic (the last part is from when I looked at it half a year ago, perhaps they filled them out since).


I found one particularly intriguing "dictionary", or rather, a list in a PDF, by Lawrence Howell and Hikaru Morimoto ("late" Hikaru Moritomo, according to Mair). I bet the Outlier guys will say it is totally "unscientific" - they are heavy on "science", for some definition of "science", although I think there cannot be any science in arts, only tradition and recognition and maaaybe vague corroboration by primary sources. Aka 甲骨文 scratches on bones . Also an opinion by Mair http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3699


Yet I find that list useful for a fresh point of view on a character, and maybe even a mnemonic for tough cases. I took two PDFs from https://www.slideshare.net/KanjiNetworks and converted them to Pleco user dictionaries, including some rare characters that aren't well displayed in the PDFs themselves. No pinyin, traditional only, ~6200 definitions. "Mandarin redaction" lists "meanings" of characters in modern Mandarin and attempts to link them, often in a roundabout way, to the graphs. The original ("non-mandarin") uses more classical meanings, I recall.


I've put them on github, in case anyone wants to use them - https://github.com/agelastic/ChineseStuff/tree/master/Howell etymological dictionary 


There is also some more dicts/lists/cards in that repo https://github.com/agelastic/ChineseStuff

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Forgot to add - I sorta like Howell's idea, interpreted in the sense that, with the zillion homonyms in (even classical) Chinese, it totally makes sense that even the so-called "phonetic" 部首 was not chosen at random but from many existing similar-sounding signs that were somewhat related to the meaning of a new character. After all, there are several times more common "phonetics" used in traditional characters than there are different syllables in Chinese. 

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Welcome back.


Right now, even though I think Outlier’s character list on Pleco is not big enough for my liking, it’s still a more accurate representation of actual character formation than anything currently available. I personally am not going to pay for it until it has more of the characters I would be likely to take interest in.


However, Mair has already said basically all that needs to be said in rebuttal of that interpretation; if it helps as a mnemonic then all the power to you. I feel like projecting new ways of classifying sounds onto the language can be helpful if they are accurate, regardless of whether they actually contributed to word formation.

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17 hours ago, OneEye said:

But I'm obviously the biased party in this conversation, so I'll just leave it at that, and drop a link to another article by Mair. :) 



The creators of ODCC came to see me about five (maybe more) years ago... it contains full entries for roughly the 1,500 most common characters,


Turns out I was right about "over five years" it took you to get to 1500 chars (I thought it was 2000 already. I was a few years early in claiming the number, it seems :shrug: )

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On 11/27/2018 at 5:09 AM, OneEye said:

We’re now at nearly 2000 completed entries, and we’re getting faster and more efficient at adding new entries. Doing quality work is more important than speed.


As a student I'm very satisfied about Outlier Dictionary, cause I don't need a mnemonic incorrect etymology, I'm very interested in state-of-art etymological study.


In my opinion to achieve the "complete" goal is like to win a Bingo: also in Bingo, it's relatively easy fill the first numbers, but it is complicated to fill all the numbers: the scientific work become more and more complicated, because there are different opinions about the single character etymology.  Also in my mother tongue the etymological dictionaries are sometimes in doubt: in chinese, I think, the doubts growt.


If I'm not wrong, in https://www.facebook.com/outlierlinguistics/ (October, 12) there is his post: "We've released an update to the Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters! It now has complete entries for the 1500 most frequently used characters + about 300 semantic components (with some overlap), for a total of over 1750 entries". In https://www.outlier-linguistics.com/purchase is written "Another 2000 characters (4000 total!)", for Commponent breakdowns + In-depth explanations for semantic components.


Outlier dictionary is a progressive work: long life and prosperity to authors, for a long but constant progression in etymology work.





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On 11/27/2018 at 3:09 PM, OneEye said:

Oh, hi Vitaly. I forgot this was your handle. 

No worries, John. It's one of, yes. In fact, my second favourite.


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Silvio Verbeek

Hi Vitaly,

thank you for uploading Howell's dictionary files onto https://github.com/agelastic/ChineseStuff/tree/master/Howell%20etymological%20dictionary

I have always wanted to use Howell's mnemonics in Pleco, but didn't know how.

I am not too computer savvy, could you please explain HOW I upload them to the Pleco app on my smartpone (android)? And which one(s)? There are 6 :)
Thank you again.

Best from Europe,

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