Wenlin releases major upgrade (4.0)

Wenlin logoOne of my favorite programs, Wenlin (which bills itself as “software for learning Chinese”), has just released a major upgrade for both Mac and Windows versions. This doesn’t happen often; it has been three-and-a-half years since the most recent big change was issued (Wenlin 3.4) and heaven only knows how long since 3.0 came out. So, yes, this release has many substantial improvements.

One of the features nearest and dearest to my heart is that Wenlin 4.0 features greatly improved handling of Pinyin. I was among the field testers for the new version, so I’ve already spent a lot of time examining this feature. Here are a few important aspects of this:

  • Conversions from Chinese characters follow Hanyu Pinyin orthography much more closely than before. This is a major change for the better. (There’s still some room for improvement. But I don’t think we’ll have to wait years for this.)
  • In the past, using Wenlin to convert long texts in Chinese characters into Pinyin could be a real chore, with users having to examine example after example of Chinese characters with multiple pronunciations in order to select the proper pronunciation for that particular context. But now users may, if they so desire, tell Wenlin not to ask users for disambiguation input. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Wenlin will always guess right; but many users will be happy that this trade-off allows them to skip the frustration of, for example, having to tell the program over and over and over that, yes, in this case 說 is pronounced shuō rather than shuì.
  • Relative newcomers to Mandarin may appreciate that for common words tone sandhi is indicated in Wenlin with additional marks (a dot or line below the vowel). This feature can also be turned off, for those who want standard Pinyin.

There are, of course, many improvements beyond the area of Pinyin. Here are a few:

  • One limitation of Wenlin 3.x was that its English dictionary wasn’t very large. But Wenlin 4.0 includes not only the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary but also the excellent new ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary (now finally in stock in the printed version).
  • The flashcards are now set up to handle not just individual characters but polysyllabic words.
  • There’s full Unicode Unihan 6.0 support for more than 75,000 Chinese characters.
  • And for those who think 75,000 just isn’t enough, users can now access Wenlin’s CDL technology. Through this, users can create new, variant, and rare characters; moreover, these can be published and shared with other Wenlin users or CDL-friendly devices.
  • Seal script versions of more than 11,000 characters are provided.
  • Wenlin contains an e-edition of the Shuowen Jiezi (Shuōwén Jiězì / 說文解字 / 说文解字).
  • Coders will be interested to know that Wenlin appears to be headed toward becoming open-source.
  • Both Mandarin and English entries are marked with grade levels, which aids learners by indicating relative frequency of use. The levels for Mandarin words are based on the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (Hànyǔ Shǔipíng Kǎoshì / 汉语水平考试 / 漢語水平考試 / HSK).

The full version (i.e., the CD with the program comes in a box and is likely packaged with a hard copy of the manual) is US$199, or US$179 if you download it from the Wenlin Web store. Upgrades from 3.x cost US$49.

For more information, see the summary of features and outline of what’s new in Wenlin 4.0.

screenshot from Wenlin 4.0 -- click for larger version

Hanyu Pinyin Cihui

image of the cover of this book, which gives 'HANYU PINYIN CIHUI', followed on the next line in larger characters by '??????', followed on the next line, in smaller letters, by '???' -- the text is white against a blue backgroundToday, for all you orthography junkies (Hello? Hello? Anybody there?), I have added a selection from the 1963 edition of Hanyu Pinyin Cihui (?????? / Hàny? P?ny?n Cíhuì).

The book, which is fully alphabetized by Hanyu Pinyin (i.e., like the ABC dictionary series, not like the Hanzi-by-Hanzi Pinyin ordering seen in most dictionaries published in the PRC), is a long list of Mandarin words as written in Hanyu Pinyin and Chinese characters. It’s meant as a reference for word division and other such orthographic concerns. It’s the sort of thing that just cried out to have been made into a full dictionary (especially since that’s what it looks like, minus definitions); but, unfortunately, it never was. But it was an important influence on the ABC series.

One can see some interesting instances of differences between Pinyin orthography then and now. For example, in this old edition of Hanyu Pinyin Cihui de tends to be appended to words and written as d, e.g. ái’áid, rather than the current ái’ái de (???). Similarly, zi is written z at the end of a word, e.g. ?igèz, rather than the current ?igèzi (???).

Also interesting is the mixed use of simplified and traditional Chinese characters. (It will be easier to see what I’m referring to if you open the PDF file of the introduction and A’s of Hanyu Pinyin Cihui.) The title on the cover is given as ?????? in Chinese characters — perfectly standard. But below this is ??? (z?ngdìng g?o / revised edition); note how dìng is written as ? rather than as ?.

More striking, though, for the modern reader is the script in the foreword. Here, what was written ?????? on the cover is written ??????, mixing traditional and simplified forms. The full traditional version of this would be written ??????. The text of the introduction is similarly mixed. This is because this was published before many simplified forms that are now standard were fully accepted officially.

The selection from this book here on Pinyin.info comprises the introduction and all of the entries beginning with the letter a.

image of a few entries

ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary out soon

front cover of the ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English DictionaryThe ABC Chinese-English Dictionary was published ten years ago. It was revolutionary in that, for the first time, a Mandarin-English dictionary was ordered entirely by the headwords’ pronunciation as written in pinyin. (Stroke and radical indexes are also there to aid finding a character when its shape is known but not its pronunciation.) Other dictionaries in the DeFrancis ABC series have followed. But up to now there been no ABC dictionary with an English to Mandarin section as well as a Mandarin to English one.

At the end of this month the University of Hawai`i Press is releasing the ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary. The new dictionary, which is 1,252 pages long, has 29,670 entries in its English-Mandarin section and 37,963 entries for Mandarin-English (total 67,633 entries). (The much larger ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary has some 196,000 entries — all Mandarin-English).

This is a big year for Mandarin-English dictionaries, with the forthcoming release of the ABC ECCE and the release three months ago of the massive Oxford Chinese Dictionary. From the standpoint of Pinyin, however, the Oxford dictionary is a disappointment. For example, the Oxford dictionary has no Pinyin in the English-Mandarin section, just Chinese characters; in some other places tone marks are missing from some of the Pinyin, where it appears at all. Perhaps this will be rectified in the online edition, which has yet to appear. At the moment, though, the Oxford looks like a fairly traditional dictionary — albeit a huge one — aimed mainly at English learners in China, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you happen to be among that very large group of people. For more on the Oxford, see the video at Danwei and the entries at Chinese Forums (with some images) and Language Log.

Unlike the Oxford dictionary, the ABC ECCE offers both Pinyin and Chinese characters for all entries and sample sentences. (See samples below. Click on those for more extensive examples in PDF files.)

From what I’ve seen so far of the ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary, I expect it to become the dictionary for English-speaking students of Mandarin. I’ll write more about this once I’m able to see a hard copy.

The ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary retails for only US$20, compared to US$75 for the Oxford.

From the Mandarin-English section. But don’t expect the text in the printed edition to be this large. I’ve enlarged the image to make it easier to read on the Web.
examples of entries in the Mandarin-English section of the ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary

From the English-Mandarin section:
examples of entries in the English-Mandarin section of the ABC English-Chinese, Chinese-English Dictionary

(ISBN-10: 0824834852; ISBN-13: 978-0824834852)

See also:

Taiwanese-English, English-Taiwanese dictionaries posted

Maryknoll Language Service Center has put online the complete texts of its Taiwanese-English and English-Taiwanese dictionaries. Better still, these have been released under a Creative Commons license. These are a terrific resource for anyone who’s interested in Hoklo.

Maryknoll deserves praise for this great work. Thanks are due, too, to Tailingua, which I know has been working behind the scenes to help make this happen.

From the English Amoy Dictionary (???????):
screenshot from the English-Taiwanese dictionary

And from the Taiwanese-English Dictionary (??????):
screenshot from the dictionary

source: Maryknoll dictionaries now free to download, Tailingua, June 17, 2010

Le Grand Ricci now available on DVD

cover of le Grand Ricci numeriqueThe magnificent Grand dictionnaire Ricci de la langue chinoise, better known as le Grand Ricci, has just been released on DVD, almost a decade after its release in book form and exactly four hundred years after the death of Matteo Ricci.

The list price is 120 euros (about US$150), which is much cheaper than the printed edition. A long video in French (16:31) discusses the work. For those who would prefer something in English, a PDF gives background information on the dictionary project.

For a sample of the dictionary’s format and entries, see the 25 pages of entries for shan. Alas, as this example shows, the entries are not word parsed. But at least Hanyu Pinyin is now available for those who prefer it to Wade-Giles.

As long as I’m mentioning Ricci-related work, I might as well use the occasion to note that the Taipei Ricci Institute is putting its collection of books on permanent loan to Taiwan’s National Central Library.

Also, I’d like to note that parts of Matteo Ricci’s original dictionary can now be viewed through the Google Books scan of a publication from earlier this century of his Dicionário Português-Chinês.


image from a manuscript page of Ricci's original dictionary

Hoklo dictionaries: a list

The newly redesigned Tailingua has just issued a useful list of dictionaries of the Taiwanese language and related dialects (PDF).

Here’s a random sample:

  • Dyer, Samuel 萊撒母耳 (1838 ). A Vocabulary of the Hok-keen Dialect as Spoken in the County of Tsheang- Tshew [漳州音字典]. Malacca: Anglo-Chinese College Press.
  • Embree, Bernard L.M. 晏寶理 (1973). A Dictionary of Southern Min [閩南語英語辭典]. Kowloon: Hong Kong Language Institute.
  • Fùxīng wénhuà shìyèshè 復興文化事業社 (2004). Táiwān mǔyǔ yīnbiāo zìdiǎn 臺灣母語音標字典 [Taiwanese mother tongue pronunciation dictionary]. Táinán: Fùxīng Wénhuà Shìyèshè 復興文化 事業社.
  • Hare, G.T. (1904). The Hokkien Vernacular [福建白話英文字典]. Kuala Lumpur: Straits Settlements and Selangor Government Printing Offices.
  • Hóng Guóliáng 洪國良 (2004). Héluòyǔ yīnzì duìzhào diǎn 河洛語音字對照典 [Comparative dictionary of Ho-lo pronunciation]. Gāoxióng: Fùwén 復文.
  • Hóng Hóngyuán 洪宏元 (2009). Xuéshēng Tái–Huá shuāngyǔ huóyòng cídiǎn 學生台華雙語活用辭典 [Bilingual everyday Taiwanese–Mandarin dictionary for students]. Táiběi: Wǔ Nán Túshū Chūbǎn Yǒuxiàn Gōngsī 五南圖書出版有限公司.
  • Hú Xīnlín 胡鑫麟 (1994). Shíyòng Táiyǔ xiǎo cídiǎn 實用臺語小辭典 [Practical pocket Taiwanese dictionary]. Táiběi: Zìlì Wǎnbào Chūbǎnbù 自立晚報出版部.

books bought in Beijing

cover of a book by Zhou YouguangI didn’t have any luck finding anything in Sin Wenz (Lādīnghuà Xīn Wénzì / 拉丁化新文字), despite trips to several large used book stores. (Fortunately, the Internet is now providing some leads. Thanks, Brendan and Joel!) But I did find some other books to bring home.

I acquired lots of books by Zhou Youguang, not all of which focus primarily on linguistics:

Other than the Zhou Youguang books, here are my favorite finds of the trip, as they are for the most part in correctly word-parsed Hanyu Pinyin (with Hanzi underneath), along with a few notes in English:

I’ll soon be posting more about the above books with Pinyin, so watch this site for updates. Really, this is gonna be good.

Although this collection of Y.R. Chao says it’s volume 15, it’s actually two books:

  • Zhào Yuánrèn quánjí, dì 15 juàn (趙元任全集第15卷)

Some more titles:

  • Measured Words: The Development of Objective Language Testing, by Bernard Spolsky
  • Pǔtōnghuà shuǐpíng cèshì shíshī gāngyào (普通話水平測試實施綱要). Now with the great smell of beer! Sorry, Brendan, I owe you one — more than one, actually.

The following I bought because Yin Binyong, the scholar primarily responsible for Hanyu Pinyin’s orthography, is the author of these titles from Sinolingua’s series of Bógǔtōngjīn xué Hànyǔ cóngshū (“Gems of the Chinese Language through the Ages” (their translation)), all of which are in Mandarin (Hanzi) and English, with Pinyin only for the sayings being illustrated:

cover of 'Chinese-English Dictionary of Polyphonic Characters' (多音多义字汉英词典)cover of 'Putonghua shuiping ceshi shishi gangyao' (普通話水平測試實施綱要)cover of 'Xinhua pinxie cidian'


And finally:

Of course I already have that one — more than one copy, in fact. But it’s always good to have more than one spare when it comes to one of the two most important books on Pinyin orthography. I really need to follow up on my requests to use excerpts from this book, as it is the only major title missing from my list of romanization-related books (though it’s in Mandarin only).

sign in a Beijing bookstore reading 'Education Theury' [sic]

Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is an enormous work (almost 300 pages) on the languages of the Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer, who are known in China by the Mandarin name of Tǔzú (土族).

Some of the material was written for a television program, part of which is available online, which means that people can listen to native speakers reading the texts!

The Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer language materials presented here are from Huzhu Mongghul Autonomous County and Minhe Hui and Mangghuer Autonomous County in eastern Qinghai Province, the People’s Republic of China. Other Monguor areas, that is Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, Gansu Province and, in Qinghai, Datong Hui and Mongghul Autonomous County and Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, are not represented. We employ “Mangghuer” to refer to Minhe Monguor and “Mongghul” to refer to Monguor residents of Huzhu, for these are the terms the people themselves employ. When we are unsure how people refer to themselves, we use “Monguor,” which we also employ as a collective term to refer to all those classified as “Tu” by the Chinese government in the 1950s.

The material is in the form of the alphabet, numbers, and the calendar; 300 sentences rendered in English, Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer; 900 sentences in English and Minhe Mangghuer; Huzhu Mongghul readings, language points, the text of a television program that taught English in Huzhu Mongghul in Huzhu County and a word list.

The Mongghul/Mangghuer materials are given in a modified Chinese pinyin….

The dictionary at the back of the work is larger and more comprehensive than might be expected. Here are some sample entries:

  • frontier — jiixan
  • frost — xuutira, {SHOUDIERE}
  • froth — kusizi, {MOMOZI}
  • fruit — alimaa, {ALIMA, AMULA}
  • fry — tuusila qina, {TUOSILA CHINA}
  • fuck — mule, {MULI}
  • fuel — shdajin, shdaghua, {XIDAKUNI, GHAR JIALAKUNI}
  • fulfill — banki, gi, {GE}
  • full — diuri, {DURAN, YIGUA}
  • fumigate — funiidigha, {XUNKE}
  • fun — natigu, {NADUJI} (to make fun of)
  • funeral — rgai, {ERGU}
  • fur — ghuasi, {ARASI}
  • fury — ruari, {SHUGUO WERKURJIANG}
  • future — huina, {NINSA KHUONO}

Here’s the link to the SPP 69: Language Materials of China’s Monguor Minority: Huzhu Mongghul and Minhe Mangghuer (15 MB PDF).

The video, which is a massive 528 MB, begins with lesson 26, no. 98 (SPP p. 152, PDF p. 166), and stops abruptly about two-thirds of the way through no. 110 (SPP p. 159, PDF p. 173).

Here are a few internal points of reference in the video:

  • no. 100, p. 153, begins at 5:36
  • no. 103, lesson 27, p. 155, begins at 21:30
  • no 105, p. 156, begins at 29:50
  • no 109, lesson 28, p. 158, begins at 44:50

More of the video may be available later.