New Etymological Dictionary of Chinese Characters

I’m John Renfroe, one of the researchers at Outlier Linguistic Solutions in Taipei. We’re developing a new dictionary of Chinese characters which takes the latest in paleographic and phonological research and distills it into something which is useful for learners (and teachers) at all levels. Dr. David Moser describes it as “the next stage in the study of Chinese characters, and maybe even the next stage in the digitizing of Sinology itself.” We are currently doing a Kickstarter campaign and there is a demo version of the dictionary available on our site (watch the video for an explanation of the demo). The dictionary will initially be released through Pleco and later through other platforms as well. The dictionary comes in two “flavors”: The Essentials Edition presents exactly what a learner needs to know in order to effectively master a character — and no more. We’ve focused on answering the question, “Why does this character look like this?” in as succinct and accurate terms as possible. We explain each component in a character and describe exactly what that component’s function is within that character — is it expressing sound or meaning, or is it depicting something, or is it an empty form which is serving none of those functions? There’s also a meaning tree which shows logical connections between each character’s different meanings, stroke order, etc. The “System” tab (which you can see under the entries for 各, 尚, and 立) shows sound and semantic series, as well as any time that component shows up as a result of corruption (訛變) — meaning it has no connection to the sound or meaning of a character. The Expert Edition covers the same info, but also goes deeper into the history and evolution of the writing system — there are images and explanations of ancient character forms, historical tidbits, and phonological info. We’re making use of the latest research available in these fields, and all of our sources are cited within the dictionary itself. Please take a look at the Kickstarter and Demo pages linked to above, and let us know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions! The money we’re trying to raise will fund the rest of the development, and if you’d like to reserve a copy, you can do so by backing our Kickstarter project. And if you think our project is worthwhile, please pass it on to colleagues, students, classmates — anyone who might be interested.

From: John Renfroe <>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.