I have posted this at several forums and am now posting it here because I feel that many of the forumites here will also be interested.
The following are links to two articles about President Ma Ying-jeou’s plans for mainland and Taiwan scholars to jointly compile a monumental Chinese-language dictionary on the scale of the English-language Oxford English Dictionary.
The first article is a June 30, 2009 editorial titled “A Chinese Dictionary Long Overdue” found at the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s the China Post newspaper’s web site:
Snippets from the article:
Mainland China indicated this week that it supports the idea that scholars and lexicographers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait join hands to compile a comprehensive dictionary of Chinese language (中華大辭典).
Fan Liqing (范麗青), spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said such a dictionary would facilitate the increasing exchange between the two sides which have developed many different vocabularies over the years.
“Differences have emerged in terminology in areas of science and technology as well as in social sector,” she pointed out. “For instance, ‘laser’ is called ‘jiguang’ (激光) in China, but is named ‘lei-she’ (鐳射) in Taiwan. ‘Channel’ is ‘qudao’ (渠道) in China, but ‘guan-dao’ (管道) in Taiwan.” “As cross-strait exchange is fast increasing, we are in favor of compiling a comprehensive Chinese dictionary by recruiting scholars and lexicographers of both sides to list and compare the existing differences in vocabulary. This would facilitate the increasing exchange and make it easy for people to learn and use the language.”
It is encouraging to hear of Fan’s statement, which could be a harbinger of closer cross-strait cooperation in the cultural field. A comprehensive dictionary of Chinese language and culture is long overdue. Six decades of separation since 1949 have resulted in a lot of cultural and linguistic differences.
It is no longer true to say that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait speak the same language. They don’t, as pointed out by Fan, one of the very first mainland journalists to set foot in Taiwan. There are different expressions that need to be redefined. Besides, both sides have their own ways of transliteration, creating confusion and bewilderment.
Could the cultural gap be bridged? Yes, if people on both sides stop seeing the issue through political lens. But it is a big IF.
The forum in Changsha will become an important milestone in the evolution of Chinese culture if the powwow can lead to the birth of a comprehensive dictionary of Chinese language and the revival of traditional characters in China.
The second article is a June 30, 2009 editorial titled “A Joint Venture to Compile a Grand Chinese Dictionary” also found at the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s the China Post newspaper’s web site:
Snippets from the article:
President Ma Ying-jeou made a momentous recommendation for cultural exchange between Taiwan and China the other day. He said that he hopes a joint venture will be launched to compile a grand Chinese dictionary. The joint venture will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the Cross-Strait Economic Forum organized by the ruling Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party at Zhangsha on July 11-12.
The best Chinese dictionary we have, to the regret of all of us, is the Kangxi Dictionary, which was published with the authorization of the Qing emperor of that name who ruled China from 1662 to 1723. The authority of the most comprehensive dictionary of all time in China is somewhat like that of the King James’ version of the English Bible. Many Chinese dictionaries have been published in modern China with new words, terms and phrases included, but none of them match the Kangxi Dictionary, which is still in use today.
Of course, the Kangxi Dictionary is of little help to those who study the Chinese language today, for it lacks entries for thousands upon thousands of new words coined over the past century and a half since China was exposed to Western civilization. Chinese lexicography has failed to catch up with time. So much so that you, more often than not, can’t find words you want to know in Chinese dictionaries available at our book shops.
The lack of good Chinese dictionaries, incidentally, has made it impossible for editors to come up with satisfactory Chinese-English dictionaries which English-speaking students of Chinese need most.
It’s a profound pity that China, the world’s oldest continuing civilization, has no Chinese dictionary as grand and historical as the OED. No attempts have been made on either side of the Taiwan Strait to compile one that can rival the Kangxi Dictionary of yore. The joint venture President Ma has suggested would give us the long-awaited dictionary, but Taiwan probably has to embark on the epoch-making endeavor all alone for political reasons.
President Chiang Kai-shek, who moved his Kuomintang government from Nanjing to Taipei, vowed to preserve and protect Chinese culture in Taiwan against Communist erosion from China. In fact, Taiwan has preserved much more of traditional Chinese culture than anywhere else in China, thanks in part to its seclusion under Japanese colonial rule. The Japanization that the colonists tried to impose on the Hoklo and Hakka peoples on Taiwan only made them value their Chinese cultural legacy more highly. As the rightful preserver of Chinese culture, Taiwan is duty-bound to have a new comprehensive Chinese dictionary published, no matter how long and how much it may take to complete this historical task.
Many a times, at Chinese forums, Kobo has lamented the lack of a grand Chinese dictionary on the scale of the Oxford English Dictionary.
According to the web site of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Oxford English Dictionary or OED, is the definitive record of the english language and it is the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium.
An authoritative record of the Chinese language is long overdue.
This will be a tremendous resource for those studying the Chinese language.
And if they go ahead with the proposal to also compile a grand Chinese-English Dictionary it will be good for English-speaking learners of Chinese as well.