JAPANESE 8500 - Japanese Bibliography and Research Methods

Problems and procedures in the use of Japanese bibliographies and other reference materials, including electronic sources.

Dictionary Trouble-Shooting

Which index should I use?

Some questions for trouble-shooting:

  • 音・訓読み索引
  1. Do you already know one 音 or 訓 reading for the character?
  2. Are any of the elements in the character frequently associated with an 音or 訓 reading?
  3. Is the character is the second element in a compound and you already know the first element? All 漢和辞典 supply readings for compounds in the lexical entries. This will lead you to a reading for the unknown character.
  • 部首索引
  1. Does the principle radical have variants with different stroke counts?
  2. Is the character in question a radical in and of itself?
  3. Is the character composed of a familiar radical and a less familiar one, and classified under the latter?
  • 画数索引
  1. Is the stroke count easy to determine?
  2. Does your dictionary adopt special conventions when determining stroke count?
  3. Is the stroke count particularly high? If so, there are comparatively few characters from which to discern it.
  • When all else fails
  1. Is the character a 国字?
  2. Are 国字 included in your 漢和辞典?
  3. Is the character an 異体字?
  4. Does your dictionary only cover a limited set of characters?

Case study: 部首

How would you find the reading for the following 漢字?

You may be tempted to look for it under the くさかんむり radical (i.e., either 艹, or one of its variant forms). But depending on the dictionary you're using, your attempt may end in failure.

If a character is not where you expect to find it in a 漢和辞典, you might suspect that the character is not Chinese, but is rather a Japanese invention (that is, an instance of 和製漢字, also known as 国字). You can try looking for 韮 in this:

  • 国字の字典. 飛田良文(監修); 菅原義三(編). 東京 : 東京堂出版, 1990

But you won't find it there; 韮 is not a 国字.

If the top component 艹 is not the principle 部首 (and according to more than one 漢和辞典, it is not), then the remainder of the 漢字 must contain the principle 部首. The remainder (viz. 韭) is either a combination of elements, or is itself an element. You may be tempted to analyze it into two familiar elements, 一 (1 stroke) and 非 (8 strokes). But chances are, even if you are lucky enough to find an entry for 韭 classified under 一 or 非, it will only be a redirect entry to the main entry. For as it turns out, the bottom component 韭 is itself a radical (9 strokes), and it is under this less familiar radical that most dictionaries classify 韮.

Some dictionaries classifiy the character 韮 as an 異体字. You might be tempted to look in a specialized 漢和辞典 like this:

  • 漢字異体字典. 日外アソシエ-ツ編集部(編集). 東京: 日外アソシエ-ツ (発売元: 紀伊國屋書店), 1994

But resorting to a specialized dictionary is probably not necessary. Most thoroughly made 漢和辞典 will provide re-direct entries for 異体字. In Ueda Kazutosi's 大字典, for example, the notation is as follows:

  • 13272 [ 韮 ] 韭に同じ

We go to the entry provided, and get (among other things) this information:

  • 13271 [ 韭 ] ニラ

At this point you have accomplished what you set out to do: Find the reading of 韮, viz. ニラ.

Just don't forget that determining the mapping from 韮 to ニラ is not the whole story. As it turns out, there are some other ways of writing the word ニラ:

  • [興渠] コウキョ; ニラ; あぎ; らっきょう; クレノヲモ
  • [薤] ニラ; オオニラ

The practice of writing botanical names in カタカナ has left 韮 a less commonly used character. As evidence of this, you can find 韮 included in the 日本漢字能力検定協会準一級指定漢字一覧.


Dictionaries in OSU

Additional Resources