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see also: My user page in the German Wikipedia
I'm currently a Japanese language student in Tokyo.
- 1 ToDo
- 2 My tools
- 3 Thoughts
- 3.1 Strenghts of Omegawiki
- 3.2 Goals
- 3.3 Growth
- 3.4 Software and Functionality
- 3.5 Problems
- 3.6 Japanese-specific stuff
- 4 Defining terms
- Canon Wordtank G55, includes Super Daijirin (スーパー大辞林), Readers +Plus, 新和英中辞典, Oxford Advanced Learner's, Oxford Thesaurus, Oxford Collocations, 英和活用大辞典, 類語大辞典, Kanjigen (漢字源), Concise Katakana (コンサイス・カタカナ語辞典). I've been using it for a year now and I still find new functions. Stupid me. I especially love the Daijirin and the Kanjigen. A little annoying is that the compound function in the Kanjigen does not list entries in the other dictionaries. And I've grown out of the Oxford Advanced Learner's, although it was a great help back in school...
- www.wadoku.de - the greatest Japanese-German dictionary in existance. Well, if you would know what's out there on paper, you'd know this is a rather relative praise. Still, this is the tool pretty much everybody uses who has to do either German-Japanese or Japanese-German translations. The database is huge, but it lacks more than basic annotations. At least it displays readings for Japanese, where we still need to get.
- NTC's New Japanese-English Character Dictionary: If you start learning Japanese, and you have some English ability, buy it. It is the source when you start learning Kanji. It has all the helpful additions you can imagine, including stroke order, 6 indices, chinese reading, kyujitai, example sentences... It is the source to look up a Kanji when you learn it the first time. But sooner or later you'll need an advanced dictionary, as it is not very concise with only 3200 Kanji and 42000 compounds, though, so sooner or later you'll encounter Kanji it does not include. The first one I didn't find was 蹴る (keru to kick). I'm also missing an index with Pinyin readings, although that is maybe a little special.
- A Basic Dictionary of Japanese Grammar and An Intermediate Dictionary of Japanese Grammar
Strenghts of Omegawiki
The great thing about Omegawiki is, that it combines two powerful principles: The Wiki principle and a database. In that respect, it is a completely new approach.
Omegawiki is at its best when used like the GEMET database: A collection of clearly defined scientific terms in as many languages as possible. This is especially valuable since technical or scientific dictionaries on the market often cover only a small range of languages, or are bilingual English-Other language. You'll hardly find one that's Basque-Vietnamese.
One advantage of a database structure over a conventional wiki is that it is bot-readable. It is much easier to scan the database for things like "German nouns beginning with S", for example.
The second advantage is the ability to create a network of words, a possibility that we have only begun to explore yet. Examples:
- Collect words into themes
- connect words with related meanings
- collect words with the same stem (to brew, brewery)
Hopefully, Omegawiki will one day kick off like Wikipedia did. In the best case, we will collect users of many native languages, each one contributing his language and words of his area of expertise.
One difference I see is that Omegawiki has higher requirements to contribute successfully. In Wikipedia, basicly all you need is a specific field of interest, which could be anything from shoes to particle physics. In fact, some of the most interesting Wikipedia articles are about everyday topics like breakfast.
Omegawiki is different. First of all, to contribute, you need a much deeper understanding of language. You need at least one foreign language to contribute any kind of translation. You also need to have a good understanding of your own native tongue to write good definitions. So while the average Wikipedia user can be a hobbyist in anything, Omegawiki needs translators, linguists and lexicographers. And it needs experts in all fields to add specific vocabulary and technical terms.
Of course, only a small portion of OmegaWiki users will be professionals. This can be a strength because this way vocabulary will be added that a professional might discard. Need to know what an individual Pokemon is called in Italian? Come here. But the more individual users try to get into the professional mindset, the better the entries will get.
Another question is: What should OmegaWiki be used for, once it reaches a certain stage?
Translation: Foreign to native language
The obvious use for a multilingual dictionary is to be used for translations. Let's start with translations from a foreign language to a native language.
First thing, you need a really big database. Basic dictionaries have the 30.000 most common words in the source language, but these can be used for travelling or language study textbooks, at best. A good general-purpose dictionary starts at 100.000. Add that same amount for each specialty field like art, science, law , technology etc. Obviously, Omegawiki still has a long way to go here. The core database, the GEMET, mostly contains very specific terminology, and the foundation still has to be built. Note how many holes there are still in the Basic English.
Translation: Native to foreign / writing text in a foreign language
When writing in a foreign language, especially as a beginner, a huge dictionary with thousands of terms is actually not a benefit. Why? Because it contains a lot of terms you should not use. Outdated expressions, slang words, literary expressions, highly technical terms, narrow terms which can only be used in a certain context...
Since OmegaWiki will sooner or later grow huge, we need signs to guide the user to the expression he is looking for. That is what we need excessive annotation for. A level of speech note helps to judge in what context a word can be used. Collocations and example sentences do the same.
The second difficulty when writing in a foreign language is grammar. While OmegaWiki is not a grammar dictionary, it would help a lot if we can provide basic functionality here. This has to be implemented on a language-by-language basis. For example, to successfully use a German noun you need information on its gender and on the plural. Guessing what gender a German noun is just from the word is impossible. It's so bad even Germans disagree on words, especially newly coined terms. "der, die, das Dschungel?" Guess what, all three are possible. German plural is also highly irregular. "das Kind - die Kinder", "das Rind - die Rinder", "der Spind - die Spinde"? But then take another language like Japanese. Japanese nouns have neither gender nor plurals, Japanese needs completely different functionality for grammar.
Writing texts in your native language
The three function you might need in your native language is a) spelling, b) meaning and c) a thesaurus. Luckily, OmegaWiki can provide all three with its basic functionality, and it will become useful sooner or later just by database growth and cleanup.
Understanding difficult texts in a foreign language
OmegaWiki grows in three directions, I'd call it threedimensional.
The first is horizontal. By that, I mean that more DMs are added, and more DMs will be found under individual expressions.
The second is vertical. Each language can be thought of as a layer of height, so each translation adds a level. The commonly used languages like English build the foundation.
The third layer is depth. By time, each DM will be connected to several same-language expressions, and annotations will help to select the right expression for each individual case.
Software and Functionality
Level of speech
One problem about writing a good dictionary is, the more simple and common a word, the more complicated the dictionary entry. In any dictionary, terms like "to be" will have the most definitions and cover several pages. Since these words are used often and by everybody, they will have a huge number of usages, collocations, connotations etc.
Translating the terms is also difficult, as languages tend to handle words like auxilliary verbs very differently. For example, where English has "be" and "have", German has "sein" and "haben". No problem so far, except that there are cases where you use one in German and the other in English. But then Russian: no "be". Japanese: no "have", only "carry", and then two "be", one for living things, one for dead things.
On the contrary, technical terms are easy: They are already narrowly defined, and languages tend to borrow them from each other. An easy way to find the correct term is just looking it up in Wikipedia, even if your dictionary doesn't have it.
A lot has been written already about the necessity for Japanese to have reading annotation, I won't repeat that here.
particles: include or omit?
I came across another problem which has not been addressed so far:
Japanese uses particles to combine words to build collocations. Which particle is used depends on the word type both of the first and the second term. In some cases, no particle is used. The question is: Should the particles be part of OmegaWiki expressions or not?
Verb+noun: 歩く道 "the path (I) walk" - no particle i-adjective+noun: 高い建物 "(a) high building" - no particle i-adjective+verb: 高くなる "to become tall" - no particle, but ending changes na-adjective+noun: 静かな町 "quiet town" - na na-adjective+verb: 静かに読む "to read quietly" - ni noun+noun: 次の日 "next day" adverb+verb: はっきりと書く；はっきり書く "to write clearly" - to (but can be omitted)
...(there are more in advanced grammar)
This question is especially relevant for nouns. 次 is a noun in Japanese but an adjective in English. To use it as an attribute, you need a の: 次の (次の電車 "next train"). Use it as an adverb, use に: 次に (次にどこへ行く "where to go next?") So what do we enter here? 次 or 次の or 次に?
What's a language?
Once answer would be DefinedMeaning:language (5713). But my question is, what is a language for the purposes of OmegaWiki? At OmegaWiki, we have a clear structure, we have DefinedMeanings, i.e. certain "platonic" ideas, and we list for expressions of that idea. So, for Omegawiki, a language is a set of expressions for certain defined meanings (note the difference to the link above). If you take DefinedMeaning:smile (6066) as an example, sure, the meaning is expressed by all the words listed, but what about ☺, :-) and (^_^) ? What about a picture of a smiling kid?