- Language Tips
A newly revised Chinese dictionary was published on Sunday, reflecting large changes in the language over the past seven years.
Some new words frequently used online, such as geili (awesome), leiren (shocking), zhainan (indoorsy man) and zhainu (indoorsy woman), have been added to the sixth edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, the authoritative Chinese language dictionary and a reference work on modern standard Chinese.
The new edition contains about 69,000 entries, including characters, words and expressions, idiomatic phrases and idioms. More than 3,000 words and expressions are new entries.
"The new words we selected for the dictionary are those related to social phenomena in recent years. They are not just words, but cultural symbols, reflecting our changing society," Yu Dianli, manager of Commercial Press, the publisher of the dictionary, said on Sunday.
The new words were judged according to whether they have a recognized and unified pronunciation and spelling, a theoretical base from linguistics and stable circumstances for usage.
Many commonly used words such as shengnan or shengnu (a man or woman who is still single despite being over the age that society deems proper for getting married) didn't make it into the new dictionary.
"We abandoned these words because it's kind of rude to label this group (with such words)," Jiang Lansheng, an expert in linguistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who was responsible for the revisions, was quoted by Chinese Central Television as saying on Sunday. "Besides, tongzhi, (which literally means) comrade in English, can be used to call gay people now. But we don't want to promote the use of such a word in official occasions, so we didn't add it to the new edition."
Some linguistics experts said the criteria are subjective. "The selection of new words is mostly a result of their function and use in daily life. Besides, it's language, not math, and no clear standard can be used," said Li Bing, professor in linguistics in the College of Foreign Languages, Nankai University in Tianjin.
The new edition also contains many non-Chinese words such as NBA and PM 2.5, particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. "I think we should be cautious about promoting these words, for many people don't know them at all," he said, adding that words that are helpful for communication should be adopted.
Printed publications have been increasingly using popular online slang, including the word geili, said Deng Xiaoxia, editor at Peking University Press.
"Our previous publications, such as textbooks for students majoring in the Chinese language, always avoided using online words," she said. "But now, since the dictionary uses them, we'll use them in the future."
Netizens had different opinions on whether words invented online should be in the dictionary. Li Xiao'ou, 25, who loves to surf the Internet, said the new edition should be more practical and helpful for people, especially elderly people who usually don't use the Internet.
"It would be better if the revising committee would ask for our suggestions in defining the new words, because we created them and use them every day," he said.
But a 23-year-old woman from Qingdao, Shandong province, with the online name of "Zhuanguniang", said she prefers the dictionary not containing many Internet words.
"They are just used for a short time, and are not worthy of being listed in such an authoritative dictionary," she said.
Yu from the Commercial Press said his company always collects suggestions from readers and sometimes makes minor changes in response. The first edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary was published in 1978.